Photo Credit: AP (Julio Cortez)
Boston wins third consecutive AL East Championship in the Bronx…
I am not going to lie…I am pissed. We allowed the Boston Red Sox to celebrate on Yankee Stadium soil and that should have never happened. The Yankees won two of three games from the 2018 AL East Champions, and I can’t find any joy because they mailed in the third game after winning the first two to give the Red Sox the win they needed to claim the division championship. I was happy they pinned the 49th loss of the season on Boston after Wednesday’s win (to prevent any chance of the Sox matching the win total of the 1998 Yankees), but they really could have swept this series and forced Boston to ship the champagne to their next destination.
Everybody is so quick to talk about how awful the Red Sox bullpen is but in last night’s bullpen matchup, Boston had the difference-maker in Steven Wright with three innings of scoreless relief. The Yankees helped eject Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the game in the fourth inning after he had thrown 100 pitches. Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree relieved Rodriguez and was greeted by Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam which temporarily gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead, but from there, the Yankees could only get two more hits and were unable to put any further runs on the board against Wright, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel. Meanwhile, the Sox teed off on Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. I can’t really blame Green or Betances. They are the guys I probably would have brought in during those situations, but I think it was very foolish to bring in a rusty Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees trailing by only two runs. The three-run homer by Mookie Betts off Chapman in the eighth inning pretty much iced the game for the Red Sox and prepared the champagne bottles for uncorking.
I disagreed with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to bring in Justus Sheffield during Wednesday night’s game too. Sure, Top Sheff evaded a self-created bases-loaded jam to end the game, but the Yankees were playing MLB’s winningest baseball team and the psychology of the game and beating Boston is important. If you bring anybody in when you are leading by nine runs, it should have been Chapman and not Sheffield. I would have eased Chapman back into the fold before placing him into a high leverage situation. I was not surprised that Betts clubbed the homer off Chappy. Just like Aaron Judge is currently only producing hard outs and missing the mistake pitches, it takes time to get back up to speed. Baseball is not a forgiving sport.
Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media (Andrew Mills)
I am still supportive of Aaron Boone despite my frustrations with his decisions over the last few days so I know I am just venting. I would have played last night’s game to win which means that Chapman would not have made an appearance, nor would have any of the rookies currently on the staff. After Betances, I would have lived or died with Zach Britton to the end.
What really made yesterday so disappointing was the other primary Wild Card contender, the Oakland A’s, crushed their opponent. GM Billy Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels must have felt they were playing the Los Angeles Rams after the A’s decisive 21-3 thrashing. The Yankees hold a slim 1 ½ game lead on the A’s after yesterday’s results, but the scary part is the Yankees now face a losing team that they seemingly cannot beat (the Baltimore Orioles), the high-flying Tampa Bay Rays, and a rematch with the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the final ten games of the regular season. I am not saying they have it easy, but the A’s play weaker opponents. Three games in Oakland against the disappointing Minnesota Twins, three games in Seattle against the fading Mariners, and three games in Anaheim against the team they just drubbed by 18 runs in yesterday’s game. In my opinion, it is Advantage A’s.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Thearon W Henderson)
A ‘one and done’ Wild Card game in Oakland. From my perspective, that’s where the Yankees stand right now with the way things are unfolding in the American League. Well, at least CC Sabathia can catch up with friends and family in the area before he heads home to clean out his locker at Yankee Stadium for perhaps the final time.
As always, I hope the team proves me wrong. But as I’ve said before, that’s on them, not me. I want the Yankees to win but I am just not feeling it right now. I am not convinced the Yankees can beat the A’s and I am certainly not convinced the team can beat the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox should they advance. They certainly have the talent, but for a team that has been average at best for an extended period, they can’t just flip a switch to turn it on. The Yankees need to make the next ten games count and carry momentum into the Wild Card game. Otherwise, we’ll be watching the final season of Game of Thrones before the Yankees have another chance for the crown.
Hopefully the team can return to its winning ways tonight against Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles. This series represents perhaps the final time that we’ll see the former Yankees manager in the O’s dugout. For as much as I’ve disliked Buck at times during his post-Yankees career, I am a little saddened about the way the 2018 season has treated him. To reach 50 wins, Buck’s team needs to win six of its final ten games. That’s a tall order for the 108-loss team, but then again, they have three games against a team they’ve fared well against. You know that Buck would like nothing better than to beat the Yankees for his farewell song.
As the saying goes, sometimes the best trade is the one that you don’t make. Last off-season, everybody was clamoring for the Yankees to acquire Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers. Fulmer had a disastrous 2018 season. He was 3-12 with 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings. He gave up 128 hits and career-high 19 home runs. Done for the season, Fulmer was diagnosed with meniscus damage in his right knee on Monday and underwent surgery yesterday. He is still a young, controllable pitcher but unless the Yankees can get him at a severe discount, it would not be worth the investment. If the Yankees had paid Detroit’s asking price last winter, we’d have nothing to show for it today. Fulmer is expected to be ready for Spring Training but Detroit’s best move would be to wait for Fulmer to rebuild his trade value before considering any offers.
