2020 Spring Training II may soon be a reality…
For the first time in a long time, this feels like this will be a critical week for Major League Baseball. The MLB owners are expected to present a proposal to the Players Association for revenue and finance modifications, in addition to health and safety protocols, in preparation for a proposed shortened season. It still seems like we are in for the continuation of back and forth moves but realistically time is running out, literally, if there is to be a 2020 season. If the season is as foggy next weekend as it is now, optimism for a successful launch of the season will start to fade (if it hasn’t already). I am hopeful the groundwork is laid to give us baseball soon.
All I know is I want baseball. I’ve seen people writing the negatives about a potential 82 game season (increased likelihood of a player hitting .400?) but there’s no doubt this season will carry the proverbial asterisk for whatever happens. I have reconciled with myself that we will not see a traditional version of professional baseball until 2021 at the earliest. Even next year, with a full slate of 162 games, might still feel a little off with the residual effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Still, I’d rather have baseball this year than no baseball. We’re in the prime of Gerrit Cole’s career and I don’t want to miss another minute (or pitch). Who knows what challenges an 82 game season will present, but I am willing to endure the pain to experience the joy. The deeper we go without the return of America’s favorite pastime, more potential games are eliminated. To go less than 82 games does start to seem like ‘why bother?’ as it would reward teams with hot starts regardless of the quality of their clubs to succeed over better and more deserving clubs. So, as much as I want baseball back, there is probably a line in the sand and we’re getting close to it. That’s why I am hopeful for optimistic news this week. But that darn realist in me keeps trying to pour water on my party. At least we’re talking baseball again. It has to start somewhere.
As the injured Yankees return to good health, it made me wonder if there has been a player to have off-season Tommy John surgery and yet be ready and available for Opening Day. I didn’t look it up to see if it has ever happened before but it could be the case for Aaron Hicks as he was expected back in June or July. I know, it’s not the same as a pitcher, but still, it will be incredible if Hicks is your starting centerfielder when the games resume. A welcome sight, no doubt, but credit to him for the hard work he’s put in since undergoing surgery to put himself in position to be ready.
|Photo Credit: @ahicks31 via Instagram|
James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton seem to be other players who will be ready, much to the disappointment of hopefuls for their spots (led by Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, and Clint Frazier, among others). I feel bad for Frazier. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. If Frazier is earmarked for another season in Triple A, the Yankees should trade him to create MLB opportunity for the promising player. I do not see any purpose gained by another year in the minors regardless of how much Frazier needs to work on his defense. The only way, at this point, for Frazier to get better for the Major Leagues is to play in the Major Leagues. I’d like to see him succeed with the Yankees. Brett Gardner played very well last year, but with each passing year, he’ll lose a little bit more. It happens to the best of us. You cannot slow down Father Time, especially when you are in your late 30’s. Even in a shortened season, I see the Yankees leaning more heavily on guys like Mike Tauchman as the need to keep Gardy healthy will be stronger than it ever has been. It could create opportunity for Frazier, but then again, maybe not. This will be interesting to watch in the coming months. It would be fun to watch Frazier grab opportunity with both hands and ride it to a very productive MLB season.
|Photo Credit: @clintfrazierr via Instagram|
I am sure the opportunity will be there for the younger pitchers. It’s not like Cole and company will be pitching nine innings (or at least seven) an outing right out of the gate, especially with an abbreviated re-start to Spring Training. Those middle innings need to be filled and expanded rosters will help the younger arms gain exposure. I guess Spring Training this year should be called Summer Training…if it happens. Florida may be nice in March but it’s not exactly where I would want to train in June or July. Yet, veterans and rookies alike will be pitching for success and it will create memorable moments for all of us in whatever form the season takes.
