Tagged: Winter Meetings

Early Christmas for Yankee Fans…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images/Illustration via The Ringer


Reminder: Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

I always look forward to the Baseball Winter Meetings. For me, it’s the highlight of the off-season. Some years are very disappointing, but some, like this year, are not. When the meetings conclude on Thursday, it always feels a little like the day after Christmas. This year was no exception.

We certainly felt the highs and lows of emotion over the course of the eventful week.

Even though it didn’t appear the Yankees were interested in signing Didi Gregorius, it was still a gut punch when word spread on Tuesday that he had signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When it was rumored at the beginning of the week that Didi’s camp would consider a one-year deal, I thought it might increase the chances he’d re-sign with the Yanks. Nope. He’ll get $14 million to have Joe Girardi pencil his name in at shortstop in Philly and for his sake, hopefully the chance to rebuild his value after last year’s disappointment following Tommy John surgery. He’ll re-enter free agency again after the season, likely in position for a multi-year contract if he proves to be the Didi of old although the Phillies could issue him the qualifying offer which would provide some resistance in the market. I have to say for a few hours after hearing about the signing, I was deeply saddened. I really enjoyed Didi’s play both on and off the field.  He has such a great personality and is so immensely  talented in all areas of his life. I loved his dances on the field with teammates. Emotions re-surfaced a bit yesterday when the Phillies officially announced Didi, and he said his goodbyes to Yankee fans on social media. He will be missed.

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Nevertheless, we have to move on. I get why the Yankees did not re-sign Didi. Gleyber Torres is certainly a cheaper, more talented option at shortstop, and it opens a position, second base, for D.J. LeMahieu after a year of playing all three infield bags. Now, I hope the Yankees extend LeMahieu so we don’t open a hole at second after the upcoming season like we did when Robinson Cano walked.  The presence of Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford certainly lessen the need for LeMahieu to cover first and third, and no doubt we need LeMahieu in the lineup as much as possible (as Aaron Boone would say, “obviously”). So, the positive with Didi’s departure is what it means for LeMahieu. Of course, the Yankees will need to find someone who can fill his role as the floater behind the infield starters. I like Tyler Wade but I am not sure if he is the one. He still has much to prove although he did show more late last year than I had expected. The other in-house option is Thairo Estrada, who has the support of many fans. I expect a minor trade or free agent signing. Former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez seems intriguing although he has very limited experience at short. I am probably hopeful Estrada wins the job, although it’s hard to dismiss Wade’s speed and the disruption he can cause on the base paths. He also has the ability to cover play both infield and outfield positions, flexibility that is very hard to find. I look forward to Spring Training to see how this competition plays out.

So many words typed and I have yet to write the biggest name of the week (except for the top of the page). When I went to bed on Tuesday night, it was unclear where Gerrit Cole would be playing next year. The Yankees remained the favorites and it sounded like the Los Angeles Angels had moved on. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers were still in it, and apparently several mystery teams (although we know the latter is a standard Scott Boras negotiating ploy). As I laid my head on my pillow, I was still carrying the disappointment of the loss of Sir Didi. Around 3 am on Wednesday morning, I woke up and decided to check my phone. Much to my surprise and amazement, I found Gerrit Cole had signed with the Yankees for 9 years and $324 million. Woohoo! We finally got our man.

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Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

I’ve wanted Gerrit Cole for literally years. It felt like destiny for him to eventually become a Yankee. I really thought the Yankees had him a couple of years ago in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when that didn’t happen, I always knew the Yankees would have one more chance when Cole became a free agent. I didn’t necessarily fall for the “he wants to play on the West Coast” narrative. Money seems to be a bigger motivator than location. Yet, I remember how much I wanted Max Scherzer a few years ago or even Patrick Corbin last year, only to come away with disappointment. In Corbin’s case, it was a blessing. He’s good pitcher and his contributions helped win the World Series for the Washington Nationals, but he’s not Gerrit Cole. If he had signed the big $140 million contract with the Yankees instead of the Nats, Hal Steinbrenner may have been less motivated to open his wallet for Cole. It’s easy to say that I prefer to have Cole for the next nine years than Corbin for the next five years remaining on his contract. I’d rather see the Yankees use the money to re-sign James Paxton if he proves the second half of last year was the Big Maple we’ll see going forward.