It’s up to CC Sabathia (7-7, 3.80 ERA) to get the Baltimore series off to the right start tonight. He’ll be opposed by former Yankees prospect Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA). This is a winnable game. Boone, make the right decisions. Gary Sanchez, hold the door…hold the door! Luke Voit, just keep on doing what you are doing, chest hair and all. Let’s do this.
Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry, sorry Dodgers-Giants, is back…
Yankees-Red Sox. It doesn’t get any better than this. The two teams open tonight for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in the continuing battles for the AL East. The season series is currently tied at three games apiece. The Sox took two of three at Fenway Park in April, and the Yanks countered with two of three in the Bronx during May. After this series, the teams will meet ten more times with the next series a four-game set in Boston which starts on the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (August 2nd). I still miss Munson’s intensity in these Yankees-Red Sox games.
I am disappointed in former Yankees Assistant General Manager Billy Eppler. The Los Angeles Angels GM has arguably the best baseball player in the World on his team and he can’t put other guys talented enough around Mike Trout to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox enter tonight’s series in the Bronx with a one-game advantage on the Yankees in the AL East. Boston swept their six-game season series with the Halos, thanks to a 4-2 win at Fenway Park yesterday. If the Angels could have taken just one of those games, the Yankees and Red Sox would be tied atop the AL East. I know, it’s still June. Don’t get worked up about the Standings. But, hey Billy, thanks for nothing. That’s literally what you gave us.
I don’t know what I was more disappointed about. The lack of effort by the Angels against the Red Sox or the “throwaway game” that Aaron Boone served up on Wednesday when he started the underwhelming Luis Cessa against the Philadelphia and inserted the legendary hitless bat of Kyle Higashioka in place of the much better Austin Romine and also sat Aaron Judge even though the Yankees had Thursday off with a very short commute from Philly back to New York. I know that Cessa only let one hitter beat him but the three-run homer by Rhys Hoskins was all the Phillies needed to take down the Yankees on a night the offense was a no-show. In my opinion, Cessa is better used in limited relief appearances. I really wish the Yankees would quit giving him spot start assignments. He is no Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga and never will be.
I get wanting to push CC Sabathia back so that he could open the Boston series tonight but with Cessa’s loss, it didn’t really seem worth it. Sabathia draws a tough opposing pitcher this evening in the form of Eduardo Rodriguez who brings a 9-2 record into the game with a 3.86 ERA. It doesn’t get any easier for the Yankees tomorrow when they’ll throw out Sonny Gray (Sucks!) against Boston ace Chris Sale. The only pitching match-up that favors the Yankees this weekend is Sunday when Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) takes on David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).
After Wednesday’s game, the Yankees optioned Cessa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be recalling Brandon Drury today. Yay! I am very excited to see the Triple-A All-Star back in the Bronx. I like the options to use both Drury and Miguel Andujar at third and move Drury around the infield bags. I hope Drury is here to stay but I think he has at least one more trip to Scranton before he finishes his minor league career. If it was up to me, I’d pat Neil Walker on the back, thank him for his efforts, and send him on his way with bags in hand. Drury has greater long-term value for the Yankees and can easily meet or exceed current production.
The Boston Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll and a decimated farm system thanks to Dave Dombrowski trades but it didn’t stop the Sox from trying to get better yesterday. They made a deal to acquire 35-year-old infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for an infield prospect (Santiago Espinal) and cash considerations. Toronto is apparently contributing $1.66 million toward Pearce’s contract to keep the Red Sox from entering the top tier of tax penalties. Pearce is effective when healthy, but health has been the issue. He has only played 26 games for the Blue Jays this season. He had a memorable 2017 season when he blasted two walk-off grand slams within a week. He also provided the Jays with a walk-off homer against the Angels earlier this season. When Pearce puts on the Red Sox uniform, he will have worn the uniform for every AL East team (he appeared in a dozen games for the Yankees early in the 2012 season). Everyone keeps saying the Yankees have the advantage over the Red Sox with a much deeper farm system to deal from, but it doesn’t seem to be holding back the Red Sox. Brian Cashman, your move.
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)
There’s talk that the Texas Rangers could move Cole Hamels before the All-Star Game which will be held on Tuesday, July 17th, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a possible destination, along with Hamels’ old team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I think I still prefer J.A. Happ but I certainly would not complain if Cashman drops Hamels into the Yankees rotation. I know the Yankees have long been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but despite the youth and controllable years for the former Rookie of the Year, Fulmer just does not excite me. The Yankees had a scout present for his last start yesterday in Detroit against the Oakland A’s. Fulmer took the loss, pitching eight innings, giving up nine hits and four runs, in the A’s 4-2 victory. For the season, Fulmer is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA for the 36-46 Tigers. Detroit is apparently asking for the moon and the stars in any trade for Fulmer. I do not feel that he is worth the price of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. I am okay with short-term options to buy time for the young arms in the system to mature. I’d make an exception for Jacob deGrom but despite the noise that the Yankees and Mets are talking, I don’t think they’ll make a deal. It would be very hard for the Mets to watch their ace excel in the Bronx without getting top flight, Major League-ready talent in return.
