Tagged: Winter Meetings

Ready, Set, Wait at Winter Meetings…

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Review-Journal (Chase Stevens)

Talk the Talk, but Not Walk the Walk…

All dressed up and nowhere to go. That’s kind of how the Baseball Winter Meetings felt this past week.  Lots of talk, not much action. I know, they say the groundwork laid this week will lead to fruit later. I guess we’ll see. There’s talk they should implement a trading deadline in December to spur action (some sort of moratorium against trades for a certain period of time before spring training). Not so sure I am in agreement, but I would have liked to have seen some high flying wheeling and dealing over the past few days rather than much talk about nothing.

While I wanted a bigger piece for the starting rotation, I am happy the Yankees at least came away with J.A. Happ on a two-year contract despite the third year option. In the two year deal presumably worth an estimated $34 million, Happ can trigger the third year for $17 million by pitching at least 27 starts or 165 innings in the second year. At the beginning of the off-season, I preferred re-signing Happ over CC Sabathia and wanted an upgrade for the fourth spot in the rotation. Yes, the Yankees got better by adding LHP James Paxton but he brings additional questions to an already question-filled staff. I was looking for more certainty.  Maybe Happ can provide that certainty. He’s been consistent and is a much better pitcher today than he was years ago as a Philadelphia Phillie. We all know how well Happ pitched down the stretch for the Yankees (7-0 with 2.69 ERA in eleven starts). Overall for the season, he was 17-6, 3.65 ERA, 3.4 WAR in thirty-one starts). If the Yankees can get that type of production out of Happ in his age 36 year, I am sure all of us will be pleased. Realistically, I am expecting some regression.

After missing out on Patrick Corbin and failing to land a top starter among the rumored trades swirling over the last couple of weeks, I was concerned when I saw that Happ was getting close to signing with the Phillies. I didn’t want to be stuck with a guy like Lance Lynn for the open rotation spot. So, when it came out Happ was going to re-sign with the Yankees, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.

I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman continues to press for a top, front of the rotation  type of starter but at least he is no longer in a position of desperation to fill out the staff.

I was excited when the rumors circulated about a possible three-way trade with the Mets and Marlins that would have brought Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees. But honestly, I don’t see the Mets trading any of their stars to their cross-town rivals regardless of the return. Maybe it’s a new world order with new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen but last time I checked the Wilpons still own the team. The latest rumors about that potential three-way trade involve the San Diego Padres as the third team instead of the Yankees. Maybe Cashman should cut a side deal with the Padres for Syndergaard if they pull off the trade that would send Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Mets. That’s the only way I could see Thor pulling on the Pinstripes. They won’t get him directly from the Mets.

I really thought we’d see more free agent signing this past week. I guess Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are holding up the market. After the run on relief pitchers last year, the market for firemen has been lukewarm this year. My biggest fear is David Robertson signing with the Red Sox to pitch close to his Rhode Island home. The Sox have lost “Tyler Austin punching bag” Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel is not expected to return. Unfortunately, it increases the odds the Red Sox sign a former Yankee (Robertson, Zach Britton or Andrew Miller) for their pen. I hope not.

I think my favorites to sign are Robertson and Adam Ottavino although I would not be disappointed with D-Rob and Miller or Britton or some combination thereof.

We could see movement with Manny Machado before Christmas. He apparently has visits with up to six teams next week, including the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies.  The White Sox acquired Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians last night but I don’t think Manny would make a huge financial decision based on where his bro-in-law plays. I’ve been surprised about the number of Yankee fans who want no part of either Machado or Bryce Harper. It’s so rare to get young twenty-something superstars for only money. Yes, it’s a helluva lot of money, no doubt, but the best years are ahead for both players and they’ve already been great. Great but getting better is a combination I like. These are guys who will still be producing at the end of 8-10 year contracts.

It feels so underwhelming when we hear names like Freddy Galvis as potential infield options to bridge the gap to the return of Didi Gregorius late next summer. I certainly want no part of the risk associated with free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who was recently let go by the Toronto Blue Jays with $38 million left on his contract. I know Tulo would come cheap for the team that picks him up but the guy can’t stay healthy. That’s not a bet I would want to make for a team with World Series aspirations. I think the San Jose, CA area native should go back to the Bay Area in an attempt to rekindle his career with either the San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s.

