|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|
Just think, final month without Baseball…
Outside of the big December splash which brought the second iteration of “Mike” Stanton to Pinstripes and a plethora of reliever signings in MLB, it is has been an extremely quiet off-season. Sadly, it does not give us much to write about except for speculation and thoughts of wild-ass trade propositions.
Soon, Baseball Training Camps will be buzzing with activity. In many cases, players are already on-site in Florida and Arizona, ready for the arrival of pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Gone are the days when players ate pizza and drank beer all winter long (now reserved for us, the fans), arriving at training camp to get in shape. We’re ready (for baseball, in addition to beer and pizza) and I am sure the Yankees players are too (the baseball part). But is GM Brian Cashman ready? That’s the million dollar question.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
I keep saying that I find it hard to believe the Yankees will go into camp with rookies at both second and third bases. Then again, we rip another daily page off the calendar and there have been no changes to the current 40-man roster. I want a solid Plan B in place for third base. I feel that we are covered at second. The odds-on favorite is obviously Gleyber Torres (GLAY-burr, for those of you scoring at home) even if he has to spend the first couple of weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to delay MLB service time. Backup support is in the form of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, with improved play expected of the former. The wild card is non-roster invitee Jace Ryan Peterson. Someone from that group, most likely Torres, is going to step up and provide a major contribution at second base. Third base is my concern. I like Miguel Andujar. His bat appears to be Major League ready even if his defensive skills haven’t quite caught up. I am not opposed to starting Andujar at third, but what’s Plan B? What if Andujar is not ready for the challenge? Trades are rarely made in April or May with limited seller motivation. I wouldn’t want to see Torreyes as the long-term alternative (he is better served in the utility role). Torres could probably be looked at as a fallback plan but I prefer the converted shortstop at second over third. The perfect scenario for me is the return of Todd Frazier. But short of that, I want a decent veteran for backup support or someone who could platoon with Andujar, assuming the Yankees do not bring back a starting option like Frazier.
At this point, I’ve given up the idea of adding another top starter for the rotation. Yu Darvish would look outstanding in Pinstripes. But at $20 million plus per year, he’s simply not affordable in Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. Even if the Yankees made room, I am not sure that $20+ million annually is the route to go for a thirty-something pitcher on an extended multi-year contract. The Free Agent Class after the upcoming season is the most fruitful in years and the Yankees are expected to be players. But before jumping in the free agent pool in a big way, the Yankees need take care of their own. The one player that they should re-sign to a contract extension next off-season is Didi Gregorius. If he delivers a season comparable to last year, he’ll have the right to make very high demands during contract negotiations. Hopefully, the Yankees do not wait until Didi becomes a free agent after the 2019 season to try and lock him up.
It is a certainty that Hal Steinbrenner will not go hog wild with payroll next year even if he is successful in resetting the luxury tax penalties in 2018.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I would trade Brett Gardner. Look, I love the player and what he has meant to the Pinstripes. Unless Brian Cashman proves that he is indeed the Miracle Worker (i.e., trade of Jacoby Ellsbury), the most marketable redundant player is Gardy. I get it, you can’t replace his intangibles in the clubhouse but others have to step up. Moving Gardy’s contract would give the Yankees budget room to bring back Todd Frazier and possibly a lesser starting pitcher to add to the training camp mix. They’d still have plenty of room for July acquisitions without fear of breaking the $197 million luxury tax threshold. You’d have Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury to cover center, and Clint Frazier for left field on the days that either Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton are at DH. I’d prefer Gardy over Ellsbury, but face it, Ellsbury is not going anywhere. That’s a very solid outfield without Gardner’s presence. The Yankees are not going to re-sign Gardner next off-season when he becomes a free agent. There is too much outfield depth and talent in the Yankees farm system to devote eight figures to a guy in his mid-thirties. So knowing that this is most likely his last year in the Bronx, I’d make a move now to free up some dollars to help the positions of need.
I’ll be preaching for the return of Todd Frazier until he signs somewhere. Pinstripes, Please!
‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ as the great Yogi Berra would say…
The ‘Alex Rodriguez will replace Aaron Boone as Yankees manager’ jokes were running rampant yesterday when it was announced that A-Rod has signed on as part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team replacing Boone. A-Rod obviously has a history of replacing Boone considering that he took Boone’s place in 2004 when Boonie injured his knee during a pickup basketball game and was subsequently released. My thought was that Boone should never leave his Playmate wife. Otherwise, A-Rod, after he moves on from J-Lo (c’mon, you know it’s inevitable), might be there to replace Boone once again. Seriously, I think A-Rod is a good addition to the ESPN team. Matt Vasgersian will replace Dan Shulman as the play-by-play announcer, joining A-Rod, in for Boone, Buster Olney and holdover Jessica Mendoza. A-Rod will continue working for FOX Sports during the post-season and World Series as well under the unique talent-sharing arrangement. Give A-Rod credit for rebuilding his image. Time will tell if it helps his case for induction into the Hall of Fame, but all things considered, it can’t hurt.
With the majority of the top free agents still available as we bear down on the end of January, the biggest off-season winners for their decisions have to be Giancarlo Stanton, for using his no-trade clause to navigate a trade to the Bronx, and Masahiro Tanaka, for his decision not to opt-out. I’d also have to say that the Justin Upton’s choice to sign a five-year deal for $106 million with the Los Angeles Angels (including a full no-trade clause) to waive his opt-out was not far behind. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that the best free agent contract signed so far has been the three-year, $60 million deal that Carlos Santana took from the Philadelphia Phillies to be their new starting first baseman. When players like Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez eventually sign, I am sure that they’ll break the $100 million barrier but I don’t recall a time when the majority of the top ten free agents were unsigned at this point in the off-season.
