Tagged: Neil Walker

Booking a Flight from Phoenix to Tampa…

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)

Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…

Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.

The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.

Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.

Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)

Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.

The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.

Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)

Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there.  I am thinking about the opportunity I have.  Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).”  He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.

I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres.  Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.

I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas.  No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.

Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)

At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.

The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.

Go Yankees!

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Wishing We Were at Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

It’s Stanton Time…

It is hard to believe (still) but Giancarlo Stanton is close to taking the field as a member of the New York Yankees. I’ve enjoyed seeing the early camp photos of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird and other position players ahead of Sunday’s reporting deadline, but clearly, the appearance I’ve been waiting for the most is the arrival of Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hennessy, via Twitter @TrueHennessy

Stanton indicated that he arrived early to take everything in and adjust to the time zone since he’s a “West Coast Guy”. Regardless of his reasons, I am ready to see him on the field with his new teammates sooner rather than later.  

Based on his words, Stanton understands the goal in the Bronx. Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on the expectation of winning, Stanton said “It’s huge. I’ve never been able to experience that at this level. This is a level I’ve worked toward my whole life and never been able to experience that, so I’m really excited for that aspect.” Yes, we are too.  Hoch went on to say Stanton added there is curiosity about how many homers he and Judge can hit, but “We can’t worry about expectations when the main goal is to win. If our expectations help us win, then it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are.” But c’mon, all of us want to see massive numbers between these two. Triple-digit homers traveling many, many miles will be just fine. 

Good times in the Yankees Universe!

Other Spring Notes…

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to all camps, we’re starting to see movement in the free agent market.  

In moves that indirectly impact the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez (pending a physical) and the Toronto Blue Jays signed lefty Jaime Garcia. Nunez might have been a nice cog to use for support in transitioning the rookies at second and third, but he’s not a great defender and seems somewhat injury prone so it was no loss to the Yankees in my opinion. I never heard any interest with the Yankees bringing back Garcia but no doubt I would have preferred him in a spot start over Luis Cessa. While Garcia is an average starter at best, I’m sure he’ll throw a no-hitter against the Yankees now. Seriously, I wish him well in Toronto but I am okay with the Yankees decision to let him go. The only negative is the loss of the pitching prospects that the Yankees sent to the Minnesota Twins (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns) last year for Garcia. I liked the work Littell had done in the minor leagues last year prior to the trade.  

At this point, the only veteran free agent infielder that appeals to me is Neil Walker. I’d love for Mike Moustakas to sign a one-year “pillow” contract but realistically it is not going to happen. The Yankees are committed to keeping payroll under the $197 million threshold and I think the loss of $1 million in international bonus pool money represents a bigger detriment to the Yankees than the loss of the second and fifth round draft picks. Last month, Baseball America named the Yankees as one of three teams favored to sign  soon-to-be free agent outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez from Cuba. If the Yankees truly have interest in Martinez, they won’t sacrifice international bonus pool money for a one year of Moustakas. The Yankees have limited space available for the current 2017-18 signing period so they’d be looking at July 2nd for the next signing period once Martinez is declared a free agent by MLB. The only way the Yankees could justify losing the draft picks and the international bonus pool money would be a long-term contract for Moose Tacos and that’s simply not going to happen as we await the eventual expected landing of Manny Machado in the Bronx.

We are just one week away from the first Spring game. The Yankees open the Grapefruit League schedule with a 1:05 pm EST matchup at Steinbrenner Field next Friday against their “fight opponent” from last July, the Detroit Tigers. No doubt that the players will be much calmer than their last meeting and the managers involved are long gone. Boonie, please be sure to hand Giancarlo a bat next Friday. We need some action photos of the big guy going deep in Yankees gear.  I am tired of these Marlins pics…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Drew Hallowell)

My thoughts for Opening Day Starting Pitcher

Last year, we knew almost immediately when training camp began who would get the Opening Day pitching assignment. New manager, new coaching staff, and a down year from the 2016 staff ace leave the decision a little more up in the air this year.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Szczerbowski)

Let’s break down the candidates:

Luis Severino

The unquestioned (and surprising) leader of the 2017 Yankees Rotation. Sevy shared the team lead of 14 wins with CC Sabathia (he had a 14-6 record with 2.98 ERA in 31 games started covering 193 1/3 innings pitched).  Severino also struck out 230 batters. He finished third in the AL Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. If the decision is based solely on stats, Sevy is your man.

Masahiro Tanaka

The “recognized” staff ace had an uncharacteristic 2017 compared to prior seasons. His record was 13-12 with 4.74 ERA, however, he finished the year strong and was 2-1 with 0.90 ERA in the post-season against the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. His body of work for his four-year Yankees career (52-28, 3.56 ERA, 668 1/3 innings pitched, 30 starts) attests to his stature and continued rank as a leader of the staff. Personally, I feel that we’ll see a more normalized Tanaka in 2018, pitching closer to his pre-2017 numbers.  

CC Sabathia

Okay, if we go solely on the basis of the body of work, Sabathia is the clear and undisputed leader as the most tenured member of the pitching staff. 120-73 in nine years as a New York Yankee, with a 3.75 ERA in 1,657 2/3 innings pitched. In 2017, CC was 14-5 with 3.69 ERA in 27 games started (148 2/3 innings pitched). If the decision for Opening Day starter is Lifetime Achievement Award, Sabathia is the choice. This is probably a sentimental choice as it could be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes depending upon how the season goes.  