According to The New York Post, the Yankees will be announcing Cole on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a press conference at Yankee Stadium. I haven’t heard any details yet. It seems like it has been a few years since the Yankees have held an event at the Stadium to announce a new player. Most lately seem to be telephone interviews with the media after the announcements are made. I prefer the players in front of cameras, pulling on the famed Pinstriped jersey and hat with the interlocking N-Y. Loved watching Giancarlo Stanton put on the Pinstripes a few years ago. Hopefully we’ll get to see it with Gerrit and his wife Amy. No doubt Scott Boras will be there as he lives for these big moments in the spotlight.

Speaking of Boras, it’s hard to think of anyone who had a better week than him. He negotiated the contracts for Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, a total of $814 million. If his fee is 5%, he brought in $40.7 million for the Boras Corporation. He also negotiated the $64 million contract for Mike Moustakas with the Reds and represents free agents Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nick Castellanos, and Dallas Keuchel. I don’t think Scott has to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

Back to Cole, I am excited he is a New York Yankee. I think his presence on top of the Yankees’ starting rotation is huge. Not only is he a great pitcher, but I think he helps everyone behind him.  Luis Severino no longer has to feel the pressure to be “the man”.  He can be a soon-to-be 26-year old with immense talent who can thrive as the number two behind Cole. When your third and fourth starters are James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, life is good. I expect Jordan Montgomery to round out the rotation, but honestly, it does not matter who pitches. I know it won’t be J.A. Happ whom we expect to be traded in the coming days to unload his salary or a good chunk of it. I am glad to see Happ go. I am appreciative of how he pitched after the Yankees acquired him in 2018 at the trading deadline, and I know he can still be an effective Major League pitcher, but the Yankees have plenty of options for the fifth starter (Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and Michael King are the names coming to mind immediately). If we need someone at the trade deadline, we’ll get him.

For the last few years, I’ve viewed the starting rotation as a weakness. It is funny how one man can change that perception. Gerrit Cole puts everyone in their right place, giving the Yankees the best starting rotation in the American League and up there with the Washington Nationals as the best in Major League Baseball.

As for numbers, I would like to see Cole get #45. “Cole 45” is a thing and I’d like it to continue even though it means Louis Linwood Voit III has to find a new number. Voit wore 30 during his college days at Missouri State University and it is available with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion so that’s the number I think Luke should grab. But you could certainly make an argument for other numbers freshly open, like 22 or 28. No, I am not in favor of 69 like many Yankee fans.

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Photo Credit: @lukevoit via Instagram

The Yankees suffered another loss, although expected, when backup catcher Austin Romine signed with the Detroit Tigers. I hate to see Romine go but we’re in a ‘now or never’ situation with Kyle Higashioka since he is out of options. No way the Yankees were ever going to pay $4 million for a backup catcher.  So good for Romine to get his money. He’s been a good Yankee and he’ll be missed. He’ll get a chance to start and to mentor Detroit’s young catchers.  Hopefully the pay day and the starting opportunity will help offset the fact he now has Octobers free. While I’d support a signing of Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, I am hopeful Higgy grabs this opportunity to support Gary Sanchez and runs with it. He’s earned the right to have first crack at the job.

The Yankees also seem likely to lose Dellin Betances at this point. I hate to see it. I’d love to see Dellin back, even on a one-year deal to rebuild value. I hope this is not the end. The Dodgers have apparently emerged as the latest suitor although you can’t count out Joe Girardi and the Phillies given the holes in their bullpen.  I suppose either of those teams would be preferable to the Mets if Dellin does leave. I am not ready for the Bronx native to go and I am sure it will hit me as hard as Didi’s departure if it happens. Kind of reminds me how I felt when Rich “Goose” Gossage signed with the San Diego Padres following the 1983 season.

