Photo Credit: SI.com
The lovely Rumor Mill is churning hard…
The dream was like any other but it stood out as one so vivid and exciting. I picked up my cell phone on a cool, crisp February evening, logged into Twitter, and was incredibly amazed to find the Yankees had acquired veteran third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.
Arenado, who turns 29 a few weeks after Opening Day, hit 41 home runs in 2019, driving in 118 runs. His batting line was .315/.379/.583 with .392 wOBA and 128 wRC+. This has basically been Arenado’s consistent production for the past five years. A .300 hitter who will give you 40 bombs and drive in more than 110 RBIs every season, and play tremendous defense. Unsurprisingly, Steamer provides these projections for Nolan’s 2020 season…40 HR, 114 RBIs, .296/.370/.571. So, in other words, more of the same for the foreseeable future.
Late last February, the Colorado Rockies and Arenado agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $260 million. The contract includes a player opt-out provision following the 2021 season and has full no-trade protection. At the time, Arenado and the Rockies were all smiles. “I think the future is brighter in Colorado than it’s been in the past,” Nolan said at the time. “That excites me and makes me very aware of what’s going on here.” Fast forward to 2020, after the Rockies finished 71-9 last season, good for fourth place in the NL West, a game ahead of the rising San Diego Padres. Nolan’s words now read, “I really don’t care what’s being said. I just know that I feel disrespected over there.” What a difference a year…and losing…makes.
Trevor Story signed a two year extension with the Rockies yesterday that provides the talented shortstop with $27.5 million. On the surface, it looks like the Rockies are trying to retain their core talent. But in reality, this was an extension that covers Story’s final two years of arbitration eligibility and sets the expected dollar cost with certainty for the Rockies. It does not touch any of Story’s free agent years, and as one Rockies blogger noted, sets the price for Story’s final two years with the Rockies before he hits the free agent trail. Colorado’s big free agent acquisition this winter, on a minor league deal, has been former Arizona infielder Chris Owings who spent time late last season with Boston.
For Nolan, the sad decline of the Rockies almost ensures that he’ll exercise the opt-out after the 2021 season. Some would question walking away from $35 million per year, but if Nolan performs like he always has, the money will be there. For the Rockies, trading Nolan, with his permission, makes the most sense this off-season. He carries greater value with two years of control versus just one next off-season.
So, how did Arenado end up with the Yankees? He did not. It was just a dream.
The Yankees third basemen today, Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar, are the same players that will be part of the Yankees team that shows up at Camden Yards on March 26th. I’d love for the Yankees to acquire Nolan and I’d like to think he’d gladly waive his no-trade to join his buddy D.J. LeMahieu in the bright lights of the Big Apple. But realistically, it will never happen. Fun to think about, sure, but like Power Ball, a near impossibility. I’d say the odds are 70 million to 1, or the dollars on Nolan’s contract before the opt-out. I am not getting my hopes up about this one, and wish the rumors would die. Let’s be happy about the guys on the roster and recognize the Yankees will field a very good team in 2020.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention how difficult this week has been. Sunday morning, we woke up to the horrible news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA. As a Lakers fan, I know how much Kobe means to the City of Los Angeles and surrounding area. This week, we found out how much the entire country cares about the Lakers legend. Just this past December, we all saw the video clip of Kobe talking to his daughter, Gianna, at a basketball game, a scene that is now painful to watch, knowing we lost both young lives.
The victims of the tragic crash:
- Kobe Bryant
- Gianna “Gigi” Bryant
- John Altobelli
- Keri Altobelli
- Alyssa Altobelli
- Christina Mauser
- Sarah Chester
- Payton Chester
- Ara Zobayan
This one hurts. I’ve seen people make comparisons to the tragic death of Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979. I am not sure I can make a comparison. My perspective is different. When Thurman died, I was a kid and it was devastating to lose my favorite player so suddenly. It does not mean that the loss of the above nine people was not equally devastating (or probably more so because of the loss of so many lives). My heart is heavy and I am deeply saddened the young girls, in particular, had their lives end before they really even started. Gigi, born in 2006, had already showed us that she was proudly walking in the footsteps of her father and I have no doubt she would have been a force in basketball in the years ahead. I always enjoyed watching Kobe on talk shows, bringing his Mamba Mentality to his words of wisdom.
On a morning when the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded their helicopters because of the weather conditions, I wish Kobe and his pilot would have made the same decision. They are gone too soon and we were clearly not ready for their departure. May all nine Rest in Peace and know this World loves them, today, tomorrow and forever-more.
Stepping back to Baseball, there is only one open managerial position (Boston Red Sox) with Houston’s hiring of veteran manager Dusty Baker. Good for Dusty. I never really understood Washington’s decision to part ways with Baker a couple of years ago. He might not have a World Series ring for his efforts, but he has been a winning manager. I know the current trend is to hire young, analytics-driven managers and Dusty represents the last of the old guard, but he seems like the right guy for the right time in Houston. Most likely the stay is short and that’s fine. Dusty brings structure, credibility, and discipline back to the Astros clubhouse. You know the Astros will play the game the right way this season. I’d be surprised if Dusty is the Astros manager in two years but I am sure when he leaves, the franchise will be better for it.
