|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Al Bello and Christian Petersen), via CBS New York|
Trading January for February…
It was another quiet week in the Yankees Universe, but fortunately, it puts us one week closer to Spring Training.
Many feel that the Yankees are good with the present makeup of the 40-man roster as the gates of Steinbrenner Field prepare to open but I remain convinced that the Yankees will add either a strong starting pitcher or a veteran to solidify third base. It would be great to add both but I don’t see how that’s economically feasible for a team trying so hard to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold.
I thought the Washington Nationals have done a tremendous job with their infield bench. First, they signed first baseman Matt Adams, the long-time Cardinal who spent most of last year in Atlanta, to back up first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Then, they re-signed 2B/3B Howie Kendrick who can plug into a corner outfield position as well. Either one of these players would have been useful for the Yankees. I like the idea of pairing a veteran with the youthful Miguel Andujar at third. Granted, I would love to see the return of Todd Frazier or even the signing of Mike Moustakas, but the Yankees can afford to lower their sights for another guy that could help Andujar with his transition to the MLB level. Eduardo Nunez is probably not the answer, due to his questionable defense and injury history, but there are other guys that could fit the bill without blowing the budget. Josh Harrison, carrying a cap hit of $10.25 million, is probably the guy that comes to mind but his acquisition would probably prevent the addition of a starting pitcher who is better than any of the current starting five.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images North America (Joe Sargent)|
The Toronto Blue Jays have been fairly active in trying to rebuild their post-Jose Bautista outfield. Earlier this week, they signed former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to fill a platoon role. Then, yesterday, they traded for St Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Grichuk who became expendable when the Cardinals acquired former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, particularly given the breakthrough of outfielder Tommy Pham for the Cards last year. Grichuk has some thump in his bat, even if he hasn’t been consistent. He is expected to be the starter in right field, replacing Bautista. I don’t know much about the younger pitching prospect that the Blue Jays sent to St Louis (Connor Greene), but I am glad to see reliever Dominic Leone depart the AL East. In a setup role for the Blue Jays last year, Leone stranded 42 of 54 base runners which ranked fourth among AL relievers. He held righties to .211 batting average and was even stingier with lefties at .183. The Grandy Man may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the game’s best gentlemen. I’m sure that he’ll be a positive influence on the young Jays. He didn’t do much for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after the late season acquisition (.161 batting average with 7 home runs in 112 at-bats), but he can still provide occasional pop. I can still remember his grand slam against the Yankees last August in what would prove to be his last at-bat for the New York Mets.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)|
It’s inevitable that the Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez come together at some point this off-season. I find it highly unlikely that the Arizona Diamondbacks bring back Martinez due to monetary constraints and there doesn’t seem to be much competition with Boston for the outfielder’s services. The latest reports indicate the Red Sox have offered 5 years at $125 million but agent Scott Boras is on record seeking a 6 or 7 year deal for his client. Teams have wised up and understand how detrimental the latter years can be for extended length contracts given to thirty-something players. If the Red Sox are truly offering $25 million per year, I think Martinez would be smart to consider it. At a winter function for the Red Sox yesterday, former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez explained, “The main reason why Mookie (Betts) and those guys miss (David Ortiz) more is because they were getting better pitches to hit on an earlier count because of his presence. Everybody knew they wanted to attack Mookie and those guys to get them out early before they get to David because David was one of those guys who was really special.” Martinez could be that guy for the Red Sox, which is why I feel that Boston will eventually get the deal done even if it gives them a $200+ million payroll.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)|
The most talked about situation for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract. By all indications, Ellsbury has no desire to waive his no-trade clause and is focused on competing with Aaron Hicks for the starting center field role. Many Yankees fans, including myself, feel that it would be best for Ellsbury to drop the NTC and allow a trade. The pro-Ellsbury fans attack us, saying that Ellsbury is a better player than we are giving him credit for. I don’t think anyone disputes that Ellsbury is still a good player. He just doesn’t fit the 2018 Yankees. At this point, it is clear that Aaron Hicks has the upper hand and it would take an injury to Hicks (always a possibility) to clear a path to consistent playing time for Ellsbury. But even then, he’d have to fight Brett Gardner for time and Gardy probably has the edge. It does not make sense to pay a fourth or fifth outfielder $22 million per year. If the Yankees were successful in getting another team to take on half of what’s left of Ellsbury’s deal, that’s still significant money that could go toward a starting pitcher and/or veteran third baseman. That’s why I think it is best to move Ellsbury if you can. He can be a very useful player for another team. Seattle was mentioned as the primary trade target until they acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins with the intent to convert him to center field. Then, the San Francisco Giants were heavily mentioned by Yankees fans. But they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh PIrates and are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold themselves. Some have mentioned the Colorado Rockies in a trade of bad contracts for IF/OF Ian Desmond, but I don’t think the Rockies are as down on Desmond as Yankees fans would like to think. A trade to a Cactus League team seems to make the most sense given that Ellsbury makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personally, I think the Yankees will be stuck with Ellsbury until the dollars left on his contract reach a point that Hal Steinbrenner is comfortable cutting bait. That means at least another season or two. It stinks because it will most likely keep Clint Frazier at Triple A if he is not traded for a starting pitcher. I am a fan of Red Thunder and I’d like to see him in the Bronx, not Moosic, PA. He’s ready, even if it means that team leader Brett Gardner is the odd man out.
