Tagged: Phil Hughes

Yankees Acquire James Paxton…

Photo by Christian Petersen

Top Prospect Justus Sheffield joins the ranks of “former” Yankees…

The news broke suddenly yesterday afternoon. After a fairly quiet November (up to that point, the only significant MLB trade had been Seattle’s catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays as the start of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s “re-imagining” of his roster), reports came hard and fast like a James Paxton four-seam fastball that the Yankees had acquired the talented lefty from Seattle.

My initial reaction was ‘it’s a start, but we need more’. I didn’t expect the Yankees to lose Miguel Andujar in a trade for the much talked about trade speculation involving the 6’4” Big Maple and fortunately he was not involved. For a frontline ace like Corey Kluber, you’d part with the young third baseman but not for Paxton.

Photo by Al Bello, Getty Images

When it was announced the Yankees had sent top prospect Justus Sheffield, breakout minor league starter Erik Swanson, and rising minor league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle for Paxton, Yankee fans were immediately trying to find flaws in the prospects sent to the Northwest. I am not going to join the crowd and trash Sheffield. The fact remains he is only 22 and still has an excellent chance to be a difference-maker. For a team that is prepared to win in 2019, this is a trade that makes sense. Paxton makes the Yankees better when they step back on the grounds of Yankee Stadium next year. Sheffield is probably a few seasons away from reaching his potential. This is totally a ‘win now’ move.

The Yankees also needed to make room on the 40-man roster for Swanson or he would have been eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft so this saves a spot for someone else.

So where do we go from here? I really hope the Yankees continue their pursuit of free agent lefty Patrick Corbin. He was and continues to be my top choice. I’d love to have Corey Kluber but I don’t really expect the Cleveland Indians to trade their ace without asking for a King’s ransom. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if the Yankees sign J.A. Happ to fill the last spot in the rotation. Happ was great during his short time as a Yankee last year, but as a long-term piece, let’s say I would be a little underwhelmed. I would have been fine with Happ to go with Corbin, but not paired with Paxton who carries injury risk. I know, all pitchers carry injury risk. It’s the nature of the beast, but Paxton has consistently missed time over the last few years.

If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin, the newcomers, along with Masahiro Tanaka, will certainly ease some pressure off Luis Severino to be “the man”.  I suppose it’s not out of the question for the Yankees to sign both Corbin and Happ. Last year proved, once again, you can never have too many starters.  Personally, I preferred signing Happ over long-time Yank CC Sabathia for the back end of the rotation. But regardless, you know that one or more starters in the rotation will miss time for various ailments and the Yankees need to be prepared. I really hope we’re not facing more rollouts of Luis Cessa to fill those spots. Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams will have every opportunity to help, I am sure, but I hope we’re not leaning on those guys in multiple spots like we were at times last season.

Seattle fans seem to be taking the trade in stride. I think they realized that their team was mired in mediocrity in a division with some very strong teams. They have a few players with bloated contracts like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Seager. I have always loved Cano but the back half of his huge contract is not going to be pretty for the 36-year old. I am glad the Yankees were able to acquire Paxton without having to take on any of unmovable contracts. The M’s can use the young pieces received in the Zunino and Paxton trades to position themselves for 2021 or so. I read one Seattle columnist who said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto basically had the choice of getting punched in the mouth or hit by a truck. He chose the former.

I fully expect Domingo German to give up #65 for Paxton. It’s not exactly like German is married to the number. I believe Jonathan Holder was wearing the number at the start of last season until he opted for a lower number in the 50’s.  The number still reminds me of Phil Hughes but no doubt, in time, Paxton can make it his own.

There may be minor moves made today as teams finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 eligibility next month. I doubt we’ll see anything as major as the Paxton trade, but there’s always a chance for the inevitable Sonny Gray trade now that his spot in the rotation has been filled. Otherwise, I expect the remainder of the week to be fairly quiet with no significant moves until we get past the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Paxton is the first step toward the enhancement of the 2019 Yankees (if you don’t count the re-signings of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia). Multiple moves remain necessary before this team is ready to take down the Boston Red Sox. Another starter, at least two more for the bullpen, and an interim solution at shortstop. Yet, my excitement for February is building. It only gets better from here.

As always, Go Yankees!

Setting Our Sights for the Wild Card…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Sadly, Boston shows no signs of slowing down…

Just when you think you might be able to trust Masahiro Tanaka, you can’t. Since his return from the disabled list in early July, Tanaka had given up no more than three runs in any start and had only allowed a grand total of six runs in five starts. Yet, on Friday night, he was hammered for six runs including three home runs in the Yankees’ 12-7 loss to the Texas Rangers. When you score seven runs against losing teams, you should win games, not lose them.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox overcame an 8-3 deficit to crush the Baltimore Orioles, 19-12.  Boston, 82-35, is on pace to match the Yankees’ historic 1998 season when they won 114 games in the regular season. At their current winning percentage, the Red Sox project to 113 wins. This is not 1978 and the Red Sox are not going to collapse.

