Tagged: Phillies

Early Christmas for Yankee Fans…

Screen Shot 2019-12-14 at 8.40.34 AM
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration via The Ringer


Reminder: Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

I always look forward to the Baseball Winter Meetings. For me, it’s the highlight of the off-season. Some years are very disappointing, but some, like this year, are not. When the meetings conclude on Thursday, it always feels a little like the day after Christmas. This year was no exception.

We certainly felt the highs and lows of emotion over the course of the eventful week.

Even though it didn’t appear the Yankees were interested in signing Didi Gregorius, it was still a gut punch when word spread on Tuesday that he had signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When it was rumored at the beginning of the week that Didi’s camp would consider a one-year deal, I thought it might increase the chances he’d re-sign with the Yanks. Nope. He’ll get $14 million to have Joe Girardi pencil his name in at shortstop in Philly and for his sake, hopefully the chance to rebuild his value after last year’s disappointment following Tommy John surgery. He’ll re-enter free agency again after the season, likely in position for a multi-year contract if he proves to be the Didi of old although the Phillies could issue him the qualifying offer which would provide some resistance in the market. I have to say for a few hours after hearing about the signing, I was deeply saddened. I really enjoyed Didi’s play both on and off the field.  He has such a great personality and is so immensely  talented in all areas of his life. I loved his dances on the field with teammates. Emotions re-surfaced a bit yesterday when the Phillies officially announced Didi, and he said his goodbyes to Yankee fans on social media. He will be missed.

Screen Shot 2019-12-14 at 8.42.53 AM

Nevertheless, we have to move on. I get why the Yankees did not re-sign Didi. Gleyber Torres is certainly a cheaper, more talented option at shortstop, and it opens a position, second base, for D.J. LeMahieu after a year of playing all three infield bags. Now, I hope the Yankees extend LeMahieu so we don’t open a hole at second after the upcoming season like we did when Robinson Cano walked.  The presence of Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford certainly lessen the need for LeMahieu to cover first and third, and no doubt we need LeMahieu in the lineup as much as possible (as Aaron Boone would say, “obviously”). So, the positive with Didi’s departure is what it means for LeMahieu. Of course, the Yankees will need to find someone who can fill his role as the floater behind the infield starters. I like Tyler Wade but I am not sure if he is the one. He still has much to prove although he did show more late last year than I had expected. The other in-house option is Thairo Estrada, who has the support of many fans. I expect a minor trade or free agent signing. Former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez seems intriguing although he has very limited experience at short. I am probably hopeful Estrada wins the job, although it’s hard to dismiss Wade’s speed and the disruption he can cause on the base paths. He also has the ability to cover play both infield and outfield positions, flexibility that is very hard to find. I look forward to Spring Training to see how this competition plays out.

So many words typed and I have yet to write the biggest name of the week (except for the top of the page). When I went to bed on Tuesday night, it was unclear where Gerrit Cole would be playing next year. The Yankees remained the favorites and it sounded like the Los Angeles Angels had moved on. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers were still in it, and apparently several mystery teams (although we know the latter is a standard Scott Boras negotiating ploy). As I laid my head on my pillow, I was still carrying the disappointment of the loss of Sir Didi. Around 3 am on Wednesday morning, I woke up and decided to check my phone. Much to my surprise and amazement, I found Gerrit Cole had signed with the Yankees for 9 years and $324 million. Woohoo! We finally got our man.

image
Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

I’ve wanted Gerrit Cole for literally years. It felt like destiny for him to eventually become a Yankee. I really thought the Yankees had him a couple of years ago in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when that didn’t happen, I always knew the Yankees would have one more chance when Cole became a free agent. I didn’t necessarily fall for the “he wants to play on the West Coast” narrative. Money seems to be a bigger motivator than location. Yet, I remember how much I wanted Max Scherzer a few years ago or even Patrick Corbin last year, only to come away with disappointment. In Corbin’s case, it was a blessing. He’s good pitcher and his contributions helped win the World Series for the Washington Nationals, but he’s not Gerrit Cole. If he had signed the big $140 million contract with the Yankees instead of the Nats, Hal Steinbrenner may have been less motivated to open his wallet for Cole. It’s easy to say that I prefer to have Cole for the next nine years than Corbin for the next five years remaining on his contract. I’d rather see the Yankees use the money to re-sign James Paxton if he proves the second half of last year was the Big Maple we’ll see going forward.

According to The New York Post, the Yankees will be announcing Cole on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a press conference at Yankee Stadium. I haven’t heard any details yet. It seems like it has been a few years since the Yankees have held an event at the Stadium to announce a new player. Most lately seem to be telephone interviews with the media after the announcements are made. I prefer the players in front of cameras, pulling on the famed Pinstriped jersey and hat with the interlocking N-Y. Loved watching Giancarlo Stanton put on the Pinstripes a few years ago. Hopefully we’ll get to see it with Gerrit and his wife Amy. No doubt Scott Boras will be there as he lives for these big moments in the spotlight.

Speaking of Boras, it’s hard to think of anyone who had a better week than him. He negotiated the contracts for Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, a total of $814 million. If his fee is 5%, he brought in $40.7 million for the Boras Corporation. He also negotiated the $64 million contract for Mike Moustakas with the Reds and represents free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nick Castellanos, and Dallas Keuchel. I don’t think Scott has to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

Back to Cole, I am excited he is a New York Yankee. I think his presence on top of the Yankees’ starting rotation is huge. Not only is he a great pitcher, but I think he helps everyone behind him.  Luis Severino no longer has to feel the pressure to be “the man”.  He can be a soon-to-be 26-year old with immense talent who can thrive as the number two behind Cole. When your third and fourth starters are James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, life is good. I expect Jordan Montgomery to round out the rotation, but honestly, it does not matter who pitches. I know it won’t be J.A. Happ whom we expect to be traded in the coming days to unload his salary or a good chunk of it. I am glad to see Happ go. I am appreciative of how he pitched after the Yankees acquired him in 2018 at the trading deadline, and I know he can still be an effective Major League pitcher, but the Yankees have plenty of options for the fifth starter (Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and Michael King are the names coming to mind immediately). If we need someone at the trade deadline, we’ll get him.

