Tagged: Yu Darvish

Back to Work Friday!…

Aw shucks, do we really hafta?…

I have to admit the break was very nice.  I took full advantage of it and enjoyed every minute.  But alas, all good things must end.  Time to get back to baseball and hopefully what will be a very productive second half for the Pinstripers.  

I am glad the Chicago Cubs laid the Jose Quintana rumors to rest.  It was a serious overpay (in my opinion) and I don’t think the cost was worth the top prospects in the organization.  So, congratulations to GM Brian Cashman for his restraint.  There’s no doubt we need pitching but we’ll just have to find another well, and hopefully a less costly one.  The long term view is still the best view in the house.  I am sure teams will now move to other rumored trade targets, ramping up the cost for guys like Yu Darvish or Gerrit Cole (should they be placed on the market).  I’d rather see Chance Adams get a chance at some point rather than his inclusion in a trade for an older, more established pitcher.

Credit:  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With less than three weeks to the trading deadline, Thursday should just be a slight preview of the days ahead as teams jockey for position.

I thought yesterday’s trade for first baseman Garrett Cooper was a chance worth taking.  Why not?…the Yankees do not have anything to lose.  By trading Tyler Webb, it was an indication that he didn’t fit into their long-term plans.  Plus, he tied up a valuable 40-man roster spot which will be a premium in the off-season when the Yankees have to decide whom to protect and whom to potentially expose to the Rule 5 Draft.  Every move made today has ramifications on the off-season so I am sure that Cashman is being both near- and far-sighted at the same time.  Ji-Man Choi has had a couple of nice home runs but I am not sold on him as a Major League first baseman.  If he falters, it is nice to know that Cooper is waiting in the wings.  He probably represents an upgrade over Mike Ford (currently on the DL for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre).  

Stay tuned as I am sure we’re in for a ride.

I honestly did not think Aaron Judge would win the Home Run Derby last Monday.  The win didn’t surprise me and I certainly loved watching the incredible show as much as anyone.  But there was so much hype about him going into the Derby, I felt the weight of expectations would be too much.  Between Judge and Gary Sanchez, I thought Sanchez would be the one to persevere.  So, my apologies to Aaron and congratulations on the tremendous win.  Now, in one of those bottom of the 9th at-bats when the Yankees are trailing and you represent the tying or winning run, please feel free to mix in a tape measure, Statcast-blowing blast instead of the usual strikeout.  I am not trying to be critical of Judge and I am very appreciative of his consistent contributions game by game…but…outside of Clint Frazier’s recent walk-off, the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium has generally meant three outs in recent weeks.

No All-Star Game recap from me, but it was tough to see a “formerly” beloved ex-Yankee hit the home run to win the game and another “probably still” beloved ex-Yankee save the win.  Robinson Cano hurts more than Andrew Miller since the added measure (salt in the wound) was that Cano on the team as an injury replacement for current Yankee Starlin Castro.  The losses of Cano leaving via free agency and the trade of Miller (not his fault) still sting.  If Cano was still a Yankee, we’d probably be talking about the potential future retirement of his number.  Now, Gary Sanchez gets the honors and Cano has a career that you primarily only see through box scores unless you live in Seattle.

Next Up:  Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Boston, MA…

The Yankees get a very quick and hard test to open the second half.  They’ll travel to Boston to play the first place Red Sox for four games in three days.  The break, outside of Chris Sale, gave the Sox the opportunity to reset their pitching rotation.  With Sale pitching Tuesday’s All-Star Game, he’ll take the mound on Saturday.  But we’ll see the top 4 pitchers in Boston’s rotation for this series.  So no fifth starters this go-around.  The Red Sox are starting to play like everyone expected although they did lose their most recent series when they were beaten by the Tampa Bay Rays, the team currently tied with the Yankees for second place in the AL East.  If Boston finds a solution for their third base problem and perhaps more arms for the pen, they’ll be a formidable team although at this point, I’d have to say the Houston Astros are the likely winners of the ALCS regardless of who they play.

By catching closer Craig Kimbrel in the All-Star Game, I am hopeful that Gary Sanchez picked up a thing or two to use during his at-bats.  I think he was surprised at the movement of Kimbrel’s pitches from the catcher’s point of view.  Very weird to see a Yankee catch a Red Sox pitcher.

The Red Sox can be beaten but not by the Yankees team we saw the last couple of weeks.  They’ll need to rise to the challenge.  I hope that Dellin Betances can right the ship once and for all.  The same goes for Masahiro Tanaka.  I only hope that we are not forced to use Tyler Clippard in a critical situation.

