The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…
This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season. A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.
Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran. I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York. He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old. For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense. There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better. Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.
Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now. Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run. In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans. We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.
Credit: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine
There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front. A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense. I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy. He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth. I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.
It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes. Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire. So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.
I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization. I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames. When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job. It was not meant to be. I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.
I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.
Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…
*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
Thanks to a 7-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles last night, the Yankees finally get back into the win column. Of course, it’s been so long, I had forgotten what “win” means. So, I looked it up in the dictionary:
1.be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict).“the Mets have won four games in a row”
synonyms: take, be the victor in, be the winner of, come first in, take first prize in, triumph in, be successful in More
The definition references the Mets, so I guess this is just another loss…
Now the real season begins…
Admittedly, I didn’t watch any of the World Series games. It was hard for me to get excited about either the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. I was definitely not one of the Yankees fans that jumped on the Mets bandwagon. Congratulations to the Royals for their championship as they truly played like champions to get the title (even if I didn’t see it).
The end of the World Series is good as it signaled the start of the Hot Stove League. Of course, November tends to be a slower month, especially as we get closer to Thanksgiving. But things should be humming this time next month.
Hopefully, the Yankees do not have another off-season of inactivity. The free agent market doesn’t look overly appealing but I doubt the Yankees will be big ticket buyers anyway since no large contracts are coming off the books. Of the possible moves, I would support a move to sign Justin Upton and trade Brett Gardner. When Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are on, they are a dynamite duo. But it happened too infrequently last season due to injuries. As for pitchers, I know the Yankees won’t spend the money for Zack Greinke, but either Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmerman would be good. I have heard the complaints about Samardzija and how he wouldn’t play at Yankee Stadium since he is a flyball pitcher, but he’s an innings eater. With so many health risks in the starting rotation, it would be nice to have dependability in at least one spot (well, two if you consider Luis Severino). Otherwise, the others are almost assured of being part of DL-R-US at some point in the season.
Aside from those guys, there really isn’t much that excites me. I respect Ben Zobrist, but he’s on the wrong side of 30. I understand Rob Refsnyder’s defensive limitations, but I’d still rather go with youth and potential at second over age even if it means sacrifice in the short run. I like Dustin Ackley and keep hoping that he has a resurgence to reach some of the potential he had early in his career. That one might be a pipe dream, but I am fine with Refsnyder and Ackley at second over bringing in a higher cost free agent.
I have my concerns about Chase Headley at third, but he’s not going anywhere. Of course, there’s Mark Teixeira and it is inevitable that 2016 will be broken up by another stint or stints on the DL. I am sure that Greg Bird will be a frequent traveler on the Scranton/Wilkes Barre to NYC Shuttle which is too bad since Bird has proven he can play at this level. Just waiting for Teixeira’s contract to expire…
Nothing against Brian McCann but it’s too bad his contract is so long and that DH is occupied by Alex Rodriguez. Gary Sanchez is starting to show the promise that we’ve known for so many years and it won’t be long until he’s knocking on the door at Yankee Stadium. I like John Ryan Murphy, but Sanchez will push him aside when its time.
It should be a fun off-season.
I had hoped that GM Brian Cashman would go outside the organization to bring in a replacement for Assistant GM Billy Eppler who left to take the GM job with the Los Angeles Angels. However, they stayed in-house and went with Tim Naehring although he won’t get Eppler’s Assistant GM job title. I have no qualms with the choice (even if the guy is a Red Sock), but wish they had brought some new blood into the organization.
I later read the Yankees reached out to former Boston GM Ben Cherington which would have been a good choice. But I understand his reasons for staying out of the game for now.
Speaking of GM’s, I was shocked to see the sudden departure of Alex Anthopoulos. He reinvigorated the Blue Jays with his bold moves. He shouldn’t have a problem getting another gig but the timing wasn’t the best since all of the GM slots are presently filled. Of all the good things I’ve heard about Mark Shapiro (the new president of the Blue Jays), I am surprised that Anthopoulos didn’t stick around at least one year to give it a chance.