For the last few years, I’ve viewed the starting rotation as a weakness. It is funny how one man can change that perception. Gerrit Cole puts everyone in their right place, giving the Yankees the best starting rotation in the American League and up there with the Washington Nationals as the best in Major League Baseball.

As for numbers, I would like to see Cole get #45. “Cole 45” is a thing and I’d like it to continue even though it means Louis Linwood Voit III has to find a new number. Voit wore 30 during his college days at Missouri State University and it is available with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion so that’s the number I think Luke should grab. But you could certainly make an argument for other numbers freshly open, like 22 or 28. No, I am not in favor of 69 like many Yankee fans.

Screen Shot 2019-12-14 at 8.49.49 AM
Photo Credit: @lukevoit via Instagram

The Yankees suffered another loss, although expected, when backup catcher Austin Romine signed with the Detroit Tigers. I hate to see Romine go but we’re in a ‘now or never’ situation with Kyle Higashioka since he is out of options. No way the Yankees were ever going to pay $4 million for a backup catcher.  So good for Romine to get his money. He’s been a good Yankee and he’ll be missed. He’ll get a chance to start and to mentor Detroit’s young catchers.  Hopefully the pay day and the starting opportunity will help offset the fact he now has Octobers free. While I’d support a signing of Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, I am hopeful Higgy grabs this opportunity to support Gary Sanchez and runs with it. He’s earned the right to have first crack at the job.

The Yankees also seem likely to lose Dellin Betances at this point. I hate to see it. I’d love to see Dellin back, even on a one-year deal to rebuild value. I hope this is not the end. The Dodgers have apparently emerged as the latest suitor although you can’t count out Joe Girardi and the Phillies given the holes in their bullpen.  I suppose either of those teams would be preferable to the Mets if Dellin does leave. I am not ready for the Bronx native to go and I am sure it will hit me as hard as Didi’s departure if it happens. Kind of reminds me how I felt when Rich “Goose” Gossage signed with the San Diego Padres following the 1983 season.

I should mention congratulations to Brett Gardner are in order for his new contract with the Yankees. I am not sure that I would have locked in $12.5 million for him regardless of what he has meant for the Yankees, but all things considered, it’s good to have his leadership on the team, particularly since CC Sabathia is no longer there. Gardy gets a $2 million signing bonus and $8 million salary for 2020, and a team option for $10 million in 2021 (which carries a $2.5 million buyout). Let Brett bang. Glad he’ll return, although I would give the temporary starting center field role, until Aaron Hicks returns mid-season, to Mike Tauchman to keep Gardy as the fourth outfielder. Even as the fourth outfielder, Gardy will play.

I always hate the Rule 5 Draft as teams always try to poach from the Yankees’ farm system. RHP Rony Garcia was the first selection of this year’s draft when he was grabbed by the Detroit Tigers. Most likely, he’ll be able to remain on the Tigers’ MLB roster for the duration of the season, ending his association with the Yankees. Good opportunity for him. There was not a clear path to the Majors with the Yankees. Too much talent ahead of him. So long to the Yankee minor leaguers selected in the Triple A phase since they now belong to their new organizations and will not be coming back: RHP Hobie Harris (Blue Jays), RHP Will Carter (White Sox), RHP Raynel Espinal (Red Sox), and 2B Wendell Rijo (Braves).  I hate seeing the Red Sox nab Yankee prospects. They grabbed RHP Anyelo Gomez last year in the Minor League phase. Good chance we never see these guys in the Major Leagues but I hate the Red Sox.

At this point, there is not much left for the Yankees to do. I expect them to bring in a few guys on minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training.  Yesterday, they signed outfielder Thomas Milone. Milone, 25 in January, was selected in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He carries the rep of an excellent defensive outfielder whose offensive game has been slower to develop. I am sure the Yankees’ Analytics Team sees something in Milone that they’d like to work with. He’ll join outfielder Zack Granite as another depth piece for Spring Training.

641882
Photo Credit: MiLB.com

If I had a wish list for the Yankees, it would be to add another bullpen arm. No doubt Dellin Betances heads my list. Rumors circulated this week about the Yankees’ interest in Milwaukee’s elite reliever, Josh Hader, but the cost seems too high to me. One site was suggesting Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres. Yeah, right. In your dreams. Not sure if the Yankees and Brewers can negotiate a reasonable package, but any deal for Hader would be painful in terms of players lost. It would be amazing to put him with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino et al but I do not feel it is likely to happen. With Blake Treinen off the board (signed with the Dodgers), I am not sure where the Yankees turn if Betances leaves. I really like Ben Heller and I am hopeful that 2020 is his breakout year. I expect the Yankees to bring in competition for backup catcher and infield spots but that’s about it. The heavy lifting has been done with the Cole signing. Anything at this point would be for complimentary pieces and depth only. I don’t think the Yankees will have a shocking Madison Bumgarner type of signing at this point.  I’ve heard people suggest the Yankees should trade for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, but honestly, we’re fine with Luke Voit, Mike Ford and potentially Miguel Andujar. I really want to see what a healthy Luke Voit can do this year. As for Andujar, there’s always a chance Gio Urshela was a one season wonder. Even if he isn’t, Andujar carries great value as one of the best bats on the team. He is more than capable as a superior DH and potential first base option, in addition to third base play in combo with Gio.  I am not in favor of selling him low even if the Texas Rangers have their eye on him. Now if the Colorado Rockies were interested in sending Nolan Arenado to the Yankees, let’s talk.

As always, Go Yankees!