Final Notes…

As expected, the Yankees have sent Starlin Castro to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment.  They also released Chris Carter after he cleared waivers so there will be no Carter Experiment III.  

Have a great Friday!  Let’s start the second half off right with a win in Beantown!  Let’s Go Yankees!

Step Aside Boys, Toe’s Got This…

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

Yankees 2, Rangers 1…

 

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s Ronald Torreyes!  The unlikely hero delivered in the 10th inning with a walk-off run-scoring single as the Yankees took the first game of a three game set from the Texas Rangers.  

The game, delayed for an hour and forty minutes by rain, was a classic pitcher’s duel between Japanese greats Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.  The duel may have ended with goose eggs and no decisions for both pitchers, but they were incredible as the game did not see its first runs until the 9th inning.  Worried about Tanaka prior to the game, he showed that he was anything but a concern as he pitched 8 innings of three-hit scoreless ball,  Walking just two, he fanned nine.  Darvish went 7 innings with no runs and two hits, and did one better than Tanaka with strikeouts (10).  I am not sure what we’ll see the next time Tanaka takes the mound but with Darvish as his motivation on Friday night, he was magnificent.  

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

I was worried that Rangers slugger Joey Gallo would torch Tanaka pitches but he struck out with two runners on in the third inning, and grounded out in a similar situation in the eighth as the last batter Tanaka faced.  Gallo finished 0-for-4 and 3 strikeouts.  

The Yankees brought Aroldis Chapman in for the 9th inning of the scoreless game.  He struck out the first batter, Shin-Soo Choo, but Elvis Andrus followed with a single.  Struggling with his command, Chapman, who was sweating profusely, hit Nomar Mazara with a pitch in the shoulder.  With Adrian Beltre at the plate, Andrus stole third.  A great defensive play by third baseman Torreyes in stopping a wide throw from Gary Sanchez prevented more damage at that point.  But when Beltre struck out, the ball got away from Sanchez and Andrus ran home for the game’s first run.  

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th, Torreyes went down on a groundout for the first out.  But no worries, Brett Gardner came up and delivered with a game-tying home run to right.  Aaron Hicks grounded out for the second out.  Aaron Judge singled to put the potential winning run at first.  Unfortunately, Matt Holliday struck out to send the game into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, the Rangers loaded the bases against Chad Green and Chasen Shreve with two outs but Shreve got Andrus to pop out to end the threat.  This set the stage for the home half of the 10th.  With one out, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius singled, with Sanchez taking third.  Chris Carter struck out on four pitches (surprise, surprise).  But no fear, Ronald Torreyes stepped up to the plate.  The little man with the big stick.  A line drive single to center scored Sanchez with the winning run.  The Yankees win.

Credit:  Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The victory allowed the Yankees (40-31) to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox atop the AL East Standings.  The Red Sox had defeated the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 earlier in the evening.  The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 15-5, to remain 2 1/2 games back.  

After the game, the Yankees mercifully ended the Chris Carter experiment.  He seemed lost at the plate, with another 0-for-4 performance and three strikeouts.  

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill-The New York Post

Carter had a chance to be a hero in the bottom of the 8th with Gary Sanchez on first and two outs.  But he feebly struck out swinging.  There was something about that weak final swing that gave me an “I’m done” feeling. It was reinforced in the 10th when Carter struck out with a huge opportunity to be the game’s hero.  Apparently, GM Brian Cashman felt the same way as Carter was designated for assignment immediately after the game.  Tyler Austin, who has homered in his last three of his last four games, was recalled to take Carter’s place.  In the 27 games at Triple A after his reactivation from the DL in late May, Austin has hit .300/.366/.500 with 4 HR’s and 21 RBI’s for the RailRiders. Of his 30 hits in 100 at-bats, 17 have gone for extra-bases.  The alarming statistic is 32 strikeouts but Austin has really been heating up with the bat over the past week.  He has played error-free baseball at first.  Welcome back, Tyler!  Trust us, we are very glad to see you.

Big Papi, The Man Among Boys…

The Boston Red Sox retired the number of David “Big Papi” Ortiz last night in their game against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.  Big Papi was a thorn in the Yankees’ side for many years.  Time and again, a game was ended with a Big Papi blast.  I am very glad that #34 will no longer be an active number worn when the Red Sox come to town.  My biggest fear was that he would “un-retire”. 