Okay, Yankees. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to win at least two of the next three games this weekend, and start next week in a dead heat with the Red Sox. If you want to sweep the Sox, please, by all means, go ahead. Good pitching and good hitting (plus some solid D). Let’s bring it. All I want to hear this weekend is Michael Kay yelling, “There it goes…see ya!” and to watch Aroldis Chapman shake hands with Austin Romine at the end of the games.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Eventually, the Wish will become Reality…
I was not too confident about the Yankees’ chances against Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander yesterday and unfortunately I was right as the Bombers fell to the Astros, 5-1. As if the cold bats against Verlander weren’t bad enough, the sight of him walking off the field while tipping his cap to the jeers from the Yankee Stadium crowd was sickening. When I think of Verlander, I can still see his ugly mug in the midst of the brawl in Detroit last summer.
I don’t like Justin Verlander. I’ll just get that out there. I do not wish the Yankees had been the team to acquire him last summer regardless of what he has done wearing an Astros uniform. I don’t want him on my team. I want my team to beat him, to crush him like an ant. If the Yankees can beat Verlander in the post-season, a regular season loss to him will mean absolutely nothing. So, for now, I’ll take solace in the fact the Yankees are watching and learning. The day will come when they tee off on Verlander and he’ll look like the aging pitcher he was in the final days of wearing Detroit Tigers gear. I look forward to our next meeting with Verlander which could very well happen in October.
The next two games against the Astros will be tough. Whatever it is about pitching in Houston, Charlie Morton is drinking the water. An average starter at best in Pittsburgh, he’s become a different man in Houston and has pitched very well against the Yankees. Morton is undefeated this season (7-0), carrying a low ERA of 2.04 (which of course is high compared to Verlander’s 1.11). I wish I felt more confident with CC Sabathia on the mound. Frankly, I don’t know what we are going to get today with CC (2-1, 3.55 ERA). I guess my philosophy is the same as yesterday. Try to keep it close and get the game into the hands of the bullpen. Bullpen to bullpen, I like the Yankees’ chances.
Tomorrow, for the series finale, the Astros will have proven Yankee-killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound. If there is a silver lining, this has been a down year for Keuchel (3-6, 3.39 ERA) which also happens to be his walk year. We’ll throw the best we’ve got (Luis Severino, 7-1, 2.28 ERA) at Houston but down year or not, I expect Keuchel to be on his game. It should be a classic pitching duel.
One positive from yesterday’s game (at least for me)…Greg Bird’s swing is a thing of beauty.
Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)
I know there were positives in Domingo German’s performance yesterday with the number of whiffs (he did record seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings) but a loss is a loss. I know, he’s learning and it is part of the process. The Astros fans were probably very confident yesterday knowing who was pitching for them. I want that kind of guy. Again, not Verlander (for me), but a pitcher who instills confidence the way he does for his team. It’s not Sabathia, it’s not Masahiro Tanaka nor German, and it sure the hell isn’t Sonny Gray. I am getting a little tired of the usual suspects with rumored potential trade candidates. Michael Fulmer is 2-3 with 4.08 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He may be young and controllable but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Same with Chris Archer. He is 3-3 with 4.29 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. To Archer’s defense, outside of a poor start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12th when he gave up six runs in a loss, he has pitched much better in May than he did in April. At the end of April, Archer had a 6.61 ERA so even with the dog start against the O’s, he has lowered his ERA by more than two runs in a month. Fulmer is probably the better option since he’s younger and maybe his numbers help make his price tag more affordable. I don’t know. I can’t see either pitcher being “the guy” in October.
Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman uncovers a gem (or two) prior to this year’s trading deadline. Go ahead, surprise us with a true ace. An improved pitching staff to go with the team’s offense would be the catalyst for the Yankees to overcome the Boston Red Sox and charge into October with significant momentum. I want another shot at Justin Verlander. Only next time, I expect to win.
So, the Cleveland Indians have promoted Justin Bieber to start this week. Oh sorry, make that Shane Bieber. Bieber was taken in the MLB Draft two years after the Indians selected Justus Sheffield and three rounds later. Bieber is a year older than Top Sheff and has blazed through the Indians system. I think we’ll see Sheff in a couple of months. Not really trying to draw a comparison between the two given Bieber was a college pitcher and much closer to the Majors than Sheffield was when he was taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft. But the emergence of rookie starters for contenders is heightening the excitement of Sheff’s impending arrival even if we have to wait awhile longer. Josh Rogers (4-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to pitch today for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He is quietly inserting his name above Chance Adams as another arm that could make his Major League debut for the Yankees in the not-so-distant future.
Josh Rogers / Photo Credit: Scranton Times-Tribune
Despite the home run he allowed to Jose Altuve yesterday, I’d probably give German’s next start to A.J. Cole. I remained intrigued with the pitcher. I know, he’s not the answer and he was never more than a borderline Number 5 starter for the Washington Nationals. But I’d still like to see what he could do with a spot start. At one time, Nats fans thought Cole could be dominant but it never materialized. After originally being drafted by the Nationals in 2010, he did spend a year in the Oakland A’s farm system, but was reacquired by the Nats in 2013. The optimist in me tries to see Cole as a late bloomer (tapping on the potential that Washington scouts once saw) but the realist in me knows that he is a future DFA candidate. I’d just like to see what we have before he goes.