Photo Credit: AP (Patrick Semansky)

With Boston’s nine game lead in the AL East, the Yankees are headed for the one-and-out Wild Card playoff game. At the moment, their only competition for the Wild Card is the resurgent Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s are only 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees, while the Mariners sit 6 games back.

Oakland has been very aggressive in rebuilding their bullpen in recent weeks. Their closer, former Washington National Blake Treinen, has had a breakout season. He currently has 29 saves to go with a 0.93 ERA in 48 games.  Behind Treinen, the A’s have added former New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia, former Yankees/Nationals reliever Shaun Kelley, and former Minnesota Twins closer Fernando Rodney. For the starting rotation, they’ve added former Detroit Tigers starter Mike Fiers, a target Yankee fans love to hate. None of the names shake fear but it shows the A’s are serious about their Wild Card run. There’s no question they have the talent to beat the Yankees in a one-game do-or-die playoff game.

I wish I could say that I am not worried like The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch can, but I am worried. Sorry Daniel. We knew in the off-season the Yankees needed to add a quality starting pitcher and it didn’t happen. So, the team had to scramble in July to add Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ. Both guys have done fine jobs but neither is going to make a difference when the chips are on the line. When Aaron Judge was lost with the minor bone fracture, it was evident the Yankees needed to add a short-term bat for the outfield. But instead, the decision was made to roll with one of the few healthy outfielders in the system, journeyman Shane Robinson. The Yankees could have easily added a guy like former Yankee Curtis Granderson who would have filled a valuable void. His bat likes Yankee Stadium and has the track record to show it. He may not be the player he was during his Yankee days thanks to the terminal affliction known as aging but he is more than capable of giving the Yankees a supportive bat and a valuable bench player when Judge returns.

The Mariners strengthened their bullpen with the addition of Adam Warren, a guy the Yankees certainly could have used the last couple of games. Warren was the winning pitcher in the M’s 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros last night. The Mariners also benefit from the return of Robinson Cano in a few days. Cano may not be eligible for the post-season but he’ll certainly help the Mariners make the push for October. He’s a valuable late season addition for Seattle. We’ll see if there is rust to shake off but I suspect that Cano will be ready to go.

Photo Credit:  The Herald, Everett, WA (Kevin Clark)

Please do not get me wrong. I like the 2018 New York Yankees. No one expected a historic season from the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, despite their struggles, have won more games in Major League Baseball than any team other than the Red Sox and the Houston Astros. It is very possible they’ll go into a potential Wild Card game with over 100 wins. My only concern is that GM Brian Cashman could have done a better job (if that is possible). Everyone is so quick to give him credit for his genius but standing back, he’s had his share of misses. I like manager Aaron Boone but there’s no question we’ve paid a price for his inexperience.

I am anxious for the returns of Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees need to take care of business now. August is filled with losing teams on the schedule. The Yankees have the potential to have a very successful month despite starting it with a four-game sweep by the Red Sox but they can’t let 52 win teams like the Rangers crush them. Rookie Ronald Guzman looks like the greatest player who ever lived when he feasts on Yankees pitching, having accumulated six home runs already this season. Half of his season total are against the Pinstripers. He was the first rookie to hit three home runs in a game last night against the Yankees. That’s covering many years and players and is the strongest rookie performance against the Yankees since the A’s Reggie Jackson slugged six homers against his future team in 1968. This cannot happen if the Yankees expect to be successful. Ronald Guzman is no Reggie Jackson and the rest of the American League knows it. Apparently, the Yankees pitching staff didn’t get the memo.  To digress slightly, why is A.J. Cole on the MLB roster and Justus Sheffield is not?  Time to add Top Sheff to the 40-man and open a spot on the active roster by punting Cole.

It sounds like we can add Neil Walker to the list of wounded. After last night’s game, Aaron Boone said that Walker tweaked his neck and was dealing with illness. I had wondered why he wasn’t in the lineup or why he wasn’t used to pinch hit but that explains it. As Joe Girardi would say, it’s not what you want. Fortunately, Walker is penciled into today’s lineup (outfield, no less) so hopefully his physical ailments were minor.

I could care less if Jacoby Ellsbury is going to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn hip labrum. I had not counted on the player and did not want to see his return potentially cost another player a valuable roster spot. As much as I would love for the Yankees to cut bait, the truth is they won’t as long as they can collect insurance on his salary. I get it. I am just ready for the day when the Yankees can finally give him his walking papers.