|Photo Credit: SI.com|
Maybe next week is finally the week we get some actual news in the Yankees Universe. Yeah, right…probably not. Oh well, Spring Training will soon be here. I am ready and anxious to see 1 Steinbrenner Drive thriving with Yankees fans in the stands watching Yankees greats on the field.
To Trade or Not To Trade…
Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any crazier with the Gerrit Cole trade rumors, they took another wild curve today when it was reported that the Houston Astros had acquired Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some sports reporters were saying the trade was imminent and MLB Trade Rumors posted their usual ‘to acquire’ headline with Houston Astros to acquire Gerrit Cole. But minutes later, the news of false reports circulated and it was announced that a trade was not imminent and the teams were not close. Huh, what?…
So, as I type this post, Cole is still a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I think.
My position remains that the Yankees should not trade for Cole. When the rumors of the potential Astros trade began swirling, there were reports that the Yankees had shut down any further discussions with the Pirates. I like Cole and I think the Yankees, through coaching and environment, could bring out the best in the talented pitcher. But at this point, I do not feel that he is worth the cost of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and a top pitching prospect. However, I do not want to see Cole go to Houston. The strong only get stronger. Cole on that pitching staff would be scary. Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Cole, Lance McCullers, Jr and Charlie Morton (with Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh on standby). The Astros pitching staff would certainly be more formidable than the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, other teams that have very strong staffs.
I think the Yankees should reserve any decisions for pitching additions until the July trading deadline. They’ll be looking at pro-rated salaries (helpful to meet the goal to stay under $197 million) and will have a much better idea of needs. For me, it’s sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal and let’s see everyone next month in Tampa.
I’d love to add Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb but those two are not considerations as long as #22 is occupied. The Yankees could gain so much flexibility with payroll if they could move Jacoby Ellsbury, even if it includes paying as much as $15 million per year on what’s left. But it’s tough when Ellsbury seems content to collect his paycheck as the team’s fifth outfielder and no desire to relinquish his right to veto any trade.
The Yankees obviously have a very strong bullpen. I like some of the younger names with potential like Cody Carroll, Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder. This could open some flexibility to trade a more established name later in the season. Someone like David Robertson, whom I would hate to see go, if the Yankees feel they are not going to re-sign him after the season or Dellin Betances who most certainly will be traded at some point if/when he re-establishes his value. Sellers will be more desperate at the trading deadline and the Yankees will have greater strength with potential trade bait.
I think the official position of this website is ‘Get Chris Archer Now!’…
Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara-AP
I am not quite on the ‘Chris Archer or Bust’ train but if I see any indication that the Tampa Bay Rays might be willing to trade him, I wouldn’t be opposed to jumping on the bandwagon. I personally love Marcus Stroman, a native New Yorker, who would fit seamlessly into the Bronx. But admittedly, the chances the Toronto Blue Jays would trade a star pitcher to the Yankees are more remote than even the Rays.
Unless the Yankees can clearly upgrade their starting five, it’s better to stand pat and make air reservations for Tampa.
See ya, Cito…
It’s tough to see former top prospects leave the organization. Granted, when they leave on their own, they were unable to make their mark. Such is the case for former top draft pick Cito Culver. The shortstop was drafted in the first round (32nd pick) of the 2010 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, the bloom faded and Culver could never hit for average. He did manage 12 home runs last year in Triple A but carried a .223 batting average. The organization obviously has many better second base/shortstop types so Culver was never going to realize his dream in Pinstripes. Instead, he has signed a free agent contract with the Miami Marlins who seem to be collecting Yankees prospects. It’s a minor league deal that does not carry an invitation to MLB spring training. I wish Culver the best and hopefully he can insert his name into the picture of the rebuild currently underway on Team Jeter.