Today is a new day. As the Mariano Duncan quote goes, “We play today. We win today.” Let’s do it. Go Yankees!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Spring…
It’s the Monday morning of the week that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. Woohoo! I am so ready for Baseball! Tomorrow, Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing with activity as the voluntary players in camp will be met by the rest of the group. New Manager Aaron Boone has been at Training Camp since Friday. He and his new staff will be among the first to greet the new arrivals.
Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY Network (Kevin R Wexler)
Position players report must report by Sunday, February 18th although a number of players are already in town. Others, such as Giancarlo Stanton, should soon be en route.
Stanton caused a bit of a stir yesterday when he posted an Instagram pic featuring the newest Yankee slugger with mercurial New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Stanton labeled the pic “Dem City boys”. Stanton is going to find out that he’s not in Miami anymore and his every move will draw attention and will be open for lots and lots of criticism. Stanton has said that he’s looking forward to the ‘big city, bright lights’. If I have a fear about Stanton in New York City, it’s that he’ll be distracted by the ‘big city, bright lights’. Stanton and Aaron Judge may be similarly sized sluggers but their personas are night and day. Stanton, based on what I’ve seen, enjoys the nightlife. Nevertheless, I am confident that Stanton will arrive in Tampa very focused and determined. This is his first opportunity to play for a winner and he’ll do so pulling on the pinstripes of the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am not trying to criticize him but I do hope that he avoids unnecessary criticism and controversy when the team heads north to the Bronx.
Now that Yu Darvish is officially off the board, thanks to the Chicago Cubs, it ends any further speculation that the Yankees are trying to find a way to clear salary space for the talented right-hander. I did like the thought of Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka pitching together, but I am glad the Yankees weren’t the team handing him the six-year, $126 million contract. However, it is unlikely the Yankees search for a starting pitcher is over. Many of you feel that the Yankees would be fine with Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield providing the primary rotation support. As much as I would like for both guys to succeed, Sheffield has yet to pitch at Triple A and many speculate that Adams might be better suited for the bullpen. I really do not want to rely upon Luis Cessa or potentially pull Chad Green from the pen for the inevitable replacement starts in the rotation.
I would not want to see the Yankees pay (“overpay” based on the dollars Agent Scott Boras is seeking) for free agent Jake Arrieta. I feel that Arrieta’s numbers are trending in the wrong direction and the last time he competed in the AL East, he failed miserably while a member of the Baltimore Orioles. However, I do feel that either Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would represent upgrades. The question is cost and if the Yankees would still be forced to move salary to make it happen (which is most likely the case). Somehow, it feels like this road to pitching will eventually lead us back to the Detroit Tigers and Michael Fulmer. If, by July, the Tigers are in the midst of another lost season (likely), they may be more motivated to move Fulmer for a talented collection of high-end prospects.
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Scott W Grau)
Personally, I am very excited about the potential of Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman, but David Cone took to Twitter this weekend to remind people not to sleep on Tyler Wade. I have been convinced that we’ll see a much better Wade this year and it will not surprise me if Wade is the Opening Day second baseman. Inevitably, I feel that Torres will be the starter but Wade will have a few weeks to show that he belongs in the Major Leagues (for good). The activity and competition at second base this year is very exciting.
As for third, it appears Miguel Andujar will be given first crack at the position. However, I remain of the opinion that we’ll see the signing of a veteran third baseman. I continue to believe Mike Moustakas will not accept a one-year pillow contract (no Moose Tacos in the Bronx), regardless of how sluggish free agency has been this year, so we’re more likely to see Eduardo Nunez (not excited about his defensive skills…or lack thereof) or Neil Walker to compete at third with Andujar. I’d really be sick if the Yankees gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to a guy like Trevor Plouffe.
Back to Chad Green, while the Yankees have asked him to come to camp as a starter, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the bullpen. He’s too valuable there. The MLB Network featured its Top Ten Relievers this weekend and Green was the highest rated Yankees reliever at #4. The only relievers ahead of Green were Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians; and Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was #8. I see Green moving toward the back end of the bullpen in the next couple of years. As much as I enjoy David Robertson, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. Given the sizable contracts that quality relievers continue to attract, it’s very possible that the Yankees will let D-Rob walk (if he isn’t traded sooner to add additional room for salary space under the $197 million threshold). I see Green as one of the guys capable of stepping into the late innings with Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances to form the bridge to Chapman. Ben Heller is my pick for bullpen breakout this year and the flame-throwing Domingo Acevedo is on his way so even if D-Rob walks or is traded, the Yankees bullpen should continue to be a strength.
Photo Credit: MLB Network
Lastly, the MLB Network has been running a documentary the last couple of weeks about the late, legendary Tony Gwynn entitled “Mr Padre”. Gwynn was such an incredible personality and force of the game. It is nice to be reminded of his smile and his love and passion for Baseball. He may be gone but he has certainly not been forgotten. If you haven’t seen the documentary, you should check it out. Thanks for the memories, Tony.