I was very glad to hear that YES Network analyst Ken Singleton will return for another season after he had announced that 2018 would be his last. There is something so calming and reassuring about Singleton’s voice and his stories are so great to listen to. I’ve long been amazed that a former Yankees enemy (courtesy of his days in Baltimore) could excel calling Yankee games with no bitterness or regret.  He has exuded class and professionalism from the start and I’m glad he’ll be back in 2019 even if he will be carrying a much lighter load. In a season that has seen Michael Kay’s stock drop and Ryan Ruocco’s elevate, Singleton was been a voice of consistency.

I was sorry to see Phil Hughes designated for assignment yesterday by the San Diego Padres. I had hoped the former Yankee would fare better in his native sunny Southern California but it was not meant to be. I’ve always liked the guy and I am hopeful that he can find a good home to make a difference even if it is in relief. I don’t really see a fit with the Yankees, but there are plenty of teams in need of help. I am not ready to see the end of Hughes career so hopefully this is just the next chapter in his book.

I’ll be headed to see Manny Machado and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field in Denver. It should be a fun game. Former Yankee Rich Hill will get the start for the Dodgers. I was in LA last weekend and didn’t get the chance to see the Dodgers play the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium so this is a good consolation prize. Manny remains a guy that I’d love to see the Yankees pursue in the off-season (dump Greg Bird and move Miguel Andujar to first to open third for Machado) and I’ll certainly be cheering for him on Sunday.

Well, time for my voice of pessimism to close. Time for a new Yankees winning streak to start. Can we get another quality start from Lance Lynn? We’ll find out in a few hours. In Rangers starter Drew Hutchison’s last game, he gave up six runs in three innings to the Baltimore Orioles. We can do better.

Go Yankees!

Operation: Take Down Boston…

2nd Best Winning % in MLB but 2nd in the AL East…

It’s Friday and Baseball is back! Thanks to the All-Star Break, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Yankees on the field. Okay, any one not named Aaron Judge or Luis Severino. They’re back in the Bronx and ready to take on the not-so-high flyin’ Mets. One thing is sure, we’ll be seeing plenty of ink about Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and their potential connection to the Yankees over the next few days.  

Syndergaard takes the mound tonight against Domingo German, while deGrom matches up against Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. As much as I’d love to have either pitcher, the realist in me knows that the likelihood either pitcher is traded to the Yankees is non-existent. The Mets are not going to send any of their top players to the Yankees regardless of the return.  

The Yankees begin the second half four-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  Hats off to the Red Sox for their brilliant first half.  They beat the teams they were supposed to. Mookie Betts has showed why he is one of the best players in Major League Baseball, and J.D. Martinez has proven to be the best off-season addition for any team (sorry, Giancarlo).  But it’s a new day and plenty of time for the Yankees to catch the Red Sox and put them in their rearview mirror.  The Yankees have 67 games remaining or three more than the Red Sox.  I think as long as the Yankees can keep winning series, they’ll be in great shape come September, or better yet, October.  The Red Sox have an easy start to the second half with the Detroit Tigers and Manny Machado-less Baltimore Orioles, a team that they already owned this season winning nine of ten games played.  However, there’s a big showdown with the Yankees at Fenway Park looming the first week of August.  This is a great chance for the Yankees to keep it close for the next couple of weeks and then make a huge statement in Boston with hopefully a win of the four-game series.  

I think it was tough for Yankees fans to see Manny Machado traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. Many of us, myself included, envisioned what it would look like to see Manny in pinstripes. I know, it was a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’ but how beautiful would it have looked to insert Machado’s name into the Yankees lineup? It may still come to fruition after the season when Manny hits the open market, but of course that doesn’t help us today. The best part about Manny going to Los Angeles is that Yankees pitchers won’t have to face him again unless the Yankees and Dodgers meet in the World Series (a very nice problem to have). Manny destroyed the Yankees this year with six home runs. It’ll be nice to play the Baltimore Orioles for the remainder of the year without the  threat of Manny at bat. Hopefully the next home run he hits at Yankee Stadium will be while wearing Pinstripes. We’ll see.

Nice job by Machado in picking his new number for the Dodgers. His beloved #13 was already taken by this year’s breakout player, Max Muncy. Closer Kenley Jansen offered to pay Muncy to relinquish the number, but in the end, Manny chose a different number. Like Don Mattingly, who took #8 as a tribute for Yogi Berra when he joined the Dodgers coaching staff under Joe Torre a few years ago and later served as their manager, Machado has acquired the same number in honor of Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. A very classy move by Machado and a gesture I am sure the heartbroken O’s fans appreciate.  