Bryce Harper and the Unlucky 13 in Philadelphia…

harper_phillies_site
Credit: Sports Illustrated

In the End, Money Wins…

So, Bryce Harper will never wear Pinstripes. Well, not the right color of Pinstripes, that is. After the long and at times excruciating wait, Bryce will call Philadelphia home for the next thirteen years. $330 million ensured that if Bryce had any misgivings about the City of Brotherly Love or if he wasn’t exactly enamored with the personality of the Phillies manager, Gabe Kapler, it wasn’t something that money could not overcome. I guess you could say that Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin had a say in the matter.

Franklin-in-the-100-bill

I am disappointed, for sure. When the off-season began, I had hoped the Yankees would sign either Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, I felt sure they would grab one of those guys. While the Yankees had some lukewarm interest in Machado, they were never players for Harper. Oh well, what are you going to do – boycott the team? That’s foolish. The 2019 New York Yankees are a very good team. This is certainly the best team since 2009 and we know how that one ended. In many ways, you could say this team is better than the 2009 World Champions.

Jake Story, one of the co-leaders of the Talkin’ Yanks Podcast, tweeted this yesterday after the Harper announcement:

Talkin Jake

I saw so many reactions to Harper’s contract with Philadelphia but I felt Jake accurately and uniquely summed up exactly how I felt.

I really thought Harper or Machado would provide the Yankees’ with clear separation from the Boston Red Sox. Last year, the Red Sox were eight games better than the Yankees and they rolled past us in the AL Division Playoffs on their way to the World Series championship. I know, you can claim many of the Sox players had career years or that they have no bullpen this season. From my perspective, they are, sadly, the MLB Champs until proven otherwise. I didn’t want to beat the Red Sox this year…I wanted to crush them. Probably my biggest fear as we head into the new season is saying “I wish we had signed Harper or Machado” in October.

But Jake’s correct. We must have hope GM Brian Cashman is right about this team. He knows far more about the Yankees than we ever will. For Yankee fans to trash the Steinbrenner family or threaten to boycott games makes absolutely no sense to me. You can count on one hand the number of teams that tried to improve themselves as hard as the Yankees did this past off-season. The Boston Red Sox did nothing. They re-signed Nasty Nate (Nathan Eovaldi) but you and I know that carries a huge risk on a long-term deal. He’s a great guy but he is a two-time Tommy John recipient that throws incredibly hard. They let their top setup man, Joe Kelly, depart via free agency, and their closer, Craig Kimbrel, remains unsigned with Boston seemingly disinterested in a reunion due to the financial impact. The Yankees have the better bullpen, no question, but I do stand by the belief the Yankees bullpen will not be as great as the fans’ expectations and the Red Sox bullpen won’t be as horrific as Yankee fans seem to think. You know there will be bumps in the road for the greatest of bullpens. Relief arms can be so fickle at times. So, to simply believe we are going to beat Boston because of the respective bullpens is flawed thinking. They still have some very good baseball players on that team. While I think the Yankees will win the AL East this year, it would be very frustrating if we head into October as a Wild Card team again for the one game ‘do-or-die’. We may have won the last two Wild Card games, but inevitably the law of averages will bite us in the butt. I’d rather head into the playoffs with a five-game series and take our chances.

I can’t blame the Yankees for not wanting to make a ten to thirteen-year commitment for one player. Bryce Harper is not the best player in baseball even if he is paid like it. I know that the Phillies went thirteen years to drive down the AAV for luxury tax purposes but that’s a huge commitment regardless of the dollars involved. I thought the rumored offer by the Los Angeles Dodgers (four years for $168 million) made all the sense in the World. Bryce would have gotten more than enough money to live with the highest AAV in the game and the opportunity to test the free agent market again at age 30. However, I get Bryce’s desire to play in one city for the rest of his career. He is concerned about his legacy and playing in a stadium that gives him 40+ home run potential every year will allow him to pad his stats more than he might have accomplished at Dodger Stadium or Oracle Park in San Francisco. I am sure this was very enticing to him. He would have looked great in Yankee Stadium (building a greater legacy playing for Baseball’s most storied franchise) but I recognize by not signing Harper, the chances the Yankees spend big money to retain Didi Gregorius are increased.  I don’t want to lose Gregorius so maybe this off-season’s ‘Harpchado’ fiasco is a silver lining when all is said and done. Like they say, sometimes the best trade is the one not made at all. So, the best signing for Yankees might be the no signings of Harper and Machado.

Capture

It’s a bummer we are in a stretch of non-televised Spring games. Gary Sanchez makes his Spring debut later today and we cannot watch unless we are at Steinbrenner Field. The next televised game (YES Network) is Sunday’s split squad game in Tampa against the uninspiring Detroit Tigers.

Troy Tulowitzski hit his second game of the Spring in yesterday’s 8-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates or so I read since I couldn’t watch the game with my own eyes.  It’s a little too early to get excited about Tulo but for as much as I’ve been down on the signing, I am intrigued by the energy and excitement he is bringing to games.  I am hoping he stays healthy and doesn’t go Ellsbury on us. If he can maintain his current physical condition, he might be able to help this season as long as Manager Aaron Boone does not overuse him. I know the plan is to give him frequent breaks, with Gleyber Torres sliding over from second base to spell him a few times per week, until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Hopefully the Yankees can stick to the plan and not be forced into a situation where we are dependent upon Tulo every day.  I have the same concerns about Brett Gardner but I digress. I am cautiously optimistic for a successful rebound season for the former Rockie/Blue Jay and hope he allays my fears. If it doesn’t work, the Yankees cut bait and move on but I sincerely hope he’s better than that.

The first base battle has been fun to watch so far this Spring. Both Luke Voit and Greg Bird are, pardon the cliché, ‘in it to win it’. Bird has played four games, with five hits in eight at-bats, a homer, two doubles and three RBIs.  Voit, the favorite entering Camp according to Boone, has played two games, with two hits in four at-bats, a homer and four RBIs. Small sample sizes, yes, but the guys are trying hard to impress. Love the effort. As down as I’ve been on Bird, it would be awesome for him to finally unlock his potential, staying healthy, with that beautiful left-handed swing in Yankee Stadium. If not, I hope Voit grabs the job and doesn’t let go. If the Yankees are not looking for a new first baseman in July, life will be good.

