Tagged: Shohei Otani

19 Days to Toronto…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)

No fear, Bird will fly…

Spring stats mean nothing. A few homers against mostly Double-A pitching and everyone felt that Miguel Andujar should be the starting third baseman. Now, I see that there are fans starting to grip about first baseman Greg Bird and his cold bat. Entering play today, Bird is batting .095 (2-for-21 with no home runs). Chill…when the season starts, Bird will be a competent and reliable bat in the Yankees batting order. If there is a certainty, Bird knows how to hit. Health is always questionable but when/if healthy, I fully expect Bird to get his share of big knocks.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Poor Sonny Gray.  He pitched great against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. But the Yankees were held to one run on Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 6th inning and lost to the Braves, 3-1. No run support as usual for the Tennessean. I know, spring games are meaningless, but I did think it was humorous as the guy never seems to get any runs. Of course, the Yankees offense did not have its full arsenal since this was a road game. Honestly, with the benefit of training camp with the Yankees and time to adjust to being a New York Yankee and all that entails, I am expecting this to be a big year for Sonny Gray. I think he’ll pitch closer to the ace he was with the Oakland A’s and not the pitcher we saw at the end of last season (which was still very good). I am excited to see what a full season of Gray in the rotation will bring. I am very confident it will yield great results.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Abbie Parr)

Speaking of starting pitching, Jordan Montgomery, as expected, has been announced as the team’s fifth starter by Manager Aaron Boone. Monty has looked very good this Spring. In 3 games covering 8 2/3 innings, he is 1-0 with 1.04 ERA. He has only allowed five hits and one run, while striking out eleven batters. He has walked four. Armed with his trusty change-up, a pitch missing for much of last year, we should see an improved Montgomery this season. I would not surprise me if Monty ends up with better stats than Houston’s Gerrit Cole by the time the post-season begins.

Ivan Nova, who probably couldn’t crack the Yankees top five, was recently named as the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day starter. There is much to like about the potential of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.

The Yankees play the New York Mets today at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:05 pm Eastern. The scheduled starters are:

Brett Gardner, CF

Aaron Judge, RF

Giancarlo Stanton, LF

Brandon Drury, 3B

Tyler Austin, 1B

Austin Romine, C

Jace Peterson, DH

Ronald Torreyes, SS

Tyler Wade, 2B

The starting pitcher will be former Mets prospect Luis Cessa. After the recent Twitter wars between the Yankees and Mets, I hope the Yankees send the Mets home on a disappointing bus ride back to Port St Lucie.

Today’s game will be televised by the YES Network but not tomorrow’s game when the Yankees travel to Jupiter, FL (Giancarlo Stanton’s old stomping grounds) to play the Miami Marlins. The Yankees who are making the trip (like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) will see old friend Starlin Castro. Stanton is not expected to make the trip. If he had, I would have been really disappointed about Sunday’s game not being televised. The Marlins travel to Steinbrenner Field a week from Sunday so that should be a good game to watch as Stanton most likely will be in the lineup. Hopefully Starlin makes the trip so those of us not fortunate enough to be in Florida can see him again.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)

The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. RHP Albert Abreu, slowed by recent appendectomy surgery, and Thairo Estrada, continuing to recover from the gunshot with bullet still lodged in his hip during a failed robbery attempt in late January, were reassigned to minor league camp. Johnny Lasagna aka Jonathan Loaisiga was also reassigned.

As I watch Shohei Otani attempt to both pitch and bat for the Los Angeles Angels, I am so glad that the Yankees are not dealing with the distraction. While I love Otani, the pitcher, I much prefer the bat of Giancarlo Stanton regardless of what the Japanese superstar is able to accomplish in Anaheim, CA this year.

Bummer…the Chicago White Sox eliminated the future possibility of their All-Garcia outfield when they released outfielder Willy Garcia. He had played a couple of times last year in a starting outfield that also featured fellow Garcia’s, Avisail and Leury. Willy was not expected to make this year’s White Sox squad. Thus endeth the All-Garcia outfield. I guess the Yankees need to acquire Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr so that they can feature an All-Aaron outfield. Ha, not really. Maybe Brett can just change his name to Aaron Gardner…

Go Yankees!

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The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

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If you are going to dream, dream BIG…

Giancarlo Stanton.

Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.

 Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.

It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton?  I guess time will tell as it often does.

 For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.

The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.

It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.

I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.

I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.

The Bronx Coaching Staff…

Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities.  We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere.  It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena.  Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.

Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.

Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.

Note to Brian Cashman…

Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…

I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.

I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…

Go Yankees!