The Yankees family has taken a hit over the last couple of days. Yesterday, we received word that George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, had passed away in her Tampa, FL home, surrounded by her family. Joan, 83, was Vice Chairperson of the Yankees, along with her two daughters. In a statement released by the Steinbrenner family, “Joan was a compassionate and caring matriarch who profound love for her family and those in the community always inspired us. Her elegance and grace touched everyone around her, and we know her spirit will live on through her legacy of good works. We are grateful to have had her in our lives, and she will be deeply missed.”  May Mrs Boss rest in peace…

Photo Credit: AP (Charlie Neibergall)

I was also surprised and saddened to hear that Catfish Hunter’s daughter, Kim Hunter Daugherty, only 45, had passed away on Thursday at Hertford Grammar School in North Carolina where she was a teacher. She died of complications related to a pulmonary embolism. Her father died in 1999 at the age of 53 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Very sad to see their lives cut so short.

I was hopeful the end of this week would have seen some resolution for the Yankees bullpen but it was not to be. Hopefully we’ll have some answers before Santa Claus invades our homes in ten days. I am still looking for that magical gift  or gifts to make the Yankees better. Yes, they’re good now, but there’s so much potential for this team if it can continue to make the right decisions for additional pieces to fill out the roster. I will be happy when I can look at the roster and find the names of Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole nowhere to be found.

As always, Go Yankees…

Mr Corbin Goes to Washington…

JJ26NRBYLEI6RLZ4EERXCX3Y34
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Matt York)

Yankees Search for Another Starter Continues…

I was probably leading the parade for Patrick Corbin and there’s no doubt I was disappointed when the Washington Nationals signed him earlier this week. After days and weeks of anticipation, it is a letdown when a player you thought you could get goes with another team but I am not going to rip Corbin. He had to make the best decision for his family. So many people posted that the Yankees whiffed out on Corbin or that he snubbed the team. Neither of these are true.

God Bless the Washington Nationals for giving Corbin $140 million over six years. Pay him like he is an elite pitcher even though he isn’t.  His family is set for the rest of their lives.  It’s been reported the Yankees were willing to go 5 years and $100 million, maybe slightly more if they had felt the player was seriously considering them, but no formal offer was ever made. Not quite sure how that means the Yankees “whiffed” or that by accepting $40 million more dollars, Corbin “snubbed” the team. No offense to the Yankees but if another team offered to pay me $1 million to be their fan, I’m gone. $1 million times 40? Where do I sign? I’ll drive to you.

The Corbin ordeal shows that we, as fans, placed greater value on Corbin than the Yankees, and their analytics department, did. I am not sure it was the “shiny new toy” that has been described. I liked the idea of inserting Corbin and James Paxton into the starting rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Quality lefty who induces groundballs would have been a nice fit in Yankee Stadium. But I also know Red Sox fans were excited about potentially feasting on Corbin if he came to the AL East so there are differing opinions for how he would have fared in the competitive AL East. So, Corbin goes to Washington, I lose out on the guy I wanted most, and life moves on.

I like J.A. Happ and I thought he did a very fine job for the Yankees down the stretch, but I am not in favor of giving him a three-year deal at age 36. If he can get three years from the Philadelphia Phillies, one of his former teams, good for him. Let him go hang out at the Liberty Bell.  For a promising young team like the Yankees, adding another aging veteran with no real upside at this point does not appeal to me. We have CC Sabathia so I’d prefer to keep only one rotation spot for an age-challenged pitcher. I am not trying to discriminate against the elderly, but the fact is Happ has already been the best he is ever going to be. At this point, he’ll only get worse with age. He brings consistency but there’s a greater chance he begins the downward slide that comes with age. Maybe he is the thin version of Bartolo Colon and can keep going like the Energizer Bunny. But for me, there are still too many other (and better options) available.

happ3
Photo Credit: New York Post (Paul J Bereswill)

Another pitcher the Yankees apparently “whiffed” on was former Yank Nathan Eovaldi who signed a four-year deal for $68 million with the Boston Red Sox. How do you whiff if you never take a swing? By all accounts, there was no way the Yankees were going to offer Eovaldi four years. I am glad they did not. I like Nasty Nate and, overall, I enjoyed his time with the Yankees. But for a guy who has had two Tommy John surgeries and throws with maximum velocity, the risk is too great for the arm to blow out again. Maybe he stays healthy for Boston over the next four years. Fine, I hope he plays out best case scenario for them. Not that I want Boston to win more championships, but I am not going to wish any ill will toward Eovaldi. Nevertheless, I am glad the risk is on the Red Sox and not the Yankees. It’s like Jacoby Ellsbury in reverse. Let the injury risk reside in Boston this time around.