I don’t know why but there’s a part of me that would like to see the Yankees re-sign reliever Adam Warren. After being shipped away twice, I am not sure why Warren would want to come back to the Bronx or if there is even room in the bullpen for him, but I guess I’d rather see Warren as a Yankee than watch him end up in a place like Boston or Tampa. That’s just one of those sentimental, non-analytical feelings that serves absolutely no place in today’s game.

As a residual effect of the Bryce Harper signing, GM Brian Cashman should call Phillies GM Matt Klentak to find out what it would take to acquire left fielder Nick Williams. Williams is the player most directly impacted by Harper’s presence. He has underperformed in Philly but the 25-year-old lefty has some game.  Per Fangraphs, “These days prospects are supposed to offer instant gratification. With just one win above replacement through his first 791 plate appearances, Nick Williams has fallen short of expectations. Even though his offensive numbers technically declined between 2017 and 2018, extreme good fortune (a .375 BABIP) helped to fuel his rookie campaign. His peripherals improved last season including a seven-point drop in his swinging strike rate. His walk and strikeout rates moved in the right directions in large part due to massive gains to his plate discipline. As a hitter, Williams still has kinks. A trade of ground balls for more fly balls would better fit his sweet lefty swing if it can be achieved without more strikeouts. Despite above average speed, Williams shows no proclivity to run on the bases, and he’s posted bafflingly bad defensive marks. There’s a good chance time and experience will fix his ill-adventures in the outfield.” Williams, in my opinion, could be a good ‘buy low/high reward’ candidate. Exactly the type of player Cashman likes to accumulate. If the Yankees do not want to over-expose Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Williams could be a good platoon partner for Brett Gardner if the organization is down on Clint Frazier.

uspresswire-phillies-nick-williams
Credit: USA TODAY Sports

For as much as we laugh about the Miami Marlins, I am really digging their new uniforms. Hats off to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter for bringing the new look to his franchise. Or maybe we should say, hats on.

marlins_spring_training_baseball
Credit: AP

I feel sorry for the Marlins this year as they are going to get their clocks cleaned by the Mets, Nationals, Braves, and Phillies in the highly competitive NL East but at least they’ll be look cool as they walk off the field with another loss.

Miami-Marlins-New-Logo-Leak

March has arrived so we’ve entered the month of true Yankees baseball…finally. With Opening Day just four weeks from yesterday, we’ll see the players ramping up over the next couple of weeks. The Boston Red Sox rode a hot start last April to the most successful season in franchise history. I am not expecting a similar historic start for the Yankees this year, but it would be nice for them to jump out of the gate strong. With the first nine games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, both expected to have losing seasons, there’s no reason the Yankees can’t build an early division lead before they go head-to-head with the AL Elite Red Sox and Astros in early to mid-April. Exciting times. Let’s make this a Championship year!

As always, Go Yankees!

The AL Starter in the MLB All-Star Game Should Be…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Hunter Martin)

An Easy Decision for Astros Manager A.J. Hinch…

I am starting to think that Luis Severino simply plays at a higher level than anyone else. If there was a league higher than Major League Baseball, he would have already graduated. I remember being so frustrated in 2016 when Sevy couldn’t buy a win as a starter. I was among many who felt that his future might be better served in the bullpen. Thank God I am not a baseball scout. Severino plays with confidence but that does not begin to equate to the level of confidence he gives us as fans when he takes the mound.

I remember the Summer of ’78 when Ron Guidry dominated the opposition (25-3, 1.74 ERA) and represented almost a guaranteed win every time he pitched. There have been some good pitching seasons by other pitchers since then but I don’t think I’ve had the confidence in any pitchers like I did Gator that summer until now. The fact that Severino is homegrown and not a product of free agency or trade makes it even better. I am very proud of the pitcher Severino has become and look forward to his exciting years ahead.

A day after Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Severino completely shut down the Phillies offense. Sevy (12-2) owned the strike zone and toyed with the Phillies hitters. He may have started to tire late but he gave the Yankees seven strong scoreless innings, scattering six hits and did not walk a batter. He had nine strikeouts to increase his season total to 132 (seventh best in MLB). If Severino is not chosen as the AL Starter for the All-Star Game, it will be a travesty.  He has clearly outpitched the two usual suspects (Chris Sale and Corey Kluber) and has three more wins than A.J. Hinch’s own stud, Justin Verlander.

The day started right when Aaron Hicks led off Tuesday’s game with a homer over the center field wall against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning, thanks to a two-run single by Gleyber Torres which was immediately followed by Greg Bird’s RBI single.

Austin Romine, promoted to full-time starter for the next three or four weeks, opened the fourth inning with a double to deep left center. Sevy was the next batter and although it was anticipated that he’d be the first out, he did take a couple of good hacks before striking out. Rather than being an easy out, he battled and it paid off when Arrieta thew a wild pitch to advance Romine to third. Even though Sevy struck out, I felt his at-bat was productive. Aaron Hicks took advantage of Romine’s presence on third with a deep fly to right to score the runner. 5-0, Yankees.

The Yankees closed out their scoring in the top of the fifth inning when Didi Gregorius led off with a solo homer to right center, his 15th of the year. From there, it was Sevy and the bullpen to the finish. Adam Warren pitched a clean eighth inning, but I have to admit I got sick to my stomach when Aaron Boone brought Chasen Shreve in for the ninth despite the six-run lead. It got worse when Shreve walked Carlos Santana after the first out and was down 3-1 on the next hitter (Nick Williams). A two or three-run homer and the Phillies were back in this game. Fortunately, Williams grounded out and Scott Kingery hit a liner right at Gleyber Torres to end the game. Shreve did his job, but I am sorry, he still sucks.