This will be a big year for Paxton. An impending free agent, his performance, even with a proposed shortened season, sets the stage for his next contract. Teams will be watching to see if he can stay healthy which, up to this point, has been a challenge. I like Paxton and I hope this is not his final year in Pinstripes. Yet, with Masahiro Tanaka heading into free agency, it seems like the Yankees will lose at least one. I’d probably like to see Tanaka finish his career in the Bronx, even with the annual threat of Tommy John surgery looming over his elbow. I get frustrated with those obligatory regular season home runs, but Masa turns up the volume in the post-season and you need guys like that to be the last team standing. The Andy Pettitte Effect. So, I guess the question is who would you rather have? Paxton or Tanaka. That’s a tough one. I think Paxton could be a very effective pitcher in his 30’s if he could overcome the injury label, but Masa has been a very good Yankee from Day One and knows how to pitch effectively despite any limitations or obstacles. I know I didn’t really answer the question about which pitcher I would prefer to keep but I’d like to see both Yankee careers continue. I just don’t think it is possible, especially in a year that has seen such a cut in team finances.
I think one of the biggest downsides to the MLB delay this season is the dilution of focus on the Houston cheating scandal. Maybe it will re-surface when the games resume but if the games are played in empty stadiums, the only boos will come from opposing dugouts. Not quite the same as having packed stadium crowds laying it on thick. Jim Crane and his roster of cheaters, in my opinion, will be getting off easy. I really hope I am wrong about this. The Astros disrespected the game we love and it’s unfortunate they will not see the full wrath of penalties and punishment they deserve.
Ready for baseball. MLB, Players Association…the ball is in your hands. Let’s do this.
|Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports|
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
Starting Rotation missing its spots…
Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.
Credit: Randy Glasbergen
The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.
I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water. The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.
I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.
If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.
Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.
It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.
I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it. Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.
I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.
MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.
They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.
Let’s enjoy some baseball today.
As always, Go Yankees!
Nearing the End of the Off-Season…
Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.
I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.
But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York.
Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker
It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.
Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP
I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022.
Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.
I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position.
I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.
Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the minimum three batter rule.
The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens. I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.
The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year. You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.
It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees.
Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend.
When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee.
As always, Go Yankees!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
|Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-Associated Press|
Severino Signs 4-Year Extension w/One-Year Club Option…
It took until the final day of MLB arbitration hearings and the day Luis Severino was scheduled to debate his worth in front of a mediator but the Yankees did the right thing securing a four-year extension and club option for a fifth year with the very talented right-hander. The money reportedly is $40 million with the potential for $12.25 million more if the club exercises the option.
- 2019: $4 million plus $2 million signing bonus for $6 million total
- 2020: $10 million
- 2021: $10.25 million
- 2022: $11 million
- 2023: $15 million if option exercised by club or $2.75 million buyout
I feel it is a very good deal for the Yankees and it provides certainty and financial security for Severino and his family even if he could have gotten more by going to arbitration every off-season until his free agent year. While many defend the arbitration process, I view it as the unfortunate opportunity to sit in a room while your employer basically tells you, “You suck!”. Not literally, but the employer is trying to show why the player is not worth the amount of money he is requesting so negatives are embellished to help build their case for the lower club-offered salary.
Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer won his arbitration case earlier in the week but he described it as a “character assassination”. It seems to me the negativity stemming from the arbitration hearing will have residual impact on the player. I’ve heard people say they (the players) get over it. Maybe some do but we’re all human and it probably affects everyone differently. It’s hard not to forget criticism (justified or not). Regardless of how Sevy may have dealt with it, I am glad that he didn’t get to that point. He’s young and he is the team’s ace. We need to do everything possible to build him up, not tear him down. The extension buys peace of mind for Sevy and that’s invaluable.
|Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram|
The urgency now moves to the primary three pending free agents: Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius. I don’t really want to lose any of these guys. I’d prefer to see the Yankees lock them up on extensions before they ever hit the open market. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I am hopeful. With Hicks, I’d probably feel better if Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but he’s still a couple of seasons away so the Yankees cannot afford to lose their current starting centerfielder. The Yankees obviously have other elite arms in the bullpen but losing Betances would still hurt. Didi, to me, is part of the heart of this team with the talent to match. He’s my shortstop and I want it to stay that way. Sorry Tulo.