The Yankees lost another trade target yesterday when the Cleveland Indians abruptly acquired San Diego closer Brad Hand yesterday. I was surprised at the high cost the Indians paid (top catching prospect Francisco Mejia) but Cleveland’s bullpen was a mess. Once they get Andrew Miller back on the field, the Indians bullpen, with Hand, Miller, closer Cody Allen, and newcomer Adam Cimber, appears to be very formidable, especially in the post-season. Former Yankees pitcher, and now Padres reliever, Phil Hughes had the best Twitter quote following the Hand trade:  “Just a few more trades and I’ll be the closer. Too soon?”  Former Yankee Kirby Yates is expected to take Hand’s place as San Diego’s closer, but even he has been the subject of trade speculation. Hughes, while clearly jesting, may in fact get his wish.  

Photo Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune (K.C. Alfred)

Yankees fans are growing impatient but we’re still eleven days away from the non-waiver trading deadline. There’s time. GM Brian Cashman and his staff are working diligently behind the scenes. At this point, I am not really expecting a big splash but I do fully anticipate reinforcements in the not-so-distant future.  It was a year ago yesterday the Yankees acquired relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox. If I had my wish, I’d probably prefer the acquisition of Orioles reliever Zach Britton who seems to be rounding back into form after his recovery from injuries. It’s not that I don’t feel the Yankees shouldn’t acquire a starter but the names of Michael Fulmer, J.A. Happ, and Cole Hamels are not inspiring to me. Dan O’Dowd of the MLB Network feels that Hamels would be re-energized with the chance to play in a pennant race, but c’mon, he clearly is not the pitcher he once was. The Yankees had scouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago yesterday to watch St Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez. I’d love to have Martinez, 26, but his Yankees audition didn’t go so well as he took the loss against the Cubs, giving up six runs (five earned) over five innings, in the 9-6 defeat. Still, Martinez would be an upgrade if the Yankees can entice the Cardinals to part with the talented righty.

Photo Credit: AP (Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Yankees may have lost a valuable trading chip yesterday when outfielder Clint Frazier was pulled from a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game for possible concussion symptoms after a failed diving attempt to catch a fly ball in the first inning. Frazier’s concussion in Spring Training cost him the first couple months of the season.

There will be one “newcomer” when the Yankees take the field tonight. Well, he is not quite a newcomer but Gary Sanchez will be back in  action behind the plate following his activation off the disabled list yesterday. If El Gary starts to hit like he did last summer, it’s scary to think what the Yankees offense is capable of. With no offense to either Austin Romine or Kyle Higashioka, Sanchez’s presence improves the team. Higgy was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sanchez. Now, we just need to get Gleyber Torres back.

ESPN’s Keith Law released his Mid-Season Top 50 Prospect Update yesterday and has Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield listed at #12.  I loved his last line about Top Sheff:  “He’s very close to major league-ready, however, has all the elements of a future No. 2 starter”.  I wouldn’t want to put the pressure of a pennant chase on Sheff as a starter for the Yankees this year plus he’ll be nearing an innings limit at some point, but you gotta love the thought of Sheffield pitching out of the pen, perhaps as soon as next month or September at the latest.  

Well, let’s begin Operation Beat Boston.  Yankees, welcome back.  We’ve missed you.  Let’s make this a victorious Friday.  Send Thor to the showers early, and bring us a win.  

Go Yankees!

Tanaka Time: Home Sweet Home…

Photo Credit: Instagram (masahiro_tanaka.official)

Strong pitching carries Yanks past Angels…

The Yankees needed a strong effort by Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and they got it. He gave up his obligatory home run but it didn’t matter as the Yankees used a three-run third inning to cruise past the Halos, 3-1.

The highlight of the game, not for its meaning to the final outcome but rather the drama of the moment, was Tanaka’s strikeout of fellow Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani to end the first inning. Tanaka fell behind Ohtani on a 3-1 count but two swinging strikes sent Ohtani to the bench, much to the delight of the Yankee Stadium crowd. For the game, Ohtani was 0-for-2 against Tanaka, with a walk and two strikeouts. Mike Trout, who had a career day on Saturday, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tanaka. Simple formula: Hold Ohtani and Trout in check and good things happen.

Tanaka’s terrific day was done after the sixth inning and 104 pitches. He held the Angels to only three hits and the isolated run on Andrelton Simmons’ solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka (6-2) walked three and struck out eight. THIS is the Masa we need for the summer’s pennant chase.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

With six strong from Tanaka, Manager Aaron Boone was able to effectively lay out David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman for three innings of scoreless relief. Very nice play by Didi Gregorius to stop a hard hit grounder by Martin Maldonado, throwing the Angels catcher out at first to end the game and hand Chapman his eleventh save.

