Tagged: MLB

Yankees Settle All Arbitration-Eligible Cases…

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New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…

ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team.

With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year.

For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:

  • James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
  • Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
  • Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
  • Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
  • Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
  • Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
  • Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
  • Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
  • Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)

I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player.

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Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:

  • Jesus Aguilar
  • Nick Ahmed
  • Pedro Baez
  • Andrew Benintendi
  • Jose Berrios
  • Archie Bradley
  • Aledmys Diaz
  • Brian Goodwin
  • Shane Greene
  • Josh Hader
  • Max Muncy
  • Hector Neris
  • Joc Pederson
  • J.T. Realmuto
  • Eduardo Rodriguez
  • George Springer
  • Trevor Story
  • Brent Suter
  • Chris Taylor
  • Tony Wolters

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.

No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz.

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Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.

There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers.

The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout.  He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound.  It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.

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While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.

I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship.

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I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team.

For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.

As always, Go Yankees!

2020 Yankees New Year’s Resolution: Good Health for ALL…

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Yankees Overhaul Training/Strength-and-Conditioning Team…

The Yankees have made their first significant acquisition of 2020. No, they have not landed Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians or Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers. In a story broken on Friday night by Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, the Yankees have hired Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance to oversee their training and strength-and-conditioning departments.

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Admittedly, I was probably most familiar with Cressey as a former employer of Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who served time as a pitching coordinator for the company. However, Cressey is nationally recognized for his work in kinesiology and biomechanics, and has worked with baseball stars such as Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer.

Per Corey Kluber’s quote on Cressey’s website, “CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in position to remain healthy throughout a long season.”

For a team that set a MLB record last season for most players (thirty) on the Injured List in a single season, Cressey represents a major leap forward for the organization. We knew change was coming when word spread a few weeks ago that former strength-and-conditioning coach Matt Krause had been relieved of his duties with the Yankees. I expected an upgrade in the department but certainly not someone of Cressey’s caliber.

As part of the deal, Cressey will be allowed to continue to operate Cressey Sports Performance which has locations in Hudson, MA and Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

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I am excited about Cressey’s hire and feel it is as critical to the training and strength-and-conditioning areas as last year’s addition of Driveline’s Sam Briend as the organization’s director of pitching and the offseason hire of Blake as the new Major League pitching coach, replacing Larry Rothschild. The hitting instruction group has also received major upgrades within the past year with the hiring of Dillon Lawson as hitting coordinator and Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach, among various other additions.

According to Lindsey Adler, longtime trainer Steve Donahue, who has been in the organization since 1979, will transition to a role she says is “akin to trainer emeritus” and he is expected to maintain an active role in the organization.

To replace Donahue as head trainer, the Yankees will promote assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist Michael Schuk, 37, who is entering his seventh season with the Yankees. His bio on the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society website indicates he holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Science-Athletic Training from the University of Central Florida and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Nova Southeastern University. Prior to joining the Yankees, Schuk worked as an intern for the Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

For those of you who continue to feel that Hal Steinbrenner is “cheap”, you may want to rethink your narrative.  We know the Yankees spent $324 million to bring one of the best starting pitchers in Baseball to the Bronx, but these organizational hires like Cressey most certainly come at very high costs. Outside of the Cincinnati Reds, who hired Driveline founder Kyle Boddy as director of pitching initiatives/pitching coordinator last October, no team has been as aggressive as the Yankees in rebuilding their organizational infrastructure with premium talent in nearly every area of instruction and conditioning. None of this happens without Hal Steinbrenner’s authorization (and his money, of course).

As for the team on the playing field, the Yankees have been quiet since the highly successful press conference last month to introduce Gerrit Cole. The re-signing of Brett Gardner has yet to be officially announced but that seems to be a product of the holidays and the formal announcement could be coming any day now, along with the corresponding roster move to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Barring a trade of J.A. Happ, the most significant moves before pitchers and catchers report next month will probably be players coming in on minor league deals with MLB camp invites.

Some Yankee fans wanted a reunion with former Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, however, All-Starlin signed a two-year deal with the World Champion Washington Nationals to be their second baseman next season, replacing Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera. After a few years living in obscurity in Miami, I am glad to see Castro get another chance with a contender. Credit to Starlin who could have been a malcontent with losing under the Marlins, he was nothing but a positive, inspirational force on Don Mattingly’s team and I am happy to see him land with a good club.

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Probably a couple of the remaining free agent names I am watching with interest are second baseman Scooter Gennett and first baseman Eric Thames. Not that I feel it is absolutely critical the Yankees bring in another left-handed hitter, but it would be nice.

