|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)|
Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…
If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.
When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).
When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)|
One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.
The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.
I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.
The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.
Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.
|Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)|
Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation. His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”. That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.
Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.
I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.
There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post|
The 40-Man Chess Match…
Yesterday figured to be a very busy day for the Yankees as MLB teams had to set their 40-man Rosters of Record for Rule 5 eligibility (draft to be held at the conclusion of next month’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL) and it was.
Before the past weekend, the Yankees only had two open spots on the 40-man. Then, a few trades later, the Yankees were able to protect six young prospects from becoming potential ex-Yankees. Granted, any player chosen in the Rule 5 Draft has to stick on a MLB roster for the entire year but it happened as recent as last year when the San Diego Padres held on to Yankees catching prospect Luis Torrens (even though the very young Torrens was over-matched at the Major League level).
RHP Nick Rumbelow
RHP Ronald Herrera
LHP Caleb Smith
1B Garrett Cooper
LHP Reiver Sanmartin
LHP J.P. Sears
RHP Juan Then
RHP Michael King
International Bonus Pool Money ($250,000)
ADDED TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER
RHP Domingo Acevedo
RHP Albert Abreu
RHP Jonathan Loaisiga
INF Gleyber Torres
INF Thairo Estrada
OF Billy McKinney
Trade: Nick Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners for LHP J.P. Sears and RHP Juan Then. I thought this was the best trade. Sears, 21, fits the Yankees mold as a former collegiate player who could be useful in the bullpen. Even though his fastball tops out at 92 mph, he has been something of a strikeout machine. In his final year at The Citadel, he led NCAA Division I with 142 K’s in 95 1/3 innings. Then (not the pitcher), last year, in his first year in the Minors, he struck out 51 batters in 27 2/3 innings. Then (the pitcher), 17, a projected middle of the rotation starter, is the only new prospect to crack MLB’s Top 30 Prospects for the Yankees (his debut is at #28 in front of RHPs Giovanny Gallegos and Trevor Stephan).
Trade: Ronald Herrera to the Texas Rangers for LHP Reiver Sanmartin. Herrera provides the Rangers with an arm that is nearly ready while the Yankees buy some time with a lower level prospect. Sanmartin, 21, is a year younger than Herrera and has compiled a 14-4 record with 2.62 ERA over three minor league seasons.
Trade: Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for Michael King and Shohei Otani Money. The Yankees lose a valuable lefty with Smith’s departure but I figured that his roster spot was the least secure. Cooper did a decent job when called upon last year, but it was inevitable that the Yankees would have to make a decision between Tyler Austin and Cooper despite the latter owning a name that recalls the late great actor Gary Cooper and the movie classic The Pride of the Yankees. The writing was on the wall when Billy McKinney started working out at first base in The Arizona Fall League. This trade is being advertised as Derek Jeter’s first even if he probably didn’t handle any of the negotiations. Marlins VP of Player Development and Scouting Gary Denbo knows a thing or two about Yankees prospects. Many were calling this trade a huge win for the Marlins but I thought it served a very useful purpose for the Yankees. They cleared two spots on the roster which ensured that Thairo Estrada and Jonathan Loaisiga (“Johnny Lasagna”) could be protected and added a lottery ticket with the 22-year-old King. Maybe King never realizes his dream, but the additional international bonus pool money gives the Yankees a total of $3.5 million to pursue Shohei Otani. If the Yankees are successful in signing Otani, it would be very hard to look at this trade as a failure for the Yankees regardless of how Smith or Cooper eventually perform for the Marlins.
The Yankees should gain better clarity about the availability of Otani later today. The MLBPA extended the posting agreement deadline, which had been scheduled to expire yesterday, by 24 hours. The new deadline is tonight at 8 pm ET. If the parties are able to agree on a new posting agreement, it ensures that Otani will be posted this off-season and will make his much anticipated trip to the United States to choose his next team (or as I prefer, sign with the Yankees).
|Credit: The Japan Times|
The Yankees will need to make additional roster moves should they sign Otani and/or re-sign CC Sabathia but for now, the Yankees are prepared for next month’s Rule 5 Draft. I am fearful of losing LHP Nestor Cortes, RHP Cale Coshow, and/or RHP J.P. Feyereisen, among others, but it speaks to the strength of the Yankees farm system that the potential losses will hurt.
I can’t end this post without mentioning another transaction that occurred yesterday even if it was non-Yankees news. The Toronto Blue Jays waived former Yankees fan favorite Rob Refsnyder and he was claimed by the Cleveland Indians. While I wish Refsnyder well in Cleveland, I kind of wish that he’d go somewhere like San Francisco where the Yankees wouldn’t have to routinely see him. I hold out hope that Refsnyder will achieve the promise he once held but admittedly his flame of potential is growing dimmer.
|Credit: Mark Lomoglio, Icon Sportswire|
Now that the 40-man roster maneuvering has been completed, I fully expect the next week to be very quiet. Perhaps there are more managerial interviews but most likely, we’ll be on the other side of the Thanksgiving Weekend before we see any notable Yankees news.
While I would have loved being able to protect every valuable prospect, I thought the Yankees did a very good job covering the best of the best. Project Next Dynasty continues on its very very bright and positive path. We are now accepting applications for Bandwagon Fans. Go Yankees!
The First Round continues…
Brian Cashman, the general manager currently working on a handshake deal with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, was burning the weekend oil yesterday.