At the moment, the best free agent options appear to Happ, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. If the Yankees are unsuccessful in trading for another starting pitcher, I suppose that’s the order I would rank them for my preference. Now that the Cleveland Indians have locked up Carlos Carrasco on an extension, the talk they will trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer is escalating again. There’s no doubt either Kluber or Bauer would be better options than Happ, Morton or Keuchel. Kluber would give the Yankees a top of the rotation ace but he’s a little older (will be 33 in early April). Bauer will be 28 next month and really took his game to the next level last season before a comebacker fractured his leg.  For Bauer, there’s no doubt his best years are ahead. There’s also something about the mental toughness of Bauer that I like which would probably make him my preference even though Kluber is the more accomplished pitcher of the two at this moment in time. But regardless, if the Yankees can get either Kluber or Bauer, they WILL be a better team. I really hope GM Brian Cashman can put together a package with Cleveland to grab one of their aces. No prospect hugging for me.  If it takes Estevan Florial, among other highly rated prospects, to make this happen, do it. I’d move quickly to extend Aaron Hicks as a result but there are options. Hey, we have Jacoby Ellsbury coming back for center field, right? Yikes! Throw that one away, but seriously, how fantastic would a rotation of Severino, Kluber/Bauer, Paxton, Tanaka, and Sabathia look? World Series-quality to me.

kluber-and-bauer
Photo Credit: Getty Images

I suspect Brian Cashman has been working hard behind the scenes and we’ll soon see the fruits of his labor. So many people have ripped the Yankees for their off-season work so far despite the acquisition of one of the American League’s best lefties but we really need to see how this month plays out. By Christmas, we should have a solid handle on what the 2019 Yankees will look like. Another starter, a couple of late inning bullpen options to help Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, and a solution to cover the months we’ll be missing Didi Gregorius as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. All of these questions should be answered over the course of the next couple of weeks.  Dammit Hal, GET GREEDY!  Now is the time to strike!

I was saddened to wake up to the news that former Major Leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed overnight in a car accident in Venezuela. It was just a couple of years ago I thought Valbuena would have been a great third base option for the Yankees (back during the frustrating Chase Headley days). Valbuena was released by the Los Angeles Angels in August, but at 33, he still had time to find his way back. I am sorry for the loss of both men and the devastating effect it will have on their families. May they rest in peace.

I think the Minnesota Twins have figured out if you can’t beat them, join them. By joining “them”, I mean adding former Yankee players to their team in the on-going attempt to find a way to finally beat the Yankees. Yesterday, when news broke the Twins had signed a one-year deal with former Baltimore/Milwaukee second baseman Jonathan Schoop, it was almost immediately announced they had also signed former Yankee utilityman Ronald Torreyes. Aaron Judge’s little buddy was recently non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs shortly after his acquisition from the Yankees. Toe should have opportunities for playing time in Minnesota. Good for him.  He’ll join a variety of former Yankees…Michael Pineda, Tyler Austin and Jake Cave. Former Yankee prospect Zack Littell, acquired last year in the deal that brought Jaime Garcia to New York, is also on Minnesota’s 40-man roster.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders!  The Yankees’ top affiliate, in conjunction of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, announced last night that they will host the 2020 Triple-A All Star Game at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. The game will be played on July 15, 2020.

cut (1)

Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins announced their coaching staff for 2019 under manager, and former Yankee great, Don Mattingly.  There are clearly a few very strong Yankee connections on the staff.  Mike Pagliarulo returns as the team’s hitting coach and he’ll be assisted by Jeff Livesey, son of former Yankee executive and scout Bill Livesey. Trey Hillman, a former minor league manager in the Yankees farm system and a member of Joe Torre’s staff in 2004, was named the First Base/Infield Coach. The pitching coach will be Mel Stottlemyre, Jr., son of the former Yankee pitcher and later pitching coach under Joe Torre.

It’s hard to believe the Winter Meetings are almost upon us. Everybody has been waiting for the action to start.  We’ve certainly seen it this week with the Corbin and Eovaldi signings, along with a couple others, and the trade of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St Louis Cardinals but the party is just getting started. It looks like we are in for one helluva ride in the coming days. Who wants to be a Yankee?  Let’s do this.

As always, Go Yankees!

Eight Days to Las Vegas…

Baseball Winter Meetings are around the corner…

Happy December!