Fangraphs, via Steamer, projects Gennett to hit .261/.311/.421 with .310 wOBA and 90 wRC+ this coming season with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs (0.6 fWAR) in 112 games. 2019 was a lost season due to injuries. He missed three months of the season after severely straining his groin in March. When he came back he only hit .217 in 22 games and was traded at the July deadline to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who had cut former second baseman Joe Panik, another name recently linked to the Yankees, to make room for Gennett, released Scooter on August 27th.  Gennett is infamous for the four home run game in 2017, but I think there’s potential for a rebound in a part-time role. Whether the Yankees bring in Gennett or Panik on a minor league deal, I’ll use the words of The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch, “No such thing as a bad minor league deal.” I agree. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it doesn’t work, you sever ties and move on. I like to  bring in as much competition at certain spots as possible and let the cream rise to the top. It’s not that I have anything against Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada. I think one of them will serve a very valuable role as backup at shortstop for Gleyber Torres and there’s no question I love Wade’s speed. But there is room for a guy like Gennett who could provide some flexibility to use D.J. LeMahieu around the diamond like last year.

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Credit: USATSI

As for Thames, he may not hit for average but when he gets a hold of a mistake pitch, the balls go a very long way. That plays nicely with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. I am comfortable with Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base, but would certainly not be opposed to bringing in Thames on a minors deal.

It was a little tough watching Dellin Betances wearing Mets gear at his press conference this week. Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson, perhaps over then free-agent Adam Ottavino. D-Rob signed with the Phillies and only pitched in seven games before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. He subsequently had Tommy John surgery and is not expected back anytime soon. Meanwhile, Ottavino was signed and became a very valuable part of the Yankees bullpen despite the late season slide. The Yankees called that one right and perhaps they’ve made the right call about Betances. I’ll miss Dellin and I hope the achilles injury does not resurface for him. We know how critical your legs are for power as a pitcher so if anything’s off, it could be very problematic for a pitcher who occasionally struggles with command. I’d love to see Dellin return to form in 2020 and then opt out after the season to re-sign with the Yankees. In my dreams, I know, but Dellin will remain a favorite for his time in the Bronx.

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For those of you who may have forgotten, potential fifth starter Jordan Montgomery was 9-7 in 2017 with 3.88 ERA. His K/9 rate was 8.34 and he started 29 games. His fWAR was 2.6.  I’d gladly take that production in the fifth spot again. I still expect the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ and his contract to lessen the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes, but I think Montgomery represents a great replacement for Happ. Montgomery is a better starter, in my opinion, than 18-game winner Domingo German, who will miss the season’s first 63 games after his suspension for domestic violence was handed down this week by MLB.

Speaking of German, I’ve seen many Yankee fans call for his release. While I in no way, shape or form, condone German’s actions, I do feel that he deserves the opportunity to serve his sentence and get the help he needs to be a better man. It would be wrong to cut him for no return. As a player he has value, and I’d hate to see him land in Boston to help the Red Sox who seem to be crumbling at the moment. If the Yankees opt to trade him and control where he goes, I would not be opposed. I feel the Yankees owe German nothing, but for letting his teammates down, he owes the team everything (same with his family, actually more so, who suffered the domestic violence). I am willing to forgive although I doubt I’ll ever forget his actions which form my impressions of his character, but let’s give him a second chance to prove he is better than this.

This time next month we’ll be anxiously awaiting the start of Spring Training (as if we aren’t already). February 12th is not that far away and we’ll soon see Gerritt Cole walking up to Steinbrenner Field as a member of everybody’s favorite team.  Good times.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Yankees Championships…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…

It’s been an interesting year. When January opened, many of us (okay, namely me) wanted the Yankees to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The thought of ‘excite the Fan Base, Hal Steinbrenner’ keep reverberating through my head. On January 14th, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, were out of the Harp-Chado Sweepstakes. The signing of the former Colorado Rockies second baseman was met with general indifference from the Yankees fan base, but it would prove to be a much bigger acquisition than Machado would be for San Diego or Harper for Philly. Both of those teams did so well with their new $300+ million men that they fired their managers. LeMahieu’s manager wasn’t the AL Manager of the Year but he should have been.

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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

By now, we know the Yankees won 103 games during the regular season despite a historic number of men (30) who found their way to the Injured List. The ALDS was a success against the homer happy Minnesota Twins, but the season came to an abrupt end in the ALCS playing against a team that subscribes to the theory ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’. Okay, that’s a Jim Rome quote but it fits the eventual AL Champions and then some. Someone bang on a garage can for the Houston Astros.

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I keep hearing the reason the Yankees failed in the ALCS was because of the hitters. In the playoffs, you face the best of the best. No team is throwing a #5 starter at you to see if they can beat you. With Houston, they had three aces. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. There’s a reason the Yankees couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it. Fortunately, the Yankees, after the season was over, recognized the primary goal of this off-season was to get an ace.