Donnie Baseball in South Beach…
Congratulations to Don Mattingly for getting another job so quickly. He’ll see some familiarity with guys like Dee Gordon (a former Dodger) but he’ll find it’s different going from a team that isn’t afraid of spending money to one that routinely shows its frugal ways. But I’d take Giancarlo Stanton over Yasiel Puig any day of the week. I am sure that Mattingly will miss Clayton Kershaw, but he should do well in Miami. It didn’t work out for Joe Girardi and countless others, but Mattingly has the right personality and attitude to make it work.
As a Los Angeles resident, I’ll miss Mattingly heading the local team. As for the Dodgers, it’s anybody’s guess who will be the new manager. If they opt for Nebraska coach Darin Erstad, it would be funny to see an Angel as the Dodgers manager considering the Angels have a Dodger as their manager. I am intrigued with the idea of Kirk Gibson given his history with the Dodgers, and of course, I think Dave Martinez is ready to be a manager and he has strong ties to Andrew Friedman from their days in Tampa. Whomever gets the job will experience the incredible heat that Mattingly endured the last couple of years. It’s funny that the Yankees job would be an easier one than the Dodgers, but times have changed.
End of a run…
Sadly, the 2015 postseason has meant the demise of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Mattingly was always one of my favorite players so it was easy to cheer for the Dodgers as my second favorite or favorite NL team when I moved to Los Angeles. I didn’t think Mattingly was ready to manage when he was a contender for the Yankees’ managerial position that ultimately went to Joe Girardi when Joe Torre left. But since becoming the Dodgers manager, I felt that Donnie Baseball has grown every year.
The post-season is such a weird, frenetic time. It’s not really about the best team in baseball as the St Louis Cardinals can attest but rather whichever teams are playing the best in October. In shortened one or five game series, anything can happen. For a team with a $300+ million payroll, the Dodgers had too many flaws. A weak starting rotation after the big two of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, short on a few big or clutch bats, and the disadvantage to run into a New York Mets starting pitching staff that jelled at the right time (just ask the Chicago Cubs).
I’d have a very hard time pinning this one on Mattingly. I know that he has not enjoyed playoff success, but his teams effectively compete year after year. His time will come and he will be soaking in the bubbly at some future point.
I am hopeful that Mattingly is a big league manager next year. Not crazy about the thought of the Miami Marlins, but they would be very fortunate to have him.
As a game strategist, I would clearly take Joe Girardi over Don Mattingly. But man for man, the preference is Mattingly. If I owned the Yankees, I could easily fire Girardi to replace him with Mattingly. Of course, I’d also look for a very strong bench coach, but I think Mattingly does a better job of relating to people.
Maybe one day Donnie Baseball can make the return to the Yankees organization, but sadly, that time is not now. So, I’ll cheer for him wherever he lands, wherever that may be.
Sorry, it’s just hard for me to get excited about the upcoming New York Mets-Kansas City Royals World Series. I really have no interest in seeing either team become the latest World Champions. I guess this is one of those years that I’ll have to impatiently await the start of the Hot Stove League.
Let the Bird fly…
I dislike reading the reports that first baseman Greg Bird may have to go back to the minor leagues. He proved that he is major league ready and he’ll only get better. I know that Mark Teixeira is the better defender, but I simply do not trust Teixeira’s ability to stay healthy. I guess that’s part of the logic in sending Bird down. Inevitably, there will be a point in time that he’ll be needed. It’s too bad. I would rather turn the page, and move forward with Bird today. Then, look for a solid backup with good defensive skills. In other words, I am ready for the Mark Teixeira Show to end its run in New York.
Anthony J. Causi
With so many heavy contracts still on the roster, it appears that the Yankees will be very limited in their ability to create roster flexibility this off-season. I think it would be foolish to expect the same (or better) production from the older guys, like Alex Rodriguez. Somehow, the 2016 Yankees need to be re-constructed knowing that there will be continued regression among the above 30 players. I know, an obvious statement, but not one that’s easy to do. I would expect significant major league contributions at some point next season by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. But that will mean potential injuries to Carlos Beltran and/or Brian McCann. Injuries break continuity and momentum. I would rather do what it takes to eliminate or at least reduce the odds of injury.
Best of luck to Billy Eppler…
I was disappointed to see Billy Eppler go, but it’s a good opportunity for him to return to his native California as the new GM of the Los Angeles Angels. Time will tell if his run is successful, but he certainly has the tools. I know that I’d love to have Mike Trout as the core player on my team.