N’Otani for the Yankees…

toc_goodbye-ny

Yanks fail to make the cut…

 I have to admit that I was feeling a bit disappointed when it was announced that the New York Yankees did not make Shohei Otani’s weekend cut. The Yankees had been viewed, by the industry, as the favorites to sign the two-way Japanese superstar. But as word leaked in recent days that perhaps Otani preferred a smaller West Coast market and one without a current Japanese superstar, it started to seem as though the likelihood of Otani wearing pinstripes was slipping away.

GM Brian Cashman confirmed it last evening when the Yankees, the Red Sox and other prominent East Coast teams were axed without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting. It’s unfortunate but the process has clearly shown that Otani is not driven by money. If he was, he would have waited two years before coming to the United States when he would be free to test the open market. Instead, he’s willing to leave millions on the table to take a minimum compensation deal. While I think Otani would have been a great fit with the Baby Bombers, the last thing you want on your team is a guy who doesn’t want to be there. So, I bid Otani farewell and wish him luck as he embarks on his MLB career.

In many ways, it’s probably best for the Yankees to be eliminated early in the process. It frees them up to explore other options and hopefully it leads to re-signing team leader CC Sabathia. If the Yankees had stayed in the negotiations process with Otani, their primary focus would not have been on finding other ways to improve the team as we head into the most crucial week of the MLB offseason (next week with the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida). They could have been distracted during this critical time, only to find out later that Otani didn’t really want to play in New York City or on the East Coast.

A few weeks back, The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch wrote a piece about the potential pitfalls with an Otani signing and the challenges that would await a team trying to accommodate his wishes to pitch and bat. As we await the official announcement of the new Yankees manager, a guy who has never coached or managed, it’s probably best for him that he wasn’t placed into the difficult position of having to accommodate the wishes of an individual over the good of the team.

So, all things considered, after feeling some initial disappointment, I am glad that Shohei Otani will not be coming to the Bronx.  He has the right to choose where he wants to play. I want to see 25 men who want to be New York Yankees.

Giancarlo and the City by the Bay…

If Giancarlo Stanton’s choices are down to the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, it is my belief that he’ll choose San Francisco. Given that he grew up as a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I guess that’s sort of like growing up in the Bronx to become a Red Sock. But still, with no offense a great organization with a steep history in baseball tradition, I think it would be better to play in San Francisco than St Louis. Of course, there are cons with playing there. One of my favorite quotes is ‘the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’, a witticism credited to Mark Twain. If you’ve been to San Francisco in August, you’ll know what I mean.

San Francisco, USA Beautiful Wallpapers (1)

I kept expecting the Los Angeles Dodgers to enter the fray for Stanton, but they, like the Yankees, are trying to reduce payroll to reset the luxury tax penalties. So, unless the Dodgers can eliminate a few bloated contracts (such as Adrian Gonzalez), Stanton will not be bleeding Dodger Blue.

It’s very possible that the Stanton trade could be consummated this week. I feel sorry for Miami Marlins COO Derek Jeter. For budgetary reasons, he’s being forced to break out what may be Baseball’s best outfield and perhaps setting the team back at least five years from being a legitimate contender. Jeter is finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table.

Yankee Stadium, Home of My Favorite Team…

Yes, of course it is. I wouldn’t be a Yankees blog writer covering the Yankees if they weren’t my favorite team.  But I am talking about another team. As a native Iowan, I have been a fan of the football program at the University of Iowa for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved the Hawkeyes even if they have historically disappointed me most every year.

The Hawkeyes are coming to Yankee Stadium.

Pinstripe-Bowl

It was announced this weekend that the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) will play Boston College (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 27thMy favorite team playing against Boston at Yankee Stadium. Yeah, I think that’s something I can easily support and have significant experience with even if the Hawkeyes have never played a bowl game in New York before.

Go Hawks!

 But back to Baseball and more importantly, Go Yankees!

The Boone of Acceptance…

Credit:  Mario Tama, Getty Images

Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…

The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.

Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.

I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.

Credit:  Kathy Willens, AP

Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).

I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

Making the Cut…

It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.

Credit:  Shingo Ito/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS

It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.

One Week and Counting…

The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.

One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.

There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season.  The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.

The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.

Credit:  Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.

The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.

Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…

Credit:  MLB.com

It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.

For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

Aaron Boone, Manager, New York Yankees…

Credit:  MLB.com

And Then There Was One…

Although no official announcement has been made, the Yankees have an agreement in place with Aaron Boone to serve as the successor for former Yankees Manager Joe Girardi.