Regardless of what happens today, the Yankees have won their series with the Phillies which helps overcome the weekend sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Severino was “as dirty as you possibly could be”. Agreed and it’s quite alright by me. I am really hopeful Sevy is throwing like this when he makes his next start against the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees (52-25) maintained their half-game lead on the Red Sox (53-27). The Sox had an easy time with Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels, winning 9-1 at Fenway Park behind David Price. Don’t look now but the Rays are hot. Fresh off their sweep of the Yankees, they’ve taken the first two games of their series with the Washington Nationals. Yesterday, Nathan Eovaldi and the Rays beat Max Scherzer and the Nats, 1-0. Nasty Nate is looking good. The Rays have won five in a row and have closed the gap with the Yankees to fourteen games. Ha! They’re not going anywhere but if the Rays win today, they’ll be back to .500. Not bad for a team that looked like a mess in the preseason.

Brandon Drury has cooled off at Triple A with only two hits in his last seven games but I remain hopeful that he’ll be back in the Bronx soon. He played first base again yesterday for the second time in five days. Aaron Boone was quoted yesterday as saying Drury at first was not on the front burner, but from my perspective, the versatility certainly helps. I remain a fan of Drury and I’d prefer to see him play for the Yankees as opposed to being part of a July trade for pitching.

Why do so many non-Yankees fans try to sell the idea of a Gleyber Torres-for-Jacob deGrom trade? Look, I’d love to have deGrom on the Yankees, but there’s no way that I would trade Torres for him. With Torres, we have second base locked up for the next decade (or more) with a player that should make a few All-Star teams. Pitchers are too fragile. deGrom is great but not at the cost of Torres. Down the road in about five years when deGrom is trying to reinvent himself as an older pitcher, Torres will still be a superstar in his mid-20’s.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another former Yankee was thrown on the scrap heap this week when the San Diego Padres designated reliever Tyler Webb for assignment. He’s one of those guys I always wanted to succeed but for whatever reason it has never happened for him. Hopefully he’ll find better luck with his next organization. If not, maybe he can play cards with Chase Headley, Rob Refsnyder and Jesus Montero.

Although I was very confident yesterday thanks to Luis Severino, today is “not-so-much”. The Phillies stand a very good chance of taking the series finale since the Yankees will be throwing out Luis Cessa to make the spot start in order to push CC Sabathia to the Red Sox series. The Phillies will start Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.44 ERA). Advantage Phillies. I really wish that I could bring myself to like Cessa as a starter but I just can’t do it. Oh well, with the Yankees offense, it’s always possible that Cessa could win despite himself.

Go Yankees!

The Lasagna was Fantastic!…

c04_yankeesphilliesweb01lmn13917
Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

Jonathan Loaisiga assumes the role of “Stopper”…

The Yankees win!  My three favorite words.

The three-game losing streak is over, and the Yankees are back in the win column. Even though they may not have the most wins in MLB, they hold the best overall winning percentage.

While I was optimistic the Yankees would take the series opener in Philadelphia, I certainly did not expect young Jonathan Loaisiga to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was a marvelous pitching performance for the 23-year-old who bypassed Triple A to put on the famed Pinstripes a couple of weeks ago.

Jorge Alfaro broke up the ‘no-no’ with a leadoff single to right in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a walk of Aaron Altherr, a groundout by Cesar Hernandez advanced the runners to second and third. It was the end of the night for Johnny Lasagna. Job well done. David Robertson came in (a nice NL double switch by Aaron Boone, who also inserted Neil Walker at first in place of Greg Bird to take the pitcher’s spot in the batting order) and struck out young Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins for the second out. Robertson induced Odubel Herrera to hit a grounder to second for the final out, leaving the two Phillies baserunners stranded. Hoskins and Herrera are such a huge part of the Phillies offense so it was a great moment for D-Rob to preserve Loaisiga’s scoreless outing.

Loaisiga (2-0) finished with 5 1/3 innings, 86 pitches, surrendering only the lone hit by Alfaro, a couple of walks, and eight strikeouts.  It was quite simply a magnificent performance for a team that needed the win. I know, for me, Loaisiga has certainly exceeded all expectations. To his credit, he has very strong believers in the Yankees organization. Otherwise, he’d still be pitching in Double-A.

It was good to see the Yankees score first.  It seemed like they were always playing from behind in the Tampa Bay series. In the top of the second inning, Greg Bird walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Phillies starter Vince Velasquez. Leading AL Rookie of the Year contender Gleyber Torres doubled to right to bring Bird home with the game’s first run.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Aaron Judge scorched a liner into the left field stands to give the Yankees a two-run cushion. The home run was Judge’s 20th of the year.

 judge_stanton
Photo Credit: Getty Images

After David Robertson emerged unscathed in the sixth inning, he was not so lucky the next frame. Former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. A wild pitch by D-Rob moved Santana to second. Scott Kingery, who hit the Yankees well in Spring Training, laced a run-scoring single to left to make it a one-run game.

The Yankees picked up a couple of insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning when Giancarlo Stanton delivered a two-run single off Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios. The eighth inning also saw one of the ugliest at-bats we’ll ever see when Dellin Betances, bat wiggle and all, struck out for the second out with two runners in scoring position. I guess it was his argument that the NL needs to adopt the DH rule. I know that I’d prefer to see him stick to his day job of throwing the baseball.

Capture

Betances got into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. He walked the first batter which is never a good sign.  I guess he was still thinking about that awful at-bat. He picked up a couple of outs but then walked Odubel Herrera to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Carlos Santana. Manager Aaron Boone pulled the plug on Betances and brought in closer Aroldis Chapman. Santana jumped on the first pitch with a laser shot to left that looked like it might drop in for extra bases but fortunately Giancarlo Stanton tracked the ball down and caught it on the warning track. For as much as we ripped Stanton’s defense during Spring Training, the Yankees could have lost the game right there if Stanton had not made that tremendous catch.