Soon, the insanity and rush to acquire and trade players will be upon us. The MLB Baseball Winter Meetings begin next Sunday, December 9th, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada (which of course happens to be Bryce Harper’s hometown). No doubt Vegas will be rocking when the hometown kid hoists a new uniform for the media. The meetings conclude on the morning of Thursday, December 13th, with the Rule 5 Draft.

Patrick Corbin is expected to make a decision before the Winter Meetings so hopefully something breaks in the next few days. He remains my top target. Until the Cleveland Indians actually trade one of their starters, I will be skeptical. I’d gladly take Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco and call the rotation complete.  Same with San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner. But I really like Corbin and at 30, he is one of baseball’s better pitchers and he has upside. J.A. Happ did a fine job for the Yankees last year but he’s been the best he is ever going to be. At 36, it’s only downhill from here. Realistically, I was never fearful of Happ on the mound when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform. I am sure AL East opponents feel the same way. Despite winning 20 games a couple of seasons ago, Happ has never been considered an elite pitcher and certainly never will be at this stage of his career. Corbin, on the other hand, can be (in my opinion).

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Christian Petersen)

More free agents became available yesterday with the non-tender deadline. Yankee fans seemed surprised to see the Chicago Cubs non-tender Ronald Torreyes. When I saw the Cubs decision to tender a contract to beleaguered shortstop Addison Russell, I figured the odds were against Toe. It was clear the Cubs had picked him up as infield insurance. There’s no reason to believe the Cubs won’t try to re-sign Toe for less money which is what I expect them to do. For the reasons the Yankees traded Toe (younger, cheaper options with better tools available), I don’t think they should make a play to bring Toe back regardless of his clubhouse popularity.

Jonathan Schoop is an interesting option. He was (expectedly) non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday with GM David Stearns acknowledging it had been a “bad deal” to acquire Schoop. Schoop’s 2018 season, which started with the Baltimore Orioles and ended with the playoff-contending Brewers after a deadline trade, was soundly a disappointment and he couldn’t find regular playing time by the time October rolled around. Yet, he is only a season removed from his breakout  year in 2017 when he hit 32 homers and drove in 105 runs for the O’s with a batting line of .293/.338/.503 and .841 OPS. Maybe 2017 was a fluke, but the Curacao-native (like Didi Gregorius) is only 27. I’d take a chance on him.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another interesting name is Wilmer Flores, non-tendered by the New York Mets. He may not have Schoop’s offensive potential but he can move around the infield, playing both corner positions and shortstop. I saw someone post yesterday that it would be funny if the Yankees signed Flores and he outperformed the Mets’ soon-to-be starting second baseman Robinson Cano. I would have no objection to Bill Flowers joining the Yankees. The role of infield help is only an interim plan until the Yankees can get Didi Gregorius back on the ground in late summer so it’s not like we are trying to find a shortstop or second baseman that will be cemented to the spot for the foreseeable future. The Yankees have plenty of offense so I am sure they’ll be fine whatever they decide to do. Ideally, I’d like to keep Gleyber Torres at second base to continue his growth and development at the position, rather than temporarily shift him back to short. I’d be happy re-signing Adeiny Hechavarria to play short until Didi’s return so long as the Yankees fill out the bench with the right players. The elephant in the room is, of course, Manny Machado, but until he signs, the Yankees need to keep all options open. There is still a very good chance Manny goes to Philadelphia since they have an abundance of “stupid money” available.

Another name that jumped out at me for utility-type, infield diversity is Arizona’s decision to non-tender infielder Chris Owings. Oakland non-tendered Giancarlo Stanton antagonist Mike Fiers which I thought was funny. I sure don’t want the Yankees to sign Fiers but I don’t mind seeing him join the ranks of the unemployed.

George A King III had a column in The New York Post this morning saying the Yankees could see David Robertson and Zach Britton go to the Boston Red Sox. I really hope it does not happen. Of the two, it would probably be hardest to see D-Rob put on that ugly “B” cap but it wouldn’t be fun to see Britton in the uniform either. I wish the Yankees would hurry up and re-sign D-Rob to remove one of the current holes in the bullpen. As for Britton, I expect him to get closer’s money so my preference would be for him to end up with a non-AL East team. The St Louis Cardinals sound like a great destination to me.