I should mention congratulations to Brett Gardner are in order for his new contract with the Yankees. I am not sure that I would have locked in $12.5 million for him regardless of what he has meant for the Yankees, but all things considered, it’s good to have his leadership on the team, particularly since CC Sabathia is no longer there. Gardy gets a $2 million signing bonus and $8 million salary for 2020, and a team option for $10 million in 2021 (which carries a $2.5 million buyout). Let Brett bang. Glad he’ll return, although I would give the temporary starting center field role, until Aaron Hicks returns mid-season, to Mike Tauchman to keep Gardy as the fourth outfielder. Even as the fourth outfielder, Gardy will play.

I always hate the Rule 5 Draft as teams always try to poach from the Yankees’ farm system. RHP Rony Garcia was the first selection of this year’s draft when he was grabbed by the Detroit Tigers. Most likely, he’ll be able to remain on the Tigers’ MLB roster for the duration of the season, ending his association with the Yankees. Good opportunity for him. There was not a clear path to the Majors with the Yankees. Too much talent ahead of him. So long to the Yankee minor leaguers selected in the Triple A phase since they now belong to their new organizations and will not be coming back: RHP Hobie Harris (Blue Jays), RHP Will Carter (White Sox), RHP Raynel Espinal (Red Sox), and 2B Wendell Rijo (Braves).  I hate seeing the Red Sox nab Yankee prospects. They grabbed RHP Anyelo Gomez last year in the Minor League phase. Good chance we never see these guys in the Major Leagues but I hate the Red Sox.

At this point, there is not much left for the Yankees to do. I expect them to bring in a few guys on minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training.  Yesterday, they signed outfielder Thomas Milone. Milone, 25 in January, was selected in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He carries the rep of an excellent defensive outfielder whose offensive game has been slower to develop. I am sure the Yankees’ Analytics Team sees something in Milone that they’d like to work with. He’ll join outfielder Zack Granite as another depth piece for Spring Training.

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Photo Credit: MiLB.com

If I had a wish list for the Yankees, it would be to add another bullpen arm. No doubt Dellin Betances heads my list. Rumors circulated this week about the Yankees’ interest in Milwaukee’s elite reliever, Josh Hader, but the cost seems too high to me. One site was suggesting Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres. Yeah, right. In your dreams. Not sure if the Yankees and Brewers can negotiate a reasonable package, but any deal for Hader would be painful in terms of players lost. It would be amazing to put him with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino et al but I do not feel it is likely to happen. With Blake Treinen off the board (signed with the Dodgers), I am not sure where the Yankees turn if Betances leaves. I really like Ben Heller and I am hopeful that 2020 is his breakout year. I expect the Yankees to bring in competition for backup catcher and infield spots but that’s about it. The heavy lifting has been done with the Cole signing. Anything at this point would be for complimentary pieces and depth only. I don’t think the Yankees will have a shocking Madison Bumgarner type of signing at this point.  I’ve heard people suggest the Yankees should trade for Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, but honestly, we’re fine with Luke Voit, Mike Ford and potentially Miguel Andujar. I really want to see what a healthy Luke Voit can do this year. As for Andujar, there’s always a chance Gio Urshela was a one season wonder. Even if he isn’t, Andujar carries great value as one of the best bats on the team. He is more than capable as a superior DH and potential first base option, in addition to third base play in combo with Gio.  I am not in favor of selling him low even if the Texas Rangers have their eye on him. Now if the Colorado Rockies were interested in sending Nolan Arenado to the Yankees, let’s talk.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Gerrit Cole Watch…

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And now we wait…

Will Gerrit Cole wear the famed Pinstripes or will he find refuge in a Southern California town?  I think the vast majority of the Yankees Universe want the long and anticipated addition of Cole to happen although I do not have the stats to show it. With no slight to Stephen Strasburg, an elite pitcher, Cole is the best available free agent pitcher on the market.