Photo Credit: SI.com (John W McDonough)
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports|
And Thus Endeth the Cole Rumors…
The trade rumor that wouldn’t go away…did. The Pittsburgh Pirates finally traded their so-called ace to the Houston Astros for a package that included reliever Joe Musgrove (a speculated middle-of-the-rotation starter type), third baseman Colin Moran, reliever Michael Feliz, and minor league outfielder Jason Martin. Moran, former Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff’s nephew, was the Astros’ seventh-rated prospect according to MLB.com.
If the Yankees did, in fact, offer Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar to the Pirates, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington didn’t stop until he could find a much worse package for Steel Town. In reality, the trade shows that GM Brian Cashman never offered the much talked about packages for Cole. It’s been said that he may have only offered Clint Frazier OR Chance Adams. The Yankees were clearly not as high on Cole as the Astros were.
I’m glad the page can finally be turned. I am in favor of adding a starting pitcher only if it upgrades the current starting rotation. After completion of the one-year contracts for all the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have approximately $22 million left before they hit the luxury tax threshold (which is, of course, a hard “salary cap” in the Hal Steinbrenner Universe) of $197 million. The Yankees will not use all of that money so to say that they have $22 million left to spend is a bit of a misnomer. They need to set aside $2 million in case CC Sabathia hits his bonus milestones and there’s no way that Team Hal will bring payroll (AAV) tightly against the threshold. He’ll want a buffer and of course there needs to be enough room to play at the trading deadline. Only the Yankees truly know how much money they have left to spend.
If the Yankees did sign a free agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, it is a certainty that the contract of Brett Gardner or David Robertson would be moved to make room. With the money the Yankees would have to include with Jacoby Ellsbury if they could entice him to waive his no-trade clause, I don’t think moving him would provide enough salary space for a big ticket purchase. They’d have to find a team willing to take at least half of his current salary and honestly I don’t think that team exists.
Chris Archer, we’re coming for you. With Cole out of the picture, the pitcher most likely to draw top speculation as the guy targeted for the Yankees, it is the talented 29-year-old righthander of the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, it’s possible that we could start hearing Michael Fulmer’s name again but both men continue to carry high price tags. If he doesn’t get a viable role for the 2018 Yankees (i.e., trade of Gardner or Ellsbury to make way), Frazier would look very good in Detroit’s outfield.
Even despite the current stagnant free agent market, I don’t think either Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier will accept a one-year “pillow” contract regardless of what happens between now and training camp. I like the left-handed bat of Moustakas but I think he’ll eventually end up with the St Louis Cardinals.
At this point, there is not really much left to do for the Yankees except make preparations to to start training camp in a month. Now that long-time coach Rob Thomson (annual organizer of training camp) is in Philadelphia, third base coach Phil Nevin and others will have to step up and deliver for new manager Aaron Boone. I am looking forward to the results of their preparation and organization as they host the members and challengers for the 2018 New York Yankees.
Go ahead, underestimate Didi Gregorius…
The MLB Network has been reviewing their top ten lists at each position, but they blew it for shortstops. The omission of Didi Gregorius is wrong. There’s no way that I’d trade Didi for half of the guys on this list:
Tim Beckham over Didi is a joke. Trevor Story was struggling to hold his job last season and it’s only a matter of time until Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers pushes him out of the way.
That’s fine. Pitch to Didi like you think he’s an afterthought in the Yankees lineup and let’s see what happens.
Congratulations to Tyler Austin…
Tyler Austin proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Stephanie Dana, over the weekend and she said yes. Hopefully this is a sign that 2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for the young Yankees first baseman/outfielder. Congrats to Tyler and Stephanie!
The New York Mess…
The Mets are really going to sign free agent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez? It makes me appreciate every day that I am a Yankees fan. Nothing like pushing a young, promising first baseman (Dominic Smith) out of the way for an aged ‘has-been’. Jon Heyman’s argument is that A-Gon only costs the minimum and there are questions about Smith’s conditioning. Viable arguments but I am glad that A-Gon is on their team and not mine.
|Photo Credit: Orange County Register|
Life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has not been as rewarding as life as a Yankees fan, but the best Vikings team in years takes the field today against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC playoffs. The winner moves on to the NFC Championship to play the Eagles in Philadelphia. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Vikings will be the ones traveling to the City of Brotherly Love.
The Vikings will feature three active QB’s behind starter Case Keenum. Sam Bradford, who missed the majority of the season with a knee injury, was activated for today’s game. He’ll be joined by fellow QB’s Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Sloter. With Keenum, Bradford, and Bridgewater all potential free agents after the season, I was very glad to see the Vikings waive backup TE Kyle Carter rather than Sloter to free up a spot for Bradford. Bradford was the starting QB in the season opener when the Vikings beat the Saints. My hope is that all three backups need to do no more than hold clipboards while Keenum continues his season of rejuvenation.
And as always, Go Yankees!