James Paxton, after a rough start (it seemed like the first inning was never his friend for the longest time), settled into his role as the best Yankees pitcher. I like Paxton a lot but he is not an ace. While he can be, he is more of a #2. I’ve seen countless people post on Social Media that Luis Severino is an ace. He’s not but can be (maybe even more so than Paxton). Sevy needs to prove it over the course of a long season. Consistency and good health are the two primary ingredients needed before Sevy can call himself an ace. The potential is there but it has yet to be realized.  Masahiro Tanaka can be very good but he’s not an ace.  The regular season is filled with those dang obligatory homers. Once the playoffs start, he pitches with laser-like focus and like Andy Pettitte, is a man you want on the mound in October. Three very good pitchers, but no current ace among them.

The problem was solved on December 18th, ten days ago, when the Yankees officially signed Gerrit Cole to the largest pitching contract in MLB history (9 years for $324 million). If the opt out after 5 years is exercised, the Yankees can add an additional year to the deal, making it worth $360 million.  I’d say that Hal Steinbrenner has excited the Yankees fan base. With an ace, the Yankees suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in baseball after seasons where the rotation was viewed as the primary weakness. Weakening the lying, cheating Houston Astros was an added bonus.

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Photo Credit: AP

The cautionary tale is the Boston Red Sox. A couple of years ago, Sox fans were beating their chests over a starting rotation headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Porcello is now a Met, Price’s name is regularly among trade rumors as a potential salary dump and Sale can’t stay healthy. If the Yankees have an advantage over the Red Sox, it is a much deeper farm system with talented young pitching prospects to provide a hedge. The Cleveland Indians have proven an ability to grow aces on trees, and of course, the Yankees now have one of those architects on the coaching staff with Matt Blake as the new pitching coach. To Boston’s credit, they have a World Series championship to show for their collection of starters and the Yankees have not.  But if I had to place a bet on which team would win more World Series in the next five years, I can assure you it would not be Boston. If the Yankees can bring the World Series championship total to at least 30 over the next decade, I’d call Cole’s contract a smashing success and those Red Sox championships of 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 will be nothing but a forgotten memory.

Even though 2019 did not bring a championship to the Bronx, it has set the stage for a very strong Yankees squad in 2020. A more complete team that is ready to take the next step. Even though 2010-19 is the first decade in a century that did not feature at least one World Series appearance by the Yankees, it figures to change in 2020-29 with restoration of appearances AND victories.

I look forward to 2020 with great optimism and I know it will be a great year for the Yankees and all their fans.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In other news, the fan-created trade speculation for Josh Hader continues. Yet, not one reputable baseball writer with genuine sources has indicated the Yankees are close on any trades. Miguel Andujar’s name keeps getting mentioned by fans as expendable. As much as I love Gio Urshela’s glove at third base, I am fearful about a regression in Gio’s offense after last year’s breakout. The Yankees need Andujar. I know his defense is often criticized, but moving D.J. LeMahieu from second to third would force the Yankees to use Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada at second.  I’d rather keep LeMahieu, an elite defender, at second, and use Andujar at third if Gio fails. I wouldn’t be so quick to trade him. Andujar also has the potential to see some time at first and perhaps in left field with additional work in the Spring. He is trying to get better defensively and his workout videos show a man who is trying to improve his game. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Andujar for a reliever regardless of how good the reliever is. Third base is simply not a position of strength in the farm system and Urshela, as I’ve mentioned, is no sure thing.

The latest name circulating among the Twitter GM’s is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos may be a good hitter but where does he fit on the Yankees?  The Detroit Tigers moved him off third base because of subpar defensive skills. I’d rather have Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Garder, and Mike Tauchman in left field. Castanellos, who became a right fielder, cannot play center and he’s certainly not going to take Aaron Judge’s spot in right. Make him a DH? It wouldn’t allow the Yankees to maximize the potential of the DH slot with the rotation of great hitters already on the team. I see no fit for Castanellos on the Yankees roster. The bat’s nice but it is not enough to make his addition a roster upgrade. In fact, you could argue it would be a detriment because of the lineup inflexibility it would cause. Personally, I like Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, and think he’d fit better on the roster if the Yankees could swing a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d love to see Joc taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. He may be a platoon bat to face right-handed pitching but he’d mesh well with the other Yankee outfielders or at least better than Castellanos would. Steamer has projected Joc to hit 31 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2020 with .255/.345/.537 batting line and .364 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in approximately 500 plate appearances. Unlike Castanellos, Pederson is a solid defender.

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Credit: FanGraphs.com

It’s always nice to see the calendar page turn to January. The last full month with no Yankees baseball. There could still be a surprise addition or two before pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12th. It continues to be speculation the Yankees will unload J.A. Happ’s contract (all or part) to reduce luxury tax penalties. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Jordan Montgomery will do in Spring Training even if he’ll be on an innings limitation this year.  With no expectation to be more than the fifth starter, I think Monty could serve the role well.  I think we’ll begin to see the work of Sam Briend, Director of Pitching for the Yankees, come to fruition. With guys like Briend and Matt Blake, the organization’s great young pitching talent will only get better. Soon, we’ll be growing our own Mike Clevingers and Shane Biebers.