I am not sure if GM Brian Cashman has plans to replace Eppler, but if he does, I hope that he brings in new blood from the outside rather than promote from the old guard. The commitment to youth is working, but sustainability is continuing to make the right decisions on players. The Yankees have made a few too many poor player decisions, so this is an area that continually needs improvement.
I wish the Yankees could have found a way to keep Eppler, even if it meant moving Cashman up and out of the GM role. But now that he’s gone, the Yankees need to find that next potential superstar GM to serve as Cashman’s chief lieutenant.
Is the World Series over yet?… ;(
(Not) Takin’ Care of Business…
The last week has been a struggle for the New York Yankees. This team is not playing like one that will enjoy post-season success. It seemed as though they were playing from behind in almost every game against the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. Those deep first inning holes were virtually impossible to overcome, especially when team hitting is in a slump. These are not good signs for Tuesday’s Wild Card game.
I thought Manager Joe Girardi was wrong resting guys during Saturday’s double-header with the Orioles. While I realize it is important to rest guys, it could have cost the Yankees a chance to play their Wild Card game at home. With the Yankees most likely facing the Houston Astros and their ace, Dallas Kuechel, the home field advantage is huge. If the Yankees can’t win Tuesday’s game, what good was the additional rest last Saturday?…
Fortunately, the Yankees have the Arizona Diamondbacks to thank for their season-ending victory over the Astros to give the Yankees home field advantage. But it is the Astros who carry momentum into the winner take all, one game format. Plus, the ace advantage is theirs with Kuechel, with a Yankees offense that can’t seem to hit good (or bad) pitching.
At the beginning of the year, I didn’t feel the Yankees had the team to succeed in October. As the regular reason ends today with the Yankees in the post-season, I still do not believe they can succeed. The season ending series against the Red Sox and Orioles showed that they do not have the clutch hitters (outside of Carlos Beltran) to get the job done. The Yankees can get guys on base…they just can’t bring them home. Now that the pitching will be amplified in the play-offs, it’s only going to get worse from here. The Yankees have showed no heart in September and that doesn’t translate to playoff success. I know, the Yankees lost the last six of the regular season in 2000 and won the World Series. That was a much better team and the 2015 squad does not have the same resiliency.
I still think there were some moves that GM Brian Cashman could have made at the trading deadline without sacrificing the farm to bring in additional strength and energy for the pennant run. It was disappointing then for the Yankees to do nothing, and it hurts even more now as the team struggled at the end of the regular season like a whipped puppy. I know that it would have cost a lot of money, but Max Scherzer would have looked so good in the Yankees rotation. With no sure things in the rotation, Scherzer would have gone to the head of the Class. With him on the mound, I would have liked the chances against the Astros much better.
This has been an agonizing week as a Yankees fan. It was hard to see the team throttled like a bottom feeder by the Red Sox, and then tossed around like a salad by the Orioles.
Probably my biggest fear with the Yankees’ achievement of a Wild Card is that it fuels Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s belief that he can rebuild the team exclusively through the farm system. While there are talented guys in the system, it is far from one of the best. They need to supplement the promising prospects with good, smart trades and thoughtful, strategic free agent acquisitions. Paul O’Neill would have never had a Yankees career if the team hadn’t taken a chance on the former Cincinnati Reds outfielder. The Chicago Cubs look masterful for their acquisition of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta who should be the NL Cy Young winner. At the time of the trade with the Orioles, Arrieta was just another miscellaneous transaction and there were no tears shed in Baltimore. How much would the O’s like to have him today? That’s what you pay scouts for and that’s the difference between winners and losers.
The regular season is over. The Yankees now have one game to prove me wrong. They need to bring heart and intensity to Tuesday’s game, and show the World they are not the September pushover they appeared to be. I so want to believe that I am wrong and that this team is capable of much, much more. At least their destiny is in their hands. I am sure the Los Angeles Angels would gladly change positions with the Yankees, along with a few other teams like the Red Sox and O’s.
Congratulations to the NL West Champions…
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for winning the NL West and securing home field advantage against their first round play-off foe, the New York Mets. Like the Yankees, the Dodgers hit a slight bump in September but they recovered and won the games they needed to win. At one point, it seemed improbable they would catch the Mets for a better record. Yet, they persevered and did exactly that.