Selfishly, I was glad Buck Showalter did not get the job. I enjoyed Buck’s return to the Yankees family late last season with his appearances on the YES Network and I’d like to see more as we move forward. There’s a chance he could get the job in Boston, which I’d really hate to see, but hopefully we can keep Buck on our side.
As for the Red Sox job, I liked Terry Cushman’s words yesterday on Twitter. Cushman, a Red Sox blogger/podcaster, said “Tomorrow is February. The same month the Red Sox will report to spring training with their ‘manager to be named later’. Nobody has literally ever uttered those words.” It does seem strange the calendar page has turned to February, with players heading to Arizona and Florida, and Boston’s leadership role sits vacant.
Farewell to former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced his retirement yesterday. His stay in the Bronx was brief but enjoyable. The likeable Grandy Man has been good for baseball and I hope he stays in the game in some capacity. Here’s hoping his post-playing career is as successful as his playing days. A good baseball player, a better man.
Photo Credit: Michael L Stein, US Presswire
It’s Super Bowl weekend. I lost my horse in this race when the San Francisco 49ers made mince-meat out of my Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago but I am pulling for the Niners to bring home another Super Bowl championship to the Bay Area. During a year when the Raiders closed up shop in Oakland for their relocation to Las Vegas, it would be great to see the Niners ring the championship bell for the entire Bay Area, including the East Bay. I respect Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes as one of the great young talents in the game but I cannot bring myself to cheer for Kansas City.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images
Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…
Sorry, but typing those words does not get old. This was quite the week with the brilliant introduction of Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and particularly Gerrit Cole said all the right things. “Pressure is a privilege” will certainly become as much a part of our Yankee lingo as “Savages in the box”. Yankee fans especially liked Cole’s words “I’m here. I’ve always been here” while pulling out the 18-year-old sign from Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix which featured the words ‘YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER’.
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY Sports
People seemed to dissect whether the sign was the original or not. Not that it really matters one way or the other, but I think it was the faded original. The point is a one-time young Yankee fan achieved his dream of playing for his favorite childhood team. A child who would grow up to be among the best in his profession.
I’ve been looking for Hal Steinbrenner to excite the Yankees fan base for a few years and he certainly delivered this month. Of course, no sooner than the press conference was over, Yankee fans were calling for Steinbrenner to trade top prospect Jasson Dominguez to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor. As great as it would be to have Lindor in the Yankees lineup, it is not happening. If the Indians do trade their ultra-talented shortstop, it’s more likely he’d go to a team in the National League like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lindor is scheduled to make $16.7 million in 2020 with one more year of arbitration until he becomes a free agent. The Yankees are trying to unload J.A. Happ to get his $17 million off the books to help the team get below the third luxury tax tier. As great as Lindor is, I don’t see the Yankees staying above the third tier. Without Lindor, many are already saying the Yankees are the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. I am not a prospect-hugger but I don’t want to trade Dominguez. There are countless prospects overflowing with elite potential who never made it to the Show but still, I’d rather take my chances on a seemingly count-miss prospect like Dominguez even if he eventually flames out. He has a chance to be something special and I’d prefer to see it in a Yankees uniform.
@jassondominguez_7 via Instagram
For me, the only work that needs to be done is bringing in depth at certain positions. I’d like to see the addition of an infielder that can cover second and short to compete with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada in Spring Training. A left-handed hitter would be nice. He can’t play short, but someone like Travis Shaw and his ability to play all infield positions except catcher and shortstop seems to make good sense. Wade, as the backup shortstop, could play a valuable role on the bench with his speed and positional flexibility.
As much as I like Lindor, I think the one player I’d target if I owned the Yankees would be Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies are apparently considering offers since they’re entering a rebuild situation. Financially-speaking, I don’t think the Yankees would take on his contract, but to me, there’s a greater need for a guy like Nolan at third base than there is for Lindor at short. I know, putting Lindor at short would allow Gleyber Torres to stay at second, and D.J. LeMahieu to remain as the Utility Man Extraordinaire. But to add an elite bat and glove at third base carries great value. With no disrespect to Gio Urshela or Miguel Andujar, neither is on the same level as Arenado as a complete premier player. Nevertheless, I do not see the Yankees bringing in any more “big” names this off-season.
I was surprised the Cleveland Indians finally traded Corey Kluber after years of speculation. Their return from the Texas Rangers seemed a bit light (outfielder Delino DeShields, Jr and hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase). I don’t really feel bad the Yankees missed out on him. He’ll be 34 in April, and he missed most of last year due to injury. Going to Texas represents a homecoming of sorts for Kluber as he went to high school in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. At some point soon, perhaps, he’ll be entering the decline phase of his career. Maybe he has resurgence in Texas like Justin Verlander did, but then again, maybe not. I’d prefer younger players to help keep the Yankees’ current championship window open. If the Yankees had missed out on Cole, then maybe Kluber would have been a great option. Heading into the season, I have no qualms about a rotation featuring Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. I do feel Happ will be traded so I didn’t include his name, and although I think Montgomery will be on an innings limit, we have guys like Deivi Garcia and Michael King ready to step in at some point next season. I could see the Yankees bringing in a veteran starter on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Or Brian Cashman making a trade for a young, controllable starter is always an option.
