Tagged: Tampa

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The Warmth of Baseball on a Chilly New York Day…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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 Go Rams! But as always and more importantly, Go Yankees!

Getting the Band Back Together Again…

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

The Dawn of the 2018 Yankees…

The nice, lovable Baby Bombers are gone. The famed rock star New York Yankees, the Evil Empire…the most hated team in MLB, are back and ready to dominate Baseball in 2018. Justin Verlander can talk all he wants about how the Houston Astros are the team to beat, but the Yankees are here to change the October outcome.

I wrote about it yesterday but it’s worth more keystrokes on my computer. Giancarlo Stanton. I had not heard when Stanton would report to Tampa so it was a mild surprise when he showed up yesterday. Judging by the media reception, everyone was unanimously excited about appearance of the Yankees’ newest slugger at Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

It would have been fun to watch as Stanton made his way into the clubhouse to meet his new teammates and coaches. He got a jumpstart over the Winter with his dinner in Los Angeles with Manager Aaron Boone and of course he was in New York during the Baseball Writers Association of America dinner recently when he sat next to Aaron Judge. Now, he gets the opportunity to meet everyone, including all those who support the Yankees behind-the-scenes. There’s no question it will be a media event when Stanton takes his first swings of the Spring at Steinbrenner Field.

Reading the various comments in Tampa offer some insight into how Stanton will handle playing in baseball’s largest market. Aaron Boone said, “I think he’s welcoming the expectations and the largeness of what he is walking into. He understands that when he first takes the field in a couple of days, the attention is going to be huge, the scrutiny is going to be huge, and I think that’s something he’s prepared for the best he can.”

Lefty reliever Wade LeBlanc, in camp with the Yankees on a minor league contract, played with Stanton in Miami during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. LeBlanc remembers how level-headed Stanton was and offered, “I think that’s a quality you have to have in New York to handle the media and be okay with standing in front of them when you didn’t play well.”  LeBlanc did say, “He’s never seen a tenth of this media before.”

New York is not for everyone but Stanton seems well prepared for the journey ahead. His personality and superior playing ability will soon make him a fan favorite if he’s not already there.  Stanton talks about how this will be fun. Fun is infectious because it’s going to be fun for the fans too.

The greedy side of me wishes that the Yankees had added a “Stanton” to the starting rotation, but there’s time. No pressure to make a trade today when the availability of sellers will be much stronger in July. There’s always a possibility of a free agent signing (Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn) as long as those guys are on the market but it’s unlikely they’ll play for the Yankees given the payroll constraints to stay under the luxury tax threshold. I am intrigued about Chance Adams and what he can do in the Major League Camp this year. Although many words have been written by others speculating that Adams will eventually head for the bullpen, the guy has surpassed expectations at every level of his baseball playing career. He deserves the opportunity to make his case for starting at the MLB level and I, for one, will not doubt his potential for success. My primary hope is that he does it in a Yankees uniform and not pitching for some other team as part of a package to bring a more established starter to New York. I remember being excited about the potential of a young Al Leiter, only to watch him achieve great success for the (then) Florida Marlins and the New York Mets. That wasn’t fun as a Yankees fan.  I hope the same fate does not await Adams. Granted, it might be good for him, but not so good for us.

There was another surprise in camp yesterday but not quite so pleasnt when it was announced that infield prospect Thairo Estrada had been shot in the hip at the end of January in Venezuela during a failed robbery attempt. The bullet remains in Estrada’s hip but it is not expected to impede his recovery and ability to play. He may be doing upper body workouts but you’d have to believe that this removes his name from consideration for the starting job at second base. He was a long shot anyway, having only played at the Double A level, but hopefully he continues to be one of the greatest prospects for an organization overflowing with great prospects. I am very glad that he is doing fine, considering how much worse this could have turned out.

Yankees pitching prospect Albert Abreu is also in recovery following his emergency appendectomy on February 7th. It’s a setback but he should be back on the field soon and should not miss much of the season. He’ll be one of the most interesting Pinstriped arms to watch in the Minor Leagues this year.