Credit:  Stuart Cahill

Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr expressed it well when he said, “That just lets you know what a special impact he’s made in the community and the organization and all of baseball.  What he’s done for the city, the team, people around him, it’s well deserved.  I know we couldn’t be any happier for him.”  I agree.  As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I couldn’t wait for the Chicago Bears’ Walter Payton (may he rest in peace) to retire, and I felt the same about Papi.  More than anything, it is a sign of how much respect I held for those men.  


A close friend of mine who is a lifelong, die-hard Red Sox fan, and Boston-area resident, did post this comment on Social Media:  “This is just my humble opinion, but I think it is much too early for the Red Sox to be retiring Ortiz’s number.  With the exception of Johnny Pesky, the honor of having a number retired by the Red Sox was reserved for those players who entered the Baseball HOF.”  My response…whatever it takes to keep him from coming out of retirement.

Odds & Ends…

Chance Adams is a friggin’ rock star.  In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 11-1 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday, the RailRiders’ ace was magnificent.  Pawtucket didn’t get their first hit until the sixth inning.  Adams (5-2) finished six innings strong, allowing just the one hit and no runs.  He issued two walks, while fanning eight.  The outstanding performance lowered Adams’ season ERA to 2.12.  At some point in the not-so-distant future, it will be determined that Adams has nothing left to prove at the Triple A level.  In my mind, he’s just a couple of Luis Cessa bumps and bruises away from stepping on the main stage (or the potential first call if another starter…I hope not…is injured).  Why not take a Chance?…

The Boston Red Sox are going hog wild in an attempt to find help.  Yesterday, they signed pitcher Doug Fister, released by the Los Angeles Angels, and shortstop/third baseman Jhonny Peralta, who was cut by the St Louis Cardinals.  Injuries to their pitching staff forced the Fister move.  The disaster known as Pablo Sandoval brought in Peralta.  I still think the Red Sox will be heavy players for Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas at the trading deadline. The Boston Globe is reporting that the Sox should have about $9 million to play with before they risk crossing the luxury tax threshold.   


Happy Saturday!  Let’s Go Yankees!

Can We Just Take A Mulligan?…

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Angels 10, Yankees 5…


The win on Wednesday was just a tease.  Losing teams find ways to lose and unfortunately the Yankees gave another game away last night.  Unless they can turn this around, the Yankees are showing that the early season was just a mirage. You can’t blame Aaron Judge.  He’s trying.  He hit his 25th home run of the season and has hit safely in 24 consecutive games (the longest Yankee streak of the year).  But pitching, which has alternated between very good and very bad, is sitting in the latter category at the moment albeit with an occasional solid performance like Jordan Montgomery the other night.


Bronx Pinstripes had a great tweet last night.  “What a disaster.  At least we have Tanaka tomorrow.  …Oh wait.”  My line of thinking exactly…


The game started well enough.  Despite Cameron Maybin’s lead-off home run to give the Angels an early 1-0 lead, the Yankees quickly answered in the bottom of the first when Angels starter Jesse Chavez walked Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday with two outs.  Starlin Castro followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game.


In the bottom of the 2nd inning, it looked like this was going to be our night.  Chris Carter doubled and Ronald Torreyes reached base on an infield hit, pushing Carter to third.  Brett Gardner grounded into a force-out at second but Carter scored on the play.  Aaron Hicks singled, putting runners at the corner, bringing up Aaron Judge.  With a three-run shot to center, the Yankees were up, 5-1.  I didn’t really expect those to be the final runs scored by the Yankees.

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Angels started chipping away in the third when both Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar had run-scoring singles with two outs.  5-3, Yankees.  Luis Severino settled down after that for a few innings of solid work, but gave up another run in the 6th when Escobar opened the inning with a double and scored on a single by Luis Valbuena.  Valbuena, a third baseman, is a guy I thought the Yankees should have pursued in the off-season when he was a free agent.