|Photo Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports|
CC Sabathia will be holding a press conference today to formally announce his retirement at the end of the season. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until someone mentioned it recently but CC is a Hall of Famer. In my mind, with no offense and regardless of whether or not you agree, he is a better pitcher than recently selected HOF-er Mike Mussina. Entering the year, he is 246-153 in 538 starts covering 3,470 innings. His K/9 is 7.67 and BB/9 is 2.75. His career ERA is 3.70 with 67.8 WAR per FanGraphs. He currently sits at 2,986 strikeouts so he’ll notch a very significant milestone early in the season. His number 52 should be retired with a plaque in Monument Park when his playing days are finished. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia part of the organization when he hangs up his jersey. He’s been a great Yankee. It would be incredible for him to begin AND end his Yankees career with World Series championships. For his sake (and ours too), I hope it happens.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Congratulations to Dellin Betances and his wife, Janisa, on the birth of their son, Dellin Jr, this week (Wednesday). “With their first pick of the 2037 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…” The boy is certainly getting tremendous genes to start his life’s journey. Dellin is scheduled to arrive in Camp on Monday for the team’s first full team workout.
Susan Slusser, a long-time and very respected beat writer for the Oakland A’s, caused a stir on Twitter yesterday when she reported that Chien-Ming Wang had a minor leg strain and would not be throwing today. After an avalanche of ‘what?’ from many people, Slusser acknowledged that she meant Wei-Chung Wang, a non-roster invitee in camp for the A’s. The 38-year-old former Yankee is not attempting a comeback, to the best of my knowledge, but it was funny to see his name in strong circulation yesterday. Wang was featured in a 2018 documentary called Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story. I know I’ve never been a fan of pitchers hitting since Wang suffered the torn Lisfranc ligament in his right foot while running the bases against the Houston Astros during the 2008 season. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Wang had not suffered that freak injury.
I love the story of Yankees hopeful Danny Farquhar. While I do not currently see a spot in the Yankees bullpen for Farquhar, it’s easy to root for a guy who had a life-threatening brain hemorrhage last summer yet has battled his way back to Major League Camp with Baseball’s greatest team. He is very appreciative of the opportunity with the Yankees and it shows. Barring injuries, it seems most likely that he’ll go to Triple A for depth or open eyes for another MLB team. Regardless of what happens, I wish him the best for much success in his journey back to the Major Leagues.
|Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-The New York Post|
The first exhibition game is a week from today. While the sights and sounds of the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field have been great, I am ready to see the guys playing some actual baseball. Of course, the starters will be guys like Matt Lipka but it will be fun to see the Yankees on the field against the hated Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Hopefully this is the year the Yankees end the Red Sox season prematurely.
Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing tomorrow with the formal arrival of position players in camp. Up to this point, the players in Tampa have had to work out at the minor league facilities so it will be good to see everybody together again. Nothing like an Aaron Judge smile to brighten the World. On a side note, it was so awesome yesterday to see Gleyber Torres greeting pitchers and catchers after the completion of their workouts. I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for Gleyber. Whether he is at second base or shortstop, he’s such a vital cog to the success of this team. He truly embodies the spirit of “there is no ‘I’ in team” and is becoming one of its leaders despite his youth.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram
The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…
After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.
Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.
I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year. At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.
The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke! He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year. I like his energy and excitement. It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.
I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy. The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.
The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp. Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.
It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.
I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser. I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career. I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role). I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired. Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home. Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.
It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…
Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.
|Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram|
I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.
The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.
Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.
At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.
As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.
|Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram|
But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.
|Photo Credit: USATSI|
I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.
My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere. Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.