The Yankees (33-16) ended up taking two of three from the Angels after Saturday night’s debacle when Sonny Gray (Sucks!) and the Yankees bullpen were hammered by Mike Trout and the Angels in an 11-4 loss. Fortunately, the Boston Red Sox finally lost yesterday against the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, 7-1. The Braves victory was especially sweet as they gave Chris Sale an early exit (4 1/3 innings) by scoring six runs off Boston’s prized left-hander. The Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back to one game.

The schedule, which has been Boston’s friend so far this season, continues to benefit the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves were one of the rare winning teams the Red Sox has faced so far this year. They return to playing sub .500 teams today with the arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the Yankees draw the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Yes, the Yankees did sweep the Astros in Houston at the beginning of the month, but the team was on a roll at the time. I can’t say I am too confident with today’s matchup (Domingo German, 0-2, 5.59 ERA vs Justin Verlander, 6-2, 1.08 ERA). But if the Yankees can keep it close, I like the Yankees’ chances against the Houston bullpen. Yesterday, with closer Ken Giles on the mound, the Astros blew an 8-3 ninth inning lead in their fourteen-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jason Miller)

The Yankees need pitching help but it doesn’t look like Chance Adams wants to play. The RailRiders game had barely started yesterday when Adams was pulled. With an inability to find the strike zone, Adams departed in the first inning after recording only two outs. He had given up only one hit, but three walks and a hit batter gave the Syracuse Chiefs an early 3-0 lead. The RailRiders came back to win the game, 7-4, so Adams wasn’t saddled with the loss but it was a pathetic performance. His season ERA is an unsightly 5.93 and he leads the team with 22 walks. It doesn’t sound like Adams wants to join his former RailRiders teammates in the Bronx, at least if he continues to pitch like the second coming of Sonny Gray. Hopefully he figures this thing out and restores the bloom of his potential. I still think his future lies in the bullpen but regardless, he is a guy I hope reaches Pinstriped glory.

I was surprised as anyone when the Yankees optioned popular utility man Ronald Torreyes to Triple A to make room for the activation of first baseman Greg Bird. I had fully expected either Tyler Austin or a pitcher to go down. Neil Walker has proven his worth to the organization so the team wasn’t go to eliminate his roster spot. I also think the Yankees are intrigued with A.J. Cole and haven’t seen enough to make a decision about him yet. The YES Network’s Michael Kay noted yesterday that Toe’s locker has not been cleaned out. It is expected he’ll be back when his ten days are up or shortly thereafter. An injury to someone (I hope not) will accelerate the timetable. In the grand scheme of things, I fully expect Torreyes to have a longer Yankees career than Tyler Austin. I could see Austin as part of a trade in the days leading up to this year’s trading deadline when the Yankees attempt to seek upgrades for their pitching staff.

He was only a Yankee for 33 games in 2008 but it is enough to qualify Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as a member of the Yankees family. I am sure that Pudge is very excited today as the San Francisco Giants have selected the contract of his son, Dereck, from their Triple A affiliate. Dereck started his professional career in 2011 as an outfielder in the Minnesota Twins farm system but was converted to pitching in 2013. He signed with the Giants organization as a minor league free agent during the off-season. A starter in the minor leagues, Rodriguez is expected to provide long relief for the Giants. I hope Rodriguez pitches so well the Giants decide to trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees. C’mon, a guy can dream, can’t he?  Seriously, congratulations to Dereck for the realization of his own dream.

Photo Credit: Instagram (drod_31)

Speaking of former Yankees, Phil Hughes has found a new home. The Minnesota Twins had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week. On Sunday, the Twins sent Hughes and a compensatory draft pick (74th overall) to the San Diego Padres for a minor league catcher. The incentive for the Padres is the competitive balance draft pick. The Twins will send money to pay down the contract owed to Hughes to lessen the financial commitment for the Padres. For now, Hughes will be inserted into the Padres bullpen, joining former Yankees Bryan Mitchell and Tyler Webb. I am not sure if this is the eventual end of the line for Hughes, who has undergone multiple surgeries for thoracic outlet syndrome, or if he will be able to resurrect his career in sunny Southern CA, but I wish the veteran 31-year-old righty the very best in his latest comeback attempt.

It’s Memorial Day so we pay tribute to those who have fallen in defense of our Country. Of course, we think about those individuals every day of the year, not just this day, and are grateful for their service and sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom. We can never repay them or their families. We carry the memory of the slain men and women who have served this great Nation today and always.

Go Yankees!