Two other former Pinstriped first-round draft picks signed elsewhere in recent weeks. Dante Bichette, Jr (2011) signed with the Colorado Rockies organization and Slade Heathcott (2009), who spent last year in the San Francisco Giants organization, signed with the Oakland A’s. It is kind of sad when you look back over the past decade of Yankees first-round picks and only Clarke Schmidt (2017), Kyle Holder ( 2015), and Aaron Judge (2013) are still part of the Yankees family. Granted, guys like James Kaprielian and Blake Rutherford were parts of major trades last summer but it does show the ratio of first round draft position to MLB team success (with the original team) is very small.
Angel in the Infield…
While you can argue that the big offseason winners so far are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (signing of Shohei Otani and infield rebuild with acquisitions of Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart) or the New York Yankees (the trade for the NL MVP), the biggest winners, to me, are the international prospects freed from the Atlanta Braves organization after being penalized by MLB. They retained their bonuses from the Braves but then were free to sign with new teams and new bonuses. Considering a few of these guys (or more) will eventually wash out, the lyrics of “money for nothing and chicks for free” from that old Dire Straits song echo through my head. Notwithstanding the risk, the Yankees finally signed one of the former Braves prospects when they inked SS Angel Rojas for $350,000. Rojas had received $300,000 from the Braves during the 2017-18 signing period. Welcome to the Yankees family, Angel!
Yanks on Fire…
MLB.com recently posted this pic. If this doesn’t get you fired up for the return of baseball next month, nothing will…
Manny Reasons to make a trade…
I haven’t given a lot of thought to the talent the Yankees might consider offering for Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (primarily because I don’t think the O’s will trade him to the Yankees for obvious reasons). But to acquire Machado now rather than wait until after the season to try and sign him through free agency, would you offer a package of Dellin Betances, Chance Adams, Thairo Estrada and Miguel Andujar? I don’t know but it’s one that I would have to think about. I gotta admit that Machado looks pretty good in Pinstripes…
Thank you to the New York Yankees for extending the protective netting at Yankee Stadium. The team issued the follow release on Wednesday:
Expanded Netting to be installed at Yankee Stadium for 2018 Season
The New York Yankees today (Wednesday, January 10th) announced details regarding the additional protective netting that will be installed at Yankee Stadium for the start of the 2018 regular season. Increased coverage will include partially retractable netting attached to the roofs of both dugouts and stationary netting extending beyond the far ends of the dugouts toward the foul poles.
During the design and engineering process, the Yankees consulted with the architecture firm Populous along with netting company Promats Athletics.
Netting attached to the roofs of both dugouts will extend to a height of nine feet above each dugout during games. The bottom portions of these nets will be upwardly retractable by up to three feet, allowing fans the opportunity to fully interact with players during batting practice when the protective batting cage is being employed around the home plate area of the field. Prior to the start of the game, the nets will connect to the dugout roof, where they will remain in place throughout the game.
Beyond the dugout, netting will extend to Section 011 on the first-base side and Section 029 on the third-base side. The netting in these locations will rise to eight feet above the playing field (approximately 5.5 feet above the wall surrounding the field of play), and will remain in place from the start of batting practice through the end of the game. These sections of netting may be removed for soccer matches or other events held at Yankee Stadium.
Dyneema fiber Ultra Cross 1.2 mm-wide knotless netting — the same as was used for Yankee Stadium backstop netting in 2017 — will be utilized for all netting in the 2018 season. Additionally, all netting will be “field green” in color to minimize its visible impact for those in attendance and viewers watching on television.
Installation will begin in February, and will be completed in time for the Yankees’ scheduled 2018 home opener on Monday, April 2 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.
In addition, a similar protective netting system at George M. Steinbrenner Field is being installed and will be operational for the start of Yankees spring training (Tuesday, February 13).
The fan experience at the Stadium is important but the safety of the fans is the greatest concern. This is an excellent move by the Yankees.
Sooner or later, this off-season has to get busy, right? Waiting…
Getting ready for 2017…
This has been an interesting week for the Yankees.
Credit: Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports
Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve, and Jordan Montgomery combined to threw a no-hitter on St Patrick’s Day as the Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers, 3-0. Tanaka has been stellar this spring, and looks to be a potential Cy Young candidate if he keeps it up. Jordan Montgomery had some early struggles in camp, but he has been coming on strong lately and might have inserted his name into the competition for the last two rotation spots. It was a great game for the Yankees even if spring games do not really matter.
Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird have continued to show that they will be a big part of the Yankees offense this year. It’s great to see that Bird has rebounded from last year’s injury. With former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s knack for ice-cold starts to new seasons, I am anxious to see if Bird can fly early in the new season.