By now, we know the Yankees are targeting a major free agent for what feels like the first time since Masahiro Tanaka. When the Yankees were courting Masa, they went out of their way to show him the Yankees experience. GM Brian Cashman showed a ‘no holds barred’ approach during his recent meeting with Cole and agent Scott Boras, bringing along Manager Aaron Boone, Pitching Coach Matt Blake, and former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Of course, I temper this knowing that they also brought along Team President Randy Levine, not exactly one of my favorites. Despite Levine’s presence, it is clear the Yankees mean business.

Last year, with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Yankees fans were mixed and, in retrospect, there was no apparent strong interest from the team other than the obligatory dinners in New York. At the time, so many fans were saying Harper and Machado were “luxuries”. I still take exception to that word. When you haven’t won a championship in a decade, no player is a luxury. Still, I get it. The Yankees were able to get great production from a cheaper alternative in the form of David John LeMathieu. Hats off to the Yankees for identifying a great player without having to pay in excess of $300 million. There’s no doubt in my mind, if the Yankees had paid either Harper or Machado, we wouldn’t even be here talking about Cole despite the Yankees obvious need for an elite starting pitcher. Sure, the Yankees can afford it, but I don’t think they’d be considering the estimated $250-$280 million it will take to land Cole if they had paid $330 million to Harper or $300 million to Machado. In retrospect, it seems the Yankees had their eye on the prize (Cole) last year, a clear need and not a luxury.

The Yankees have been connected to Cole for a very long time. They drafted him in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft (28th overall), but we all know Cole did not sign, opting to attend UCLA after graduating from Orange Lutheran High School, a comprehensive private Christian co-educational college preparatory high school in Orange, CA despite his childhood status as a Yankee fan.

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Photo Credit: William Perlman, The Star Ledger

Even after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole as the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed him, there was always talk that connected Cole to the Yankees. It was apparent the Yankees had a continued interest in him over the years. It reached the epitome a couple of years ago when there was strong speculation the Yankees were going to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For a few days during the 2017-18 off-season, it felt like it was a done deal, but it never came together and the Pirates subsequently dealt Cole to the Houston Astros in January 2018 for what seemed like a lighter return than the Yankees could have offered (Pirates received Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove). I know, the most rumored Yankee name was Clint Frazier, a player over-valued by most Yankee fans and a player the Pirates did not need at the time. I am convinced the Yankees could have found the right mix of players to entice the Pirates, but we’ll never really know unless former Pirates GM Neal Huntington decides to write a ‘tell-all’ book.

When ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted the other day the Yankees had ownership-level approval to go after Cole, it sent a wave of excitement through the Yankees Universe. After initial excitement, the realist in me knows that nothing is done until Cole’s signature is on the dotted line. There’s still time for the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, or some other team, to make a ridiculous offer. We know Cole is going to get more money than any free agent pitcher in history regardless of where he signs. David Price of the Boston Red Sox holds the highest contract value for a pitcher with $217 million, and Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros is the average annual value (AAV) leader at $34,416,667. Once Cole signs, he should be tops in both categories.

want Cole as a member of the New York Yankees, but I am concerned about the potential he does not sign until late January. The Yankees have an urgent need for an elite starting pitcher, particularly with the looming free agencies of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka next fall, and good starting pitchers are starting to come off the board rapidly. If the Yankees only signed someone like Madison Bumgarner, I’d be happy with the off-season, but there’s no question the drop-off from Cole to Bumgarner is huge. The longer this goes on, the less likely someone like even MadBum is available. There’s the trade route, but I’d say that I am hot and cold about a guy such as Corey Kluber. I know when healthy, he is one of the game’s best but he will also turn 34 early next season. Cole is 29 and won’t turn 30 until next September. I want a pitcher in his prime, not one that is riding the tail end of it.

Yankee fans have loved to talk about Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds and Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, but both of those teams are improving with solid young teams and would be foolish to part with their potential aces. People like to laugh about the failed attempts of the White Sox to land premium free agents, other than the recently signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, but their farm system is ready to produce great young talent for the Major League team and they are on the cusp of winning. Once they start to win, they’ll become a more attractive destination for premier free agents. Giolito is such a big part of the coming force, same with Castillo in Cincy.