As much as my head keeps telling me Manny Machado is the best fit for the Yankees, my heart keeps telling me that Bryce Harper would be a great, great Yankee. Giancarlo Stanton was not exactly a need for the Yankees when they acquired him last year, yet he fit seamlessly into the team lineup as the primary DH and occasional left-fielder. With more experience in left, I think Stanton will field the position better in 2019. Still, I’d have no problem keeping Stanton as the full-time DH and putting Harper in left along with the occasional experiment at first base. I know the Yankees have Brett Gardner but if we’re expecting him to be part of the starting outfield next year, we’re not as smart as we should be. Drop Harper into the lineup with his left-handed bat and I couldn’t really care less about the interim offensive solution at shortstop/second baseman, so long as the player brings solid defense, until Didi returns. Bryce was made for Pinstripes and it would be a shame for the Yankees to miss this tremendous opportunity to acquire a superstar just entering his prime.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Tringali)

I was glad to see the Yankees tender contracts to all of their arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players. There had been some speculation the Yankees would non-tender Gregorius since 2019 is primarily a lost year and he’ll be a free agent after the season, but I am glad they did not. I remain hopeful they’ll come to an agreement to cover the next couple of seasons to place Didi in position for a more lucrative contract after he has proven his successful return from Tommy John surgery. I am not ready to see Didi leave today or a year from today.

I like Nathan Eovaldi but let the Red Sox or Houston Astros sign him. I am not interested in a return to the Bronx. As a two-time Tommy John recipient who throws extremely hard, I think the risk is too great. Great guy and I wish him the best.

Listening to CC Sabathia’s podcast this week, I was a little surprised that he views Jonathan Loaisiga as a potential top of the rotation talent. I know the young smallish right-hander is rated as the Yankees’ highest pitching prospect by MLB.com and second overall prospect behind Estevan Florial but I guess I hadn’t thought of him that highly. Maybe I should rethink my position. I know I am more intrigued with Loaisiga than Domingo German and there’s no doubt he’ll be called upon to help the Yankees rotation at some point next season. There’s no way the Yankees’ top five stays healthy to make every start. Loaisiga also represents an option if the Yankees occasionally decide to go with a six-man rotation. I kind of like the idea of signing both Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ with provide starting depth, but Loaisiga represents good insurance if the Yankees are successful in adding only one more starter.

The next couple of weeks should be very eventful. This is the pinnacle of the Hot Stove League. Once we get through the next fourteen days, it should be fairly quiet until pitchers and catchers report in mid-February or one would think so anyway. Brace yourself. It should a helluva ride for the next two weeks.

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s the Turkey Day Rebound…

Thanksgiving is over, Winter Meetings ahead…

Thanksgiving is behind us and soon the holiday weekend will be finished. It will be time for baseball activity to begin re-percolating in advance of next month’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This year’s meetings figure to be very explosive compared to prior years with two superstar-level free agents in their mid-20’s, prized by so many teams, as opposed to the usual thirty-something players that are available on the free agent market. Many teams feel they are just a player or two away, while others are looking to the next decade for success which creates the potential for a very active market.

Look, I want either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado like most other Yankee fans. Hey, signing both premier players would be great but realistically that would never happen. I probably want Bryce more simply because of his left-handed bat and I know he has a love and passion for the Pinstripes. The dude knows the Hall of Fame is eventually within his grasp and there is nothing better than blazing your way into Cooperstown wearing Pinstripes. It is a perfect fit for his legacy. The Yankees need a dynamic lefty bat in their lineup and Harper, in a classic case of stating the obvious, would excel in the heart of the order.

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Position-wise, to me, Machado is the better fit. He can play shortstop for the months we are without Didi Gregorius, allowing Gleyber Torres to stay at second and continue to perfect the nuances of the position. Then, when Didi returns, Machado can slide to third, which would either push Miguel Andujar to left to compete with Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier or to first base to disrupt the duo of Greg Bird and Luke Voit. Didi is a free agent after next season so Machado would be a hedge in the event Didi leaves. I really hope the Yankees find a way to lock up Sir Didi but until he signs the dotted line, there’s a risk he is not part of the long-term future.

Speaking of chances, it is possible the Yankees do not sign either player. I don’t really expect the Yankees to overpay and realistically only see Harper or Machado signing with the Yankees if it fits Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. I think the Yankees will exceed the luxury tax threshold if necessary but I don’t think they’ll go hog wild. Hal will authorize a huge sum but there’s no doubt it would have to be on his terms.