The National League will be very hard to win with the presence of the St Louis Cardinals, but I thought Manager Don Mattingly did a good job this year. It helps when you have All-World players like Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but he had to manage around disappointing seasons for Yasiel Puig and Joc Pedersen. The arrival of Corey Seager is exciting even if it likely means the end of the short Dodgers career for Jimmy Rollins. I fully expect the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS to take on the Cardinals. Nothing against the Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates or Chicago Cubs, but I feel that the NL World Series representative will be either the Cardinals or Dodgers. I can’t say that I’d be disappointed if the Cubs advanced to the World Series, but I think they are still a year away.
Well, time for us to find out who will be this October’s heroes…
Sadly, it’s finally over…
The Yankees’ drive for the 2015 postseason took a brief interlude this week with the departure of Yankees Legend Yogi Berra. Perhaps the greatest living Yankee, Berra’s passing touched so many people as his charm and persona transcended baseball. The Yogi-isms are part of our every day lives and will endure. But there was only one Yogi.
For all those years he stayed away from Yankee Stadium after his dismissal as manager, the team was unable to win. The winning tradition didn’t return until George Steinbrenner finally apologized and Berra returned to the Bronx. I am so grateful the reconciliation occurred before we lost the two men.
Writers were quick to anoint Whitey Ford as the latest greatest living Yankee. While I do not disagree that the Chairman of the Board is deserving of the honor, I feel that Mariano Rivera is in the same conversation, along with others such as Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter.
Yogi Berra lived a long life that had such a huge impact on so many people. I am sure that life was not the same for him after the passing of his wife, Carmen, last year. Not many of us will make it to 90 years of age. He should proud that he had a life that he was able to live his way. He will forever be immortalized at Yankee Stadium, long after all of us are gone. It’s sad that #8 will no longer make an appearance at the Stadium, but it’s a number that will stay dear to our hearts for years to come.
So long, Yogi. Thanks for the memories.
Fading AL East Hopes…
Due to their inability to beat the Toronto Blue Jays this season, the Yankees will most likely participate in the Wild Card one game play-off. If they could have just played .500 competition with the Blue Jays, the Yankees would actually be the AL East Leaders. It’s amazing how things can come down to such few games over the course of a 162 game schedule. I still wonder what this season would have been like if the Yankees had paid the money to sign Max Scherzer. Perhaps it would have prevented the emergence of Luis Severino. We’ll never really know, but it’s easy to second guess the decision now. With the trouble the Yankees have had in the rotation (primarily due to health), they could have used a frontline ace. It may have been the difference maker with the Blue Jays who seemed to catapult into World Series contender status with the July arrival of ace David Price.
If the season ended right now, the Yankees would be playing the one game playoff with the Houston Astros in New York. But there’s still a chance for the Los Angeles Angels to catch the Astros so it should be an interesting final week. The Yankees have never matched up well against the Angels, but the Astros have grown into a solid contender and have the pitchers to shut down the Yankees’ offense. Anything can happen in one game and time will tell if that’s good or bad for us.
At the beginning of the year, I didn’t feel the Yankees had the players to thrive in October. Admittedly, I still do not as the offense struggles to generate runs at times. The volume is turned up on good pitching in the playoffs and the old saying is good pitching beats good hitting. So if that’s the case, good pitching destroys marginal hitting.
I would love nothing more than for the Yankees to advance past the Wild Card game. But the team will have to prove me wrong as I do not like their chances. On the bright side, the playoffs will not include the Detroit Tigers, a team the Yankees can never beat in October.
Angels GM Frontrunner…
With Billy Eppler’s name constantly linked to the Los Angeles Angels for their vacant GM post, I can’t help but wonder why the Yankees do not make a move to keep him in the organization. I’ve never been a big fan of President Randy Levine. Why not promote GM Brian Cashman to the position that Theo Epstein and Dave Dombrowski both hold with their respective clubs, President of Baseball Operations. Then promote Eppler to General Manager. I know that technically Eppler is outranked as an assistant general manager by Jean Afterman, but I feel that Eppler will be a great GM.
I recognize that Eppler is a Southern California guy so perhaps it’s his home roots that are pulling him back to the West Coast. If he leaves, it will be a huge loss for the Yankees.
As a GM, it would be nice to have Mike Trout to build around…