Still, I had hope that the Yankees could lock down the Angels, score a couple of insurance runs and win the game.  Then, the 7th inning happened.  Cliff Pennington opened the inning with a single.  From there, the game unraveled.  Cameron Maybin hit a ground ball to Starlin Castro that should have been turned for a double play but Castro’s fielding error allowed Maybin to reach base, with Pennington moving to third.  So, instead of two outs and no one on, the Angels had runners at the corners with no outs.  End of game for Luis Severino.  Chasen Shreve entered the game and was greeted by a sac fly from Kole Calhoun which tied the score at 5.  Exit Shreve, enter Dellin Betances.  Maybin stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Gary Sanchez.  Albert Pujols said ‘I’ll take your gifts…thank you very much’ and lined a single to right, scoring Maybin for the lead.  Betances walked Escobar, followed by a wild pitch moving the runners to second and third.  With two outs, Andrelton Simmons doubled to give the Angels two more runs, 8-5.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

I was not ready to admit defeat and was pulling for an amazing comeback like the Yankees did earlier in the season against the Baltimore Orioles.  Yeah, right.  The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 7th and the Angels were ready for more in the 8th.  Domingo German took the mound, replacing Betances, and retired the first batter on a strikeout.  Unfortunately, this was followed by Cliff Pennington’s double and a wild pitch that moved him to third.  Cameron Maybin walked.  A failed pick-off attempt at first by German, the third Yankees error of the game, allowed Pennington to score with Maybin moving to third.  Kole Calhoun graciously accepted the latest gift, and hit a sac fly to push the score to 10-5.  


The Yankees could only muster a single from Chris Carter in the 9th, and he was left stranded at second when Ronald Torreyes grounded out.


This was a very disappointing loss.  I am not sure how you can lose two of three in your home park against the Mike Trout-less Angels.  Giving away free runs on multiple errors and wild pitches are not the signs of a successful team.  With the loss, the Yankees (39-31) fell back into a first-place tie with the idle Boston Red Sox.  The Tampa Bay Rays, who also had the night off, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the leaders.  


Yes, I am mad about this loss.  And it scares the hell out of me that we’ll be throwing Tanaka out tonight against Yu Darvish.  It doesn’t get any easier…

Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium…

The Texas Rangers make their first trip to NYC for a three-game series starting tonight.  Pete Kozma, who started the year with the Yankees when Didi Gregorius was on the DL, is currently a back-up infielder for the Rangers.  Ernesto Frieri, who previously opted out of his Yankees minor league contract, is in the Texas bullpen.

FRIDAY

Rangers:  Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA)

SATURDAY

Rangers:  Austin Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 4.25 ERA)

Yankees:  Luis Cessa (0-1, 7.36 ERA)

SUNDAY

Rangers:  Nick Martinez (2-3, 4.33 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.56 ERA)

Y’all enjoy the games now, y’hear!

Hopefully, we’ll see the team that throttled the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles a couple of weeks ago.  I miss that team…

Odds & Ends…

Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I am very excited to see Tyler finally make it to the Show.  I’ve been following his career for a few years and I’ve liked the pitcher.  I was worried in the off-season when he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  As a mature lefty reliever (he’ll turn 27 in less than a month), I thought he had the potential to stick with the Pirates.  Despite a solid Spring performance, he was returned to the Yankees in a numbers game (fortunately for us).  In 21 games for SWB, Webb is 3-1 with 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  He has struck out 47 batters in 33 1/3 innings while allowing 33 hits and 12 runs.  He has only given up 3 walks and home runs.  They may not be elite numbers but I feel Webb has earned his shot. I am glad that he is here even if it’s only temporary.  Rob Refsnyder was sent to SWB to make room for Webb.  

Credit:  Chris O’Meara-AP

Greg Bird has been given a cortisone shot in his ankle and the hope is that he’ll soon be able to resume his rehab.  I find it highly unlikely that this will be the solution that gets Bird back on the field.  It seems to me that the problem with the ankle is more serious than we’ve been led to believe.  The cortisone shot just masks the pain, it doesn’t fix the problem.   There is daily speculation who the Yankees should look at on the trade market.  Lately, Yonder Alonso has been receiving the most attention.  I like Alonso and do feel that he’d be an upgrade over Chris Carter or Tyler Austin.  I have no problems with Matt Holliday at first other than I want to keep the guy healthy.  DH is the better avenue to accomplish that goal.  The Atlanta Braves did a wonderful job in trading for the under-utilized Matt Adams, previously of the St Louis Cardinals.  Adams has done nothing but hit since he became a Brave and has sparked speculation that injured first baseman Freddie Freeman may be moved to third when he returns.  I want GM Brian Cashman to make one of those under-the-radar but highly productive moves.  I know, easier said than done.

I think Aaron Judge should accept the invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.  I know that some players mess up their swings but like Manager Joe Girardi, I don’t think it would adversely impact Judge’s swing.  I like the idea of his exposure to the other great sluggers of the game.  It’s all part of his maturation as a Major League superstar.  The Yankees have renewed popularity this year because of guys like Judge and Gary Sanchez.  The All-Star Game is a great format to represent the pride and tradition of the Yankees.  

