Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).
The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.
Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.
Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.
Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic. Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.
Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.
As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.
As always, Go Yankees!