Happy New Year, Everybody!  From all of us to all of you, we hope this is your (our) best year yet. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be relishing in the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Farewell to Dellin Betances…

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Photo Credit: Instagram @dellinbetances68

Reliever Signs with the NY Mets…

First of all and most importantly, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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That’s not meant to be a tie-in with the title of this post. Yesterday certainly was not a fun day for most Yankee fans. I wrote a post yesterday morning before the news broke and was still writing my hope for the Yankees to sign Dellin Betances. Sadly, it was not meant to be and he is now a member of the despised crosstown Mets.

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Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

I am disappointed, without a doubt, but there was never any indication the Yankees were going to try to bring him back. It hurts a little that both Didi Gregorius and Betances left for one-year deals. It seems like the Yankees could have matched those offers without breaking the bank. Betances’ contract has a player option for 2021 and a team option for 2022, but if he pitches like we know he can, he’ll most likely decline the player option. For 2020, Betances will receive a signing bonus of $5.3 million and a salary of $2.2 million. The player option is worth $6 million for 2021, but if he declines, he’ll receive a $3 million buyout. It’s not smooth sailing next off-season for Betances if he does decline the option, the Mets could apply the qualifying offer which would cause some market resistance.

Oh well, he’s gone. Social media was littered with disparaging remarks by Yankee fans about Betances yesterday. Regardless of the reason(s) the Yankees chose not to aggressively try to retain Betances, he was a great Yankee. I felt he was one that I wanted to see stay in Pinstripes for the duration of his career. Frankly, I would have rather kept Betances and let Brett Gardner walk, primarily because I feel good outfielders are easier to come by than elite relievers.  If you believe that Betances has seen his better days, then the Yankees were right to let him go. Although I will never root for the Mets, I hope Betances is able to regain his prime form. He’ll be 32 next season, and this, potentially, is his last chance for a big payday. If Edwin Diaz is able to rebound from his disastrous 2019 and pitch like the elite closer he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2018, the Mets will have a very strong back end of their bullpen. Seth Lugo figures to join the mix making it a formidable group.

For Dellin, he gets to stay in New York City. As a native New Yorker, this is huge for him and his family. I probably would have preferred to see him join Didi Gregorius and Joe Girardi in Philadelphia but that would have meant uprooting his family and moving a few hours down I-95. So for Dellin’s sake, since he wanted to stay in NYC, I am glad he was able to. He’ll get to pitch for his friend and former teammate, new Mets manager Carlos Beltran.

For his 8-year Yankees career, Dellin finished 21-22 with 2.36 ERA and 36 saves. In 381 2/3 innings, he struck out 621 batters. He pitched in 358 games after making his debut during the 2011 season. He’ll be missed, but we move on.

The Yankees bullpen remains among the very best with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle. I’d say the group did fine in 2019 without Betances so there’s no reason to believe this group can’t be better in 2020 with baseball’s best starter sitting atop the rotation. With five effective starting pitchers, the Yankees will make less use of an opener in 2020 so it means Chad Green can return to the later stages of games. With more rest and options available to him, Aaron Boone can maximize the potential of the bullpen to its fullest capabilities.

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Photo Credit: Thomas A Ferrera, Newsday

Among Yankee fans, speculation immediately centered on the Yankees “have to” acquire Josh Hader and saying maybe that was the end game. I don’t feel the Yankees have to make any moves. Sure, it would be nice to add another effective, elite reliever but I am not going to buy into the Josh Hader hype. As we all know, when Brian Cashman moves, he moves quietly and swiftly.  There’s been too much noise around Hader which makes me believe this is purely fan speculation run wild. Maybe Cashman does pull off a Hader trade, but the cost will be very high.  Contrary to fan belief, we can’t just dump excess baggage on Milwaukee and call it a day. They’ll want players of significant value for their premier reliever who has four years of control remaining…if they choose to deal him at all.

Ken Giles was mentioned as a trade target last summer when it was reported the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays did have talks at the trading deadline which almost brought Giles to the Bronx. The Yankees could revisit those talks, however, I am leery of giving Toronto anything of value. With their young core and improving starting rotation, they’ll be making some noise in the AL East in upcoming years. The last thing I’d want to see is former Yankees helping lead the charge.

This probably makes Cleveland’s Brad Hand the most attractive option, in my opinion. If the Indians were to deal Francisco Lindor, it would be a clear signal they are entering rebuilding mode after the earlier trade which sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. At that point, Hand would seemingly become expendable, and from a trade standpoint, would be more reasonably priced than Hader.

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Photo Credit: Aaron Joseczyk, UPI

Other names that have been mentioned include Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles and Tim Hill of the Kansas City Royals.