This is not baseball related but as an owner of a black cat, I found this one quite humorous…and true!

Have a great Friday!  Let’s not start a new losing streak today, please.

High and Inside…or maybe a little Outside…

Here is a random wish list for pitching targets leading up to the trading deadline.  I know that a couple of the names are untouchable.  I guess if I am going without restriction, I should place Clayton Kershaw at the top of the list.  Nevertheless, this is fantasyland so here’s my list.  All of these pitchers are right-handers which really wasn’t by design.  I wouldn’t even say that these are my top five choices.  They are, however, five pitchers that I feel could provide an upgrade.

YU DARVISH – Texas Rangers

Darvish is 30 and will be an unrestricted free agent this fall.  He is 4-2 with 2.76 ERA and 1.091 WHIP.  With Tommy John surgery in his recent past, he’ll carry the injury risk tag for the res t7 of his career.  Darvish is still one of the best pitchers in the AL.  I loved the guy when he came over from Japan and wished at the time the Yankees had been more aggressive in pursuit of him.  

It’s been said that Darvish could be the key to the team eventually signing Japanese superstar  and two-way ace Shohei Otani, referred to as the Japanese Babe Ruth.  

The downside to Darvish is his age (at this point of the Yankees rebuild and potential off-season cost to re-sign.  You’ll obviously have to pay quality prospects for the potential short-term rental assuming the Texas Rangers are even motivated to trade him at the deadline.

CARLOS CARRASCO – Cleveland Indians

Carrasco is also 30.  This is total fantasy as the Indians, a World Series caliber contender, are not going to part with a critical rotation piece.  There’s no doubt the Yankees have long held interest in Carrasco.  The right-hander is 4-2 this season with 2.60 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

CHRIS ARCHER – Tampa Bay Rays

Archer is 28 and is a better fit age-wise.  But I think he’s untouchable for any AL team due to the heavy premium the Rays would attach to him to trade him inside the division.  But if the Yankees could get him, I would be ecstatic.  Archer is 3-2 this season with 3.70 ERA and 1.217 WHIP.  He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.  

JON GRAY – Colorado Rockies

If I could have my pick of any pitcher, it might be Gray.  I am convinced the 25-year-old Gray is an ace-in-the-making.  He’ll be held back from ever reaching his full potential as long as he calls the Mile High City his home.  In a very small body of work this season, Gray is 0-0 with 4.38 ERA and 1.459 WHIP.  He only pitched 12 1/3 innings before going on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot.  Gray has begun his bullpen sessions and will soon be back on the active roster for Colorado.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Interestingly enough, Gray, like Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, is a former Yankees draft pick.  The Yankees picked him in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.  He didn’t sign and was subsequently a number one pick for the Rockies the next year.  

VINCE VELASQUEZ – Philadelphia Phillies

The youngest pitcher on my list (24), Velasquez is 2-3 this year with 5.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  Forget the stats, the guy has the potential to be a long term fixture in any team’s rotation.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.  

This isn’t meant to be a ranking of desired pitchers.  I am just randomly throwing out some names.  Granted, if any team’s first request is Gleyber Torres and is unwilling to budge, it’s discussion over.  But Clint Frazier I am not as attached to.  With Aaron Judge in the Majors with an assist by Aaron Hicks, and the promise of outfielder Dustin Fowler, I think the Yankees have the necessary ingredients for a good outfield now and for the next few years particularly considering a potential costly run at Bryce Harper in a couple of years when he hits the free agent market.  My favorite outfield prospect, Blake Rutherford, is further away but he’ll be a ready replacement when the time comes.  So, if I could package Frazier in a deal to bring a quality starting pitcher and maybe a dependable bullpen arm, I’d do it.  Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole and Tony Watson represent a combo that would be worth the inclusion of a top prospect.  And, no, Gerrit Cole is not Ivan Nova.

I am sure that we’ll be hearing many names ad nauseam over the next two months.  But regardless of what happens, it will be much better to be a buyer at the trading deadline than a seller if the team keeps playing well.  Exciting times in the Bronx.

The Yankees are hopeful that first baseman Greg Bird will be able to begin baseball activities next week.  That’s good news to hear.  Hopefully Bird has fully recovered and is ready to recapture the form he showed during Spring Training when he led the Grapefruit League in home runs.  Bird has already started light running so it should be a sign that the ankle bone bruise has healed.  I am looking forward to seeing what a healthy Bird can do.