Out with the Old and In with the New, or Vice Versa?…

Credit:  Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Yankees 6, Twins 3…

On Tuesday, the Yankees faced baseball’s oldest player and a former Yank.  With a 2-8 record and 8.14 ERA for the Atlanta Braves, Bartolo Colon looked to be a feast for the young Baby Bombers.  But after he shut down the Yankees in the first inning like a young ace, I had fears that Colon was going to be  a master, for one night, against the Yankees.  Fortunately, he wore down quickly and the Yankees got to him in the fifth inning to rally for the victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Credit:  Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, it was a little hard to focus on the game as rumors were swirling about the Yankees potential acquisition of Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox.  The trade became official after the game but more on that later.

I like Yankees starter Luis Cessa and he’s done well at Triple A.  But for whatever reason, it just has not translated at the Major League level for him…yet.  It felt like it was going to be a long night when Colon breezed through the top of the Yankees batting order in the first inning including a strike out of Aaron Judge.  Cessa, on the other hand, struggled out of the gate.  He walked the first two batters and hit Miguel Sano with a pitch to load the bases with only one out.  After getting Max Kepler to pop out, Cessa walked Robbie Grossman to give the Twins the early 1-0 lead.  Fortunately, Cessa struck out Eddie Rosario to prevent any further damage.  One run on no hits…not exactly how you want to start a game.

Credit:  Randy Miller/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Cessa walked the first batter of the second inning but settled down to retire the next three batters.  With the Yankee offense still unable to get anything going against Colon, the Twins added to their lead in the third when Miguel Sano homered to center (a solo shot into the bullpen).

The Yankees finally got on the board in the top of the 4th.  Aaron Judge opened the inning with a single to left.  Didi Gregorius hit an infield grounder to third that was deflected off Colon for a single.  Clint Frazier hit into a force out that erased Gregorius at second but Judge advanced to third.  Chase Headley singled to center, past a diving Brian Dozier, to bring home Judge and it was 2-1 Twins.  

The Twins got the run right back in the bottom of the inning.  Jason Castro hit a one-out double to the right field wall and Brian Dozier hit a fly ball that nearly went out of the park, bouncing off the upper part of the scoreboard area on the right field fence, as the Twins regained the two-run advantage, 3-1.  Cessa was able to retire Zack Granite on a ground out, but the Yankees brought in Chasen Shreve to secure the final out, a ground out by Joe Mauer.  

The 4th inning had showed the Yankees were finally starting to make progress against the ancient Colon but the 5th inning showed why Colon is no longer an Atlanta Brave.  Ronald Torreyes singled to left center and moved to third on a ground rule double by Brett Gardner, a fly ball that bounced just inside of the left foul line before falling into the left field stands on the foul side. Gary Sanchez then doubled to left, scoring both Torreyes and Gardner.  The game was tied at 3.  Twins manager Paul Molitor had seen enough and pulled Colon in favor of reliever Ryan Pressly.  But the results were no different.  Aaron Judge singled to center to score Sanchez and after Matt Holliday struck out, Didi Gregorius blasted a two-run homer to right. The Yankees had their first lead of the series, 6-3.

Credit:  Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

The Twins came right back in the bottom of the 5th and it looked like they might get some runs back.  Miguel Sano doubled to left and Max Kepler singled to right, moving Sano to third.  Fortunately, Chasen Shreve struck out the next two batters and induced Jorge Polanco into an infield popout to leave Sano stranded at third.

The Yankees loaded the bases again in the 6th inning but Matt Holliday hit a grounder for the final out leaving the bases full.  From there it was up to the Yankees bullpen.  Adam Warren was great.  He pitched two innings of hitless ball in the 6th and 7th, striking out 2.  From there, it was a high wire act with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.  Robbie Grossman doubled off Betances to open the bottom of the 8th.  After striking out Eddie Rosario, Betances hit pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar with a pitch.  He struck out Jason Castro but walked the dangerous Brian Dozier to load the bases.  Zack Granite hit a hard fly ball to right looked to be trouble for a second but it fell short of the wall into Aaron Judge’s glove for the final out.  A few groans from the Target Field crowd…

Aroldis Chapman took over in the 9th but it was not easy.  He walked Joe Mauer on a full count to start the inning.  A wild pitch moved Mauer to second and eliminated the possibility of a double play.  Miguel Sano grounded out, Ronald Torreyes to Garrett Cooper, moving Mauer to third.  Fortunately, Chapman retired the next two batters for his 10th save as the Yankees evened the series at a game apiece.  

Credit:  Getty Images

The Yankees (48-44) remained in third place in the AL East with the win as both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays won.  The Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-4, in 15 innings and the Rays beat the Oakland A’s, 4-3.  The Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and a 1 1/2 games behind the Rays.