I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.
I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.
|Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram|
Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.
After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name. Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.
I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:
|Photo Credit: YES Network|
I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.
|Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram|
Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.
This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: MiLB.com and Scranton/WB RailRiders|
Young Righty Gets First Taste of Major League Camp…
It seemed like such an innocuous and under-the-radar trade in November 2017 when the Yankees traded marginal prospects LHP Caleb Smith and 1B/OF Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for $250,000 in international bonus pool money and young Single A RHP Michael King. Moving Smith and Cooper were clearly designed to clear space on the 40-man roster in advance of that year’s Rule 5 Draft. At the time of the trade, the international bonus pool money appeared to be the objective as the Yankees were making preparations for what would prove to be the failed run at international superstar Shohei Ohtani. King just came along for the ride…or did he?
In 2017, Caleb Smith was dominant for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, riding an unbeaten streak for most of the year. He finished 9-1, with a 2.39 ERA, starting 17 of 18 games played for the RailRiders. He made his Major League debut for the Yankees on July 17, 2017 but the Yankees and Smith lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2. He shuttled back and forth between Scranton, PA and the Bronx, finishing 0-1, with 7.71 ERA, in 18 2/3 innings. Despite his Triple A success, Smith, then 26, did not appear to be a top prospect. To his credit, Smith did pitch better for the Marlins last year. He went 5-6 with 4.19 ERA over 16 starts covering 77 1/3 innings before shoulder tightness ended his season. He is expected to be part of the Marlins’ rotation this year.
Garrett Cooper had been acquired by the Yankees in July 2017 in a trade that sent LHP Tyler Webb to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cooper had some nice moments in the Bronx, playing 13 games. He was 14-for-43 (six extra-base hits) with no homers and 6 RBI’s. 2018, in a Marlins uniform, was largely a lost season for Cooper. He injured his wrist early in the season and later re-injured it during a rehab assignment, undergoing surgery in August. He appeared in just 14 games for the Marlins. He’s now healthy and expected to compete for a job with the Marlins this season, likely as a reserve first baseman/outfielder.
After the Yankees lost out on Ohtani, the international bonus pool money was put to good use as the Yankees had a number of highly rated signings including OF Kevin Alcantara, OF Mauro Bonifacio, C Antonio Gomez, C Agustin Ramirez, RHP Denny Larrondo, and RHP Osiel Rodriguez, plus Luis Severino’s little brother, RHP Rafael Severino.
But setting everything aside, the crown jewel of the Yankees-Marlins trade has turned out to be Michael King. King, born in Rochester, New York and a graduate of Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Marlins. At the time, King was the staff ace for Boston College. He signed with the Marlins, foregoing his final year of college eligibility, and was a combined 3-3 with 4.11 ERA over 30 2/3 innings at the lowest three levels of the Marlins’ farm system. He returned to Class A Greensboro in 2017 with much better results, 11-9 with 3.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, over 149 innings. Still, at the time of the trade to the Yankees, he was largely unheralded and unranked as a prospect.
Last year, he opened eyes in the Yankees farm system. He started the year with High A Tampa, spent time with Double A Trenton, and finished the year with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 24 starts and a relief appearance, King was 11-5 with 1.79 ERA. He struck out 152 batters in 161 1/3 innings with 0.91 WHIP.
Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell, via The New York Post, recently said, “Every time he moved up, he seemed to get better. He wasn’t fazed by the better competition and he knows how to pitch.” Borrell went on to say that he could see King pitching in New York this year if he pitches like last season and does not see the young right-hander regressing.
King, 6’3” and 210 lbs, turns 24 on May 25th. He is currently rated as the Yankees’ fifth-best prospect by Baseball America, behind OF Estevan Florial, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, OF Everson Pereira, and C Anthony Seigler. His primary pitch is a two-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90’s. The key to his success in the Major Leagues is dependent upon his continued development of secondary pitches.