The Yankees concluded their three-game stay in Kansas City with a loss, falling to the Royals 5-1.  I knew they were in trouble when Danny Duffy struck out the first three batters of the game.  Duffy threw a scoreless three-hitter over seven innings and recorded his first career double-digit strikeout total with ten.  The Yankees scored their only run against KC closer Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning on a Didi Gregorius single.  

Jordan Montgomery (2-3) lasted five innings in taking the loss.  He allowed four hits, five runs and three walks (with 4 K’s). The killer was a three-run homer by Mike Moustakis in the fifth inning.  His replacement, Chad Green, was stellar in pitching the final three innings.  He only gave up a meaningless single in the sixth, a runner subsequently erased by double play.  He struck out six.  It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Green could replace Montgomery in the rotation.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees (24-14) maintained their lead in the AL East over the Baltimore Orioles (1 1/2 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games) as all three teams lost on Thursday.  The Yankees did win the series, taking two of three, however, I always hate to see a loss on “Getaway Day” as that’s the game fresh on everyone’ mind for the flight to the next city.  

The Yankees begin a three-game series in St Petersburg, Florida tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays (21-22).  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

FRIDAY

Yankees:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

Rays:  Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 2.92 ERA)

SATURDAY

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA)

Rays:  Matt Andriese (3-1, 3.18 ERA)

SUNDAY

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.93 ERA)

Rays:  Chris Archer (3-2, 3.70 ERA)

Have a great Friday!  Hopefully Sevy finds a way to slay the Rays!

And the WINNER is…

 

For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.  He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market.  Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million.  Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.

Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner.  But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import.  Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka.  It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation.  The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.

I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community.  There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.

I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”.  They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw.  They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka.  I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination.  If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.

But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee.  Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best.  Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days.  But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make.  With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside.  With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction.  With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii).  If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.

The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka.  I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years.  This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing.  I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.

I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka.  So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard.  Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million.  I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great.  The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka.  My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus.  Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.

While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps.  If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong.  While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield.  Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions.  What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter?  Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third.  Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter.  April could be a very challenging month.

My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman.  But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009.  Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder.  One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”.  Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.

Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen.  I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place.  Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again.  I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task.  If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found.  I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan.  Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement.  I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level.  I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen.  I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.

For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career.  Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball.  With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.

Go Yankees!

–Scott

Wanted:  Clutch Hitter – Only the experienced need to apply!…

Although there have not been any official explanations for the DH plans this upcoming season, there’s been reports that the Yankees are content with a rotation to include Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Derek Jeter, with Eduardo Nunez sliding around the infield filling the holes.  My concern last season and it gave me a bad feeling heading into the play-offs that the Yankees had missed the clutch bats they enjoyed when Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were on the roster.  Damon’s home run in the 2004 ALCS helped propel the Boston Red Sox to a comeback victory over the Yankees, and propelled the Sox to their first World Championship since the days of Babe Ruth.  I’ve heard minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez mentioned as a possibility, but I am with those who believe that he skills do not translate to the major league level.

In my opinion, the Yankees need to do something.  I am not looking for a $10 million slugger who would command 90% to 95% of the DH at-bats.  I am content with someone who could take the majority of the at-bats, allowing for the A-Rod/Jeter rotation, and would know and accept their role.  That’s why I feel that either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui would make complete sense.  I know the Yankees want to limit their payroll at this point and I get that.  But if the difference in making the World Series or not was an additional $5 million, would it not be worth it?  Yeah, yeah, it’s not my money and $5 million is a lot of money.  But when you are spending $210 million, what’s $215 million?  Wouldn’t the return on a championship more than replenish the difference?  The Yankees have options and I know that’s why they are not in a rush.  I’ve even heard Raul Ibanez’ name mentioned and would agree that he would be a viable option.  I guess I have greater affection for guys who have proven they can win in pinstripes.

It’s funny but the Philadelphia Phillies look like geniuses for signing Jim Thome early in the off-season.  At the time, it looked like a bad fit.  Maybe he stays with the Phillies, but they could actually move him for something at this point given the DH desperation that exists for a number of teams besides the Yankees (like the Detroit Tigers, for example).  If GM Ruben Amaro could somehow swing Thome for a decent prospect, he’d build upon his legacy as a great general manager.

