First day of Spring is March 20th but Life Begins Anew on March 29th…
It’s Jorge Posada Day! 20 more days until the start of the regular season and the Yankees walking up to the plate at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada to begin their quest for the 28th World Series championship in franchise history. Hip, hip, Hor-hay!
I have to admit I feel badly for third baseman Mike Moustakas. A career high 38 home runs and he gets less money this year than Todd Frazier. For his one year “pillow” contract with the Kansas City Royals, he’ll get $5.5 million with the opportunity to earn an additional $2.2 million in incentives. There is a mutual option for 2019 for $15 million which carries a $1 million buyout. Odds are that the Royals either trade Moose Tacos at the trading deadline or they exercise the buyout next off-season. I bet Moustakas does not make it through the season as a Royal. This shows how truly remarkable it was that GM Brian Cashman was able to get the San Diego Padres to absorb Chase Headley’s $13 million contract by simply attaching RHP Bryan Mitchell, who had no clear role with the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Andy Hayt)|
I don’t blame the Yankees for not playing in the Moose Tacos sweepstakes. Actually, it appears that no team wanted to play. I liked the idea of Moustakas taking aim at the right field porch in Yankee Stadium, but once the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury (a player I like) to pair with Miguel Andujar, I didn’t give it another thought. The Yankees were never going to offer Moustakas a long-term deal and it didn’t seem wise to forfeit the draft choices (2nd and 5th round picks) and the international bonus pool money for a short-term investment. Last year’s second round draft choice (RHP Matt Sauer) is currently the Yankees’ 12th best prospect according to MLB.com. Considering how strong the Yankees farm system currently is, that’s no small feat and there is good value with high draft selections. I don’t think draft choices alone would have been reason not to sign Moustakas, but all things considered, I feel comfortable with the players currently at third for the Pinstripers.
The Yankees made their first cuts yesterday as the team begins paring down for the Opening Day roster. The first camp casualties were Justus Sheffield, Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, Trevor Lane, Chace Numata, and Dillon Tate. In light of the rough day that Sheffield had yesterday against the Philadelphia Phillies, I wish he could have departed under better circumstances. Top Sheff gave up three hits and runs in 1 2/3 innings to balloon his Spring ERA to 11.81. But it was a learning experience and there’s no doubt we’ll see Sheffield in the Bronx at some point later in the season. Better, faster, stronger and we won’t need to rebuild him.
I am starting to see more and more writers and bloggers saying that Tyler Wade is the leader for the second base job. I’ve felt all Spring the Yankees would break camp with Wade as the starting second baseman. Without regard to the delay in service time, I felt (and still feel) that Gleyber Torres will benefit from further experience at Triple A as he continues his road back from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. The guy is so incredibly young although extraordinarily talented. He’ll make his Major League debut sooner than later in the 2018 season. Once he arrives, I have no doubt he’ll own second base for years to come. In the meantime, I look forward to the opportunity that awaits Tyler Wade.
|Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Doug Murray)|
While I think Ronald Torreyes will make the Opening Day roster (with non-roster invitee Danny Espinosa opting out of his contract at the end of training camp), it would seem that he is an inevitable candidate for DFA at some point during the season. Once both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar arrive at the Show to join Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade, there’s simply not going to be any room for Toe. He is the weakest of the group despite how valuable he’s been the last couple of years.
I am glad to hear that Aaron Judge has no current plans to participate with this year’s Home Run Derby.The Derby is fun for the fans but I’d prefer to see Judge focus on rest and relaxation regardless of whether or not he makes this year’s All-Star team. Too many are trying to speculate whether his participation last year was the direct cause for his second half slump. I don’t really care. It’s all water under the bridge now. Judge knows and understands his body better than anyone and I know that he’ll make the right decisions going forward. It was a learning experience. He has won the Derby and there is nothing left to prove. Winning a championship is all that matters. There’s no doubt Judge knows that better than any of us.