Continuing to hear (frozen) crickets at Yankee Stadium…
We’ve made it into the New Year, but it’s still as quiet as a mouse in the Yankees Universe.
I cannot say that I have any bold predictions for the coming year. While I firmly agree that Michael Fulmer would be a substantial upgrade in the starting rotation, I feel that he is cost-prohibitive. Allegedly, the Yankees made an offer in December that included Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and a couple of minor league pitchers. One of the pitchers was assumed to be Chance Adams. The Tigers did not feel that package was sufficient for Fulmer. Many speculate that it would take the inclusion of Gleyber Torres to motivate the Tigers to make a deal. Sorry, that’s not happening. With no offense to Fulmer, the Yankees should not hand over the farm system to the Tigers to bring the young ace to the Bronx.
During the Winter Meetings, Tigers GM Al Avila made the following analogy: “Let’s say you have an asset. Your house. And somebody likes it. You don’t have it for sale. But if somebody says, ‘Man, I really like your house’ and they keep pursuing you about your house, at some point, you might end up selling it.” With no motivation to sell, the Tigers can afford to demand overpayment for their “house”. They would expect a return that gives them significant pieces that would make them “a much better organization going forward”. In my opinion, the cost is too great and until the Tigers are motivated to make a deal, it is in the best interests of the Yankees to pass.
Like many, I feel that the infield represents a greater need than starting pitching. I like the suggestion of Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs. But to make a move, the Cubs would want help for their starting rotation which means that any deal would start with Jordan Montgomery and other top pitching prospects in the Yankees organization. Happ can play multiple positions and has power, but he’s exactly the versatile kind of guy that Cubs manager Joe Maddon loves. Like the Tigers, the Cubs would have to be blown away to make a deal. If the Yankees could find a reasonable package that makes sense for both teams, I’d be in favor of a deal. However, I suspect the Cubs want more, much more.
My not-so-bold prediction is that we will not see either Fulmer nor Happ in pinstripes anytime soon.
Giancarlo Stanton is going to find out that playing for the New York Yankees will bring media scrutiny like he’s never seen before. Yesterday’s headlines were blazing that Stanton spent New Year’s Eve surrounded by 30 women at famed Miami nightclub, LIV at Fontainebleau. The media immediately singled out Brazilian model Mariana Santana as an object of Stanton’s attention although a Stanton rep quickly dismissed it, saying “The story isn’t accurate. He said he’s not dating her and they were not at LIV together.” The days of living under the radar as a Miami Marlin are over.
|Credit: Seth Browarnik, startraksphoto.com|
ESPN is apparently targeting Alex Rodriguez to replace Aaron Boone as a member of its Sunday Night Baseball team. It would be a great move by ESPN if they can pull it off, but Fox Sports would be foolish to let A-Rod get away. If A-Rod keeps this up, he’ll soon be the highest paid guy in his second career, just like he was during his first career.
When Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique left to join the coaching staff for the Oakland A’s, I wondered who would take over as the leader for the young Baby Bombers. The question has been answered as Double A Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, the 2017 Eastern League Manager of the Year, has been elevated to the top minor league managerial position for the Yankees. High A Tampa Yankees (now the Tarpons) manager Jay Bell will take over for Mitchell with the Thunder. We wish both men the very best in their new roles as they help usher the next generation of Baby Bombers into the Bronx.
Did David Cone really turn 55 this week? How did that happen?…
Mike Mussina seems to be moving up slightly in the Hall of Fame voting. The latest results, with 37.5% of known ballots (according to Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux), show that Moose has crept up to 73.0% (leaving him two percentage points shy of the minimum required for induction. I really hope the momentum continues to push Mussina upward to carry him past the minimum threshold. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vlad Guerrero appear to be locks with greater than 90% of the known votes. Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman are also in good position. As it stands, this should be a record-breaking number of inductees. With no disrespect to the others, Moose is the only one that matters to me. The others certainly deserve their place in Cooperstown but the 2018 Class will not feel complete, to me, unless it features the guy from Montoursville, PA.
|Credit: Sabo, NY Daily News|
Maybe we’ll actually hear some Yankees news today. Maybe not. We’ll see what the day brings. Go Yankees!
Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images and Sportsnet.ca
Is No News Good News?…
It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe this week. By all accounts, the Yankees’ talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for starter Gerrit Cole have cooled. Rightfully so if the Pirates are continuing to ask for top prospects in return. The Cole rumors have been like the Yankees long-standing desire for Oakland’s Sonny Gray that was finally consummated last summer. Rumors that stick around for years until they may or may not happen. At this point, I don’t see a trade for Cole but of course things could change if the Pirates lower their demands.
How does the saying go? Sometimes the best trade is the trade never made.
This week, a few sources were indicating the Yankees have interest in free agent Yu Darvish. I’ve liked Darvish for a long time but of course he bombed in the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was tipping his pitches. There’s also no way the Yankees can fit him into the budget unless they move other salary (i.e., Jacoby Ellsbury). I don’t see Darvish coming to the Bronx. I thought it was interesting that the Houston Astros talked to Darvish since they used him as a punching bag on their way to a World Series championship. But trying to fit a Darvish contract into Team Hal’s budget would sacrifice greater areas of need on the team and would potentially limit what the Yankees could do next July at the tradling deadline.