King will get his first taste of Big League Camp this year when he reports to Tampa as a non-roster invitee for the Yankees. While he is not expected to make the Opening Day Roster (he only made six Triple A starts last year), his goal is simple. Catch the attention of Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and the Yankees’ army of analytics. Even though he is not yet on the 40-man roster, there’s no doubt he will be among the first to be considered if/when the Yankees have needs for help in the starting rotation this year. I’ve heard the claims that he’ll never be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but if memory serves correctly, that’s what they said about Andy Pettitte when he was first called up. Let Luis Severino and James Paxton be the aces, the strength of the middle to back end of the rotation is what championships are made of. I am thrilled about King and what he potentially means for the Yankees. This could very well be the year of his Major League debut. I have greater belief in King as a starter than a guy like Chance Adams who I feel is better suited for the pen. Mike King is a winner, and carrying that intangible with his tremendous talent, should make Yankee fans very excited. The King of the Hill is going to create great memories in the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.
This was a brilliant trade by GM Brian Cashman. King has proven better than we expected and he’ll continue to open eyes in Tampa in a few weeks. When the Spring games start, be sure to look out for #93.
As always, Go Yankees!
Shortage: Available Yankee Jersey Numbers…
The Yankees announced a few number assignments and reassignments yesterday so I thought I’d take the liberty of putting all the numbers together on one list.
I thought it was interesting that Greg Bird’s number is shared with Billy Burns, a non-roster invitee, assuming the information on the Yankees website is correct. There are a few other duplications but Bird stood out the most. I don’t think it means anything but it is a message to Bird that he had better bring his “A” game to Spring Training if he intends to keep the number.
Not that it is our concern but I worry about how many numbers will be available a hundred or two hundred years down the road. Personally, I think they should make it mandatory for coaches to wear numbers in the eighties to free up the lower numbers for players. Phil Nevin and I seem to be in agreement on this topic although his choice of numbers makes me think of Dallas Cowboys’ greats Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin (even though I am not a Cowboys fan).
I am assuming 35 is out of circulation for Mike Mussina due to his recent induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. The number has been assigned out since Moose’s retirement, primarily held by Michael Pineda during his stay. I think Phil Nevin wore it last year after he gave up 53 to Zach Britton. But there are other retired numbers that were worn by subsequent players, like Graig Nettles with 9 or Chris Chambliss with 10, before they were taken out of circulation. A couple of other numbers are open but not in circulation (13 for Alex Rodriguez and 21 for Paul O’Neill). If, by chance, Manny Machado were to become a Yankee (unlikely), it would be interesting to see if A-Rod would consent to giving up his number. I think he would but the way the market is playing out, we may never know.
Frankly, I am not a big fan of retired numbers. I think it becomes more of a popularity contest and numbers get retired for good, not great, players when retiring numbers should be reserved for those truly special once-in-a-lifetime players like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.