Regardless of what happens, the Yankees will be alright. Ben Heller is healthy and ready to show he belongs in the Yankee bullpen.  I am optimistic for a rebound by Jonathan Holder. I think Jonathan Loaisiga, if he stays healthy, has a chance to be a very good reliever. Luis Cessa was better last year and could continue to improve. Let’s give Brian Cashman time to round out the bullpen. He has 49 days until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. That’s not a hard stop but I have no doubt the best possible 25 men will take the field for the New York Yankees when they open the regular season on March 26th at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles.

Enjoy your Christmas! We can worry about Yankees baseball tomorrow.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Let’s Secure The Machine…

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Photo Credit: AP


Time to Focus on D.J. LeMahieu…

I have to say this baseball off-season has been more eventful than years past, and has been nice to see the big free agents off the board before Christmas. Last year, it seemed like free agent signings and trade activity were frozen while the World waited to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would land. The Yankees had started early with their trade for James Paxton but it was relatively quiet for them until January. Even then, their signing of D.J. LeMahieu in 2019’s first month was met with indifference from the Yankees fan base, maybe some frustration for those who really wanted to see Manny Machado suit up in Pinstripes.

Nearly a year later, we see how invaluable the acquisition of D.J. LeMahieu really was. Many felt that he was the team’s MVP and warranted consideration for the AL MVP Award (he finished a disappointing fourth). I felt he should have been at least third in the voting with no offense to Marcus Semien (being a Yankee always seems to be a negative factor with these types of awards).

LeMahieu, who will turn 32 in July, enters the final year of his two year, $24 million contract with the Yankees. I’d really like to see the team sign him to an extension now rather than wait until after the season. I think LeMahieu proved his worth in his first Bronx season. He showed he was not a product of Coors Field and actually improved his power numbers away from the Mile High City. His final batting line was .327/.375/.518 with ..375 wOBA and 136 wRC+. He had 26 home runs, eclipsing his previous high of 15 with the Colorado Rockies, and 102 RBIs. His K% was only 13.7%, in line with his career numbers. A superior defender, he is slated to be the Yankees starting second baseman in 2020 with the move of Gleyber Torres to shortstop. Setting the numbers aside, it felt like LeMahieu was always coming up with the big hit when the Yankees needed him the most, almost singlehandedly solving the Yankees’ problem with runners left in scoring position.

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Photo Credit: Tim Warner, Getty Images

For whatever reason, the Yankees are less aggressive with their own free agents than they are when enamored with an outsider like Gerrit Cole. That’s probably a false generalization but I remember how difficult it seemed for Derek Jeter to get new contracts in his later years, with negotiations very tenuous at times. We saw it this Winter when the Yankees let Didi Gregorius walk and to this date appear ready to let Dellin Betances leave. While I am not sure the Yankees had any intention of bringing back Didi (if they had, they would have given him the qualifying offer), Gregorius said at his Phillies introductory press conference that he had only heard from Brian Cashman once and he was told the Yankees were focused on Gerrit Cole. To me, unless a player is very invested in Pinstriped legacy like Jeter or Mariano Rivera, it is easy for a Yankee free agent to go elsewhere if things get contentious.

Last off-season, the Yankees gave extensions to Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Unfortunately, both subsequently missed significant time with injuries. Maybe that gives the Yankees pause when considering extensions this off-season.  With the need for Torres at short, the Yankees need to stabilize the future of second base and lock up LeMahieu while they have exclusive negotiating rights. Treat him right.  He is a very valuable part of this team and he has proven his worth. As it sits right now, the Yankees need to add a potential left-handed bat, perhaps in a utility infield role. I know, it is well documented the Yankees’ right-handed hitters hit lefties as well as they do righties, and the need for a left-handed bat is overrated. Still, with the departure of Didi, the only left-handed bats are Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade. Of course, when he returns next summer after completion of his rehab from Tommy John surgery, the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks can hit from the left side too.

Slowly, some of the free agent options I’ve liked are starting to come off the board, I thought former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez might have been a decent option although he has only really played second base. But there are more than a few critics with his game, and he is no longer an option after signing with the Cleveland Indians yesterday. Another guy I really liked as a bounce-back candidate, Travis Shaw, signed in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Going into the season, I see Tyler Wade as the primary backup for shortstop. He’ll be challenged in Spring Training by Thairo Estrada but when camp breaks toward the end of March, I feel the difference-maker will be Wade’s speed. So, perhaps the best current free agent option for left-handed infield help appears to be former Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. I know Kipnis, 33 in April, is not the player he once was. But the Yankees would not be asking him to play a major role.  He was some pop as evidenced by his 17 bombs last year even if he is not going to hit for average (.245/.304/.410 in 2019). It’s probably more likely the Yankees bring in a guy like Joe Panik on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, if anyone at all.