There doesn’t seem to be any movement with talks about Arizona’s Patrick Corbin or Detroit’s Michael Fulmer. Fulmer would be the ideal candidate but he’s cost-prohibitive if the Tigers continue to ask for a ‘Chris Sale’ type of return.
|Credit: Mark Cunningham, MLB Photos via Getty Images|
Chris Archer continues to show up on lists as a possible target for the Yankees. I’d certainly be happy with Archer but getting the Rays to trade within the division is probably comparable to trying to get the Orioles to trade Manny Machado to the Yankees. Okay, that might not be the right comparison because I think the hatred of O’s owner Peter Angelos toward the Yankees probably runs a little deeper than other clubs. If we bring up names within the division, it should include Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. I love Stroman and I think the native New Yorker would be an ideal fit in the Bronx. Stroman, 26, is in his second year of arbitration and is projected to make $7.2 million this year (he made $3.4 million in 2017). He won’t be a free agent until the 2021 season. As he gets more expensive, the Blue Jays will probably be more motivated to move the player, especially since they are entering a rebuild phase and need more young talent. Stroman would fit into the chemistry of the Yankees and showed good rapport with Aaron Judge through tweets last fall. But as long as the Blue Jays think they have a shot for a Wild Card, they won’t trade Stroman. I watch Josh Donaldson as the barometer. As long as the Blue Jays keep the 2018 free agent-to-be on the roster, they refuse to admit rebuild. But once he goes, the environment might be right to grab Stroman who would be worth the high cost.
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I was glad to see the Tampa Bay Rays trade third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants yesterday. Longoria has long been a Yankees killer (seemingly coming up with key hits at the worst moments for the Pinstripers), but Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues was quick to point out that Longoria batted .231/.290/.375 against the Yankees over the past three seasons. As Axisa noted, Longoria is a declining player signed for big money so his departure probably hurts rather than helps the Yankees in the AL East. I think Longoria will be rejuvenated in San Francisco (playing in a packed AT&T Park is substantially different than playing in the sparse Tropicana Field). The Longoria trade removes another third base suitor which indirectly helps the Yankees as it removes options for free agents Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier (hopefully driving down their asking prices to the point that the Yankees are able to sign one of the players). Sentimentally, I’d prefer Frazier but the Moose Tacos bat is better.
|Credit: Nick Wosika, Icon Sportswire|
The AL East took a different look yesterday with the Longoria trade and the announcement that Orioles closer Zach Britton had torn his achilles tendon in an off-season workout (he will most likely miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season). If the O’s are successful in trading Machado out of the division, it will be an indication that they are ready to move into rebuild phase. The latest AL East moves continue to show further separation between the Yankees and Red Sox and the rest of the division.
Back to Ellsbury, I would love to see the Yankees trade the aging, overpaid, under-performing outfielder. His presence prevents the Yankees from aggressively improving other areas of the team. I laugh when I see some of the “Ellsbury for (Player X)” suggestions, which are at times ridiculous. Ellsbury for Madison Bumgarner…yeah, right. Personally, I’d be happy with Ellsbury’s departure for no return. It is just a matter of how much money (and potentially prospects) the Yankees have package with him to get another team to bite. The Yankees either need to make room for Clint Frazier or trade him. He has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues.
The free agent market has been slow to develop this year, but things seem to be breaking. Cleveland’s Carlos Santana signed with the Phillies earlier in the week, and Cleveland countered by signing the Mariners’ Yonder Alonso to be their new first baseman. Up to this point, the free agent signings have primarily been directed at bullpen relief.
The Yankees are running out of time to make some noise before Christmas. I expect next week to be very quiet so if the Yankees do nothing this week, there probably won’t be any activity until January. On the bright side, we are moving closer to Spring Training. I have already bought my Giancarlo Stanton jersey so I am ready.
|Credit: Daniel Decker Photography|
After two successive weekends starting with a bang (first the word about Aaron Boone’s hiring as the replacement for Joe Girardi and then the stunning deal that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx), we enter this weekend on a quiet note.
There have been rumors for days (actually the ongoing discussions have lasted for years) the Yankees have been talking to the Pittsburgh Pirates about starter Gerrit Cole. Personally, I am in favor of Cole’s acquisition. I know, he basically sucked last year. 12-12, 4.26 ERA. 31 home runs allowed. It was easily his worst season and he is now a couple of seasons removed from his dominant 19-win 2015 season. You’d be bringing him into the pressurized AL East which isn’t going to help anybody’s ERA, particularly for a pitcher prone to give up the long ball. But maybe I continue to see the upside of the pitcher and feel that he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter. There’s the intangible that he was a childhood Yankees fan so it’s possible that he could have the reverse Ivan Nova effect (pitching much better in New York than Pittsburgh). I know, that one is a stretch but I’d really like to see what pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do with Cole’s arm.