Recently, TGP’s own Bryan Van Dusen suggested the Yankees trade for Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez. I thought it was a brilliant idea then and still do.  If the Phillies sign Machado, GM Brian Cashman should immediately get on the phone to Phillies GM Matt Klentak to discuss what it would take to get Hernandez. Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds is another strong option. His name has been mentioned in a possible trade involving Sonny Gray. It would take much more than Gray to snare Gennett, but he’d bring a lethal left-handed bat to the lineup. Probably the thing that scares me the most about bringing in an All-Star level second baseman is the potential to permanently move Gleyber Torres back to his natural position at short, thereby increasing the likelihood the Yankees part ways with Didi Gregorius. I love having Didi on this team and I’d prefer to see a plan that opens short for #18 when he is healthy and ready to return.

Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP

I am not excited about options for bringing in Neil Walker or Daniel Murphy in to play second while Torres temporarily slides to short. For a team that had its defensive challenges in 2018, Walker or Murphy would not help. If the Yankees sign Bryce Harper to play left (I don’t really like the talk about the move to first base because you don’t pay a guy $300 to $400 million under the assumption he can make such a significant position change), I think it allows the Yankees to go with a glove-first option at short. Re-sign Adeiny Hechavarria or sign Detroit’s free agent shortstop Julio Iglesias. Under that scenario, Miguel Andujar could stay at third but the Yankees would need a good backup defensive-minded third baseman. I expect Andujar to get better defensively-speaking but let’s face it, he’ll never be Brooks Robinson…or Graig Nettles…with a glove.

Patrick Corbin continues to be my favorite for the open spot in the starting rotation.   I will be disappointed if the Yankees do not get him. I am fearful the longer this goes on, the less likely the Yankees re-sign J.A. Happ. I’d hate to lose out on the top available starters AND Happ. I don’t really expect Happ to wait to see what the Yankees do. He has too many suitors. Someone will offer him the right deal and he’ll take it. You can’t blame him for doing what’s right for his family. Of trade acquisitions, I’ve long admired Madison Bumgarner but I feel Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco is a much safer option. I’d love Corey Kluber but I don’t think the Indians will trade him or if they do, they’ll want a huge return. Maybe the same applies to Carrasco. He certainly has the talent even if he doesn’t quite have the same name value as Kluber yet. Count me among those who want no part of Arizona’s Zach Greinke. I don’t want his contract and I don’t want the potential for a Bronx meltdown like Sonny Gray. I’d rather see the Yankees only give up money for the last spot in the rotation and keep their prospects in-house. So, where can I buy my Patrick Corbin Yankees jersey?

I’ve wondered if the Yankees should go after Japan’s Yusei Kikuchi. I don’t know a great deal about the Japanese pitcher but he is expected to be posted in early December. The downside is that Kikuchi will be represented by agent Scott Boras.  Kikuchi was 14-4, with 3.08 ERA, for the Seibu Lions this past season. The 27-year-old lefty struck out 153 batters in 163 2/3 innings, and has a career 2.77 ERA in Nippon Professional Baseball. The posting period opens December 5th and teams will have 30 days to sign Kikuchi. I’d probably prefer MLB-proven alternatives for a team that is on the cusp of a World Series championship but Kikuchi certainly beats rolling out a series of minor leaguers like last year.

Jordan Montgomery should be back by late summer but honestly I do not feel that we’ll see a meaningful contribution from him this year. I think it will be 2020 before he rounds back into form, making him the man most likely to replace CC Sabathia in the starting rotation unless age regression or injuries force an earlier decision.

I feel bad for Robinson Cano. There’s no way I’d want any part of his contract so I am not preaching for his return to Pinstripes. But he’s 36 and running out of opportunities for another World Championship. Training camp hasn’t even started yet his current team, the Seattle Mariners, have already thrown in the white towel. I am sure it is tough for him to listen to his former teammate, James Paxton, talk about how excited he is to join a team that expects to win every year. Cano knows first-hand what that feels like, even if it is a distant memory. I still like Cano and I am sorry that he has to take part in a rebuild at this stage of his career. I guess he has millions of reasons for why he won’t lose any sleep. I hope it’s enough.

Photo: AP

As always, Go Yankees!

The End of the Winter Meetings…

Lots of Sun in Florida for the Yankees…

The Baseball Winter Meetings are always my favorite time of the off-season and this year did not disappoint.

I just returned from a trip (hence, my silence on the site for the past few days). As I was departing on Saturday morning, I first read some tweets that the Yankees had been talking aggressively overnight with the Miami Marlins. By the time, I reached the airport, Twitter was exploding with tweets that the Yankees had pulled off the trade that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx.