After interviewing Hensley Meulens and Aaron Boone over the previous two days, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward was in town to meet with Cash on Saturday. I don’t know Woodward and perhaps he may be a wonderful manager one day, but I don’t think he’s the right guy for the job right now. In his post-interview comments, he talked much about what Dave Roberts did. I am less concerned about what Roberts did and more concerned about what Woodward would do. I don’t want Dave Roberts 2.0. Roberts did an outstanding job, but the new Yankees manager needs to be his own man. I know that Roberts name came up because the questions were asked about how Woodward gained insight working with the man who led the Dodgers to the doorstep of a World Series championship this year. But I really want a manager who is strong and confident in his own words and style. I thought Aaron Boone did a better job addressing the media despite the lack of any coaching experience.
It is well known the Yankees want a manager who will accept analytics and input from the front office. When Woodward was asked about analytics, he responded, “As a coach, it took the progression from Seattle to L.A. for me to understand the benefit of it.” That tells me he didn’t come to fully appreciate analytics until the last two years considering he joined the Dodgers on December 17, 2015.
Maybe I am overly negative about Woodward because I do not really know anything about him. I wasn’t in the room when he talked with Cashman, but he’s probably the least preferred (for me) of the candidates interviewed. I’d rank the candidates, based solely on those who have interviewed, in this order:
- Hensley Meulens
- Aaron Boone
- Rob Thomson
- Eric Wedge
- Chris Woodward
Here is my order for preferred bench coaches:
YANKEES BENCH COACH
- Al Pedrique
- Eric Wedge
- Rob Thomson
- Jay Bell
- A name that has not expressed interest in coaching or managing…Jorge Posada (if he did have interest, I’d move Hip-Hip-Jorge further up the list)
I feel strongly that Pedrique needs to be part of the 2018 coaching staff. He knows the young Baby Bombers better than anyone. There is no one that has the same level of relationships that he’s built with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, Jordan Montgomery, Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird, Chance Adams and others. He is credited for believing in a smallish-16 year old Jose Altuve when no one else would. After many other teams, including the Yankees, passed on Altuve for being too small, Pedrique talked the Houston Astros into giving the 2017 AL MVP and World Series Champion $15,000 to sign. That might be the best $15,000 ever spent in Major League Baseball, at least in modern times. Pedrique was able to see beyond the physical size to view the talent and the heart of the player.
|Credit: Cheryl Pursell, via Pinstriped Prospects|
I had to put Posada’s name on the list. I miss the guy’s passion and intensity. When he’s on the field, there’s probably not too many guys that want to win more.
You may have different thoughts but that’s fine. No one said that we had to agree.
No word if the Yankees will continue to interview more guys before moving on to Round 2. I had expected Jerry Hairston, Jr to talk but there have not been any indications he will. Brad Ausmus has made it known that he wants to take a year off before resuming his managerial career. He was interested in the Red Sox job only because it was close to his home in Cape Cod and he grew up as a Red Sox fan. Aside from the Red Sox, Ausmus wants to devote the next year to his family. You can’t blame him for his priorities. I thought maybe the Yankees should interview Pittsburgh Pirates coach Joey Cora so that the Red Sox-Yankees Wars could be the Battle of the Cora Brothers. Okay, I am just kidding on that one. For the reasons I cite Pedrique as the preferred bench coach, I believe he should be afforded the opportunity to interview for the managing job.
We’ll see. The process continues and should gain better clarity over the next days and weeks as we move forward.
Making Room on the 40-Man…
Monday, November 20th is a big day for the Yankees. The 40-man roster of record for Rule 5 eligibility must be set by 7 pm Central Time. The Yankees had previously moved outfielder Jake Cave and reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster, which left two spots open. With big names like Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu and Billy McKinney, among others, that need to be protected, something has to give on the 40-man roster.
On Saturday, the first move was made when the Yankees sent Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners for two lower level prospects…LHP J.P. Sears and RHP Juan Then. Sears, 21, was an 11th round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Then, 17, was an international signing for $77,500 in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic.
John Patrick Sears pitched at Class A level after his draft selection last year. A reliever, he pitched a total of 27.2 innings for two teams. In 17 games, he struck out 51 batters while walking only 12. His ERA was a combined 0.65, but he did not give up any earned runs when he moved from Short Season-A Everett to Full Season-A Clinton (10 innings of work). He is “Sonny Gray-sized”…alright, an inch taller (5’11”). According to Baseball America, he works in the 88-92 mph range with a high spin fastball and uses deception from a low delivery slot.
|Credit: Citadel Athletics|
Juan Then (man, did the ‘now and then’ jokes start popping up on Twitter) is obviously still very young (and raw). He carries high upside and projects as a mid-rotation starter. Then pitched rookie level ball in the Dominican Summer League and was 2-2, 2.64 ERA in 61.1 innings. He struck out 56 batters. His fastball sat in the 90-92 mph range, and he also worked with a couple of offspeed pitches.
It’s tough to see a Major League-ready arm depart for future hopefuls, but it is the price that must be paid when you own one of the best farm systems in baseball. The Yankees will lose quality talent through Rule 5 but moves like this help protect more players. Last year was tough when the Yankees lost young catching prospect Luis Torrens who stuck on the San Diego Padres’ roster all season. I expect this year to be no different. For Rumbelow, he’s 26 and will have a much clearer shot at making a 2018 opening day roster with an opportunity to join the Mariners bullpen already stocked with former Yankees David Phelps and James Pazos.
I wonder if Brian Cashman is working today. Stupid question, I know he is. Go Yankees!