Clint Frazier is in camp, sporting a shorter haircut and showing good maturity as he talks about the importance of being part of the team. He feels that he should be in the mix for center field with Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury and intends to force his way onto the roster. Sadly, I think he’s destined for Triple A as long as Ellsbury is on the roster and will only make it to the Bronx in the event of an outfield injury. I keep hoping that the Yankees find a way to move Ellsbury to create the opportunity for Red Thunder but the realist in me know that we’re stuck with Ellsbury for the long haul.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Not that I really want to talk about the Mets on this blog, but I thought was funny when new Mets third baseman Todd Frazier said that he was bad with names and would just call everyone “Big Dog”. It drew a response from Noah Syndergaard who said that he thought he was Frazier’s special Big Dog.  Frazier is already making a difference in the Mets clubhouse. I miss that guy.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)

Today is the last “free” day for position players. Tomorrow is reporting day and the entire contingent of Yankees pitchers and position players, including non-roster invitees, will be present and accounted for at Steinbrenner Field. Time to get to work. They’re ready and so am I.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

Go Yankees!

Flights for Tampa are Now Boarding…

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Spring…

It’s the Monday morning of the week that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. Woohoo! I am so ready for Baseball! Tomorrow, Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing with activity as the voluntary players in camp will be met by the rest of the group. New Manager Aaron Boone has been at Training Camp since Friday. He and his new staff will be among the first to greet the new arrivals.

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Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY Network (Kevin R Wexler)

Position players report must report by Sunday, February 18th although a number of players are already in town. Others, such as Giancarlo Stanton, should soon be en route.

Stanton caused a bit of a stir yesterday when he posted an Instagram pic featuring the newest Yankee slugger with mercurial New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Stanton labeled the pic “Dem City boys”. Stanton is going to find out that he’s not in Miami anymore and his every move will draw attention and will be open for lots and lots of criticism. Stanton has said that he’s looking forward to the ‘big city, bright lights’.  If I have a fear about Stanton in New York City, it’s that he’ll be distracted by the ‘big city, bright lights’. Stanton and Aaron Judge may be similarly sized sluggers but their personas are night and day. Stanton, based on what I’ve seen, enjoys the nightlife. Nevertheless, I am confident that Stanton will arrive in Tampa very focused and determined. This is his first opportunity to play for a winner and he’ll do so pulling on the pinstripes of the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am not trying to criticize him but I do hope that he avoids unnecessary criticism and controversy when the team heads north to the Bronx.

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Now that Yu Darvish is officially off the board, thanks to the Chicago Cubs, it ends any further speculation that the Yankees are trying to find a way to clear salary space for the talented right-hander. I did like the thought of Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka pitching together, but I am glad the Yankees weren’t the team handing him the six-year, $126 million contract.  However, it is unlikely the Yankees search for a starting pitcher is over. Many of you feel that the Yankees would be fine with Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield providing the primary rotation support. As much as I would like for both guys to succeed, Sheffield has yet to pitch at Triple A and many speculate that Adams might be better suited for the bullpen. I really do not want to rely upon Luis Cessa or potentially pull Chad Green from the pen for the inevitable replacement starts in the rotation.

I would not want to see the Yankees pay (“overpay” based on the dollars Agent Scott Boras is seeking) for free agent Jake Arrieta. I feel that Arrieta’s numbers are trending in the wrong direction and the last time he competed in the AL East, he failed miserably while a member of the Baltimore Orioles. However, I do feel that either Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would represent upgrades. The question is cost and if the Yankees would still be forced to move salary to make it happen (which is most likely the case). Somehow, it feels like this road to pitching will eventually lead us back to the Detroit Tigers and Michael Fulmer. If, by July, the Tigers are in the midst of another lost season (likely), they may be more motivated to move Fulmer for a talented collection of high-end prospects.

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Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Scott W Grau)

Personally, I am very excited about the potential of Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman, but David Cone took to Twitter this weekend to remind people not to sleep on Tyler Wade. I have been convinced that we’ll see a much better Wade this year and it will not surprise me if Wade is the Opening Day second baseman. Inevitably, I feel that Torres will be the starter but Wade will have a few weeks to show that he belongs in the Major Leagues (for good). The activity and competition at second base this year is very exciting.