If the Yankees do sign Gerrit Cole, we can drop the narrative that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. If he was cheap, we would have been the team chasing guys like Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles (with no offense to the Texas Rangers as those guys will help them break in their new stadium) and not an elite talent like Gerrit Cole. Yankee fans are short-sighted (sorry, but, generally speaking, we are). Thankfully, the Steinbrenner Family and GM Brian Cashman have the long-view in mind. If Cole signs, we will be rewarded for their patient approach.

I’d like to see the Yankees bring the Cole negotiations to an end next week. I know it’s not the Scott Boras way, but it seems like the two sides can get together to produce numbers that work for both sides. I am hopeful for quick resolution so the Yankees can move on to other pressing needs.

If Cole does become a Yankee, I think Luke Voit should give up #45. Voit has no other connection with the number other than his short tenure with the Yankees. He was #40 in St Louis and as we know, he’s not getting that number. Frankly, there’s been some good numbers come available recently (namely 22, 30, and 33) and there are a couple that might be available in the coming days (18 and 28). If I was Voit, I’d take 22, 28, or 30. Those seem like better “power” numbers for a muscular first baseman anyway. Personally I like 22, even if I couldn’t stand the last guy who wore it and still harbor resentment against a certain Texas right-hander that once wore the number. Surprisingly, I think of former Yankees center fielder Jerry Mumphrey when it comes to number 22.

The Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in San Diego. I doubt we’ll see much activity on Sunday. Many are traveling, including Aaron Boone. By next Thursday, we’ll know if this has been truly the most active off-season in recent memory or if it is another case of all talk and no action. Up to this point, it has been more active. It feels like there are a few major moves ready to break so we’ll soon see.  I am sure the days will fly by next week as we wait with anticipation. Sadly, when Thursday arrives and the meetings conclude, there may be a few Yankee prospects headed to other camps courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft. I think we’ll lose the defensively gifted infielder Kyle Holder among the possibilities. The Yankees will be in the market for an infielder if Didi Gregorius signs elsewhere (looking more and more like he is going to join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia). His departure will make Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada as the likely choice to make the roster as backup shortstop behind Gleyber Torres. It seems like the Yankees will bring another body in Spring Training to strengthen the competition. So, I am expecting a minor trade or signing for an infielder at the very least.

We also need another strong arm for the bullpen with the potential departure of Dellin Betances.  Betances, like Gregorius, is rumored as a potential option for Girardi and the Phillies. I guess that would be better than Dellin going cross-town to join the Mets. If Dellin leaves, I’d personally prefer to see him to go the Los Angeles Dodgers. My preference, however, is for Dellin to stay. I think of the free agents (Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Betances), Dellin is the one I want to stay the most even if he is still recovering from the Achilles injury. But at this moment in time, from the outside looking in, it appears the only probably returnee will be Brett Gardner. I love Didi, but I’ve accepted the Yankees will be moving on. I just hope the Yankees extend D.J. LeMahieu if they decide to let Didi walk. As a pending free agent, I’d hate to be back searching for a quality second baseman again like we were after Robinson Cano left if LeMachine leaves after next season.  The matter is moot if the Yankees were to acquire Francisco Lindor, but I think the Dodgers are a more likely destination for the Tribe’s ultra-talented shortstop. I liked the job Austin Romine did for the Yankees, but I think the team goes with the cheaper Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez. Higgy also seems like a perfect student for catching coordinator Tanner Swanson with his superior framing skills. I’d hate to see Romine join his father’s old club (Red Sox) so I am hopeful if he leaves, he goes home to sunny Southern California.

I wonder if we’ll hear about the next destination for former Yankees bench coach Josh Bard. He left his position with the Yankees in November to pursue jobs closer to his Colorado home, but I’ve not heard any updates. It seems weird that his departure has been so quiet and that he did not have an immediate job to go to. I am glad to see the elevation of infield/quality control coach Carlos Mendoza to bench coach. He has been a very loyal employee of the Yankees organization for a long time and it’s good to see recognition for the excellent work he has done. Hopefully his partnership with Boone will be as strong as the Boone-Bard connection (or better).