|0||Adam Ottavino, LHP||50||Reggie Willits, First Base Coach|
|1||Billy Martin||51||Bernie Williams|
|2||Derek Jeter||52||CC Sabathia, LHP|
|3||Babe Ruth||53||Zach Britton, LHP|
|4||Lou Gehrig||54||Aroldis Chapman, LHP|
|5||Joe DiMaggio||55||Rex Brothers, LHP (NRI)|
|6||Joe Torre||56||Jonathan Holder, RHP|
|7||Mickey Mantle||57||Chad Green, RHP|
|58||Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach|
|9||Roger Maris||59||Josh Bard, Bench Coach|
|10||Phil Rizzuto||60||Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach|
|11||Brett Gardner, LF||61||Ben Heller, RHP|
|12||Troy Tulowitzki, SS||62||Danny Coulombe, LHP (NRI)
Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach
|13||Open||63||Domingo German, RHP
P.J. Pilittere, Asst Hitting Coach
|14||Tyler Wade, 2B/SS||64||Carlos Mendoza, QC Coach/Infield Instructor|
|15||Thurman Munson||65||James Paxton, LHP|
|16||Whitey Ford||66||Kyle Higashioka, C|
|17||Aaron Boone, Manager||67||Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP|
|18||Didi Gregorius, SS||68||Dellin Betances, RHP|
|19||Masahiro Tanaka, RHP||69||No Comment|
|20||Jorge Posada||70||Giovanny Urshela, 3B (NRI)|
|21||Open||71||Stephen Tarpley, LHP|
|22||Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||72||Kyle Holder, SS (NRI)|
|24||Gary Sanchez, C||74||Joe Harvey, RHP|
|25||Gleyber Torres, 2B||75||David Hale, RHP (NRI)|
|26||DJ LeMahieu, 2B||76||Nestor Cortes, Jr, LHP (NRI)|
|27||Giancarlo Stanton, DH/OF||77||Clint Frazier, LF|
|28||Austin Romine, C||78||Kellin Deglan, C (NRI)|
|29||Open||79||Francisco Diaz, C (NRI)|
|30||Ryan Lavarnway, C (NRI)||80||Jorge Saez, C (NRI)|
|31||Aaron Hicks, CF||81||Open|
|33||Greg Bird, 1B
Billy Burns, OF (NRI)
|34||J.A. Happ, LHP||84||Brady Lail, RHP (NRI)|
|35||Open||85||Luis Cessa, RHP|
|36||Danny Farquhar, RHP (NRI)||86||Domingo Acevedo, RHP|
|37||Casey Stengel||87||Albert Abreu, RHP|
|38||Open||88||Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach|
|39||Drew Hutchison, RHP (NRI)||89||Open|
|40||Luis Severino, RHP||90||Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS|
|41||Miguel Andujar, 3B||91||Cale Coshow, LHP (NRI)|
|92||Estevan Florial, CF (NRI)|
|43||Chance Adams, RHP||93||Michael King, RHP (NRI)|
|44||Reggie Jackson||94||Trey Amburgey, OF (NRI)|
|45||Luke Voit, 1B||95||Mike Ford, 1B (NRI)|
|46||Andy Pettitte||96||Matt Lipka, OF (NRI)|
|47||Jordan Montgomery, LHP||97||Open|
|48||Tommy Kahnle, RHP||98||Raynel Espinal, RHP (NRI)|
|49||Ron Guidry||99||Aaron Judge, RF|
Bold/Italicized = Retired Numbers
NRI = Non-Roster Invitee
The Boston Red Sox seem to be scavenger hunting for bullpen help. In the last couple of days, they’ve added RHP Brian Ellington and LHP Dan Runzler. Who? Exactly…
The ping pong match between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox with former Yankees prospect LHP Ian Clarkin has finally come to an end. One team would place the player on waivers and the other would claim him. It started when the White Sox placed him on waivers this off-season, claimed by the Cubs, waivers and claimed by the White Sox, waivers and reclaimed by the Cubs. He was placed on waivers again by the Cubs but went unclaimed and was sent outright yesterday to Triple A Iowa. I’ve always liked Clarkin and hope he can find success in Chicago (one park or the other). I would love to see Clarkin back in the Yankees organization but not at the expense of a 40-man roster spot.
It is Groundhog’s Day but this is one day that I’d never want to repeat. This off-season has been brutal and I would not want to extend it one more day. February 13th, when pitchers and catchers report, cannot get here fast enough. The first workout for the pitchers and catchers will be Valentine’s Day, while the position players must show up by Monday, February 18th. Full squad workout the next day, and then the first exhibition game on Saturday, February 23rd when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL to play the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
I am so ready to talk about the players on the field and not the hypotheticals about certain 26-year-old free agent superstars. Soon, very soon…
As always, Go Yankees!