Chapman shut the door on the Phillies with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, despite a meaningless two-out solo home run by Maikel Franco. Yankees win, 4-2.

8e1_yankeesphilliesweb02phillies18
Photo Credit: For NJ.com (Lori M Nichols)

The Yankees (51-25) moved a half-game up on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox had the night off. The Sox have one more win than the Yankees but two more losses. Every team in the division won yesterday except for the, well, pathetic Baltimore Orioles who never seem to win any games.

I am not quite sure why the Yankees continue to stand behind Chasen Shreve. I assume he’ll eventually figure this out and return to a role of prominence but, personally, I have lost patience with him. Sunday started with the false news reports that Shreve had been DFA’d and ended with Shreve served up the gopher ball to Jake Bauers which allowed the Rays to take the walk-off win after 12 innings, sweeping the series with the Yankees. It really made me wish those DFA news reports had been true. There are many who feel Triple A lefty Josh Rogers is fully capable of stepping into Shreve’s spot in the Yankees bullpen. Admittedly, it is tough to see guys like Shreve and Neil Walker on the MLB roster, blocking legitimate big leaguers like Tommy Kahnle and Brandon Drury…and others. Maybe the Yankees patience pays off and Shreve becomes a big part of the pen before the season is over. I just know that if I owned the team, his Yankees career would have already ended.

Given the Yankees are in Philly, it is only fitting the two starting pitchers most closely connected to the Yankees are former Phillies. While I like Cole Hamels, the pitcher that intrigues me the most is J.A. Happ. I remember back in the days when he pitched for Philadelphia and I thought his name was pronounced “Jay-Aye” Happ rather than the correct pronunciation of “Jay” Happ. I always liked the guy but he couldn’t really put it together in Philly or a few other stops until he became a 20-game winner for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. Last year was a bit of a disappointment (10-11, 3.53 ERA) but wins aren’t a good barometer for pitchers, particularly when their team is not so good. This year, Happ is 10-3 (3.62 ERA) but yesterday I was impressed how he beat Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. Sure, he only pitched six innings and gave up three runs but he picked up the win when former Yankee Curtis Granderson hit his second home run of the night in the seventh inning. The Astros have been hot lately but Happ cooled their jets. The Blue Jays needed a brilliant defensive play by Randal Grichuk (took away a potential home run from George Springer) to preserve the win for Happ  but beating one of the best teams in baseball is a noteworthy achievement. I also like the fact that Happ wouldn’t cost top prospects and would slot very nicely into the Yankees rotation. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so he’d be a true rental unlike Hamels whose 2019 $20 million contract option carries a $6 million buyout. While Happ is a late bloomer, Hamels enjoyed his greatest success earlier in his career with the Phillies. Hamels may be the more accomplished pitcher but I’d rather go with Happ for the reduced financial and prospect commitments. The difference in their present day abilities is not that great.

1024x1024
Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Brett Coomer)

Nice quote of Manager Aaron Boone (courtesy of Bryan Hoch) about Giancarlo Stanton: “He’s getting synced up. He’s getting started a little bit earlier. It’s very subtle but it’s allowing him to get into a strong position.  We’re starting to see the results a little more consistently now.” The best team winning percentage in Major League Baseball and Giancarlo is starting to crank it up. Nice. I should feel badly that Gary Sanchez will spend the next month on the disabled list but I have confidence in Austin Romine to hold the ship while the other bats get hot. No offense to El Gary, but it will be nice to see a few less passed balls in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully the time away will help Gary bring his A-game back when he resumes play next month.

Prior to yesterday’s game when the Yankees placed Sanchez on the disabled list, they also optioned Clint Frazier to Triple A (bummer!) and recalled catcher Kyle Higashioka to back up Romine and added an additional arm with righthander Giovanny Gallegos. I hope Higgy enjoys greater success than last year when he was hitless in 18 at-bats. His bat has gotten off to a slow start in Pennsylvania this year.

Today’s game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia should be a fantastic one. The Yankees will send their ace (Luis Severino, 11-2, 2.24 ERA) to the mound against former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42 ERA). Arrieta, a late free agent signing, has started off slowly like so many of the other late signees, but he’s still an ace and a champion. I expect him to raise the level of his game against the mighty Yankees. Top shelf competition which we know Sevy loves dearly. It should be a fun day.

Go Yankees!

The Yankees Spring Machine Rolls On…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

A day without the Yankees is a long day…

For those of us not so fortunate to be in Florida, I missed watching the Yankees play yesterday  since the game was not televised. I suppose that I could have listened to the WFAN radio broadcast but it is not quite the same. I am glad that today’s game will be televised by the MLB Network.

Spring records do not really matter but the Yankees picked up their second win in two games with their 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. The big hit was a three-run homer by Billy McKinney in the top of the 9th.

The Yanks got a scare when Brandon Drury was hit in the left hand while batting against Pirates reliever Clay Holmes in the top of the third inning. Drury stayed in the game and finished out the bottom of the third before departing. Drury said he was fine after the game and no x-rays were taken, but he did ice the hand. It would have been horrible to lose Drury in his first game wearing the Yankees uniform. Miguel Andujar replaced Drury in the fourth inning and stayed for the duration of the game.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The only run scored by the Pirates was Gregory Polanco’s home run off Dillon Tate in the bottom of the 5th.

I enjoy all the social media posts that say Erik Kratz is the greatest hitting catcher in Yankees history with his 1.000 batting average. He was 2-for-2 last season, and so far this spring, he is 2-for-2 with a run batted in. He’s livin’ the life at age 37. Too funny…

This morning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported that the Yankees most likely will not be signing either of the top free agent pitchers, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. Per Manager Aaron Boone, “At this point I don’t see those guys as realistic options…it’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us.” Of course, if I was waiting for prices to fall, that’s exactly what I would say too.