Credit:  Willie J Allen, Jr, Associated Press

I hadn’t really thought about Stanton in pinstripes until recently when Bryan Van Dusen had  raised the possibility on The Greedy Pinstripes website. At first, I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way to fit Giancarlo into Hal Steinbrenner’s budget for 2018. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Still, I thought either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals, with negotiated trades in place with the Marlins, would be successful in their talks with the slugger to get him to waive his no-trade clause. I also kept thinking the Los Angeles Dodgers were waiting in the weeds to make their strike.  Much to my surprise, Stanton’s representatives announced on Friday that the Cardinals were out, followed later that he would not be going to San Francisco. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Yankees had already been making headway in their talks with Miami and Stanton had rejected St Louis and San Francisco because he had knowledge that he would be headed to one of his original four desired destinations.

I had a strong feeling that the Yankees were going to trade Starlin Castro this winter based on some reports that I had heard. Perhaps he would have stayed in Pinstripes if Stanton hadn’t fallen into GM Brian Cashman’s lap. But regardless of his faults, I am sorry to see Castro go. There were a lot of jokes about how the Yankees fleeced the Marlins and got Stanton for nothing, but I disagree. The Marlins landed an All-Star second baseman and an all-around good guy in All-Starlin. The two prospects acquired by the Marlins were lower level but we’ve all heard about the 100 mph arm of Jorge Guzman (one half of the return, along with Albert Abreu, for former Yankees catcher Brian McCann from the Houston Astros last winter).  Guzman has a chance to be a quality Major League arm. The other, infielder Jose Devers, is only 18, and is a cousin of Rafael Devers, the young Boston Red Sox third baseman. Granted, the Yankees didn’t relinquish any of their top prospects but they still paid a good price to take Stanton’s contract. If Stanton doesn’t exercise his opt-out in three years (his agent has already said that he will not), the Marlins will send $30 million to the Yankees to help pay down the contract. There’s no doubt this was a trade the Yankees had to make and any of us would have pulled the trigger on it, but it does carry a sense of loss for those players the Yankees sent to South Beach. So, I am tired of hearing that the Yankees acquired Stanton for nothing.

Credit:  Joseph D Sullivan

From a roster standpoint, I really like that it opened second base for super prospect Gleyber Torres. I’ve felt that second or short would be a much better fit for Torres than the previously projected third base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is not going anywhere anytime soon so second is the next best spot. There’s no doubt that Torres could have been special at third base but I like him better as the team’s second baseman. I doubt we see Torres at the start of the season as the Yankees will delay his service time for a few weeks to gain an extra year of control. This means we’ll have patchwork at second until Torres arrives…most likely some combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade.

It’s probably too early to speculate how the Yankees will use Stanton and Aaron Judge. At first, I thought Judge would probably be moved to left to make room for Stanton in right, but Judge’s defense is too valuable. There’s the speculation that the outfield will be a rotation with the DH spot which makes sense, but I think we’ll have better clarity in the coming days and weeks.  Both Stanton and Judge are too young to be used exclusively at DH. It would be huge if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract along with oodles of the cash it will take.

Tuesday’s trade that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres surprised me. The biggest surprise was San Diego’s willingness to take Headley’s contract. The Yankees paid half the assignment bonus (or $500,000 in this case) but did not have to ship cash to accompany the monies still owed to Headley. I figured that Mitchell’s time was coming to an end. I really like the pitcher but he’s been very inconsistent in his limited opportunities in the Bronx. If he hadn’t been traded, he was probably a candidate to be designated for assignment at some point in the upcoming season to free up room on the 40-man roster. I think Mitchell will thrive in San Diego and will achieve the potential we had projected for him (which is obviously the reason that the Padres were willing to take Headley’s contract). Last night, there were strong reports that the Padres could possibly trade Headley to the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels had acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers earlier in the evening as they attempt to rebuild the talent around Mike Trout and newly signed two-way Japanese star Shohei Otani. Angels GM Billy Eppler was behind the Yankees’ acquisition of Headley from San Diego a few years ago so he’s a Headley fan.

Coming to the Yankees organization from San Diego is outfielder Jabari Blash.  Blash hit .213 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 164 at-bats for the Padres last year.  His numbers at Triple A were much better (.285, 20 HR, 62 RBI in 235 at-bats).  Outfield is a position of redundancy in the Yankees organization so this leads me to believe that some of the congestion will be relieved in a future trade.

