Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
In the “W” column, the Yankees have gotten the weekend off to a great start…
Sipkin/NY Daily News
Unfortunately, there were also a few casualties in Friday night’s 10-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Robinson Cano left the game in the 6th inning after he was hit in the left knee by Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. Nick Johnson is most likely headed for the DL due to his problematic wrist which he aggravated on a swing in the first inning and left in the 5th inning when he was unable to play through the injury.
This is a tough formula for the Yankees so far…win a game and lose a player. With Curtis Granderson on the DL and other Yankees like Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada hurting, the Yankees can ill afford to lose Cano for any extended period of time. Fortunately, it sounds like it is a day-to-day situation so more than likely, he’ll be back after missing a game.
Marcus Thames becomes the Yankees’ primary DH. I’d probably be more in favor of moving Jorge Posada to DH, when/if healthy, in order to keep Francisco Cervelli’s bat and attitude in the game. It would also help save some wear and tear on Posada.
The Yankees have already recalled pitcher Romulo Sanchez as a bullpen replacement for Sergio Mitre, who will take Andy Pettitte’s spot in the rotation on Monday. Outfielder Greg Golson’s short stay with the team ended as he was sent back down to Scranton/Wilkes Barre to make room for Sanchez.
In retrospect, Brian Cashman’s decisions run the gamut. Clearly, his call to move Phil Hughes into the starting rotation, with Joba Chamberlain returning to the pen, was one of the best decisions made in the off-season so far this young season. But conversely, the jury is still out on the Curtis Granderson trade. Austin Jackson has performed well in Detroit, and Ian Kennedy has adapted very well to the Sonoran Desert environment in Arizona. Also, the decision to sign Nick Johnson as the DH and forego pursuit of Johnny Damon was a mistake. Granted, the Damon camp was asking too much at the time the Yankees had to make a decision. If Damon had been willing to accept from the Yankees what he got from the Tigers, he’d still be in the Bronx today (well, Boston today, but you know what I mean).
How Cashman responds to his team’s current needs will be critical in the coming weeks and months. I am not saying that the Yankees should go out and trade top prospects for All-Star players and call it a day. But they need to make smart, under the radar moves that help bring quality production. Of the injuries, Nick Johnson concerns me the most since he’s had surgery on the wrist twice before (2000 and 2008). This could be a potential issue that shuts him down for an extended period of time. Andy Pettitte should be back after missing a start, but at his age, any injury bears watching as there could be continued issues throughout the season. If the Yankees were getting what they had hoped for from Javier Vazquez, they could probably get by on smoke and mirrors. But the hole in the 4th spot of the rotation and the inability of the Tampa Bay Rays to lose has magnified the Yankees’ short-comings somewhat.
My friend, Julia, may have had a good night at Fenway Park last evening but obviously she did not have a great night since the Red Sox lost. However, I’d be a fool if I gloated about a single win. This series is far from over, and Julia stands no closer to losing our best than I do. Even with CC Sabathia on the mound today, I am expecting a very charged and resilient Red Sox squad on the field today. It will be a tough game today, as it will be again tomorrow.
How about the impressive debut of Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro? He had a homer and 6 RBI’s in his debut. What a great way to introduce yourself to Major League Baseball fans. “The kid – what a debut!”, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after the game. Yeah, there’s not much more that you can say about such a tremendous performance in the 20 year old’s first major league game. I wish him the very best on a long and successful career at Wrigley Field.
Well, it’s just about time to watch Game 2 of Yankees-Red Sox. Best of luck to me, Julia! J