He may be a writer for The Boston Globe and pro-Red Sox, but I enjoy the work of Nick Cafardo. He’s probably one of my favorites. Yesterday, he wrote about the twenty things to watch this baseball season. Number one was “The Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge Show”.  Cafardo wrote: “The Yankees are near the center of attention in any season, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Some are describing it as Ruth/Gehrig reincarnated.  Of course it could also be a flop, but we tend to doubt it. Will there be droughts?  Absolutely. But the upside should be quite a spectacle.”  We’re looking forward to the show as well.

Cafardo also cited that Chris Archer could be the next Tampa Bay Ray on the move.  Although he did say the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forever linked the talented pitcher, he mentioned the Yankees as one of the teams that could be in the mix. Even though trades within the division are difficult, the Rays did just acquire a very talented young second baseman in Nick Solak from the Yankees in the three-way trade that netted Brandon Drury for the Yankees. The Rays don’t have to travel far to keep an eye on the young prospects in the Yankees organization since the minor league facility is in their city. It would be hard not to pay attention to the exploits of the High-A Tampa Yankees who will play this season as the  renamed Tampa Tarpons.

Give credit to Clint Frazier for his amazing attitude in camp. He is determined to win a spot on the Opening Day roster despite the greatest of odds. Barring injury or trade, the Yankees’ Opening Day outfielders appear to be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s probably not a fan in the Yankees Universe that wouldn’t want to see Ellsbury playing elsewhere to make room for Frazier, but the cold, hard reality is that Ellsbury will be wearing pinstripes this year unless GM Brian Cashman can prove he really is ‘The Miracle Worker’. I hate the thought that Frazier will have to open the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but at this point it does appear inevitable.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

A-Rod is back…

The Yankees have announced that Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, and Hideki Matsui are returning in special advisor roles for the Yankees. They’ll be joined by Nick Swisher.

Yo, Cash, you gotta stacked team…

Thanks, Swish.

It had been long-rumored that A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner were talking about a role in the organization so I am glad that the Yankees will have his knowledge and insight at their disposal. You have to feel bad for Alex. He’ll have income from FOX Sports, ESPN, and the Yankees this year, any of the income streams alone should exceed what most of us will make. I’ve always enjoyed Swisher’s energy and enthusiasm and it’s great for a young team. I love the passion and love that both guys have for the Yankees.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Spring Training, Game 3

The games of no meaning, except for individual player workouts, continue today at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees will see an old friend in Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY

The scheduled starting lineup is:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Gleyber Torres, SS

Greg Bird, 1B

Aaron Hicks, DH

Austin Romine, C

Danny Espinosa, 2B

Ronald Torreyes, 3B

Billy McKinney, RF

Shane Robinson, LF

The starting pitcher will be Jordan Montgomery. The Phillies will counter with one of their best young pitchers, Aaron Nola.

Stay healthy, guys.

Go Yankees!

The Anticipation…

 

The 2013-14 Hot Stove League has opened for business…

The baseball offseason is always interesting.  In November, when the Hot Stove League open, there is more talk and speculation than real action.  There is the occasional free agent signing, like Marlon Byrd to the Philadelphia Phillies, but for the most part, it’s the most boring part of the winter. 

Baseball fans get excited as the baseball winter meeting approach in early December.  The ‘name’ free agents come off the board and there are a few major trades as teams look to improve their rosters for the coming year.

Then, in January and early February, things go quiet again until the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training begin to fill the air. 

The key is what teams do in December.  Doing something versus doing nothing can be the difference in an invigorated fan base.  With the Boston Red Sox fresh off a championship season, the Yankees and their fans need something to be excited about.  Hope needs to be restored in the Yankees Universe.  The Steinbrenner family have an enormous responsibility of the owners of baseball’s most storied and valued franchise.  Sure, it is their right to do nothing and cut salaries if they so choose, but it is not good for baseball.  MLB needs a successful Yankees franchise as much as the fan base demands a winner.

From early indications, it does appear that Hal Steinbrenner is taking a more proactive role.  He plays down the speculation that the team is resolved in its intent to bring salaries below $189 million and he recognizes the weaknesses of the current roster.  So, what is he going to do about it?  Time will tell, as the saying goes…

I am still not 100% convinced Derek Jeter can be the player of old or just an old player.  He might be able to play a serviceable shortstop if healthy but the Yankees need more.  I want Jeter to play for the Yankees his entire career and he is clearly a future Hall of Famer but this is the season of transition for the legendary player.  He needs to work on playing other positions, whether it is third base or left field, to give the team its greatest value.  It is obvious Jeter has the ability to exceed my expectations but I think the odds are against it.  I am just being a realist.  Age doesn’t slow down for anyone.  Well, except for maybe Mariano Rivera

The “gift” that keeps on giving…

The unresolved Alex Rodriguez situation casts an ominous shadow over the team.  I believe the Yankees should proceed as if A-Rod will not be a member of the 2014 team but that’s easy for me to say.  The Yankees have to be prepared for a scenario that allows baseball’s most vile player to return to the field in 2014.  Personally, I look forward to the day A-Rod turns in his pinstripes for the final time.  I do not expect the Yankees to go out and land a premier third baseman like Evan Longoria but they need more than they had last year.  I respect Kevin Youkilis but his best years have passed by and at this point, he is too much of an injury risk to re-sign.  I heard the rumors the Yankees had talked with the St Louis Cardinals about David Freese but I don’t think that would have been the solution.  It’s too bad that former number one draft pick Eric Duncan didn’t work out as this would have been his prime opportunity to take third if he had been successful and not released.  But still, there are Scott Brosius-type third basemen that can be found. 

Betances-Robertson?…

After years of knowing the back end of the bullpen was secure, the Yankees have uncertainty.  The heir apparent to the great Mariano Rivera is top set up man David Robertson.  However, there is risk.  When Mo was lost for the season in 2012, Robertson failed in his brief audition as closer before Rafael Soriano took the role and ran with it.  I like Robertson as the key 8th inning guy but I am not convinced that translates to 9th inning success.  I really do not want an aged option like Joe Nathan as I would prefer younger arms.  My hope is for Robertson to succeed but there does need to be a safety net in case it doesn’t work out.