It will be interesting to see how the coming weeks play out, but the Yankees clearly need a guy who can come through in the clutch.  Now more than ever…

If he is older than dirt, what does that make me?…

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer for his minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Colorado Rockies.  I was really surprised when I heard that Moyer intended to make a comeback following his recovery.  At 49, the odds are probably against him, but you have to love his no-quit mentality.

Sometimes good fans are the difference…

Similar congratulations go to reliever Joel Zumaya, who signed with a quality organization (the Minnesota Twins).  Ironically, it was at Target Field where Zumaya’s elbow exploded a couple of years ago.  I remember when he was hailed as THE flamethrower in the league, and was a huge part of the Detroit Tigers bullpen.  It’s anybody’s guess what kind of pitcher he will be going forward, but it would be good to see him recapture success for an organization that deserves better than last year’s 99 losses.  With the departure of Joe Nathan and the inconsistency of Matt Capps, there’s certainly going to be opportunity with the closing and set up roles for the Twins.

It was a bit hard to imagine Zumaya throwing from the mound at Target Field this morning as the temperature reading in my car read -10 degrees in downtown Minneapolis.  The weathermen were reporting that with the wind chill factor, it felt like -38.  In weather like that, it’s hard to imagine that the lights of Target Field will be back on in just a couple of months.  While I admit that the 16 degrees I experienced in Winnipeg, Manitoba a few weeks back felt much colder, there’s no question that in temps like this you just want to go from your heated house to your heated car to your heated work.  This past summer, I was in Phoenix when it was in the 120’s.  All things considered, I’ll gladly take -38 in Minneapolis as opposed to 122 degrees in Phoenix.  I don’t care that it’s paradise in Arizona right now…

Deux Sorianos?…

Back to the Yankees, I’ve wondered if some kind of deal involving the Chicago Cubs would work.  The Yankees want to unload A.J. Burnett, and he’d clearly benefit from a change of scenery.  He’d also be more effective in the National League at this point.  I wouldn’t say that the pressure would be less in Chicago, but I think A.J. could more himself.  Conversely, the Cubs have an albatross with Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano could still be a fairly productive DH at this point in his career.  Not that I want to give two rosters spots to over-paid, under-productive Sorianos but it would be a potential solution.  I think I can speak for most Yankees fan when I say that we’ve rode the Burnett train about as far as we care to.  Now that Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda have all but pushed Burnett out of the rotation, a win-win trade with the Cubs would certainly make sense.

Yeah, you and what bank?…

If I’m Cole Hamels, I am going for free agency in the fall of 2012.  Don’t even talk to me about an extension!  If the Texas Rangers will lay out $110 million for an unproven, albeit very highly talented, pitcher, there’s no question what a championship performer like Hamels can command on the open market.

I choose you, no, maybe you…

I am glad that Bartolo Colon was able to find a home with the Oakland A’s, but admittedly, I am glad that he is not returning for an encore performance in the Bronx.  I am not quite sure with what happened between Colon and the Arizona Diamondbacks (he apparently agreed with them and then reneged, ala David Wells a few years ago), but I am sure he had his reasons for why Oakland was a better fit.  But I guess those reasons didn’t include W’s…

Those pesky Nats!…

As for the ongoing Prince Fielder sweepstakes, I just wish the Washington Nationals would put one of those ridiculous Jayson Werth type contracts in front of him and get him signed.  I’d be surprised if the Texas Rangers were financially able to sign both Yu Darvish and Fielder but stranger things have happened.  I really don’t want to see Fielder in for Mitch Moreland on the defending AL Champions.  I still think the Los Angeles Angels, thanks to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, are a better team in the AL West, with or without Fielder on the Rangers, but I certainly do not want the potential roadblocks to a Yankees World Series getting stronger.

First base at Yankee Stadium will forever mean Lou Gehrig to me until the day I die, even if I didn’t personally get to see him play.  For what I have seen, Don Mattingly is the epitome of greatness.  I was a bit skeptical when Tino Martinez took over for Mattingly, but he played the position as well as anyone could have following the footprints of #23.  I loved the signing of Mark Teixeira and he was a prime reason for the Yankees success in 2009, but after a couple of disappointing seasons with the usual stone cold starts, something has to give.  Defense alone at first base is not enough.  Not that I want to go back to the days of Giambi (great bat, not-so-great glove), but Tex needs to dedicate himself to an improved performance in 2012.  I know that we’ll have to deal with the usual sluggish start, but he needs to show that he can be more like the 2009 Teixeira than the 2011 version.