 

I am surprised. Since he retired, Boone has served as a broadcaster with ESPN. He has not managed or coached at any level. I have not heard a single complaint about Boone’s personality or baseball knowledge, but like Michael Kay said, it’s handing the keys of a Lamborghini to someone who just got their driver’s license.  The Yankees job is the best in Baseball. The Yankees are the most storied, most prestigious team in the most powerful city in America. Expectations entering the 2017 season were fairly low, but the team finished the season a single game away from the World Series. Needless to say, expectations will be substantially higher as we enter the 2018 season. No pressure, Boonie!

I do not dislike the choice of Boone and had previously said I’d be okay with him as manager if Hensley Meulens was not selected. But Boone does need a very strong supporting cast (i.e., coaching staff). We know that pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be returning and he is perhaps one of the greatest components of the coaching staff but bench coach will be very critical. After not being selected as manager, Rob Thomson left the Yankees organization after 28 years and will become bench coach for inexperienced manager Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia. I’ve already heard Eric Wedge’s name mentioned as a possible bench coach for Boone (Wedge managed Boone in Cleveland after Boone left the Yankees). I continue to preach Al Pedrique. No one has the level of relationships with the young Baby Bombers like Pedrique does. He is an experienced successful manager. Granted, his managerial success has largely been in the Minor Leagues, but he knows how to run a game to win. He did manage the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004 for 83 games after Bob Brenly (who had managed the D-Backs over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series) was fired. Pedrique’s MLB managerial record is an uninspiring 22-61 but it’s not his fault. He was trying to do the best he could with a team that had gotten a World Series manager fired. Pedrique later served as bench coach for the Houston Astros and we all know that he won a Triple A championship with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2016.

In retrospect, It appears the Yankees had no plan when Girardi was dismissed. At the time Girardi was told his services were done, I had felt that GM Brian Cashman had a clear idea whom he wanted to occupy the manager’s chair. The Boone choice shows that he most likely did not enter the equation until he aced his interview with Cashman. Of course, he had to get his foot in the door for the interview so he was obviously on Cashman’s mind but most likely wasn’t the clear choice when this thing started.

Credit:  Patrick E McCarthy

I remember being a little upset when Boone suffered the knee injury in a pickup basketball game in January 2004 which ended his season and his Yankees career. It set in motion the trade which brought Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx. No disrespect to those of you who love A-Rod but that’s one trade I wish never would have happened. But from a character-standpoint, Boone was honest with the team about the injury which caused the forfeiture of his 2004 contract (receiving only $917,533 in termination pay on the $5.75 million deal). I am sure that earned him brownie points with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner.

As for Hensley Meulens, he will return to the San Francisco Giants to become bench coach for Manager Bruce Bochy. I really hope that he gets an opportunity to manage in the not-so-distant future. For all we know, he could very well be Bochy’s replacement if the present Giants manager decides to step down in the next few years. I was very impressed with Meulens and I feel that he’ll be an outstanding manager one day.

Carlos Beltran didn’t get the job since the leap from player to manager with no break was viewed as too much, but I hope that Beltran gets another opportunity to serve within the Yankees organization. Like Meulens, he has the potential to be a great manager one day.  For now, it would be great to have him on the coaching staff. If not, his presence in the front office and/or as a spring training instructor would be invaluable.

Welcome back to the New York Yankees, Aaron Boone! We hope your learning curve is small and the team prospers under your leadership. Feel free to go ahead and hit another one out of the park for us.

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

The Hidden Ball Trick…

We know the Yankees tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players prior to last evening’s deadline, but a number of MLB players were not so fortunate.

A name that jumped out at me without looking at the entire list was Ryan Goins of the Toronto Blue Jays. It is not so much about the player’s ability but rather he is the one who pulled off the sneaky hidden ball trick to record an out on Todd Frazier at second base back in September. In 2017, he hit 9 homers and 62 RBI’s in 143 games with a .237 batting average. Not a great player but he’s been pesky over his career. I guess he was unable to pull off a hidden ball trick on Toronto to entice them to extend his Blue Jays career.

Credit:  Associated Press

Another name that surprised me was first baseman Matt Adams. Adams, the former St Louis Cardinal who was acquired by Atlanta to fill in during Freddie Freeman’s time on the DL last year, was non-tendered by the Braves. I didn’t expect Adams to be part of the 2018 Braves Roster but I thought he had some value as a trade candidate for an organization that was recently stripped of multiple international prospects. Instead, he’ll hit the open market to find a new home. I’d take a flyer on him as a potential hedge for the health of Greg Bird.

This year, I hope the Yankees can reach deals with their arbitration-eligible players before their scheduled hearings. I’d hate to see a repeat performance of last year’s contentious  hearing between Dellin Betances and the Yankees that brought ugly remarks by Yankees President Randy Levine. The fade by Betances last season supported the Yankees position but last year’s hearing did nothing to help the confidence of the pitcher (hurting his psyche more than anything).