Billy McKinney has proven the Yankees have nothing to fear if they include Clint Frazier in a trade for a starting pitcher. I’ve been very impressed with McKinney’s work with the bat and at first base this Spring. While I think it’s possible that Adam Lind could supplant Tyler Austin as the backup first baseman, McKinney, with more experience at first base, could replace both of them and is an heir-apparent for left field if the Yankees do not re-sign Brett Gardner next off-season and if Frazier is included in the inevitable deal for an upper echelon starting pitcher. McKinney could make his presence felt in the Bronx this year if, Heaven-forbid, injuries strike.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
We’re moving into the “dog days” of training camp. The point where the excitement of Spring baseball is over and the joy and anticipation of Opening Day is starting to seep in. I’m ready and anxious to see the latest Yankees take the field at Yankee Stadium (by way of Rogers Centre, of course).
|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)|
Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…
Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.
The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.
Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.
Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.
|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)|
Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.
The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.
|Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)|
Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there. I am thinking about the opportunity I have. Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).” He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.
I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.
I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas. No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.
|Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)|
At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.
The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Now arriving at Steinbrenner Field…everybody!
Today is the full reporting date for the New York Yankees with the arrival of all remaining position players. It’s an exciting day for the Yankees Universe as the Pinstripers begin preparations for what hopefully will lead to the 28th World Championship for MLB’s most storied franchise and our favorite team.
Even though the Yankees were not in the news, it was a very active Saturday night around Major League Baseball last evening.
The evening started with news that the Tampa Bay Rays had acquired first baseman/DH C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels. The Cron move, from the Angels perspective, makes sense. Shohei Otani is expected to take DH time away from Albert Pujols, which will force Pujols to play more first base than he did last year (143 games at DH, 6 games at first). Luis Valbuena has the ability to handle both infield corners, whereas Cron was strictly 1B/DH, making the latter the more expendable of the two. I honestly do not understand the move from the Rays perspective. They have a need at first base given that Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, last year’s first basemen, are both currently free agents and not expected to re-sign with the Rays. But to make room for Cron, they designated outfielder Corey Dickerson, the Rays’ sole representative on last year’s AL All-Star team, for assignment. Dickerson hit .282 last season with 27 home runs and 62 RBI’s (carrying a respectable .815 OPS). The Rays either have a specific trade in mind or they know they have good trade alternatives to consider for Dickerson who will never see the waiver wire.
The Rays weren’t finished. They followed the Cron trade by sending starter Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jermaine Palacios. While I did not want a fly ball pitcher like Odorizzi pitching for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, I was surprised by the low cost for Minnesota to acquire the pitcher. Zack Littell, one of the prospects that the Yankees sent to the Twins in last year’s head-scratching trade for Jaime Garcia, is rated significantly higher among prospects in the Twins organization than Palacios. Good move by the Twins, but apparently, Tampa Bay Rays GM Erik Neander was drunk-dialing his friends last night. His first words this morning probably were, “OMG, I did what?” Maybe Yankees GM Brian Cashman should have called Neander last night to ask about Chris Archer.
The evening was capped by the long-awaited and much-anticipated free agent signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer by the San Diego Padres. Hosmer joins the now bearded former Yankee Chase Headley in lovely San Diego. Hosmer’s deal has two components. 5 years guaranteed for $105 million, with an opt-in for an additional 3 years and $39 million after 2022. Agent Scott Boras ensured that the contract was front-loaded for his client in what has been a very stagnant free agent market. The Hosmer signing has ramifications for several other players. Hosmer was viewed as a potential fall-back for the Boston Red Sox if they are unsuccessful in their stare-down with free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez. The move also increases the likelihood Mike Moustakas re-signs with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals preferred Hosmer over Moustakas but now that Hosmer is off the table, the Royals will most likely attempt to bring back Moose Tacos, eliminating any thoughts that the third baseman might accept a one year pillow contract with the Yankees.