Soon, The Yankees Head for Tampa…
Welcome to February! That can only mean one thing…it’s time for BASEBALL! Sorry New England fans (hopefully there aren’t any in here…the combo of Yankees/Patriots fan seems like such an odd pairing) but the most important sport is not happening on Sunday…it’s the opening of Spring Training for all 30 Major League teams in less than two weeks although we all know there is only one team that really matters. This is a Yankees blog and we love our Yankees! February 13th is the day Yankee pitchers and catchers must report, a day we’ve been impatiently awaiting. There is nothing as exciting this month as the Yankees taking over Steinbrenner Field on 1 Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa, Florida. Super Bowl or no Super Bowl.
It is the first of February yet, as we painfully know, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have not signed. Well, maybe they have an idea where they’ll be spending their summers and just haven’t let us in on the secret. Regardless, I am resigned to the fact that neither 26-year-old superstar will be wearing the famed Pinstripes this season. I know, it’s not my money but I think it is a huge mistake to pass on potential future Hall of Famers, entering their primes (when the best is yet to come). Two young superior players who can be acquired for only a boatload of Benjamins, keeping all top prospects in the farm system. It kind of bugs me the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox are in on Harper and Machado (at least by public reports) and the Yankees are not. Sure, the Yankees can never be counted out until Harper and Machado are hoisting up jerseys at press conferences held by other teams but it does seem unlikely there will be any surprise last minute signings by Team Hal.
It looks like the guys who will be on the 2019 Opening Day Roster for the Yankees have already been signed and invited to Major League Camp, barring last minute trades or signings. The reports lately focus on adding another starter, such as Gio Gonzalez or Ervin Santana, as the team’s only remaining need. I agree the Yankees need a hedge for the starting rotation. CC Sabathia, regardless of how healthy he is right now, had a stent placed in a heart artery just a couple of months ago. He’ll be on a short leash. I wouldn’t really want Gio or Santana as part of the starting five, but they’d certainly be better and more reliable options than someone like Luis Cessa should the Yankees need a guy to temporarily step into the rotation. Gio may not be the pitcher he once was for the Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals, but he could help in a swing role. Santana does not appear to be a fit based on his negative words about Yankee Stadium in the past. In 2015, after a game in which Greg Bird hit two home runs, Santana made a comment about the second dinger, “I know, probably in another park that’s a double. But here, it’s a joke.” The Yankees lost another option yesterday when Wade Miley signed with the Houston Astros. Miley, who has reinvented himself with a cutter, pitched effectively for the Milwaukee Brewers last season and might have represented a solid choice for the Yankees. It has been reported the Yankees did not reach out to Miley before he signed with the Astros so it’s possible the team decides to stay in-house. James Shields is available but it’s been a few years since he was “Big Game James”. Francisco Liriano, Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz are other names out there (or in other words, the pickings are rather slim). I think most of us expect to see Michael King at some point this season although nobody predicts he’ll break camp with the team. The best case scenario if the Yankees do go with internal options is a healthy Jonathan Loaisiga. Unfortunately, “healthy” is a fleeting trait for the young Johnny Lasagna. I am very hopeful this is the year he proves the critics wrong. We know he has a Major League arm and it would be great if we could finally see it on a consistent basis.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Heading into camp, I know the Yankees need to find a way to get DJ LeMathieu on the field. Play him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop, or put DJ at third, with Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber staying at second. The latter situation would force the Yankees to move Miguel Andujar to DH and Giancarlo Stanton to left field. Not ideal, but it would be a mistake to leave DJ’s glove on the bench. He needs to play every day. I really hope that Troy Tulowitzki proves me wrong but his presence does not excite me. He has not been a top performer since his days in Colorado. I saw MLB Network Analyst Jim Bowden say recently that while he hopes Tulo is successful, he feels that the player is done. Sadly, that’s where I am at. If he is finished, it’s no loss for the Yankees. They can just cut Tulo without any significant financial ramifications. DJ should never be sacrificed for Tulo as a starting option with the infield configuration except for rest. It’s the plan for what happens if Tulo doesn’t make the cut that concerns me. Torres would have to be the regular starting shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns which makes LeMathieu the every day second baseman for now. Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada would be leaned upon heavily if that happens, barring any veteran signings in the next few weeks. I’d still like to see Adeiny Hechevarria return but I haven’t seen any signs the Yankees are interested. Then again, Brian Cashman doesn’t have me on speed dial so who really knows.