Well, yesterday was a busy start to the new month. The Yankees have their manager and team officials are probably headed to Los Angeles to meet with the agents for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani who was officially posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters yesterday. Representatives for both the San Francisco Giants and St Louis Cardinals have met with Giancarlo Stanton in Los Angeles so we could see a trade of the big slugger to either the Giants or Cards by early next week. Unlike November, December should prove to be a wild and exciting ride.

Go Yankees!

The Hot Stove League is Starting to Bubble…

And Then There Were Six…

The Yankees managerial interviews are over. According to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, there will be no further interviews nor will there be second round interviews in Tampa with the Steinbrenner family. According to sources, a clear frontrunner has emerged from the band of six although no speculation to who it might be.

As we know it, the following individuals interviewed for the job:

  • Rob Thomson 
  • Eric Wedge
  • Hensley Meulens
  • Aaron Boone
  • Chris Woodward
  • Carlos Beltran

My personal preference remains Hensley Meulens for manager (I like his championship pedigree as part of the coaching staff for three World Series champions in San Francisco and his strong communication skills and ability to converse in multiple languages).

Hensley Meulens

My choice for bench coach would either be Rob Thomson or Al Pedrique. But if Meulens does not get the job, I’d like to see either Aaron Boone or Carlos Beltran emerge as the choice.

With today’s announcement about the end of the interview process, it would seem that an announcement about the new manager is imminent. However, I am sure that there is still the small matter of ‘offer and acceptance’ before any official statements are made. Credit the Yankees for keeping this process, outside of the post-interview interviews, very mum.

I might be writing this post too soon as things could start moving very quickly for the next Yankees manager.

Player of Unique Abilities…

The MLB Owners met today (via conference call) to ratify the Posting Agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. The agreement was met with unanimous approval. Otani is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters later today. Once posted, teams will have three weeks to sign the two-way superstar. If he is posted today as expected, the deadline for signing will be December 22nd. Merry Christmas to us! All I want for Christmas is Otani. They are reporting that Otani is already in Los Angeles and preparing to meet with teams next week.

Shohei Otani

The Yankees made their public comment about Otani today when Brian Cashman said that Otani would be a “perfect fit” for the Yankees. However, there have been some unconfirmed reports that Otani would prefer to sign with a team that does not currently have a Japanese superstar (which seemingly would rule out the Yankees with the presence of Masahiro Tanaka). I personally think that Tanaka’s presence should be viewed as a plus to help Otani make the transition to life in the United States. After months of talking about Otani, it’s great that we are finally moving to the next phase. Cashman, in Stamford, CT for his annual rappel down the Landmark Building, said, “Obviously, he’s a player of unique abilities. I am certainly hopeful that he sees all the characteristics that the New York Yankees would have to offer.” Cash, we’re hopeful too.

Austin Romine Day…

This might not have the same impact as Shohei Otani, but the Yankees had a decision to make today on backup catcher Austin Romine. They had to decide if they would tender a 2018 contract by tonight’s 8 pm ET deadline for clubs. There had been some speculation the Yankees could non-tender the 29-year-old Romine, making him a free agent. But fear not, the Yankees have made the decision to tender 2018 contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players which includes Romine.  The other no-brainer decisions were Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Tommy Kahnle, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren.

There have been calls on this blog site for the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to back up Gary Sanchez. There’s no guarantee that Romine retains his backup job next Spring, even though he was tendered a contract today, so Avila is not out of the question. Another option, Kyle Higashioka, was hitless in 18 MLB at-bats last season and he played in only 21 minor league games due to injury. It’s anybody’s guess what he will bring in 2018 but he did hit .338 with nine dingers in his limited minors play. It would be nice if he comes to Spring Training happy and healthy, and shows that he can be the primary support for El Gary…with no offense to Romine (who, of course, has none).

Kyle Higashioka

One ex-Yankee has already been non-tendered today. Chase Whitley, who spent the last couple of years in Tampa, was waived by the Rays and claimed by the Atlanta Braves.

Happy Belated Birthday, Mo…

I know that Mariano Rivera pitched at an elite level into his 40’s but it was still hard to believe that Mo turned 48 years old on Wednesday. Man, I loved that guy! He was by far my favorite Yankee during the Dynasty years.  We wish him a very Happy (Belated) Birthday!  And,  yes, we still miss that amazing right arm on the Yankee Stadium mound.