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Photo Credit: George Nitikin, AP

It appears the Yankees will be going with Kyle Higashioka as the backup catcher. I thought they might make a play for Gerrit Cole’s 2019 personal catcher, Martin Maldonado, but he re-signed with the Houston Astros. Another possibility, former Yankee Francisco Cervelli, signed with the Miami Marlins. Considering Cervelli signed for only $2 million, it seems like the Yankees could have easily had him if they had wanted, which reinforces their ‘all or nothing’ approach with Higgy. I am a little uneasy if Gary Sanchez misses considerable time due to injuries but it is time for Higgy to show that he is ready. He has literally spent years training and waiting for this opportunity. I hope we do not see the 39-year-old Erik Kratz in the Bronx but unfortunately, at this point, it appears inevitable we will for at least some stretches next season.

The last spot to be addressed is the bullpen. Despite the rumors continuing to flurry about Josh Hader, I’d still prefer to see the return of Dellin Betances.  I know, he’ll be delayed by his Achilles Heel injury which has been addressed only by rest and not surgery, and carries great risk entering the 2020 season. I guess I am not really ready to see Betances leave and I continue, or at least try, to think optimistically about his recovery. It’s not that I am against Hader, it’s just the incredibly high cost it will take to bring him to the Bronx. The Yankees are almost guaranteed to lose Miguel Andujar in any deal for Hader, as well as some very good and high-ranked prospects. As much as I appreciated Gio Urshela’s breakout last year, I am not 100% convinced the late bloomer can sustain his performance into the new season. No doubt I prefer Gio’s glove over Andujar at third, but if hecan’t hit, it makes more sense to return Andujar to third despite his defensive shortcomings because we know the man can roll out of bed and hit bombs. To his credit, he is trying to get better with the glove and that’s all we can ask.

The Yankees were connected with Kansas City Royals reliever Tim Hill earlier this off-season and it’s probably more likely the Yankees pursue a lesser name like Hill than one of the best in the game for the bullpen need. Speaking of the Royals, they acquired Chance Adams from the Yankees yesterday. Adams had been designated for assignment last week when the Yankees officially announced Gerrit Cole. When I first heard that Adams was going to the Royals, I was a bit hopeful he was part of a bigger deal to bring Hill to New York, but getting anything more than a “slapdick prospect” (using Blake Snell’s words) for Adams was asking too much. Straight up, the Yankees received a lower level infielder with no power (Cristian Perez). There was a time when we thought Adams was going to be something special for the Yankees but sadly it was not meant to be. I still think he can be an effective reliever so we’ll see if he thrives with the Royals, a lesser pressurized environment for sure.

It’s nice to know that pitchers and catchers report to Tampa in less than two months. I am ready for MLB’s return (especially after last night’s disappointing loss by my Minnesota Vikings which handed the NFC North division championship to the hated Green Bay Packers). It will be fun to watch the arrival of Gerrit Cole to camp and the barrage of media it is sure to bring when the Yankees highest paid player makes his debut at Steinbrenner Field, surrounded by his new teammates. James Paxton, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka will almost certainly go unnoticed as they prepare for the 2020 season.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with friends and family, and take the time to appreciate all we have with this life.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Early Christmas for Yankee Fans…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration via The Ringer


Reminder: Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

I always look forward to the Baseball Winter Meetings. For me, it’s the highlight of the off-season. Some years are very disappointing, but some, like this year, are not. When the meetings conclude on Thursday, it always feels a little like the day after Christmas. This year was no exception.

We certainly felt the highs and lows of emotion over the course of the eventful week.

Even though it didn’t appear the Yankees were interested in signing Didi Gregorius, it was still a gut punch when word spread on Tuesday that he had signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When it was rumored at the beginning of the week that Didi’s camp would consider a one-year deal, I thought it might increase the chances he’d re-sign with the Yanks. Nope. He’ll get $14 million to have Joe Girardi pencil his name in at shortstop in Philly and for his sake, hopefully the chance to rebuild his value after last year’s disappointment following Tommy John surgery. He’ll re-enter free agency again after the season, likely in position for a multi-year contract if he proves to be the Didi of old although the Phillies could issue him the qualifying offer which would provide some resistance in the market. I have to say for a few hours after hearing about the signing, I was deeply saddened. I really enjoyed Didi’s play both on and off the field.  He has such a great personality and is so immensely  talented in all areas of his life. I loved his dances on the field with teammates. Emotions re-surfaced a bit yesterday when the Phillies officially announced Didi, and he said his goodbyes to Yankee fans on social media. He will be missed.

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Nevertheless, we have to move on. I get why the Yankees did not re-sign Didi. Gleyber Torres is certainly a cheaper, more talented option at shortstop, and it opens a position, second base, for D.J. LeMahieu after a year of playing all three infield bags. Now, I hope the Yankees extend LeMahieu so we don’t open a hole at second after the upcoming season like we did when Robinson Cano walked.  The presence of Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford certainly lessen the need for LeMahieu to cover first and third, and no doubt we need LeMahieu in the lineup as much as possible (as Aaron Boone would say, “obviously”). So, the positive with Didi’s departure is what it means for LeMahieu. Of course, the Yankees will need to find someone who can fill his role as the floater behind the infield starters. I like Tyler Wade but I am not sure if he is the one. He still has much to prove although he did show more late last year than I had expected. The other in-house option is Thairo Estrada, who has the support of many fans. I expect a minor trade or free agent signing. Former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez seems intriguing although he has very limited experience at short. I am probably hopeful Estrada wins the job, although it’s hard to dismiss Wade’s speed and the disruption he can cause on the base paths. He also has the ability to cover play both infield and outfield positions, flexibility that is very hard to find. I look forward to Spring Training to see how this competition plays out.