I expected Luke Voit to give up his number 45 to Gerrit Cole but I was surprised Luke went with number 59. On social media, he indicated he will wear the number to honor his brother who went to West Point and was Captain of Army’s football team. Makes sense. 59 has always seemed like a coach’s number to me and that’s who has primarily worn the number in recent years, but no reason that Luke can’t make it his own. Luke has a “football” mentality so it fits his persona.
@lukevoit via Instagram
The excitement for Cole was nearly matched by yesterday’s news the Yankees had parted ways with their director of strength and conditioning, Matt Krause. While I believe it was a necessary change (much like the dismissal of pitching coach Larry Rothschild), I feel bad for Krause, the man. His dismissal most likely happened weeks ago and we’re just now hearing about it, but regardless of when the decision was made, you hate to see anyone lose their job prior to Christmas. People view Krause as the reason for the high number of injuries last year and that’s probably unfair. Krause was the 2017 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and had been employed by the Yankees since 2014. I am all for the change, but I do hope that Krause lands on his feet for his next opportunity. Sadly, he now carries the stigma of 30 men lost to the Injured List in one season, a MLB record. Not exactly something you want on your resume as a specialist in strength and conditioning.
Credit to the Yankees for realizing the changes they needed to make within their infrastructure regarding coaching philosophies and the bright, new talent they’ve brought in with the changing of the guard. New pitching coach Matt Blake may be the face of the change, but this goes much deeper than just him. Yankees Assistant GM Michael Fishman, the analytics guru, is rapidly becoming a major force within the Yankees’ hierarchy. With the news that Assistant GM Jean Afterman is moving to Sonoma, CA for family reasons and will be working remote, it seems like Fishman may leapfrog her as a bigger voice, and now face, within the organization. His presence at Cole’s press conference was confirmation.
I know many Yankee fans were disappointed yesterday to see Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, re-sign with the Houston Astros. As we saw with Austin Romine’s departure, the Yankees are not going to spend $3-$4 million on a backup catcher. Maldonado got 2 years, $7 million from the Astros and there’s no way the Yankees were going there. They seem committed to making Kyle Higashioka the backup to Gary Sanchez, but admittedly, I’d prefer a better Plan B than the return of 39-year-old Erik Kratz who was signed to a minor league deal this week. At this point, I don’t see the Yankees bringing in competition for Higgy. Jason Castro, currently a free agent, has experience with new Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson but I don’t see the Yankees paying Castro the money he’ll be looking for. We were spoiled a bit by Romine the last couple of years since he always seemed to come up big during Gary’s IL stints. But there’s no reason Higgy can’t deliver in the role. He has superior pitch framing skills, and there’s some pop in his bat. As much as I am looking forward to Swanson’s work with Sanchez, the same holds true for Higgy. The brightest catching prospects in the organization (Anthony Siegler, 20, and Josh Breaux, 22) have yet to play above Class A ball.
Lastly, it appears to be the end of the Pinstriped road for former top pitching prospect Chance Adams. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday before the Yankees announced Cole to make room on the 40-man roster. It’s disappointing as many of us had very high hopes for Adams, but the last couple of years have not been fun. Like many, I thought Adams might be a stronger option in the bullpen but we’ll never know. He could clear waivers and end up back in Scranton/Wilkes Barre but it seems like somebody would be willing to take a chance, no pun intended, on the former top prospect. He is only 25, has an option remaining, and some team might think they can pull his potential out. You see pitching-starved teams like the Los Angeles Angels and think they’d be all over this. I expect a trade as the more likely outcome although I can’t really see the Yankees getting much in return. Hopefully the change of scenery will be good for Chance and he’ll achieve the Major League dream at some point in the not-so-distant future. I am sad it didn’t work out with the Yankees but it was not to be.
The Yankees still need to make room for Brett Gardner once he is officially announced. If J.A. Happ isn’t traded, I think Stephen Tarpley is probably next up on the chopping block. I’d prefer to keep Ben Heller over Tarpley, and not really interested in parting with the younger arms that were added to the 40-man roster earlier this Fall. There was a time I wanted Luis Cessa to go, but he proved last year to be a good long-man option. With the departure of Nestor Cortes, Jr, Cessa carries more value than he did in seasons past. At this point, the next major milestone for the Yankees will be Februrary 12th when pitchers, including Gerrit Cole – woohoo!, and catchers report to Legends Field in Tampa, FL.
Photo Credit: Associated Press
As always, Go Yankees!
The Denver Post
Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…
Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.
A sample of yesterday’s headlines:
IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL
– The New York Daily News
NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET
– The New York Post
MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY
– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is. He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.
At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.
Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best. Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado. Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.
Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland. By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?
I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A. After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.
I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday. They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers. There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.
It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.
As always, Go Yankees!