As for third, it appears Miguel Andujar will be given first crack at the position. However, I remain of the opinion that we’ll see the signing of a veteran third baseman. I continue to believe Mike Moustakas will not accept a one-year pillow contract (no Moose Tacos in the Bronx), regardless of how sluggish free agency has been this year, so we’re more likely to see Eduardo Nunez (not excited about his defensive skills…or lack thereof) or Neil Walker to compete at third with Andujar.  I’d really be sick if the Yankees gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to a guy like Trevor Plouffe.

Back to Chad Green, while the Yankees have asked him to come to camp as a starter, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the bullpen.  He’s too valuable there. The MLB Network featured its Top Ten Relievers this weekend and Green was the highest rated Yankees reliever at #4. The only relievers ahead of Green were Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians; and Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was #8. I see Green moving toward the back end of the bullpen in the next couple of years. As much as I enjoy David Robertson, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year.  Given the sizable contracts that quality relievers continue to attract, it’s very possible that the Yankees will let D-Rob walk (if he isn’t traded sooner to add additional room for salary space under the $197 million threshold). I see Green as one of the guys capable of stepping into the late innings with Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances to form the bridge to Chapman.  Ben Heller is my pick for bullpen breakout this year and the flame-throwing Domingo Acevedo is on his way so even if D-Rob walks or is traded, the Yankees bullpen should continue to be a strength.

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Photo Credit: MLB Network

Lastly, the MLB Network has been running a documentary the last couple of weeks about the late, legendary Tony Gwynn entitled “Mr Padre”. Gwynn was such an incredible personality and force of the game. It is nice to be reminded of his smile and his love and passion for Baseball.  He may be gone but he has certainly not been forgotten. If you haven’t seen the documentary, you should check it out. Thanks for the memories, Tony.

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Photo Credit: SI.com (John W McDonough)

Go Yankees!

Get to Class Before the (Yankees) Bell Rings…

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)

Aaron Boone is present and accounted for in Tampa…

As we bear down on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers (with many players already at camp) in a few days, it has continued to be very quiet for the Yankees and their primary division rival, the Boston Red Sox.

It really does not feel like there is any team willing to match or exceed the alleged offer made to free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez by the Red Sox. There has been some talk that the Arizona Diamondbacks could come up with a $100 million contract offer but they’d need to move salary to make it happen (sounds like the Yankees and their interest in free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish except their ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ albatross is the heavy contract of starting pitcher Zack Greinke who at least remains a vital part of the team’s plans). Martinez would prefer to play right field which probably makes Phoenix more desirable (to him) than Boston but I remain convinced that dollars will win in the end and that Martinez will be on display at Fenway Park as the team’s primary DH. There’s always the chance they could trade Jackie Bradley, Jr and move Andrew Benintendi to center but that would weaken the outfield defense.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jennifer Stewart)

If the Red Sox fail to sign Martinez, names like Mike Moustakas and Logan Morrison have been mentioned. None are easy fits. Signing Moose Tacos would require an adjustment with plans for young starting third baseman Rafael Devers. Morrison probably makes more sense as he could share 1B and DH with Mitch Moreland. Nevertheless, I really feel the Red Sox will persevere and eventually sign Martinez. The Red Sox know that they need a big bopper to compete with the Yankees this year. I am not quick to say the Yankees are the superior favorites in the AL East. I feel the Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I also expect the Red Sox starting rotation to be stronger this year, with bounce backs by David Price and Rick Porcello. It was great that Chris Sale couldn’t get a victory against the Yankees last year, but the odds of that happening again are similar to the odds of the Yankees successfully trading Ellsbury. Boston is not going away and the Yankees won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year like they did in 2017. Baseball Prospectus released its annual PECOTA projections last week and they have the Yankees winning the division by 9 games over the Red Sox with 96 wins. I think the division will be much closer than that, especially if the Sox are successful in snagging Martinez.  I have been a Yankees fan too long to underestimate the Sox.

PECOTA, for what it’s worth, projects Aaron Judge with a batting average of only .247 (really?), with 37 home runs and 94 RBI’s. Giancarlo Stanton is projected at .259, 41 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez is not far behind with .269 BA, 34 homers and 97 RBI’s.