Sonny Gray

While it is possible that Gray may someday be an Opening Day starter for the Yankees, this is not the year. Sonny appeared in only 11 games for the games following the trading deadline deal that brought him to New York last year. He was 4-7 with 3.72 ERA over 65 1/3 innings. Granted, he didn’t get much run support but he also did not help his own cause as he pitched better in Oakland than he did in the Bronx. Gray’s goal for this year will be to set himself up Opening Day in a future season.

Jordan Montgomery

He was just a rookie.  No offense to Monty but he is the fifth starter until proven otherwise. He finished 8-7 with 4.07 ERA in 29 games started over 155 1/3 innings pitched. He did an admirable job as the fifth starter; much better than Luis Severino did the year before.  

This is a tough decision. I think that any of the top three (Severino, Tanaka and Sabathia) would make an excellent choice for Opening Day starter. Severino is probably viewed the current staff ace by most, but Tanaka has put up good numbers collectively over the past four years. Sabathia would be a wonderful choice to recognize how much the man has meant to the Yankees. For me, I’d probably go with Severino as the future face (or ace, however you want to look at it) of the rotation but with all sincerity none of the three would be a bad choice in my humble opinion.

Go Yankees! 

Thumbs Down to the Todd Frazier News…

End of Short Yankees Reign for the Toddfather…

I know, we need to embrace the new era and accept that Miguel Andujar will be the starting third baseman this year. It’s been said that the Yankees are very high on Andujar and the Yankees apparently resisted including Andujar in the failed talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gerrit Cole, who was subsequently dealt to the Houston Astros.

My concerns with Andujar echo the sentiments of other fans who feel that Andujar’s glove is not quite Major League ready and that he’ll be an average defender at best with improvement. I am not opposed to Andujar at third, but I wanted a strong backup plan. That’s why it was a gut punch for me yesterday when Todd Frazier signed a two year deal with the New York Mets. What’s worse is that the contract he signed is team-friendly (2 years for $17 million) which the Yankees could have matched without impairing their current salary position and objective to keep 2018 total payroll under the $197 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.

It made me sick to see Noah Syndergaard using the Yankees-themed ‘thumbs down’ emoji on Twitter in reaction to Frazier’s signing.

I guess part of my frustration is that the Yankees will make a run at Manny Machado this fall when he becomes a free agent. Machado, regardless of the Baltimore Orioles plan to play him at short this year, would be the team’s starting third baseman if the Yankees are successful in signing him. So, Andujar would be a one season experiment at the position, learning on the job at the Major League level. For one year, I’d rather have a strong experienced third baseman who is a clubhouse leader. Frazier helped solidify team chemistry after last year’s trading deadline and he was a fan favorite.

Maybe Andujar takes the job and runs with it, becoming a candidate for this year’s Rookie of the Year. Great for him (and us) if it happens. It is certainly within the realm of possibility. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like the fact that Todd Frazier is a Met.

I saw someone post that the Yankees’ apparent lack of interest in Frazier to be a sign that the team is either fully committed to Andujar or that GM Brian Cashman has something else up his sleeve. There’s no way the Yankees sign free agent Mike Moustakas. Aside from the cost it would take sign the former Royals third sacker, the Yankees would forfeit their second-highest and fifth-highest draft picks in this summer’s MLB Draft plus $1 million in international bonus pool money since Moustakas received a qualifying offer from Kansas City and the Yankees are a competitive balance tax payor. Neil Walker, who can play second or third, is certainly an alternative that has been discussed by some. Walker wouldn’t block the younger kids so he might be the best case scenario. Otherwise, we could be trotting out the no-bat Danny Espinosa when the season opens.

I wish Todd Frazier the very best with his new team. I am glad that he achieved his goal of staying in New York even if he now calls the wrong stadium home. The Mets are getting a great guy for their team.

Move over, Mystique and Aura, here comes Smart and Confident…

The Yankees made Aaron Boone’s coaching staff official yesterday. The names are exactly as we expected:

Bench Coach:  Josh Bard

Pitching Coach:  Larry Rothschild

Bullpen Pitching Coach:  Mike Harkey

Hitting Coach:  Marcus Thames

Assistant Hitting Coach:  P.J. Pilittere

Third Base Coach:  Phil Nevin

First Base Coach/Outfield Instructor:  Reggie Willits

Major League Quality Control Coach/Infield Instructor:  Carlos Mendoza

Also, the following supporting roles:

Catching Coach:  Jason Brown

Coaching Assistant/Bullpen Catcher:  Radley Haddad

Coaching Assistant/Instant Replay Coordinator:  Brett Weber

It’s great to hear that guys like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Ronald Torreyes are already in Tampa and working out at Steinbrenner Field. The sound of Spring is nearly upon us.

First-time World Champions:  Philadelphia Eagles…

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles for winning the 2018 Super Bowl. I am sure that there are a lot of disappointed New York Giants fans, but for me, I am glad that the team from Boston was not successful. I am sure that Aaron Boone and Tommy Kahnle, avowed Eagles fans, were very happy. I am hoping they experience the joy of championships from beginning to end this year.

Go Yankees!