Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
Starting Rotation missing its spots…
Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.
Credit: Randy Glasbergen
The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.
I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water. The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.
I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.
If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.
Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.
It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.
I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it. Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.
I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.
MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.
They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.
Let’s enjoy some baseball today.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Hinch makes first public appearance…
A.J. Hinch will get another opportunity to manage in Major League Baseball.
This is not an endorsement or a belief he said the right things during his interview by Tom Verducci of the MLB Network. In fact, the interview might have raised more questions than answers but I do feel it was the critical first step for Hinch as he tries to rebuild his image and position himself for a job in 2021.
There is no doubt Hinch is still very protective of his Astros players even though he is no longer their leader. On one hand, it’s an admirable trait that he’s willing to be the sacrificial lamb for his guys but on the other, his players showed no respect for their manager when they continued their deceitful and illegal practices despite Hinch’s displeasure as evidenced by his use of a baseball bat to two monitors. Hinch should have said something, done something (beyond taking batting practice on the monitors), but I am glad to know he was not in favor of the cheating. His inaction to stop the cheating is not an honorable quality.
I am not really trying to dissect Hinch’s interview. I’ve never been a big fan of his and the perspectives of the fans will be based on our own individual biases. When I think of the smug answers he gave at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS last fall, it does infuriate me. Yet, on a human level, it’s hard to watch a man stripped of the game he loves. I don’t know if he has the proper remorse. He said the things he needed to say to take responsibility and accountability, which I appreciate. However, there are many unresolved questions. Ultimately, it comes across as ‘I am sorry I (we) got caught’.
The 2017 World Series Championship is forever tainted. There is nothing that can be said or done that will absolve the Astros of the sins they committed to take away a potential championship from two teams that, as far as we know, played the game the right way…the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Championships are very hard to come by and we were deprived of the joy and excitement of potentially winning the World Series in 2017.
When the one year suspension is over, I am confident Hinch will be given consideration for a MLB job. Maybe he has to serve as a bench coach first but eventually he’ll be given a managerial post again. I’ve wondered if the opportunity could present itself with the team that fired him, the Houston Astros. There is nothing in the rule book that says he can’t manage the Astros again. Dusty Baker may be the current manager but there’s really no doubt he does not represent the long-term future as the team’s leader. He’s on the last stop of his long career, armed with only a one-year contract. He serves a purpose today, but it could open the door for Hinch’s return. The upcoming season gives owner Jim Crane a year to say they did the right thing by parting ways with Hinch and GM Jeffrey Luhnow but a year from now, there will be talk about how Hinch has served his punishment and his time away has given him the necessary introspection and redemption to resume his role as the Astros manager. If the Astros have a winning season this year without the trash can banging and other illegal practices, it helps Hinch’s case to return. I am not defending Hinch. This is just the reality of the situation. I firmly believe that he’ll see a Major League dugout again regardless of what we think or feel.
I want to see the Astros players take accountability. So far, only former Astros Mike Fiers, the whistleblower, and Dallas Keuchel have stepped forward. Houston pitchers report to Spring Training next Thursday, and the players (the heart of the conspirators) report a week from Monday. We’ll be watching closely as the players are asked about their involvement and I think it behooves the Astros organization to hold a press conference with key team players to address the elephant in the room sooner than later.
The Astros play their first Spring game on Saturday, February 22nd in West Palm Beach, FL against the team they share FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the defending World Champion Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see what type of reception they receive from the crowd. It’s too bad the Astros don’t come to Steinbrenner Field for any games during the exhibition season. The first regular season road crowd the Astros will face is the Oakland A’s on Monday, March 30th (they open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels). I really hope the Oakland crowd, not one to hold back their feelings, lets the Astros players have it with their vocal displeasure.
Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle
Baseball continues to sit in limbo with the Mookie Betts trade. I feel badly for the players involved. Spring Training opens this coming week and Mookie has no idea if he needs to head for Arizona or Florida. On Tuesday night, it was reported the Boston Red Sox had agreed to send Betts, a free agent next off-season, and part of David Price’s contract (with the pitcher attached to it) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would receive young Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. For Graterol, the Dodgers dealt pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Standing behind this pending trade is the Dodgers’ pending trade of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects. Four days later and the trades have yet to be finalized due to Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s health. The Dodgers got to go to arbitration to make their negative arguments against Pederson on Thursday, winning the case, so it’s hard to think Joc has warm, fuzzy feelings about his present/former team after a week of limbo and negativity.