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Photo Credit: AP

Lastly, we’ll hear tomorrow who has been elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The candidates are Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that it is probable neither Munson nor Mattingly will receive at least 75% of the vote. It’s sad for me. Growing up watching Munson, he was such a wonderful player to follow and admire before his tragic death at age 32. To me, he was the heart and soul of those championship clubs in the ‘70’s. Contrary to Reggie Jackson’s words, I always felt that Thurman was the straw that stirred the drink. He was easily my favorite player as a kid. I always wondered if the 1981 World Series would have had a different outcome if Thurman had lived. His passion to be the best was so strong. I keep hoping that they’ll elect Thurman to the Hall, but, disappointingly, I do not think it will happen. I hope I am wrong. It would be great to see the former Yankees captain join another recent Yankees captain for the induction ceremony next summer in Cooperstown, New York.

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Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Buckle up, the Winter Meetings are about to start. This should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

Preparing for Yankees Baseball in December…

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Biggest month of the off-season begins in 3, 2, 1…

From a baseball off-season perspective, it’s always good to put the Thanksgiving weekend in the rear view mirror. Generally, there are not too many transactions in November and while there were a few free agent signings and trades this year, the heart of the off-season begins as the calendar page rolls into December.

Like many fans, I continue to hold out hope the Yankees sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Realistically, I do not feel the Yankees will be the highest bidder for either pitcher. There’s probably a better chance they go for a guy like Madison Bumgarner if they dip into the free agent pool at all or better yet, make a trade for a young starter with strong upside. My only concern is that Cole and Strasburg can be had for money (something which the Yankees have even if they are bumping up against the highest luxury tax tier) whereas a trade would cost young, talented prospects. I am not trying to “prospect hug”, but if you don’t have to trade Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Albert Abreu or another top pitching prospect, why do it? I’d rather the Yankees part with cash than young players who could one day help the Yankees. Ultimately, I do feel GM Brian Cashman will do the right thing for the organization or at least I can hope. I am sure new pitching coach Matt Blake is helping the analytics team scour organizational pitching in search of the next Shane Bieber.

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Matt Blake, Yankees Pitching Coach

The Yankees over the last few years have shown us they operate within a certain budget and when given the choice, they’ll make financially conservative decisions over spending “stupid money”. As much as I like Cole and Strasburg, I cannot see the Yankees handing out $200 million plus contracts for either pitcher.  It kind of reminds me of back when the Yankees were negotiating with Ron Guidry one year and held him to $900,000 because George Steinbrenner didn’t think pitchers were worth a million dollars per year. I am sure Hal Steinbrenner knows how much he wants to pay for a pitcher and there is a line he is unwilling to cross. My guess is Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels and given that he has not yet returned to Washington, Strasburg goes home to San Diego. Money outweighs playing at home, sure, but for both, I think their home town teams will be the victors with the most green.

Max Goldstein took a lot of heat for writing on article on Elite Sports NY yesterday entitled “New York Yankees should pursue Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood”. He provides very compelling reasons for why it’s the more likely outcome for the Yankees given their recent history. Whether or not I’d like that result is irrelevant. It simply stands as a strong possibility. If Wheeler and Wood were to become Yankees, I’d certainly support them. I want Gerrit Cole as much as anybody but the realist in me knows that we need to keep a very open mind regarding the potential actualities for the starting rotation. We are most likely not going to get the big ticket purchases and have to be prepared for players of value and potential.