Throughout the game, I was keeping an eye on the Los Angeles Dodgers game in Chicago against White Sox.  Todd Frazier had been held out of the game, and neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle pitched despite Chicago’s use of multiple pitchers in the 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.  The White Sox game ended before Aroldis Chapman shut down the Twins.  Interestingly, Tyler Clippard, one of the rumored players going to the White Sox (which turned out to be true), was warming with Aroldis Chapman in the top of the 9th inning and might have come into the game had the Yankees been able to add to their lead.

The Yankees conclude the series in Minneapolis this afternoon.  

The Yankees Are Officially Buyers…

What is old is new again!  The question whether the Yankees would be buyers or sellers or hold pat was answered after the game when the rumored deal with the White Sox became official.  In exchange for New Jersey native Todd Frazier and former Yankees David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the Yankees sent their #4 prospect, outfielder Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, OF Tito Polo and reliever Tyler Clippard to Chicago.  

Credit:  Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I am sad to see Rutherford go but all things considered, it is a position of depth and there is still a possibility the Yankees could make a run at Bryce Harper when he becomes a free agent so Rutherford was a bit redundant (particularly given the breakout performance of Double-A outfielder Estevan Florial).  I’ve always liked Ian Clarkin and had hoped that he would eventually find his way to the Bronx after injuries prevented the lefty pitcher from advancing more quickly.  Polo is an unranked prospect that the Yankees acquired from the Pirates in the trade that sent Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh.  I am obviously not disappointed to see Clippard go, especially since Robertson and Kahnle represent significant bullpen upgrades.  

I remember being so disappointed when the Yankees lost Tommy Kahnle to the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft and he stuck with the Rockies for the entire year.  I was very aware of him when the Rockies traded him to the White Sox last November.  He was a good reliever in Denver and has been even better for the White Sox.  

Credit:  Paul Sancya/AP

I hated to see David Robertson leave via free agency.  I remember when there was the potential that the Yankees could sign both Andrew Miller and David Robertson but inevitably they chose to sign Miller and take the compensation pick (SS Kyle Holder) to let the highly regarded Robertson sign elsewhere.  During his first year with the White Sox, he was placed on waivers after the trading deadline and the Yankees put in the winning claim.  There was no activity in trade talks but I remember the momentary excitement about Robertson’s possible return.  

Todd Frazier has the ability to play first base in addition to third but time will tell whether Manager Joe Girardi uses Frazier or Chase Headley at first.  Given that Frazier is clearly a rental, I suspect that he’ll be the regular first baseman but that is Girardi’s decision to make.  

With Clippard off the roster, the Yankees still have to make two moves today.  My immediate thought would be the demotions of Ji-Man Choi and Luis Cessa to Triple A.  But Garrett Cooper could be the odd man out if the Yankees feel he would be better served by starting every day for the RailRiders.  

Also, it will be interesting to see if Clint Frazier gives up #30 to Robertson.  I personally think he should.  He had no prior attachments to the number.  As for Todd Frazier, he wears Paul O’Neill’s number which has not been retired.  I wonder if he is forced to choose a new number or if the Yankees finally allow the number to be worn again.  All things considered, it is just a two month rental so it probably makes more sense to keep #21 in moth balls.

Welcome (or welcome back) to the Yankees, Todd, David and Tommy!

Odds & Ends…

To make room on the active roster for RHP Luis Cessa who started Tuesday’s game, the Yankees optioned RHP Bryan Mitchell, Monday’s starter, to Triple A.  Poor Mitchell, he’s probably getting tired of the Bronx-to-Scranton Shuttle.  

Credit:  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins placed former Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes on the 60-day disabled list.  I guess I really haven’t been following Hughes’ career in the Twin Cities, but I did not realize that he’s been battling Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).  As defined by Wikipedia, TOS is a condition in which there is a compression of the nerves, arteries or veins in the passageway from the lower neck to the armpit.  He had part of a rib removed through surgery last year and is experiencing recurring symptoms which could lead to the removal of the remainder of the rib to alleviate pressure.  I sincerely hope that Hughes is able to get medical treatment he needs and is able to make a complete recovery.  

Have a great Wednesday!  A wonderful day to grab a victory and hop a plane for the Great Northwest!  Let’s Go Yankees!

The Man said he was sorry…

You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…

We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology?  Right.  Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.  Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing.  He got caught.  He could care less about you or me.  Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.

I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back.  Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence?  I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs.  My days cheering him are over.   I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win.  I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.

I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him.  But that’s too far fetched to be possible.  He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster.  Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH.  But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.

As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers.  How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.

Ifs and buts, I know…

It’s a numbers game…

There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62.  Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away.  Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill.  Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park.  It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.

It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.  Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees.  Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.

