Tagged: Starlin Castro

Hal’s $3 Million Investment for Home Runs…

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

What a difference a day makes!  

Chris “All he does is hit home runs”¹ Carter made my Saturday a fun day after Friday night’s loss.  Michael Pineda, like CC Sabathia the day before, did not have his best stuff and only lasted five innings.  I had felt prior to the game that Pineda needed to be at his best with talented young right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but fortunately, the Yankees were able to get to Taillon (thanks Starlin!).  The game was tied at 5 in the eighth when Chris Carter came to the plate to pinch hit for Dellin Betances.  The inning had looked like it would be over quickly when the first two Yankee batters flied out (if Bird’s fly could have gone just a few more feet…).  But an error by Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier allowed catcher Austin Romine to reach base and shortstop Ronald Torreyes followed with a single.  Carter is paid to do one thing and against Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero, he did it.  His beautiful swing was met with “it is high, it is far, it is gone!”.  The Yankees had taken a commanding 8-5 lead.

The Yankees would score a couple more times that inning, thanks in large part to another error by the Pirates, but the signature moment was the ninth inning even though the game was already out of reach for the Pirates.  In what is becoming a typical day at the office, Aaron Judge got all of an Antonio Bastardo pitch to send the ball screaming 116 mph for a ‘no doubt about it’ home run.  When all was said and done, the ball had traveled 457 feet.  It is starting to feel like not a question of ‘if’ Judge can hit a ball 500 feet, but ‘when’.  Five batters, including Matt Holliday, have hit longer home runs this year (a total of five feet separates the leaders) but it’s only a matter of time before Judge takes charge of the Statcast leaderboard.  

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Yankees won the game, 11-5 .  They head into today’s game with a chance to take the series against an old friend, Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova.  Jordan Montgomery, wearing Nova’s old jersey number, will take the mound for the Yankees.  

Despite the win, the Yankees failed to gain any ground on the Baltimore Orioles (12-4) who took another game from the Boston Red Sox.  So, the Yankees remain 1 1/2 games out of first with an 11-6 record.  I get the feeling that the Red Sox (10-8) will be playing like a wounded dog when the Yankees get to Fenway Park on Tuesday.  

I was glad to see manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Hicks in Saturday’s lineup.  He acknowledged that he needs to find ways to put Hicks’ hot bat into the game.  But really, left field is the only viable solution.  The $153 million man is actually producing in center (he’s still dead to me despite the .323 batting average) and Aaron Judge is becoming a marquee event in right.  Despite Chris Carter’s home run, I still think first base should stay exclusively with Greg Bird.  I know that he’s only hitting .111 after another 0-for-4 performance, but he seems to be hitting the ball well even if they are going for outs.  It is only a matter of time before the balls start falling in (or leaving the park).  I think he’s close to catching fire.  

I always keep an eye on former Yankees to see how they are doing.  I guess it is a Jay Buhner/Fred McGriff disorder, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for former Yankees prospect Rob Segedin.  Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that originally brought Ronald Torreyes to New York, the third baseman recently got another call up to the Dodgers when they placed former Yankees pitcher Rich Hill on the DL.  Two days later, Segedin was on the DL himself with a strained right big toe.  The taste of the Major Leagues can be so elusive for many and it certainly is for the 28-year-old former Yankees third round draft pick.

Credit:  David Crane/Southern California News Group

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s hope this is another Fun Day!  

 ¹A nod to Buddy Ryan’s infamous quote “All he does is catch touchdowns” in reference to Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.  

Gloom, Despair and Agony…

Okay, it was not quite that bad.  Still, it was a disappointing loss.  It would have looked so much different if Greg Bird had homered in the third instead of pulling it foul.  He had another chance to do damage in the fifth, but was unable to push any runs across (although he did reach on a fielding error which allowed Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge to score).  He finished the night 0-for-4, dropping his batting average to .122.  When he does start hitting, he’ll quickly become a fan favorite.  

The Yankees lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox, 2-0, behind a stellar pitching performance by Dylan Bundy.  With the Red Sox loss, the Yankees maintained their slight hold on second place.

This was a winnable game.  Even though it was an off-night for starter CC Sabathia, he kept the team in the game and lasted five innings.  We cannot expect the vintage Sabathia every outing.  He is, after all, a 36 year old who had to reinvent himself.  This is not 2009 even if he lulled us into that thinking with his first couple of starts.

It’s hard to put a finger on any single reason for the loss.  Bird’s slow start.  Sabathia’s underwhelming performance.  Chase Headley’s base running skills.  Starlin Castro’s fielding.  Aaron Judge’s six men left on base.  It was just one of those nights.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda…but it didn’t happen.

Oh well, today is a new day.  Michael Pineda takes the mound against Pittsburgh’s talented young righthander, Jameson Taillon.  Pineda will need to bring his ‘A’ game but if he has truly turned the corner, I am sure he will.  With Baltimore and Boston looming next week, the Yankees cannot afford to stumble in the Steel City.  

Let’s re-set this post’s image…

The Yankees need to figure out a way to get Aaron Hicks into the lineup.  Limited to pinch hitting, he did single in the eighth last night.  I hate rehashing why the Yankees should trade Brett Gardner, but I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and their troubles with left field.  Their starting left fielder, Jarrett Parker, is out for a couple of months with a broken right clavicle.  They signed Melvin Upton, Jr to a minors deal following his release by the Toronto Blue Jays, but he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb so he is down for a couple of months too.  In last night’s loss to the Colorado Rockies, they were playing journeyman Chris Marrero who has struggled to find a home in the Majors for the last few years.  Marrero did homer but he is only batting .152 (5-for-33).  I’ve always thought Gardner would be a good fit in San Francisco.  The Giants have the prospects for a match.  The “reach for the sky” choice would be 23-year-old RHP Tyler Beede, but GM Brian Cashman would have to include more than Gardner to make it happen.  Gardner would be easier to trade if he wasn’t hitting only .192.  His bat will come around so when it does, Cashman should get Giants EVP-Baseball Operations Brian Sabean or GM Bobby Evans on the phone to strike a deal.