Credit: Matt Rourke, AP
James Kaprielian gave a great performance in his only spring appearance before being sent down to minor league camp for re-assignment. He pitched two scoreless innings in Thursday’s game. I know that Kaprielian still has much work ahead of him, but I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll see him at the major league level in September. It would help set him up as a prime candidate to replace CC Sabathia in the rotation next year.
Gleyber Torres is another that has really impressed me. He has shown leadership and ability beyond his years and despite never having played above High A ball, he has stood shoulder to shoulder with his major league peers. He is only a year or two away. The team will be substantially improved once he is ready.
I really feel bad for Robert Refsnyder. All things considered, I’d choose him over Ronald Torreyes for the utility spot on the team. But Refsnyder just doesn’t have the necessary defensive skills. The Yankees have Ref on the trading block so it’s possible that a move could be made within the next couple of weeks. While I would hate to see him go, I would be very excited for him if a trade opens up a starting role for him.
I feel bad for manager Joe Girardi. He has some very difficult decisions ahead. Too many talented guys to narrow the list to just 25 but he has to do it anyway. Deserving guys will be on the outside looking in.
Here’s my prediction for the Opening Day roster:
C: Gary Sanchez
1B: Greg Bird
2B: Starlin Castro
SS: Didi Gregorius
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Aaron Judge
DH: Matt Holliday
1B: Chris Carter
OF: Aaron Hicks
UTILITY: Ronald Torreyes
C: Austin Romine
1-RHP: Masahiro Tanaka
2-RHP: Michael Pineda
3-LHP: CC Sabathia
4-RHP: Luis Severino
5-LHP: Bryan Mitchell
LHP: Tommy Layne
RHP: Ben Heller
RHP: Chad Green
RHP: Adam Warren
RHP: Tyler Clippard-Setup
RHP: Dellin Betances-Setup
LHP: Aroldis Chapman-Closer
For my roster, I couldn’t find room for Jon Niese. He has not pitched badly, but I feel other guys have proven themselves. To add Niese to the roster would require dropping someone from the 40-man roster. Given the Yankees just signed Ernesto Frieri to a minor league deal with invite to major league camp, it would make more sense to open the spot on the 40-man for Frieri if/when he proves that he can still be an effective major league reliever. Niese wasn’t going to start for the Yankees so relief is his only opportunity. To me, there are too many equal arms or better.
I would love to remove Jacoby Ellsbury from the roster, but I don’t have $90 million to burn so it looks like we’re stuck with him and can only hope for the best. I am also looking forward to Chase Headley’s future as an ex-Yankee whenever that day may be. I will be paying very careful attention to the development of prospect Dustin Fowler (center field) and Miguel Andujar (third base). When those guys are ready, it will be time to find a way to unload Ellsbury and Headley.
It has been very exciting to watch the Yankees perform this spring. As I type this post, they are 16-5, the best spring mark in the MLB. The Baby Bombers have excelled, time and again. There’s a strong sense of excitement and energy that did not exist at this point last year. I am not predicting a World Series championship or even an AL East title, but the Yankees should be very fun to watch this year. Better days are truly ahead.
The Bryce is Right…
With Bryce Harper’s free agency still a few seasons away, I am surprised that there is so much discussion about his future (potentially) in pinstripes. So much can happen between now and 2019.
While the Yankees do not have a true superstar at any position except maybe Closer, there’s a wealth of outfield prospects. Aaron Judge has a history of first failing and then massively succeeding at each level. With the initial underwhelming big league performance behind him, the expectation is that he’ll grab right field for years to come. There’s other help on the way for the outfield. With so many talented infield prospects headlined by shortstop (second baseman?) Gleyber Torres, it has been mentioned that shortstop Jorge Mateo’s future is in centerfield. Clint Frazier, a centerfielder, will most likely be moved to a corner outfield position. If each player performs to his respective potential, a trio of Judge, Mateo, and Frazier is very, very solid.
The Yankees also have other young talented outfield prospects. Mason Williams, although injuries have not been his friend. Dustin Fowler is aggressively raising his stock in prospect rankings. Blake Rutherford was a steal in last year’s draft and seems destined for greatness. Billy McKinney is an over-looked, unappreciated talent but he’s opened some eyes this spring.
At face value, Outfield does not appear that it will be a weakness for the team anytime soon. Well, maybe as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center, but that’s another matter.
Over the last few years, Owner Hal Steinbrenner has evolved the organization from its free-spending ways to financial conservatism. Although the Yankees consistently have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, the payroll has stayed fairly level for a number of years. There’s a genuine opportunity for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold next year. Signing Harper is going to cost a lot of money. Giancarlo Stanton may currently hold baseball’s most lucrative contract, but Harper will surpass Stanton and not by a close margin. Harper could legitimately be baseball’s first $500 million man. More than likely, it will be around $400 million but still, that’s a huge financial commitment for anyone.