Make or break a farm system…

Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.  However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding.  I hope the Yankees emerge victorious.  Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year.  I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal.  I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium.  But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait.  I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

NESN.com

Open the door…

Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case.  It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen.  He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.

*      *     *

It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report.  With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx.  Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance.  But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong.  As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong.  But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.

Let’s play ball…

–Scott

Sometimes Money Does Matter…

The Hunger Games…

When the Yankees said they were going to be big spenders during the opening signing period for international prospects, I still didn’t imagine how aggressive they would be. Based on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects, the Yankees have apparently signed five of the top ten players:

• Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic, #1
• Nelson Gomes, 3B, Dominican Republic, #2
• Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic, #5
• Jonathan Amundaray, OF, Venezuela, #7
• Antonio Arias, OF, Venezuela, #9

In the second ten (11-20), they grabbed three shortstops:

• Hyo-Jun Park, SS, Korea, #13
• Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela, #14
• Diego Castilla, SS, Venezuela, #16

They also signed the #25 player in catcher Miguel Flames, Venezuela.

At first pass, it seems like a number of shortstops but I’ve read that Dermis Garcia will eventually be a corner infielder and Wilkerman Garcia may be switched to second base.

Dermis Garcia, the prized signing, represents the most the Yankees have spent on the international market since they signed top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in 2009. Garcia received $3.2 million, while Sanchez received $3.0 million.

It’s interesting that Garcia was born in 1998, perhaps the greatest year of the modern Yankees era.

I can still remember when the Yankees selected an 18-year-old Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopefully, the 16 year-old Garcia will be a presence in pinstripes for more than 20 years too.

Of course, while the Yankees were focused on position players, the Boston Red Sox quietly signed the top two pitchers in Christopher Acosta, Dominican Republic, and Anderson Espinoza, Venezuela.

I thought it was a telling choice in the selection of the catcher (Flames). The Yankees seems overloaded with catching prospects and the Flames arrival is probably the prelude to the inclusion of another catching prospect such as Sanchez or John Ryan Murphy in a potential trade this month. I would not want to lose Sanchez for a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher but if the return were say someone like David Price, then I am all in.

With the international signings at approximately $14 million, the cost could be as much as $30 million with penalties plus the Yankees will be non-players in the next two signing periods as they’ll be restricted to no more than $300,000 per player. But with their aggressive approach this year, the Yankees have infused significant future talent into the lower levels of the farm system.

The future is now…

I saw a reference that Park would be the first Korean-born Yankee but that’s unfair to AAA second baseman Rob Refsnyder. Although raised in CA since he was 3 months, he was born in Seoul, South Korea to Korean parents. So I’d say Refsnyder will be the first Korean Yankee. Speaking of Refsnyder, I seriously hope that his Bronx arrival is sooner rather than later. The Yankees need to upgrade second base. Brian Roberts was once a great player but he’ll never be that guy again. Why not go with a younger player who has upside potential? The sooner we can put Robinson Cano in the rear view mirror, the better.

What have you done for me lately?…

So much for the rags to riches story for career minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte. After a terrific start to the season, he has been non-existent for the past month and it earned him a free ride to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement is actually an older career minor leaguer, Zelous Wheeler, so we’ll see how this goes. If it were me, I would have brought up Refsnyder. But there’s a reason that Brian Cashman is GM and I am not, so I’ll just have to have faith in the decision.

Too little, too late?…

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything the Yankees can do to save this season. They are a game under .500 entering play tonight and have played with virtually no offense. They only win if they can hold the opponent to a couple of runs or less. Robinson Cano is one player that could ignite the offense but obviously there’s no way the Seattle Mariners are going to give him up. In retrospect, the Yankees should have overpaid to keep Cano. Alfonso Soriano was that kind of player at times last year but he’s been in a season long slump that almost certainly means this is his final year in pinstripes. I thought that Brian McCann would be hitting by now but he is showing that he’s one of those guys who needs a long acclimation process to the Bronx. Carlos Beltran is merely showing that he is a 36-year-old outfielder. The other off-season right field option, Shin Choo-Soo, has fared no better in Texas.

At this moment, the Detroit Tigers stand as the team to beat in the American League. For the past couple of weeks, they’ve been invincible and easily handled the second best Oakland A’s this week. Joba Chamberlain is probably loving life at the top.

While I recognize the Yankees will make a move this month, I hope that they do not trade any top prospects unless the return is top shelf (i.e., David Price). I’d hate to lose Gary Sanchez and still finish 3rd or 4th in the AL East.

Oh well, tonight the Yankees play Phil Hughes in Minneapolis. Let’s hope the results are better than the last time they saw Hughes in the Bronx when he and the Minnesota Twins dominated the Yanks.

–Scott