It’s only been a few days but I am very impressed with how Gleyber Torres has handled himself this spring. He’s so young (21) but he shows maturity beyond his years. He has made a very strong effort to converse in English which is never an easy thing to do. Most of us raised with English as our primary language struggle with it. Torres wants to make the Opening Day roster but he has stated he would understand if he has to go to the minors to start the season. His words, from what I’ve seen, are team-oriented and not selfish like some players. He is my favorite to be the Yankees starting second baseman, either on Opening Day or within a few weeks after the season has started. Even though the Yankees have publicly stated that service time will not be a consideration, I am convinced the Yankees, given a choice, would wait to start Gleyber’s service time clock to delay free agency by a year. He is an exciting player and once he grabs second base, he’ll be a long-term fixture in the Bronx.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It may be inevitable that Manny Machado and the Yankees join forces after the season, but I have reservations. Manny will head into the season as Baltimore’s starting shortstop, his preferred position, and is making comments that he expects to player there for a very long time. According to Machado, “This is where my heart has always been, this is what I’ve wanted to do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This what I came into this world to do — to play shortstop at the big league level. Finally, Buck and the Baltimore organization are giving me the opportunity to go out there and do what I can at that position and show myself. That’s been my dream all along. I’m really looking forward to it.” Machado added, “Once I do it this year, it’s not something that’s just switching off. I’m making the transition. Hopefully, I want to stay there and continue doing it. This is where my heart has always been. Finally getting an opportunity to do it for a full season. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully I can continue playing [shortstop] for a long time.” I’ve seen comments say the Yankees would/should move Didi Gregorius to third base to accommodate Machado. I am sorry but that’s not a price I think the Yankees should pay. Didi has earned the right to be the team’s starting shortstop. He’s such a team guy that I am sure he’d make the move if asked, but why should he? I like Machado but there are other options. I really hope that Miguel Andujar grabs third base this year and runs with it, eliminating the need for Machado. The plan for next offseason should not be ‘Machado or Bust’ unless he recognizes that the only path to the Bronx is and should be third base. Andujar has the ability to make this entire issue moot.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jonathan Daniel)|
Here are the number assignments for the Yankees coaching staff (thanks to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com):
17-Aaron Boone, Manager
59-Josh Bard, Bench Coach
60-Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
64-Carlos Mendoza, Infield Coordinator/Quality Control Coach
53-Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach
63-P.J. Pilittere, Assistant Hitting Coach
58-Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
62-Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach
50-Reggie Willits, First Base Coach/Outfield Instructor
It’s going to be fun to watch the coming days at Steinbrenner Field. Granted, it will be a disappointment if this year’s team falls short of its quest for a World Championship, but the ride is going to be magnificent. Welcome Yankees, one and all! Let’s get to work.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
It’s Stanton Time…
It is hard to believe (still) but Giancarlo Stanton is close to taking the field as a member of the New York Yankees. I’ve enjoyed seeing the early camp photos of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird and other position players ahead of Sunday’s reporting deadline, but clearly, the appearance I’ve been waiting for the most is the arrival of Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton.
|Photo Credit: Patrick Hennessy, via Twitter @TrueHennessy|
Stanton indicated that he arrived early to take everything in and adjust to the time zone since he’s a “West Coast Guy”. Regardless of his reasons, I am ready to see him on the field with his new teammates sooner rather than later.
Based on his words, Stanton understands the goal in the Bronx. Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on the expectation of winning, Stanton said “It’s huge. I’ve never been able to experience that at this level. This is a level I’ve worked toward my whole life and never been able to experience that, so I’m really excited for that aspect.” Yes, we are too. Hoch went on to say Stanton added there is curiosity about how many homers he and Judge can hit, but “We can’t worry about expectations when the main goal is to win. If our expectations help us win, then it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are.” But c’mon, all of us want to see massive numbers between these two. Triple-digit homers traveling many, many miles will be just fine.
Good times in the Yankees Universe!
Other Spring Notes…
Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to all camps, we’re starting to see movement in the free agent market.
In moves that indirectly impact the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez (pending a physical) and the Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty Jaime Garcia. Nunez might have been a nice cog to use for support in transitioning the rookies at second and third, but he’s not a great defender and seems somewhat injury prone so it was no loss to the Yankees in my opinion. I never heard any interest with the Yankees bringing back Garcia but no doubt I would have preferred him in a spot start over Luis Cessa. While Garcia is an average starter at best, I’m sure he’ll throw a no-hitter against the Yankees now. Seriously, I wish him well in Toronto but I am okay with the Yankees decision to let him go. The only negative is the loss of the pitching prospects that the Yankees sent to the Minnesota Twins (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns) last year for Garcia. I liked the work Littell had done in the minor leagues last year prior to the trade.