With suppressed prices, I hope this does not lead to the Yankees signing third base types like Yunel Escobar, Cliff Pennington, or Darwin Barney. I may want veteran help at third but I guess my sights remain aimed a little higher. Todd Frazier, come home.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Seth Wenig)|
The Cole Hard Truth…
I wish the Yankees would put the Gerrit Cole rumors to rest. Yesterday, it was reported that the Houston Astros had interest in Cole as a possible acquisition target. Fine, let the ‘Stros pay the high price for the talented but inconsistent starter. But no, the New York Daily News had to run a story that ‘Gerrit Cole to Yankees seems inevitable’ despite the interest from Houston.
For me, the ship has sailed. I was once enamored with the idea of adding Cole, but as time has passed, I see greater value with Jordan Montgomery in the starting rotation and guys like Clint Frazier and Chance Adams part of the organization. I would still like to see the Yankees create an opening for Frazier through the trade of either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury (somebody take Ellsbury, please!) but Red Thunder can play a huge role on the 2018 Yankees if given the opportunity.
The Yankees have the money to add a proven third baseman and move forward to training camp with a solid starting five of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery. Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Albert Abreu headline the list of talented pitching prospects that can be plugged in if necessary at some point during the season but there are other arms in the organization that can help. Chad Green was told to report to training camp as a starter. He’s certainly an option (although my preference is to keep him in the ‘pen), and Adam Warren is always on standby. Let’s keep any bullets for a trade to use in July when the team assesses its needs for the duration of the season without having to further deplete the great farm system that Cashman and Company have built.
Speaking of a proven third baseman…
I know that Todd Frazier just wants to play baseball and would like to know where he is going to spend the upcoming season. But his words to the New York Post yesterday read like a veiled plea to the Yankees. According to the Post article written by Kevin Kernan, Frazier said “It’s going to be a new, revitalized me. I want to prove that I’m worth it. I want to be prepared and be the leader I can be on the field. I know whatever team I do fit with, they’re going to get the best Todd Frazier they are ever going to have because I want to play better. I want to get my average up. I have a lot of goals set for myself. Whenever we figure out what team we are going to go with, it’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m going to get these guys going as much as I am going to get myself going.”
It’s that last sentence “…I’m going to get these guys going…” that strikes a chord with Frazier’s leadership qualities and the strong influence he plays in the clubhouse.
In the Post article, Frazier goes on to say “We’ve had contact with the Yankees, my agent, Brodie (Van Wagenen) has done a great job. I love playing for the Yankees. It was such a fun time for me. We just came up short. We had a really good squad, and they are going to be really good again.” Reading between the lines, he is clearly saying that he can help the Yankees get to the next level. Of course, the article also implies that Frazier would gladly join the New York Mets for the right opportunity, but clearly Frazier recognizes that this is a great time to be a New York Yankee.
“I would love a multi-year deal, but I am not closing the door on anything. I’m prepared for anything.” Brian Cashman, that’s a message for you.
Can Van Wagenen and Cashman find common ground to bring the Toddfather back to the Bronx? I can’t speak for others, but I would love to see it. There are no guarantees that Manny Machado will be wearing pinstripes in 2019. Josh Donaldson is on the wrong side of his prime. Granted, Frazier is only a year younger than Donaldson, but Frazier has shown that he can excel as a Yankee. I would really like to see what Todd could do with an entire season at Yankee Stadium. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back.
Goodbye, Home Run Derby…
I’ve never been a Trenton Thunder game so I’ve never had the good fortune watch Derby, a 9-year-old Golden Retriever, in action retrieving baseball bats. Yesterday, the Yankees Family was greatly saddened to learn the news that Derby had died over the weekend from cancer.
The Trenton Thunder will celebrate Derby Day on Friday, January 26th, which would have been Derby’s tenth birthday. They’ll share a special tribute video and are encouraging fans to participate through social media.
Derby was the son of the late Thunder Bat Dog, Chase That Golden Thunder, who passed away from cancer in 2013. Derby’s son, Rookie, began full-time bat retrieving duties for the Thunder in 2016. So, the spirit of Derby and his father Chase will live on through Rookie at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ.
Farewell, Derby. Thanks for a job well done! You’ve left a piece of yourself in the heart of the Yankees Universe.
Oakland Athletics with Pinstripes showing…
Former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, now first base coach for the Oakland A’s, will see a number of familiar faces in Arizona next month. Of course, he’ll see the guys involved in the Sonny Gray trade…Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian. But he’ll also see former Yankees first-round pick Slade Heathcott, who signed as a minor league free agent. Heathcott spent last year in the Giants organization. Injuries and an inability to hit with success in the upper levels of the minor leagues have plagued Heathcott, now 27. Hopefully, the clean slate in Oakland works to his advantage.
Go Yankees! Speaking of training camp, I read yesterday that Evan Longoria has already reported to the San Francisco Giants training facility in Scottsdale, AZ. Wow, baseball will be back before we know it. Pitchers and catchers have a little more than a month before they have to report to Tampa. We’ve been treated to the training videos of Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, but I am looking forward to watching these guys in action at Steinbrenner Field. Soon, young Grasshopper…