Credit:  Getty Images

It’s good to see shortstop Didi Gregorius in rehab games.  On Friday night, he was 2-for-3 with six innings of work for the High A Tampa Yankees.  He’s on track to return to the Bronx the beginning of May.  I am sure that he’s motivated to be back for the two game series in Cincinnati beginning on May 8th as the Reds are his original team.  Of course, that’s also true for a certain flame-throwing closer as well as a YES Network announcer who proudly wore #21 in the Bronx for a few years.

Speaking of numbers, Rickey Henderson, Tino Martinez, and Robinson Cano should be very pleased to hear that their former MLB jersey has cracked the top 10 for most popular jerseys sold…thanks to Gary Sanchez.  According to MLB.com, Sanchez has the ninth most popular jersey, ahead of the Los Angeles Angels star outfielder, Mike Trout.  There were four Cubs, two Dodgers, two Giants, and no Red Sox in the Top 8.  

Have a great Saturday!  Yankees, just bring it!  We want one for the win column!

I Guess It Was In The Cards…

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Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning.  We have our  own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.

While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night.  He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals.  Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard.  Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.

An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win.  Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh.  He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.

The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka.  Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit.  Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have  brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls.  In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning.  The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring.  The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly.  That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions.  Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.

It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies.  For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates.  It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments.  Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success.  He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis.  On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera.  Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.

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I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start.  He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training.  I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case.  Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can.  I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.

The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9).  I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs.  The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.

I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours.  One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments.  In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm.  On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew.  Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins.  Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona.  This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy.  I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.

It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

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Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

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Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

The Sounds of Spring are approaching…

Soon, very soon…

We are less than a month away before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa.  Sitting in Denver, I still have a few more snowstorms to go before America’s favorite pastime returns, but I am excited and looking forward to the upcoming season.  The Yankees are still a couple of seasons away from being a serious World Series threat, but the season should be fun nonetheless.

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There are a lot of big if’s with this year’s squad.  Can Aaron Judge make the necessary adjustments at this level?  Can Jacoby Ellsbury ever be the player he once was in Boston?  Can he stay healthy?  Will Brett Gardner be traded?  Will Chase Headley be traded?  Will Starlin Castro be moved to third base?  Will Gleyber Torres show that he’s ready for major league action sooner rather than later?  Will Didi Gregorius sustain last year’s success and show continued improvement?  Will Greg Bird restore the great promise that he showed in late 2015?  Will Gary Sanchez continue to show that he is arguably the best Yankee or at least show the Yankees were right in sending Brian McCann to Houston?  The list goes on and on, and that’s without even getting to the pitching staff.

During the recent Winter Warm-up in the Bronx, James Kaprielian sounded like a future ace.  I have long been a fan of Kaprielian’s and have looked forward to his arrival at Yankee Stadium.  Last year’s injury that caused him to miss most of the season was a significant setback, but as a college player, Kaprielian is not that far away.  If he can show success at Scranton/Wilkes Barre this year, there’s no doubt he’ll be making his major league debut later this summer.  I would not be disappointed if Kaprielian surprisingly grabbed a rotation spot out of spring training.

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Credit:  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

I remain hopeful that Ian Clarkin can be a future rotation piece, even at the back end.  With the influx of other prospects via last summer’s trades, Clarkin’s name is rarely mentioned.  But he is another one that I have hoped would achieve the big leagues.  Drafted as the 33rd player in the 2013 MLB Draft, Clarkin missed part of last season with a knee injury.  He is still only 21 years old so I am hopeful that he’ll bounce back for future success.

The Yankees will have a number of young arms competing for the open rotation spots, but I’d still like to see them bring in a veteran for competition.  Same with the bullpen.  I am supportive of the return of Boone Logan and would like to see him back in pinstripes.

Other teams are making minor moves.  I liked the Miami Marlins’ acquisition of pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds.  I remember a few years ago, I was on a flight from Portland to San Francisco.  There was a guy behind me on the plane that was raving about his son, a pitcher who happened to be the minor league strikeout leader at the time for an Oakland A’s farm team.  It was Straily’s dad.  Straily has been through a few major league organizations since that time, but at least Miami is making moves.

I also thought the Boston Red Sox signing of former Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was a sound move.  Who knows if Kendrick will ever be the pitcher he once was with the Phillies, but you don’t know if you don’t try.

By not signing any veteran pitchers, the Yankees are clearly saying that they want youth to take the final rotation spots.  If this team is truly dedicated to the youth movement and realistically won’t be in World Series contention for at least two seasons, I do not understand holding onto Brett Gardner.  He is 33 (will be 34 this season).  Speed does not age well.  If the Yankees had a shot for the World Series this year, I’d say hold him.  But that’s not the case.  Granted, we do not know the packages that GM Brian Cashman has turned down and perhaps he has only been offered less talent.  But I firmly believe in identifying undervalued assets to take advantage of potential over proven performance.  There are surprises every year, but again, you don’t know if you don’t try.

Most likely, at this point, Cashman is right that no further moves will be made.  I think it’s a mistake but hopefully the top young prospects will prove that the best move was no move.

I can hear those pitches popping in the catching mitts.  Soon, very soon…

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—Scott

Ready, aim, fire!…

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.

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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.

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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…

—Scott