So many words typed and I have yet to write the biggest name of the week (except for the top of the page). When I went to bed on Tuesday night, it was unclear where Gerrit Cole would be playing next year. The Yankees remained the favorites and it sounded like the Los Angeles Angels had moved on. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers were still in it, and apparently several mystery teams (although we know the latter is a standard Scott Boras negotiating ploy). As I laid my head on my pillow, I was still carrying the disappointment of the loss of Sir Didi. Around 3 am on Wednesday morning, I woke up and decided to check my phone. Much to my surprise and amazement, I found Gerrit Cole had signed with the Yankees for 9 years and $324 million. Woohoo! We finally got our man.

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Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

I’ve wanted Gerrit Cole for literally years. It felt like destiny for him to eventually become a Yankee. I really thought the Yankees had him a couple of years ago in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when that didn’t happen, I always knew the Yankees would have one more chance when Cole became a free agent. I didn’t necessarily fall for the “he wants to play on the West Coast” narrative. Money seems to be a bigger motivator than location. Yet, I remember how much I wanted Max Scherzer a few years ago or even Patrick Corbin last year, only to come away with disappointment. In Corbin’s case, it was a blessing. He’s good pitcher and his contributions helped win the World Series for the Washington Nationals, but he’s not Gerrit Cole. If he had signed the big $140 million contract with the Yankees instead of the Nats, Hal Steinbrenner may have been less motivated to open his wallet for Cole. It’s easy to say that I prefer to have Cole for the next nine years than Corbin for the next five years remaining on his contract. I’d rather see the Yankees use the money to re-sign James Paxton if he proves the second half of last year was the Big Maple we’ll see going forward.

According to The New York Post, the Yankees will be announcing Cole on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a press conference at Yankee Stadium. I haven’t heard any details yet. It seems like it has been a few years since the Yankees have held an event at the Stadium to announce a new player. Most lately seem to be telephone interviews with the media after the announcements are made. I prefer the players in front of cameras, pulling on the famed Pinstriped jersey and hat with the interlocking N-Y. Loved watching Giancarlo Stanton put on the Pinstripes a few years ago. Hopefully we’ll get to see it with Gerrit and his wife Amy. No doubt Scott Boras will be there as he lives for these big moments in the spotlight.

Speaking of Boras, it’s hard to think of anyone who had a better week than him. He negotiated the contracts for Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, a total of $814 million. If his fee is 5%, he brought in $40.7 million for the Boras Corporation. He also negotiated the $64 million contract for Mike Moustakas with the Reds and represents free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nick Castellanos, and Dallas Keuchel. I don’t think Scott has to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

Back to Cole, I am excited he is a New York Yankee. I think his presence on top of the Yankees’ starting rotation is huge. Not only is he a great pitcher, but I think he helps everyone behind him.  Luis Severino no longer has to feel the pressure to be “the man”.  He can be a soon-to-be 26-year old with immense talent who can thrive as the number two behind Cole. When your third and fourth starters are James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, life is good. I expect Jordan Montgomery to round out the rotation, but honestly, it does not matter who pitches. I know it won’t be J.A. Happ whom we expect to be traded in the coming days to unload his salary or a good chunk of it. I am glad to see Happ go. I am appreciative of how he pitched after the Yankees acquired him in 2018 at the trading deadline, and I know he can still be an effective Major League pitcher, but the Yankees have plenty of options for the fifth starter (Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and Michael King are the names coming to mind immediately). If we need someone at the trade deadline, we’ll get him.

For the last few years, I’ve viewed the starting rotation as a weakness. It is funny how one man can change that perception. Gerrit Cole puts everyone in their right place, giving the Yankees the best starting rotation in the American League and up there with the Washington Nationals as the best in Major League Baseball.

As for numbers, I would like to see Cole get #45. “Cole 45” is a thing and I’d like it to continue even though it means Louis Linwood Voit III has to find a new number. Voit wore 30 during his college days at Missouri State University and it is available with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion so that’s the number I think Luke should grab. But you could certainly make an argument for other numbers freshly open, like 22 or 28. No, I am not in favor of 69 like many Yankee fans.