I am looking forward to key bullpen roles for guys like Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, and Adam Warren.  With the right moves this winter, the Yankees bullpen should be a strength even if we no longer get to see #42 warming up. 

I do remember the sense of some uncertainty when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that turned out well.  Granted, David Robertson will never be Mariano Rivera but he can be successful in his own right.  With the right bridge from the starters to his late inning arrival, he can be successful. 

The April Iceman Cometh…

Mark Teixeira, I really hope your wrist has healed and is stronger than ever before…

But first, or rather, but second…

The perceived success or failure of the Yankees’ offseason will be tied to a single event…whether or not they re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano.  While that’s a huge part of the 2014 equation, the true testament will be how the team bolsters the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  Nevertheless, I hope the Yankees can retain Cano even if the player has the desire to go for top dollar regardless of who cuts the checks.

Speaking of the rotation or lack thereof…

It is hard to get excited about potential names like Ricky Nolasco.  I remain hopeful Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year and Michael Pineda is finally able to fulfill the promise that brought him to New York.  It’s hard to speculate who I would want added to the team as there is no possibility for an acquisition of David Price or Felix Hernandez.  As Pineda has shown, arms carry great risk.  I have liked free agent Bronson Arroyo but he does not exactly fit the ‘younger arm’ mold.

Well, for now, the uncertainty and disappointment of the 2013 season still looms but soon the promise of the 2014 season will be upon us.  I said it last year and it did not happen so I’ll say it again:

Hal Steinbrenner, the message is simple…excite us!  Signed, Yankees fans.

 

–Scott

This is not 1998, sadly to say…

 

Sorry, the Glass is Half Empty…

I am not going to lie.  I am not holding my breath in anticipation of the Yankees making the play-offs in October.  It’s hard to have great faith and confidence in a team that is relying upon a binding agent made up of low budget, past their prime ballplayers.  No offense to Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Alfonso Soriano, and others, but this team would have looked substantially better in 2003 than 2013.

This is why I have mixed feelings about the Yankees being “buyers” at the trading deadline.  Even if…they still do not have the horses to advance very deeply in the play-offs.  Recent years have shown the Detroit Tigers own the Yankees and New York has not done anything to put themselves on a level playing field with the Bankrupt City.

Please do not get me wrong.  I have enjoyed watching the return of Alfonso Soriano.  After a non-existent bat in his first two games back, he homered and knocked in the game winner in his third game.  He is an improvement in left field.  I am not sure how far out Curtis Granderson is from returning, but Soriano is better than what the Yankees were rolling out every day.  Soriano has been a professional throughout his career.  I remember how much he loved being the Yankees’ second baseman, and when there was talk of the Yankees moving him to the outfield, he expressed some displeasure.  Of course, he moved on to other teams and they did exactly that (moved him to the outfield).  So now he is back and is embracing left field and the occasional turn at DH.  The nice thing about Soriano is that there is no “breaking in” period.  He knows how to play in the Bronx and he has the added bonus of being a fan favorite from the start.

The Soriano trade does show what a mistake it was to sign future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki to a two year deal.  I am not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Granderson or not, but there is a potential crowd in the outfield.  Given Granderson’s horrific contract year, the odds are probably better that he stays in New York than if he had a repeat of his 2012 season.

Character First, A-Rod Last…

Sounds like the book is finally going to be thrown at Alex Rodriguez.  I am glad.  I would be very disappointed if he only received the first-timer’s 50 game suspension.  He needs to lose a season at the very least and if I had my way, the rest of his major league career.  If A-Rod never puts on a Yankees uniform again, it will be too soon.  I truly hope that I’ve seen the last of #13 in pinstripes.

Remind me again who’s the #1 starter?…

I am not sure what to make of CC Sabathia this year.  Very ordinary to say the least.  Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda, who I always thought of as a #3 starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been stellar.

Healthy is over-rated…

As I am typing this post, I see that the Boston Red Sox have acquired Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy.  Good move by Boston.  I worry about the health of Peavy but when he’s right, he’s dangerous.  Earlier rumors had the Sox in on Cliff Lee which I thought would have been a mistake as Lee is clearly on the downside of a once magnificent career.  The Phillies asking price is too great for Lee, so I am very hopeful that the Yankees, having previously been burned by Lee, stay out of the picture.  But Boston’s acquisition of Peavy gives them the leg up over the Yankees.  I think the Tampa Bay Rays will win the division as Boston still has a few too many question marks, but I’d be surprised if the Sox do not make the play-offs.

I can still remember watching Jake Peavy’s major league debut in San Diego against the Yankees.  He showed that he was a major league caliber pitcher that day.  I guess he’ll get a few more shots at his debut opponent in the coming months.

Let someone else overpay…

Albert Pujols’ lost 2013 season shows me why it is not worth paying an aging superstar outrageous sums of money.  Hey, throw Mark Teixeira into that mix.  How much better off would the Yankees have been had they let both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira go to the Boston Red Sox?

The trading deadline is always a fun time of year.  I am not sure that the Yankees will surface with any more transactions before tomorrow (particularly given the lack of interest in Phil Hughes) but it’s always fun to speculate.  But at the end of the day, I am not willing to give up on any promising young talent and I know that GM Brian Cashman feels the same way.  If the Yankees had a shot at a World Series title this year, I’d say ‘screw it, let’s go the championship!’ and let go quality talent to achieve that end.  However, this is not a World Series Yankees team.  Sorry, Ichiro, I know you were once great but those days have passed.  So, hang on to the talent and let’s build for 2014.  I guess I’ll echo what life is like for a Chicago Cubs fan:  “We’ll get ‘em next year!”.

–Scott