At this point, the only veteran free agent infielder that appeals to me is Neil Walker. I’d love for Mike Moustakas to sign a one-year “pillow” contract but realistically it is not going to happen. The Yankees are committed to keeping payroll under the $197 million threshold and I think the loss of $1 million in international bonus pool money represents a bigger detriment to the Yankees than the loss of the second and fifth round draft picks. Last month, Baseball America named the Yankees as one of three teams favored to sign soon-to-be free agent outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez from Cuba. If the Yankees truly have interest in Martinez, they won’t sacrifice international bonus pool money for a one year of Moustakas. The Yankees have limited space available for the current 2017-18 signing period so they’d be looking at July 2nd for the next signing period once Martinez is declared a free agent by MLB. The only way the Yankees could justify losing the draft picks and the international bonus pool money would be a long-term contract for Moose Tacos and that’s simply not going to happen as we await the eventual expected landing of Manny Machado in the Bronx.
We are just one week away from the first Spring game. The Yankees open the Grapefruit League schedule with a 1:05 pm EST matchup at Steinbrenner Field next Friday against their “fight opponent” from last July, the Detroit Tigers. No doubt that the players will be much calmer than their last meeting and the managers involved are long gone. Boonie, please be sure to hand Giancarlo a bat next Friday. We need some action photos of the big guy going deep in Yankees gear. I am tired of these Marlins pics…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Drew Hallowell)|
My thoughts for Opening Day Starting Pitcher
Last year, we knew almost immediately when training camp began who would get the Opening Day pitching assignment. New manager, new coaching staff, and a down year from the 2016 staff ace leave the decision a little more up in the air this year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)|
Let’s break down the candidates:
The unquestioned (and surprising) leader of the 2017 Yankees Rotation. Sevy shared the team lead of 14 wins with CC Sabathia (he had a 14-6 record with 2.98 ERA in 31 games started covering 193 1/3 innings pitched). Severino also struck out 230 batters. He finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If the decision is based solely on stats, Sevy is your man.
The “recognized” staff ace had an uncharacteristic 2017 compared to prior seasons. His record was 13-12 with 4.74 ERA, however, he finished the year strong and was 2-1 with 0.90 ERA in the post-season against the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. His body of work for his four-year Yankees career (52-28, 3.56 ERA, 668 1/3 innings pitched, 30 starts) attests to his stature and continued rank as a leader of the staff. Personally, I feel that we’ll see a more normalized Tanaka in 2018, pitching closer to his pre-2017 numbers.
Okay, if we go solely on the basis of the body of work, Sabathia is the clear and undisputed leader as the most tenured member of the pitching staff. 120-73 in nine years as a New York Yankee, with a 3.75 ERA in 1,657 2/3 innings pitched. In 2017, CC was 14-5 with 3.69 ERA in 27 games started (148 2/3 innings pitched). If the decision for Opening Day starter is Lifetime Achievement Award, Sabathia is the choice. This is probably a sentimental choice as it could be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes depending upon how the season goes.
While it is possible that Gray may someday be an Opening Day starter for the Yankees, this is not the year. Sonny appeared in only 11 games for the games following the trading deadline deal that brought him to New York last year. He was 4-7 with 3.72 ERA over 65 1/3 innings. Granted, he didn’t get much run support but he also did not help his own cause as he pitched better in Oakland than he did in the Bronx. Gray’s goal for this year will be to set himself up Opening Day in a future season.
He was just a rookie. No offense to Monty but he is the fifth starter until proven otherwise. He finished 8-7 with 4.07 ERA in 29 games started over 155 1/3 innings pitched. He did an admirable job as the fifth starter; much better than Luis Severino did the year before.
This is a tough decision. I think that any of the top three (Severino, Tanaka and Sabathia) would make an excellent choice for Opening Day starter. Severino is probably viewed the current staff ace by most, but Tanaka has put up good numbers collectively over the past four years. Sabathia would be a wonderful choice to recognize how much the man has meant to the Yankees. For me, I’d probably go with Severino as the future face (or ace, however you want to look at it) of the rotation but with all sincerity none of the three would be a bad choice in my humble opinion.
|Photo Credits: Getty Images|
How about Aaron Judge at Tight End?…
Admittedly, I was surprised when I saw the news that the Yankees had acquired infielder Russell Wilson from the Texas Rangers. Wilson, better known as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, is nothing more than a guy who likes to experience Fantasy Baseball in a Major League Camp. He has no plans to play two sports and really only wants to maintain his connection to baseball, which is obviously one of his loves.
