How to build an 80-win team…
The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks. The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects. Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.
Lance Iversen, The Chronicle
Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles. They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.
I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays. They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show. So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.
So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…
Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent. Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays). Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk. He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team. But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field. Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.
Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels). The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.
I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015. They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed. As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.
The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson. With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above. At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.
I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training. As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew. It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure. Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level. So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp. I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.
If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place. If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats. Something has to give….soon.
I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion. Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days. Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.
Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.
Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…
I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years. For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly. I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.
When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away. Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound. It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far. Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular. I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams. They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities. With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.
Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…
Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. It does seem like a potential great marriage. Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later. He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make. It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.
When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman. But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately. Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good. With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon. Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.
Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.
Protect your own, well, except #13…
I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t. It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it. Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx. Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen. The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.
I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy. However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers. CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields). At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return. It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow. So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere. It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.
Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.
Too many players with uncertainty. Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list. His days as a premier third baseman are over. That’s even more reason to bring Headley back. With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus. I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster. I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.
With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training. My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market. They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.
It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge. One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.
This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine. The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go. I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).
Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman. The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system. Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout. I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.
Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position. Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.
Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.
I am ready for Spring Training to begin…
1-0 to start the 2014-15 Off-Season…
First order of business has been accomplished. With the signing of GM Brian Cashman to a new three year deal, the off-season can officially begin. I am glad that Cashman will be returning, although I certainly would not have been opposed to Billy Eppler stepping into the role.
I found Cashman’s words about Alex Rodriguez to be intriguing. It was a public admission that the team does not plan to rely upon Rodriguez as its everyday third baseman. Granted, I am not an A-Rod fan, but I openly prefer to see the return of Chase Headley or would support the free agent acquisition of someone like Pablo Sandoval. To hear Cashman talk about A-Rod possibly playing first base, I think that’s a great idea as Mark Teixeira is another older veteran who can no longer be relied upon to perform every day. Of course, the use of 1B/DH between Teixeira and A-Rod doesn’t really leave much room for Carlos Beltran on those days that he can’t play the field.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I would still like to see the Yankees find a way to sever ties with A-Rod even if it means eating his contract. Easy for me to say given it is not my money but A-Rod, the 40-year old hip “impaired” DH that has not played in a year will not perform to the level of the money he is still owed. So, filling the roster spot with a younger, more durable player certainly makes sense.
At this point in Cashman’s career, he is building his Yankees legacy as the longest running Yankees GM that I’ve ever known. When his time is over, he’ll be remembered among the best of the all-time Yankees GMs. Rebuilding a winner in the next three years would go a long way toward putting Cashman at the head of the class. Of course, failure could mean his dismissal. After 17 years on the job, he is truly entering “what have you done for me lately?” territory.
The Fall Guys…
I have long agreed that Kevin Long has been a great hitting coach, but for whatever reason, the message didn’t work this year. Perhaps it was the direct product of the available talent on the roster or it was the loss of a vital cog in the heart of the order when Robinson Cano fled for Seattle. But regardless of the reasons, it was time for a change. So, I was not disappointed when I heard that Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher had been fired.
My personal preference for hitting coach would be the Oakland A’s Chili Davis. I know that the A’s offense stalled late in the season, but I’ve always respected Davis and what his bat meant to a lineup.
The Yankees will be competing with the Boston Red Sox in their search since the Sox also need a hitting coach.
For the World Series, after the Yankees failed to reach the play-offs and the Los Angeles Dodgers bowed out in the first round, my latest preference is the San Francisco Giants. Maybe it’s because I am a Bay Area resident but it would be good to see the Giants prevail even if the Giants and St Louis Cardinals have been frequent participants of the Fall Classic in recent years. There’s no way that I’ll pull for the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals regardless of how many years it has been since they last won. I had really hoped that Don Mattingly and the Dodgers would have succeeded with arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw but his 0-2 mark against the Cards sealed their fate.