The one that really stands out to me is first baseman Greg Bird. The projection has him getting over 500 plate appearances, while batting .246 with 28 homers and 86 RBI’s. I am really hopeful that this is the year that Bird finally stays healthy. I love his swing and his bat in the stacked Yankees lineup. But until he proves that he can stay on the field for the duration of the season, I am going to be a bit skeptical.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)

My fear is that the Yankees have to lean on Tyler Austin at first base more heavily than expected. I guess all things considered that’s better than rolling out Chris Carter, but I’d prefer no question marks at first base as the Yankees attempt to break in rookies at second and third bases.

The Tampa Bay Rays might actually play in Tampa…

On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’d like to build a new stadium in Ybor City, a historic Latin community northeast of downtown Tampa. There are many hurdles before it can come to fruition, but I hope the Rays are successful. I don’t know much about Tampa politics but it makes more sense to have the Rays in Tampa than St Petersburg. Watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field always feels like watching a game in an oversized warehouse. I really hope that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is successful in getting his stadium initiative approved and funded. This seems like such a win-win situation for the Rays and the greater Tampa metropolitan area.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times (Marc Topkin)

Ybor City is about five miles east of Steinbrenner Field and Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I don’t like the smell of that rumor…

Speaking of the Rays, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week that the Yankees had checked in on Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is only 27 (28 in late March) but the right-hander had a down year in 2017. He was 10-8 with 4.14 ERA in 28 starts. He only struck out 127 batters while walking 61, the worst K/BB ratio of his career. A fly-ball pitcher, he gave up 30 home runs, which obviously would not play well in Yankee Stadium. One Rays blog proposed sending Odorizzi and reliever Alex Colome to the Yankees for outfielder Clint Frazier and a low-level lottery ticket. I wouldn’t do it. I would consider sending Frazier to Tampa for a trade circled around Chris Archer, but not Odorizzi.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Cunningham)

“Odo” would not be a significant upgrade over any of the starters in the current Yankees rotation so I dismiss the thought that the Yankees might be interested. I’ll gladly take a promising young arm like Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield over Odorizzi. The only reason you’d make a trade for Odorizzi would be on his potential as a breakout candidate but I’d prefer the in-house options…and keeping Red Thunder in pinstripes.

But wait, weren’t we part of the exciting young Yankees?…

Yesterday, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote an article about which teams stand a chance in 2018. It was kind of sad looking for the photo that he posted with the caption, “The Yankees reached the American League Championship Series last season, but fell short against the Astros.” Of the recognizable faces, only one player and one coach remain from this pic taken just last October.

Photo Credit: The New York Times (Chang W Lee)

Joe Girardi can now be found on the MLB Network sporting a suit and defending his managerial choices during last season’s post-season. Rob Thomson is helping set up training camp in Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies as new manager Gabe Kapler’s bench coach and most likely the lead training camp organizer. No word about the future plans for former hitting coach Alan Cockrell, seen in the photo standing next to current hitting coach Marcus Thames. Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks looks at a trio of ex-Yankees. Todd Frazier will soon be headed to Port St Lucie, FL for the New York Mets; Starlin Castro, assuming he is not traded, will go to Jupiter, FL for the Miami Marlins; while Chase Headley returns to the Valley of the Sun in Peoria, AZ to play for his original team, the San Diego Padres. Hicks, as we know, will help ensure that Jacoby Ellsbury is the most expensive bench player in baseball. Thames, I am sure, is salivating at the opportunity to work with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and others. Good times…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go Yankees!

Roll Call for Tampa…

The Smell of Spring…

Spring Training is just around the corner, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Tampa within the next ten days (no later than Tuesday, February 13th). First workout will be on Valentine’s Day.  Yes, we love those pitchers and catchers, especially when they wear Pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

Here is the complete list of the Yankees’ 40-man roster plus non-roster invitees (identified below as “NR” in lieu of numbers). The numbers are according to the Yankees website through MLB.com. It appears that Austin Romine has taken Joe Girardi’s old number, thanks to his loss of #27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have been given high numbers which means nothing will be handed to them, although, as it stands right now, both are projected to be on the MLB Roster on Opening Day or shortly thereafter.