Even more surprisingly was the negative reaction of many Yankees fans. Personally, I had no issue with Wilson’s desire to achieve a dream of playing with the Yankees. His late father was a lifetime Yankees fan, and Wilson himself was a Yankees fan during his childhood and perhaps still is. I guess I see the positives of Wilson’s addition. He is an inspiration for the players and I view him as a great motivational speaker for the few weeks he will spend in Tampa. The Yankees have said that he’ll participate in pre-game workouts and will be in the dugout, but it doesn’t really sound like he’ll see much, if any, action on the field during games. So, I have no problems with Wilson’s presence. I am not a Seahawks fan, but Wilson has played his sport at the highest level and can share insights from his experiences as a very good, quality professional player.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
The Seattle Times speculates that while Wilson may not be using Baseball as leverage, it is possible that he is sending a signal to Seahawks ownership that there is life outside of Seattle. What’s better than going to one of the most recognizable teams in Sports in the biggest city in the country? Wilson is sure to draw a huge crowd when he makes his first appearance at Steinbrenner Field sometime during March. The paper indicated when Wilson last participated in Spring Training for the Texas Rangers (2014 and 2015), he was in negotiations for an extension with the Seahawks. It led to a four-year deal that expires in two years. At the time of the contract signing, Wilson was the second highest paid QB behind Aaron Rodgers (although he wanted to be the highest paid). However, since that time, he will fall to the tenth highest paid at the position once Alex Smith’s new deal with the Washington Redskins becomes official and Jimmy Garrapolo re-signs with the San Francisco 49ers. Wilson hasn’t played professional baseball since 2011 when he appeared in 61 games at the Class A level for the Colorado Rockies organization.
I did like CC Sabathia’s tweet that the Yankees were going to win the World Series and the Super Bowl this year. And the various memes that said the Yankees now have the best quarterback in New York, poking fun at Eli Manning, and, yes, Tim Tebow.
This is a total publicity ploy for both sides. No one has any illusions that Wilson has suddenly decided to embark upon a professional baseball career like Tebow. He’ll be back on the field for the Seahawks this fall when they try to rebound from a lost season. But when he does take the field, he’ll do it knowing that, for a few days or weeks, he was a New York Yankee. Life is good.
FlavaFraz21 gets his number back…
It was tough watching Todd Frazier with a Mets cap and a NYM jersey bearing his number #21 that he was unable to wear with the Yankees, thanks to Paul O’Neill, at his introductory press conference. Listening to him talk only reaffirmed what an incredibly positive voice he is for a clubhouse.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)|
Based on reports, the Yankees were never willing to offer more than a one year deal. I know it’s not my money, but I would have gone two years with Frazier like the Mets did. Even if the Yankees acquire Manny Machado next off-season, Frazier could have provided backup support for both first and third bases, with some pop for DH. Or, based on the team-friendly contract that Frazier signed with the Mets, if the Yankees had signed him for the same approximate dollars, he would have had some trade marketability for the teams that strike out in their bids for free agents-to-be Machado and Josh Donaldson.
I hope that not signing Frazier does not come back to haunt the Yankees.
If at third you don’t succeed…
As stagnant as the free agent market has been, I still do not see Mike Moustakas taking a one-year “pillow” contract. I am intrigued by the thought of the damage that Moose Tacos could do with the right field porch and his lefty bat would be a very healthy addition to the predominantly right-handed Yankees lineup. I don’t know where he’ll end up, but I don’t envision Moustakas in Pinstripes regardless of how greedy the Yankees decide to get (or not).
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (David Richard)|
I am not opposed to Miguel Andujar as the starting third baseman but I do want a solid Plan B in place. Ronald Torreyes filled in capably at third last season but he’s not my preference for a starter if Andujar proves that he needs more seasoning in the Minor Leagues. Torreyes is best served as the team’s utility player.