Mariano Rivera (Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

The Hot Stove League has been simmering for the last month, but we are now on the edge of rapid fire. Let’s hope it brings great news for the 2018 Baby Bombers.

Go Yankees!

Turkey Leftovers Are History, Bring On Some Baseball Action!…

Waiting for Otani…

Given every other writer (or blogger in my case) has written that this has been the slowest off-season in recent memory, I will do my obligatory part to say that it’s been so slow.  November 29th and the best we can say is that former Boston Red Sox starter Doug Fister has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox picked Fister up off the scrap heap last summer and he gave them some decent starts down the stretch when they had holes popping up in other parts of the starting rotation. Good for him that he parlayed it into some sense of short-term job security in Texas.

I expected the Thanksgiving weekend to be quiet and it was. No Yankees news other than the preparation by all teams for the much anticipated posting of Japanese superstar Shohei Otani which should occur shortly after Friday when the MLB Owners ratify the new posting agreement. The Yankees are obvious favorites but of course some teams have been very vocal about their intent to pursue the two-way star.  The loudest has been the Seattle Mariners. We know that this move is not about money so the fact the Yankees can offer the second highest amount of green does not necessarily mean anything. I’ve felt all along that this move, for now, is about the endorsement dollars. I read one writer say Otani could make up to $20 million per year in endorsement deals between the United States and Japan. I realize that Otani played in a smaller market in Japan for a “ham company” but I feel that if he wants to be the best, there is none other than the New York Yankees for him. He’d have the opportunity to play in the greatest city (highest potential for endorsement deals) and he’d join a young team on the verge of something truly special.  His age would fit nicely with the other Baby Bombers to ensure an extended competitive run for the duration of his stay. He’d have a pitcher on the Yankees pitching staff that could help serve as a mentor (Masahiro Tanaka) and he’d have access to one of Japan’s greatest baseball players with Hideki Matsui (who knew a thing or two about incredible clutch hitting), currently special assistant to GM Brian Cashman.

I think it is an easy decision for Otani but of course, at this point, it is anybody’s guess where he ends up. In the end, I do hope it is Team Yankees while recognizing there are risks with a player attempting to both pitch and hit on a regular basis. Otani is a special talent and there may never be an opportunity to get a player of his caliber for only $3.5 million under team control for multiple years. No question that fits into Hal Steinbrenner’s 2018 budget.

Next Up, Carlos Beltran…

Carlos Beltran will become the sixth man interviewed for the Yankees managerial opening today. I like Carlos and I value his ability to communicate with players and the media, but I struggle with the idea of the player-to-manager path with no coaching experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing Beltran as part of the Yankees coaching staff but I’d really prefer someone who at least has coaching experience as its new manager. I saw a bunch of tweets yesterday that compared Beltran to Joe Torre as a player who successfully made the transition. But no one was mentioning that Torre’s record with his first team, the New York Mets, was a .405 winning percentage (286-420). He didn’t experience post-season success until he managed his fourth team, the Yankees. Beltran may prove to be an excellent manager one day but for a team that is positioned for success now, I’d rather not have a guy learning on the job.

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees fan yesterday, Yankee today…

Credit to Peter Gammons for this piece that I found interesting. Newly acquired RHP Michael King (who joined the Yankees in the trade that sent LHP Caleb Smith and 1B Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins) was a second team All-State performer for Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island in 2012. That summer he played in the Annual Summer Rivalry Classic held for Northeastern high school kids at Yankee Stadium. Among the free offerings that day was bubble gum that King was very fond of, stuffing perhaps 6 or 7 sticks of gum into his mouth at one point. Asked what he did with that big wad of gum, King indicated that he stuck it under the bench. According to Gammons, King, a childhood Yankees fan, said, “I figured I’d get it back when I get back there to the bullpen as a Yankee.” I love that story and the optimism. I look forward to the dream being fulfilled.

The Bronx, Home of MLB’s Best Executive…

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for being named as Baseball America’s 2017 Major League Executive of the Year! It was a much deserved honor for the great GM. It probably doesn’t hurt the contract negotiations for his new deal either. Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement that read, “Brian plays a crucial role in our success, and I’ve known for quite some time how fortunate we are to have him leading our Baseball Operations Department. He cares deeply about this franchise and our fans, and he skillfully navigates the many challenges that come with holding the position he does in the media capital of the world.” Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Dodgers fan. He is ensuring that his name will be forever marked in Yankees history as one of the great pillars of success. Next stop, World Series!

Credit:  Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe Staff

Like everyone else, I am ready for some real off-season baseball action. But I am sure that once the calendar page turns to December, we’d better hold on. It should be a fun ride!

Go Yankees!