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Photo Credit: @lukevoit via Instagram

The Yankees suffered another loss, although expected, when backup catcher Austin Romine signed with the Detroit Tigers. I hate to see Romine go but we’re in a ‘now or never’ situation with Kyle Higashioka since he is out of options. No way the Yankees were ever going to pay $4 million for a backup catcher.  So good for Romine to get his money. He’s been a good Yankee and he’ll be missed. He’ll get a chance to start and to mentor Detroit’s young catchers.  Hopefully the pay day and the starting opportunity will help offset the fact he now has Octobers free. While I’d support a signing of Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, I am hopeful Higgy grabs this opportunity to support Gary Sanchez and runs with it. He’s earned the right to have first crack at the job.

The Yankees also seem likely to lose Dellin Betances at this point. I hate to see it. I’d love to see Dellin back, even on a one-year deal to rebuild value. I hope this is not the end. The Dodgers have apparently emerged as the latest suitor although you can’t count out Joe Girardi and the Phillies given the holes in their bullpen.  I suppose either of those teams would be preferable to the Mets if Dellin does leave. I am not ready for the Bronx native to go and I am sure it will hit me as hard as Didi’s departure if it happens. Kind of reminds me how I felt when Rich “Goose” Gossage signed with the San Diego Padres following the 1983 season.

I should mention congratulations to Brett Gardner are in order for his new contract with the Yankees. I am not sure that I would have locked in $12.5 million for him regardless of what he has meant for the Yankees, but all things considered, it’s good to have his leadership on the team, particularly since CC Sabathia is no longer there. Gardy gets a $2 million signing bonus and $8 million salary for 2020, and a team option for $10 million in 2021 (which carries a $2.5 million buyout). Let Brett bang. Glad he’ll return, although I would give the temporary starting center field role, until Aaron Hicks returns mid-season, to Mike Tauchman to keep Gardy as the fourth outfielder. Even as the fourth outfielder, Gardy will play.

I always hate the Rule 5 Draft as teams always try to poach from the Yankees’ farm system. RHP Rony Garcia was the first selection of this year’s draft when he was grabbed by the Detroit Tigers. Most likely, he’ll be able to remain on the Tigers’ MLB roster for the duration of the season, ending his association with the Yankees. Good opportunity for him. There was not a clear path to the Majors with the Yankees. Too much talent ahead of him. So long to the Yankee minor leaguers selected in the Triple A phase since they now belong to their new organizations and will not be coming back: RHP Hobie Harris (Blue Jays), RHP Will Carter (White Sox), RHP Raynel Espinal (Red Sox), and 2B Wendell Rijo (Braves).  I hate seeing the Red Sox nab Yankee prospects. They grabbed RHP Anyelo Gomez last year in the Minor League phase. Good chance we never see these guys in the Major Leagues but I hate the Red Sox.

At this point, there is not much left for the Yankees to do. I expect them to bring in a few guys on minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training.  Yesterday, they signed outfielder Thomas Milone. Milone, 25 in January, was selected in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He carries the rep of an excellent defensive outfielder whose offensive game has been slower to develop. I am sure the Yankees’ Analytics Team sees something in Milone that they’d like to work with. He’ll join outfielder Zack Granite as another depth piece for Spring Training.

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Photo Credit: MiLB.com

If I had a wish list for the Yankees, it would be to add another bullpen arm. No doubt Dellin Betances heads my list. Rumors circulated this week about the Yankees’ interest in Milwaukee’s elite reliever, Josh Hader, but the cost seems too high to me. One site was suggesting Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres. Yeah, right. In your dreams. Not sure if the Yankees and Brewers can negotiate a reasonable package, but any deal for Hader would be painful in terms of players lost. It would be amazing to put him with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino et al but I do not feel it is likely to happen. With Blake Treinen off the board (signed with the Dodgers), I am not sure where the Yankees turn if Betances leaves. I really like Ben Heller and I am hopeful that 2020 is his breakout year. I expect the Yankees to bring in competition for backup catcher and infield spots but that’s about it. The heavy lifting has been done with the Cole signing. Anything at this point would be for complimentary pieces and depth only. I don’t think the Yankees will have a shocking Madison Bumgarner type of signing at this point.  I’ve heard people suggest the Yankees should trade for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, but honestly, we’re fine with Luke Voit, Mike Ford and potentially Miguel Andujar. I really want to see what a healthy Luke Voit can do this year. As for Andujar, there’s always a chance Gio Urshela was a one season wonder. Even if he isn’t, Andujar carries great value as one of the best bats on the team. He is more than capable as a superior DH and potential first base option, in addition to third base play in combo with Gio.  I am not in favor of selling him low even if the Texas Rangers have their eye on him. Now if the Colorado Rockies were interested in sending Nolan Arenado to the Yankees, let’s talk.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Gerrit Cole Watch…

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And now we wait…

Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town?  I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.

By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.

Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.

The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.

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Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger

Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.

When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.

want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.

Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.

If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.

I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.

If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.

The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see.  I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.

We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances.  Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season.  The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.

I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).

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Photo Credit: AP

Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.

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Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!