I am also prepared to lose Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine. There’s been talk lately that both Didi and Dellin, and possibly even Romine, could join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia. I hate to be petty, but I’d hate to see that happen. If Didi leaves, I’d prefer to see him go back to Cincinnati. As for Dellin, I’d rather see him join the Los Angeles Dodgers than the New York Mets. I continue to believe that Romine goes to the Los Angeles Angels, like Gerrit Cole. Of the three, I think the loss of Betances will hurt the most. The recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in Kansas City’s Tim Hill or Oakland’s Blake Treinen seem to indicate the Yankees are looking for Dellin’s replacement rather than simply looking to bolster the pen. Didi Gregorius has been one of my favorite Yankees. He was the perfect guy to replace Derek Jeter, and his personality is so enjoyable. I strongly believe 2020 will be a bounce back year for him and I hope it is in Pinstripes. While I know Gleyber Torres is a more than capable shortstop, my preference would be to keep him at second and bring Didi back. If Didi leaves, D.J. LeMahieu can be a free agent next year and we could be back searching for a second baseman next off-season like we were when Robinson Cano left. The Yankees could potentially swing a rumored trade for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber that would solve the shortstop/second base debate while addressing the starting rotation. No doubt I’d take Lindor over Sir Didi any day of the week regardless of how much I like the latter. However, I don’t think the Lindor/Kluber trade will happen, at least not with the Yankees.

I am not against the Yankees re-signing Austin Romine. I think he’s been a very good backup for the Yankees and the pitching staff loves him. In my opinion, another team will pay him more than the Yankees are offering and they’ll give him a better line for a starting job.  While Gary Sanchez is the undisputed starter for the Yankees, the need for two quality catchers in today’s game is very important. We’ve seen the Atlanta Braves spend to bring in Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, to pair with Tyler Flowers following the retirement of Brian McCann. The Washington Nationals brought back Yan Gomes to pair with Kurt Suzuki.  While I think Kyle Higashioka can be that guy, we don’t really know until he proves he can be. I can see the Yankees bringing in catching competition for training camp to see where the chips fall. The depth behind Higgy is not good. The organization’s best catching prospects, Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are a couple of years away.

In a perfect world, I’d love to see Gregorius, Betances, and Romine all return to the Yankees next season, while bringing in Cole and Strasburg. Sadly it will not happen and we need to be prepared for none of them to be Yankees.

A controversial topic lately, at least among the Yankees fan base, is if the team should introduce alternative road uniforms. I think the majority, based on what I’ve seen, prefer to remain with the traditional uniforms without exception. While some like the all black uniforms the Yankees wore last year in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, there’s probably no chance the topic is even under discussion or consideration with the Steinbrenner family. For me, I have always loved these road uniforms worn by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

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Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth

There’s no way I’d ever want the Yankees to mess with the home uniform but for the road, who cares?  The most important representation is the interlocking N-Y on the baseball cap. I hate the traditionalist mindset that says, ‘we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Change is good. I don’t want names on the uniforms so maybe that part of me is a traditionalist, but I have no objection to change for the better.

Following the release of Greg Bird by the Yankees, it seems that his best course to get back to the Major Leagues is to sign a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. Perhaps some team will offer him a major league contract but I doubt it.  Every MLB team had a chance to claim him on waivers and chose not to. Granted, as a free agent, he’ll come more cheaply than he would have if claimed off waivers, but Bird has much to prove. He needs to find a team that is willing to be patient with him. I wish him the best, and while I will miss his swing, I won’t miss his injury reports. I truly hope he has better luck staying healthy with his next destination. I think my biggest fear is that he goes to the Boston Red Sox and becomes the player we always thought he would be.

Monday is a big day with the 8 pm Eastern deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. A couple of former Yankees are among the list of potential non-tender candidates…Brandon Drury and John Ryan Murphy.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with either player. I know both have underperformed since leaving the Yankees but I liked both when they were here and I continue to hold the optimism they could succeed in the right environment. I’d like to see what new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson could do with Murphy.

A week from Sunday is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.  No doubt San Diego would love to dominate the local headlines with a Strasburg signing during the Meetings. It feels like this year’s meetings should be more active than last year. The off-season so far has been more active even if the Yankees have been relatively quiet. I guess we’ll soon find out. Time will tell if Hal Steinbrenner intends to deliver us a few Christmas presents early.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving! It’s a beautiful time to spend with friends and family.

As always, Go Yankees!

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!