 

The Yankees now have openings on both sides of Didi Gregorius. I find it unlikely they’d go with rookies at both second and third, but stranger things have happened. Ideally, it would be great if the Yankees and Todd Frazier could come together on a short time deal. However, the Toddfather has earned a multi-year deal opportunity which probably removes the Yankees from the equation.

The Yankees are expected to make a play for a starting pitcher but I hope that it doesn’t result in the loss of free agent CC Sabathia. There’s room to add a starting pitcher and bring back CC, the team’s leader.  Sabathia’s camp has talked with the Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be difficult to watch Sabathia go to either of those teams. The longer the Yankees put off Sabathia, the greater the chance he goes elsewhere. If one of the Bay Area teams came calling, it would probably be hard for Sabathia to pass up the chance to go home to play for his final season(s).

Regardless of Josh Bard’s qualifications, I was disappointed with his selection as the Yankees new bench coach. Last year, the Yankees had a wealth of experience with Rob Thomson sitting next to Joe Girardi. When Thomson left after not getting the manager’s job, I was hoping that the Yankees would find someone with commensurate experience. The toughest part for new Yankees manager Aaron Boone to master will be in-game action and I was hopeful that he’d have someone who has served time on the battle lines to help his learning curve.  Granted, Boone has managerial experience with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and new third base coach Phil Nevin but Bard will be the chief lieutenant on the bench. I hope that ‘smart’ and ‘confident’ help yield the right in-game decisions. As expected, the Yankees promoted minor league coaches Reggie Willets and Carlos Mendoza.  Willets will take first base (replacing long-time Yankees coach Tony Pena), while Mendoza will serve as infield coach/quality control and will be in uniform during games. Marcus Thames (hitting coach) and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach) are expected to return.

I knew the Rule 5 Draft was going to be difficult in terms of potential losses and it was.  In the first round of the Major League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Anyelo Gomez (Atlanta Braves), LHP Nestor Cortes (Baltimore Orioles) and 1B Mike Ford (Seattle Mariners). In the third round, the Orioles grabbed RHP Jose Mesa, Jr. I don’t think any of the names are a surprise as  all of them had been cited as potential losses. Of course, they have to stick on their new team’s MLB roster for the entire year or they must be offered back to the Yankees. Last year, the Yankees lost C Luis Torrens to the San Diego Padres when he stuck the entire year on their active MLB roster. I am expecting at least one of this year’s draftees to stick. Nestor Cortes is probably the one that I wanted to keep the most as quality left-handers are hard to find. I thought RHP J.P. Feyereisen would be taken but he was not. In the Minor League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Yancarlos Baez (Minnesota Twins) and C Sharif Othman (Miami Marlins). These are permanent losses. The Yankees grabbed a Single-A outfielder, Junior Soto, from the Cleveland Indians. In 2017 for Single A-Lake County Captains, Soto hit 9 home runs and 17 RBI’s in 52 games while batting .172.  He struck out 61 times in 174 at-bats, while taking only 6 walks.

 

The Winter Meetings have come to an end but the Yankees still have much work to do. There are rumors that the Orioles have Manny Machado in play but I seriously doubt the O’s would trade him intra-division. To me, it would make sense. The O’s will lose Machado at some point and why not grab top prospects from a key division rival. But O’s owner Peter Angelos is 88 and I am sure that he does not want to spend his final years watching Machado star for the Yankees. All things considered, I’d rather use the prospects to grab another frontline starter and then potentially sign Machado after next season when he is a free agent. But of course, the “greedy” side of me would love to march both Machado and Stanton out onto the field at Yankee Stadium next year for simultaneous debuts along with another quality starter to join the rotation.

I wonder what Joe Girardi thinks about all this?…

Go Yankees!

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

 Greater-Orlando-1030x446

If you are going to dream, dream BIG…

Giancarlo Stanton.

Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.

 Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.

It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton?  I guess time will tell as it often does.

 For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.

The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.

It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.

I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.

I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.

The Bronx Coaching Staff…

Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities.  We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere.  It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena.  Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.

Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.

Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.

Note to Brian Cashman…

Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…

I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.

I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…

Go Yankees!

The Boone of Acceptance…

Credit:  Mario Tama, Getty Images

Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…

The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.

Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.

I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.

Credit:  Kathy Willens, AP

Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).

I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

Making the Cut…

It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.

Credit:  Shingo Ito/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS

It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.

One Week and Counting…

The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.

One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.

There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season.  The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.

The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.

Credit:  Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.

The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.

Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…

Credit:  MLB.com

It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.

For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!