While I’d love for the Boston Red Sox to open the season with their current bullpen, it remains my opinion closer Craig Kimbrel will slip back into their price range. It would be great if the Atlanta Braves signed their former closer or if the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to push David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez into ‘Dellin Betances/Zach Britton’ type of setup roles. But the realist in me knows the Sox won’t shortchange themselves despite current appearances. I saw one Red Sox fan who posted that their best reliever would be no better than fifth best in the Yankees bullpen. He’s right. I just can’t see the Red Sox sabotaging their chances to repeat by failing to address the needs of the pen. Last year, the Red Sox didn’t sign J.D. Martinez until February 26th. He proved to be the key to their success. I see something similar this year and I expect Kimbrel to be the late add. If not Kimbrel, then I bet Boston acquires another arm via trade. Boston is not going away and don’t sleep on the Tampa Bay Rays, especially if they are able to acquire Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. I expect the AL East to be extremely competitive this year…while the Baltimore Orioles watch, of course.
It’s always fun when the guys start showing up in Tampa for Spring Training. I look forward to the player interviews and seeing video of the new guys like Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu, and Troy Tulowitzki meeting their teammates for the first time or just AO and DJ reconnecting after their disappointing exit together as members of the Colorado Rockies, walking off Coors Field on October 7, 2018 following the NLDS sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s going to be very fun and exciting to see James Paxton wearing a Yankees cap. The Big Maple is going to be a featured attracton. I am anxious to see him throwing bullpen sessions with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, while Aaron Boone and Larry Rothschild watch. All eyes will be on Miguel Andujar to see if he’s improved his defensive play. I know regardless of the results, we won’t be able to fault the effort. I have no doubts Andujar has worked very hard this winter to improve his defense and find better positioning to aid his reactionary time. The Luke Voit-Greg Bird battle at first base will be must-watch, even if everyone expects the energetic Voit to emerge the winner. There are just so many interesting stories to keep an eye on this Spring. I am so glad baseball is almost here. The dawn of the 2019 New York Yankees. It’s a great year to be alive!
I look forward to the annual predictions by TGP’s Daniel Burch before the start of the new season and this year should be very fun. The Yankees are a World Series-caliber team ready to take the season as deep into October as possible, to be the last team standing. The goal is simple. Play the final game of the World Series and walk off the field to the spray of champagne. Anything less will be a disappointment. Mariano Duncan’s words that inspired the 1996 World Series champions echo through the halls of Yankee Stadium many years later, “We play today. We win today. Das it!” It started a roll of championships for the Core 4 and here we are again with a new Core and a new era of Yankees Baseball. I am sure Daniel will have the Yankees as the World Series favorite. He will not be wrong. This is our year. We see it, we feel it, we know it. We just need the team to do it.
For the final weekend without baseball activity, I guess we’ll have to pause for some football. Here’s hoping Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams return the City of Angels to the NFL Championship. I was so excited when the Rams returned to Los Angeles (lived there at the time) after their years away in St Louis and now the franchise is in the Super Bowl against this century’s most dominant NFL team led by a quarterback who might be the greatest of all-time. I personally think it is Joe Montana, but whatever. It would be very exciting for a Rams victory and a Patriots loss. The secondary prize would be disappointment for the Red Sox-Patriots fans. Too bad, so sad. A nice way to start the new baseball year!
Go Rams! But as always and more importantly, Go Yankees!