PITCHERS

87 Albert Abreu

88 Domingo Acevedo

NR Chance Adams

68 Dellin Betances

NR Cody Carroll

NR Cale Coshow

85 Luis Cessa

54 Aroldis Chapman

NR Raynel Espinal

NR J.P. Feyereisen

62 Giovanny Gallegos

63 Domingo German

55 Sonny Gray

57 Chad Green

NR David Hale

61 Ben Heller

65 Jonathan Holder

48 Tommy Kahnle

NR Brady Lail

NR Wade LeBlanc

89 Jonathan Loaisiga

47 Jordan Montgomery

30 David Robertson

52 CC Sabathia

40 Luis Severino

NR Justus Sheffield

45 Chasen Shreve

19 Masahiro Tanaka

NR Dillon Tate

43 Adam Warren

NR Taylor Widener

CATCHERS

NR Francisco Diaz

38 Kyle Higashioka

NR Erik Kratz

NR Chace Numata

28 Austin Romine

NR Jorge Saez

24 Gary Sanchez

INFIELDERS

67 Miguel Andujar

26 Tyler Austin

33 Greg Bird

NR Danny Espinosa

90 Thairo Estrada

18 Didi Gregorius

NR Kyle Holder

NR Jace Peterson

NR Nick Solak

81 Gleyber Torres

74 Ronald Torreyes

39 Tyler Wade

OUTFIELDERS

66 Jabari Blash

70 Jake Cave

22 Jacob Ellsbury

NR Estevan Florial

77 Clint Frazier

11 Brett Gardner

31 Aaron Hicks

99 Aaron Judge

71 Billy McKinney

27 Giancarlo Stanton

There is still time for these 60 names to change and there probably will be some tweaks before camp actually opens. At any rate, it will be very exciting to see many of these players on the field in the not-so-distant future. Position players must report by Sunday, February 18th, with the first full workout scheduled for the next day. The Yankees open their Spring Schedule in 20 days against the Detroit Tigers at Steinbrenner Field (1:05 pm EST, February 23rd).

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Kim Klement)

It was sad to read this weekend that Matt Holliday, who would still like to play, has received no offers. Hopefully somebody gives him the opportunity for his Swan Song. He was a tremendous force on the Yankees last year until he was derailed by the Epstein-Barr virus. Unfortunately, I see no room for him on the Yankees but he’d be a tremendous player/coach/mentor for a team wiling to give him the opportunity.

Photo Credit: New York Post

I won’t lie…there is a part of me that hopes the Yankees find a way to sign Yu Darvish. Bryan Van Dusen (@BryanV_TGP) posted the following question on Twitter this morning:  “Does Yu Darvish want to be a Yankee so bad that he’s willing to wait as long as possible, just in case they free up enough money? Or is this a ridiculous question by a desperate #Yankees fan?”  Logic tells me that it will never happen. Even if the Yankees freed up more salary space, there’s probably other areas of greater need than handing a multi-year contract averaging more than $20 million annually to a thirty-something pitcher. Plus, there are young, talented (and cheap) pitchers on the immediate horizon with Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. But still, it’s nice to think about what Darvish would look like in the Yankees rotation. I have no problem with the Yankees getting greedy…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tim Bradbury)

This weekend represents the official end to the NFL season with Super Bowl 52 on Sunday. Nothing against Tom Brady and his eventual path to the NFL Hall of Fame, but I’ll have to go with the underdog Philadelphia Eagles. I have no desire to back any team from Boston. It probably helps that I am not a New York Giants fan so I am not opposed to backing the Eagles. There’s probably a lot of truth in the statement that only Patriots and Giants fans want to see New England win (although I am sure there are a few Cowboys and Redskins fans in that category too). So, on Sunday, I’ll be cheering for Tommy Kahnle…

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Go Yankees!

The Law of Diminishing Return…

 

Dollars to donuts…

Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled ’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest.

I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014.  But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line?  Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.

That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price.  I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent.  The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way.  There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.

This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:

“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”

I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living.  A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%.  Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else.  Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax.  I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.

As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month.  I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today.  I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda.  As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up.  But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA.  I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California.  Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt.  I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.

The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better.  They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch.  Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options.  Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution.  Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.

I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx.  It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources.  I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold.  I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan.  Time will tell if his stance is justified.  Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game.  Then again, maybe not…

–Scott