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post|
The issue, of course, is cost. Any trade is almost certain to be headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier. The Pirates will also demand a top pitching prospect in a deal that would most likely cost the Yankees at least four young promising players. Many believe that Chance Adams may be better suited for relief and I’ve heard concerns about the at-times violent delivery of Justus Sheffield (and concerns about his durability). Between the two, I’d probably be more willing to sacrifice Adams although I have enjoyed his progression through the Yankees farm system. I saw one Pirates blog clamoring for Jordan Montgomery. That’s a deal-breaker for me. I would not include Montgomery under any circumstances with the concerns that accompany Cole. I have a tough time justifying Frazier but the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders and Frazier is better suited for left field than center. Until they can clear out room by trading Jacoby Ellsbury (please!) or Brett Gardner, there’s simply no room for Frazier. The job of fourth or fifth outfielder can easily be handled by Jake Cave or Billy McKinney, with Estevan Florial a season or two away. Pittsburgh wants to contend again by 2019 so they are not going to settle for Single-A prospects or guys with no potential to reach the bigs until after 2020. This is a dilemma and I am sure that’s a primary reason the talks have gone on for so long with no resolution.
I know everyone prefers Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but there’s no indication that the Tigers are willing to trade Fulmer. Even if Fulmer was available, I think the cost would be substantially greater than what it would or should take to get Cole.
We know that the Boston Red Sox will respond to the Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton. They’ve been rumored for weeks to be the possible destination for both first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez. With their pitching staff (assuming that David Price can return to ace status), they will be strong contenders for the AL East championship next season. I was glad to see one possible fallback option eliminated yesterday when former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Martinez has indicated he wants to play the outfield and at the moment, the Red Sox outfield is full with Mookie Betts (arguably one of the best players in MLB), Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi. It’s possible the Sox could trade JBJ but he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league. Neither Benintendi nor Betts are going anywhere. Therefore, I hope Martinez continues to take a stand against becoming a full-time DH.
The trades of Chase Headley and Starlin Castro opened starting roles for the Yankees at second and third. At the moment, Gleyber Torres is destined to take second. However, there is greater value in starting him at Triple A to open the season for a few weeks to delay his free agency by a year so it makes more sense to use the combo of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade to man the position until Torres is ready. At third, Miguel Andujar is presently at the front of the line although I still suspect the Yankees will acquire a short-term veteran. This one is tough. I’d love to see the Yankees bring Todd Frazier back on a two-year deal, but the Yankees are probably looking at no more than one year which is not in sync with the player. One possible destination for Frazier was eliminated yesterday when the Los Angeles Angels signed Zack Cozart, former shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, to play third (Andrelton Simmons is entrenched at short and the Angels just acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers). I keep hoping that the price tag for Frazier drops low enough for the Yankees to grab him but that’s not something that I am counting on. I guess the Yankees need to find their next Scott Brosius off some unsuspecting MLB roster.
If anything is going to happen, it will probably be next week. Otherwise, I don’t see any significant baseball activity until after the first of the year.
I am sure that GM Brian Cashman and company are hard at work as I type this post.
Hopefully there is a quality starting pitcher out there who dreams of joining Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery. Run support may not have been Gray’s friend in 2017 but in 2018, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. As a pitcher, I’d love to be backed by a lineup that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and others. They’ll just have to get used to the extended wait between innings while the Yankees are batting.
Oakland A’s Outfielder Sues the White Sox…
Former Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler has sued the Chicago White Sox and the state agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) as a result of the devastating knee injury he suffered in his Yankees debut last summer in Chicago. The suit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, claims the White Sox and the state agency acted negligently by not securing the knee-level electrical box that Fowler collided against when he hit the low side of the wall chasing a fly ball in foul territory. The suit indicates by failing to pad, guard or cover the electrical box, the defendants showed “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard” for Fowler’s safety.
|Credit: Pete Caldera, NJ.com|
Fowler, part of the trade that brought Sonny Gray to New York, is expected to be ready for A’s training camp next spring but time will tell if the knee injury has lasting ramifications on the former Yankee’s career. I agree that the parties at Guaranteed Rate Field should be held liable. At the time of the injury, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi was very critical of the exposed electrical box. It is a hazard that could have been prevented.
I wish Fowler the best with his suit and hope that he is able to reach the potential and stardom that he seemed destined for prior to the injury.
The Tampa Yankees are no more…
I will miss the “TY” logo as the Yankees’ High-A affiliate have changed their name to the Tampa Tarpons. I immediately saw tweets about tampons after the announcement of the name change, but the Tarpons name has history in Tampa. It was the name of a previous Florida State League team for over thirty years. The old Tarpons club was sold and relocated in 1988. The new team was placed in Tampa by the Yankees in 1994. Welcome back, Tarpons!
I am sure the Tampa Bay Rays are glad to see the removal of “Yankees” from the Tampa name even if the minor league team remains affiliated with the Pinstripes.
Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, I continue to hope that their manager, Jay Bell, is named as Al Pedrique’s replacement at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre although former Yankees coach Tony Pena would probably be a very solid option too.
59 days to Spring Training. Go Yankees!