Attendance has declined at Yankee Stadium the past few years. With no true superstars in an every day role, the Yankees need players who can not only perform on the field, but can draw fans to the Bronx. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge may soon have that dual ability, if the former does not already have it. But signing Bryce Harper, a childhood Yankees fan, would be huge for attendance. His lefty bat, among a sea of righties, would be huge. He’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency so a lengthy obligation would not look as ugly at the end as it did for Alex Rodriguez.
I am a proponent for the Yankees to sign Harper. At some point, the Yankees will have to make a trade for a frontline starting pitcher (or two) and they’ll need to use talented top prospects to make it happen. They can deal from outfield (and infield) strength and bring the necessary help for the rotation. With Masahiro Tanaka’s looming opt-out after the season, the Yankees will need to make trades to supplement the infusion of youth if they are to achieve the championship dreams in a couple of years.
Harper in pinstripes would put the team closer to Championship #28 while boosting gate attendance to help subsidize his enormous contract.
The starting rotation competition…
As the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation continue, there are some early favorites. I think it’s a given that Luis Severino will take the fourth spot. The team wants him to succeed as a starter. Last year was a disappointment as Severino arrived at training camp in bulked up physical condition and was not able to effectively throw his change up with the same velocity. He has worked this off-season to reduce bulk and to recapture the touch he previously had with the change-up, his third pitch. He may have been winless in starts last year before finding success in the bullpen late in the season, but he deserves another chance. If he is able to throw his three pitches effectively, the results this year will be much better.
Most experts are predicting Chad Green as the other starting option. I know that he had a few good starts last year, but I can’t say I am convinced. I would prefer to see Bryan Mitchell in the rotation over Green. I also like Luis Cessa, but I agree that his ceiling is not that great. I’d love to see Jordan Montgomery excel but I think he needs at least another year in the minors before he is ready. Jon Niese is certainly an option but it’s curious that he has yet to make a spring appearance.
Regardless of who wins the starting spots, it’s a certainty that more than two will have the opportunity to start over the course of the season. I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns at some point, and September will most likely see James Kaprielian’s first major league start (if it doesn’t happen sooner).
Mayans MC, Santo Padre Charter
Okay, this is a bit off-topic but I am excited about the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff series, Mayans MC.
The latest Kurt Sutter offering will film its pilot this month. There has been no announcement that the FX Network has picked up the series for its fall lineup, but it’s hard to imagine that they would not. The creative team has slowly been announcing its cast members. With each announcement they give a little deeper insight into the show’s storyline. Set in the same mythology as the Sons of Anarchy, the new show will pick up life post-Jax Teller and will be set on the Mexican-California border.
Here is the synopsis released by FX:
Set in the aftermath of Jax Teller’s death at the end of SOA’s seven-season run in 2014, Mayans MC will focus on the struggles of Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the California/Mexico border. EZ is the gifted son of a proud Latino family, whose American dream was snuffed out by cartel violence. Now, his need for vengeance drives him toward a life he never intended and can never escape.
When I first heard about the potential new series, I had hoped that Emilio Rivera would be part of the project. His character, Marcus Alvarez, President of the Northern California charter of the Mayans MC, was one of my favorite characters on Sons of Anarchy. With the casting announcements, the character that will be President of the featured charter (Santo Padre) is cousins with Alvarez and the press release indicated that he lived, for a time, with Alvarez. This gives a possible tie-in to Sons of Anarchy as the character most likely had some interaction with the rival MC. A nice setup for possible flashbacks.
The casting choices have been exemplary.
- Felipe Reyes (father of the protagonist): Edward James Olmos
- Angel Reyes (brother of the protagonist, full patch member of the MC): Clayton Cardenas
- Esai “Taino” Ossorio (President of the Mayans MC, Santo Padre charter): John Ortiz
- Michael “Riz” Ariza (Vice President of the Mayans MC): Antonio Jaramillo
- EZ Reyes (the protagonist, a prospect of the MC): JD Pardo
- Johnny “El Coco” Cruz (full patch member of the MC): Richard Cabral
There are still critical roles to be announced. The setup features conflict with the Cartel so villains will be needed, with through regular cast members or through guest starring roles. There’s also a love interest that EZ Reyes seeks to protect so that will be a key hire.
I am looking forward to the show and hope it’s as successful as its predecessor but in its own right. Marcus Alvarez, now credited as National President and Founder of the Mayans MC, (Emilio Rivera) will be an awesome bridge between the two series.
Have a great weekend!