The Red Sox, based on Graterol’s medical evaluation, are pushing for additional compensation. The Twins are resisting and the Dodgers do not seem willing to send any of their prospects to close the deal. It seems like the deal will eventually go through, perhaps as soon as today with the Player’s Union and agent Scott Boras coming out publicly to demand closure. So long as the Twins did not “hide” any medical knowledge about Graterol, I think the Dodgers should step up and send a quality prospect to Boston if they truly want Betts. In no way should they send a top prospect like second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, or pitcher Dustin May, or even the well-named infielder Jeter Downs, for only a year of Mookie. But a prospect with some potential makes sense.
When the trade finally goes down, the Red Sox, for the short-term, will be worse. Perhaps they’ll be stronger for the long run. The elimination of a significant chunk of Price’s contract and the money owed to Betts for the 2020 season will allow them to reset luxury tax penalties. For me, it’s hard to fathom trading one of the game’s best players. I get the fear of losing a top player to free agency without a quality return but you have to look no further than the Washington Nationals to see a team that kept star players through the end of their contracts in two successive years, only to watch them leave (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon). For the Nats, it paid off with the latter who helped deliver a World Series championship to the Capitol City. Not that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender this year, with or without Mookie, but it does seem odd when a big city team screams small market poverty.
There’s a chance the Betts trade could fall apart altogether. I doubt it and it would be very awkward if Mookie and Price have to show up in Fort Myers, FL. Hopefully the trade gets done today or tomorrow at the latest.
Based on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s words this week, we should expect news of the Red Sox investigation before teams start reporting to camp on Thursday. I am not expecting much in the way of penalties against Boston but I hope their former manager Alex Cora receives no less than a two-year suspension. A lifetime ban would be better. Unlike Hinch who did not support the cheating but did nothing about it, Cora was an active conspirator with the players, perhaps its ring leader, and the proven liar should receive harsher treatment than Hinch. How the Commissioner handles Cora’s involvement as an active participant in the cheating scandal sets the tone for MLB’s future tolerance of dishonest play. Be a man, Manfred. Eliminate the game’s cancer.
I guess I should touch on the Yankees since this is a Yankees blog. Like all of you, I was disappointed to hear the news about James Paxton and how the lower back surgery to remove a cyst will keep him out of action until late May or early June. It certainly shows why J.A. Happ, now sporting number 33, has remained on the Yankees roster. I had expected Happ to be traded before Opening Day but at this point, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for the March 26th opener. I have my doubts whether he’ll end the season as a Yankee. I can’t see the Yankees allowing him to reach the milestone to kick in the 2021 option on his contract (165 innings pitched or 27 games started). I also can’t see the Yankees sitting Happ to keep him from reaching those milestones. I think they’ll find a way to move Happ at some point without sacrificing his ability to trigger the 2021 option. It makes too much sense to eliminate all or part of the money owed to Happ to create opportunity for younger, cheaper arms.
For the short-term, keeping Happ is fine. It opens the door for Jordan Montgomery to grab a spot in the rotation. If everyone was healthy and Happ still on the roster, it most likely would have meant a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Monty. But now, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to head north with the big league club. While it is possible that we’ll see Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and/or Clarke Schmidt make their Major League debuts this season, I feel their time will come later in the summer.
I do hate the talk that James Paxton (and the suspended Domingo German) will be like ‘trade deadline acquisitions’. The team will be better when they return but they are not deadline acquisitions…just like Gleyber Torres is no longer 22. The downside or risk is potential injury to other starters before or when Paxton and German return, making them replacements instead of additional starters. Paxton will easily slide back into the rotation (obviously), but German’s future probably depends upon how well Montgomery does. I am hoping Monty grabs his rotation spot and does not let go.
Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP
As teams are scurrying to bring in veteran players on minor league deals, I thought the Yankees would be more active than they have been. The latest veteran receiving a MiLB deal from the Yankees with Spring Training invitation is former Cleveland Indians reliever Dan Otero. Not exactly a name to get excited about. With Paxton headed to the 60-day Injured List to start the season, it seems like now would be a good time to ink Taijuan Walker or Aaron Sanchez to a minor league deal. The bloom is off both pitchers but they once held great promise and are still young. Both are summer of ’92 babies, making them 27 years old to start the season. I like the upside potential, especially if they come to camp on a minor league contract. As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal.
It was great to see Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino and Gio Urshela on The Michael Kay Show yesterday. I am ready to see our favorite Pinstriped players voice their words and thoughts from the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and watch them prepare for the championship 2020 season. And, oh yeah, Gerrit Cole is a Yankee.
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY
As always, 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)