Shane Spencer, he is not…
The Yankees signed former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Shane Robinson to a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. I am not sure that I really understand the addition of another outfielder given the plethora of outfielders participating in training camp. Robinson has played for the St Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins and Angels over his 8-year career, playing in 436 games. He doesn’t offer much with his bat (.226 lifetime batting average with six career home runs). He only played 20 games last year for the Angels, batting .194 with no homers and one RBI.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I’d say this is a depth move for Triple A, but even the outfield at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is overflowing. Robinson will make $950,000 if he makes the Major League roster but at face value, it seems so unlikely. If he does not make the MLB roster, he can opt out of his contract on June 15th.
5 more days until Pitchers and Catchers report…I cannot wait.
End of Short Yankees Reign for the Toddfather…
I know, we need to embrace the new era and accept that Miguel Andujar will be the starting third baseman this year. It’s been said that the Yankees are very high on Andujar and the Yankees apparently resisted including Andujar in the failed talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gerrit Cole, who was subsequently dealt to the Houston Astros.
My concerns with Andujar echo the sentiments of other fans who feel that Andujar’s glove is not quite Major League ready and that he’ll be an average defender at best with improvement. I am not opposed to Andujar at third, but I wanted a strong backup plan. That’s why it was a gut punch for me yesterday when Todd Frazier signed a two year deal with the New York Mets. What’s worse is that the contract he signed is team-friendly (2 years for $17 million) which the Yankees could have matched without impairing their current salary position and objective to keep 2018 total payroll under the $197 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.
It made me sick to see Noah Syndergaard using the Yankees-themed ‘thumbs down’ emoji on Twitter in reaction to Frazier’s signing.
I guess part of my frustration is that the Yankees will make a run at Manny Machado this fall when he becomes a free agent. Machado, regardless of the Baltimore Orioles plan to play him at short this year, would be the team’s starting third baseman if the Yankees are successful in signing him. So, Andujar would be a one season experiment at the position, learning on the job at the Major League level. For one year, I’d rather have a strong experienced third baseman who is a clubhouse leader. Frazier helped solidify team chemistry after last year’s trading deadline and he was a fan favorite.
Maybe Andujar takes the job and runs with it, becoming a candidate for this year’s Rookie of the Year. Great for him (and us) if it happens. It is certainly within the realm of possibility. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like the fact that Todd Frazier is a Met.
I saw someone post that the Yankees’ apparent lack of interest in Frazier to be a sign that the team is either fully committed to Andujar or that GM Brian Cashman has something else up his sleeve. There’s no way the Yankees sign free agent Mike Moustakas. Aside from the cost it would take sign the former Royals third sacker, the Yankees would forfeit their second-highest and fifth-highest draft picks in this summer’s MLB Draft plus $1 million in international bonus pool money since Moustakas received a qualifying offer from Kansas City and the Yankees are a competitive balance tax payor. Neil Walker, who can play second or third, is certainly an alternative that has been discussed by some. Walker wouldn’t block the younger kids so he might be the best case scenario. Otherwise, we could be trotting out the no-bat Danny Espinosa when the season opens.
I wish Todd Frazier the very best with his new team. I am glad that he achieved his goal of staying in New York even if he now calls the wrong stadium home. The Mets are getting a great guy for their team.
Move over, Mystique and Aura, here comes Smart and Confident…
The Yankees made Aaron Boone’s coaching staff official yesterday. The names are exactly as we expected:
Bench Coach: Josh Bard
Pitching Coach: Larry Rothschild
Bullpen Pitching Coach: Mike Harkey
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Assistant Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Third Base Coach: Phil Nevin
First Base Coach/Outfield Instructor: Reggie Willits
Major League Quality Control Coach/Infield Instructor: Carlos Mendoza
Also, the following supporting roles:
Catching Coach: Jason Brown
Coaching Assistant/Bullpen Catcher: Radley Haddad
Coaching Assistant/Instant Replay Coordinator: Brett Weber
It’s great to hear that guys like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Ronald Torreyes are already in Tampa and working out at Steinbrenner Field. The sound of Spring is nearly upon us.
First-time World Champions: Philadelphia Eagles…
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles for winning the 2018 Super Bowl. I am sure that there are a lot of disappointed New York Giants fans, but for me, I am glad that the team from Boston was not successful. I am sure that Aaron Boone and Tommy Kahnle, avowed Eagles fans, were very happy. I am hoping they experience the joy of championships from beginning to end this year.
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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.
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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.
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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.