Well, I am at this end of this post, but I see that GM Brian Cashman still has much work ahead of him before we start talking about games at Legends Field…

–Scott

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Didn’t see that one coming…

Yeah, but at what price?…

I am bummed…

After years of trade rumors involving Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, I thought he was finally home free and slated to be a member of the 2012 Yankees unless a trade for the seemingly untouchable Felix Hernandez were to materialize.  So, to hear tonight’s news that the Yankees have traded Montero to the Seattle Mariners is a shock since it did not involve the aforementioned King Felix.

I was perusing the MLB Trade Rumors tonight when I saw the blurb that the Mariners were close to acquiring an “young impact hitter”.  Of course, there aren’t too many guys that fit that description and Montero is near or at the top of the list.  I didn’t suspect a King Felix trade since there have been no signals that the Mariners are interested in trading him, so my immediate reaction was the fear of trading Montero for something else.  My fear has been justified as the word has come the Yankees traded Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi, a potential candidate for the starting rotation, to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos.  I  know nothing about Campos (whether he is a high or mid level prospect or just fodder for the lower leagues).  So, this trade was clearly about Pineda, 22, who made the All-Star Team as a fill-in for Justin Verlander last year during his rookie season.  I recognized that Pineda was a quality pitcher, and I had him on a few of my fantasy baseball teams.

But still, I bought into the hype that Montero was going to be an offensive force.  I recognized that he was a liability at catcher, and that Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli represent the best catching tandem at the moment until Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are ready to advance.  To ask a young player to start at DH does seem to be a poor major league decision, but I was looking forward to seeing Montero star in pinstripes.  His bat would have found a good spot in the starting lineup.  Maybe a few years down the road, this trade will look great for the Yankees if Pineda wins the Cy Young or becomes the ace of the staff.  But right now, I am just shocked.  It’s not the type of move that one can embrace or create excitement among the fan base.  I truly would have preferred a short term deal to Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt as opposed to giving up young, quality talent.  I also liked Noesi, and knew that he was a viable candidate for the starting rotation.

At the moment, and this could change in time, I think the advantage goes to the Seattle Mariners.  I am assuming that they have the young pitching talent, to go with Noesi, to find a suitable replacement for Pineda in the rotation.  Meanwhile, they get one of the best young bats in the game today.  This takes a little heat off first baseman Justin Smoak so perhaps now he can thrive.  Right now, I rate the Yankees rotation as CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett.  This means that Freddy Garcia is the pitcher most likely to be cut unless the Yankees can find a home for Burnett.

Maybe he missed pitching to #55…

Okay, after an off-season of solitude, Friday the 13th has just become Yankees Night.  The latest word is the Yankees have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  Based on recent reports, I had expected Kuroda to sign with the Boston Red Sox.  Bobby Valentine’s experience with Japanese players, in my mind, gave the Sox the clear advantage.  Regardless of what transpired and why he decided to come to New York (Russell Martin?), he’s an innings-eater and fits nicely in the back of the rotation.  So, if the news of Kuroda’s signing is accurate, I need to update my starting rotation…CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and Kuroda (although an argument could be made for why Hughes should be at the back end of the rotation).  The wild card is Hughes, so do the Yankees keep Burnett for long relief and a potential return to the starting rotation if Hughes falters or do they simply cut their losses?  I suspect that it will be the latter with Freddy Garcia held in reserve.  I also think this virtually confirms that we’ll see Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos in the starting rotation at some point during the season.

My second favorite team is my National League favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, so I have to say that I enjoyed the starts I saw from Kuroda in his Dodger days.  He may be older, but he’s a quality pitcher.  He’s not going to shut down the opposition but he’s going to keep you in the game.  I would have preferred Edwin Jackson if no other reason than age (and Jackson’s ability to occasionally be a very dominating pitcher).  But still, it’s hard to find fault with the Kuroda signing.  I’d rather go with Kuroda over Roy Oswalt.  I’ve got to believe that the Yankees figured out the game plan for A.J. Burnett before the events of today unfolded so it’s likely that another deal is forthcoming before pitchers and catchers head for Tampa next month.

The fingerprints of Cash or Hal?…

I always wonder on these types of days if these moves were effected by GM Brian Cashman or if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner got bored and decided to take matters into their own hands.  I am not sure that there’s a move out there that could excite me at this point, but there’s no question the Yankees have a better rotation.  My primary concern still remains a quality backup third baseman for those inevitable A-Rod absences (i.e., trips to the DL).  But now, with Montero in Seattle and Posada on the beach waiting for Old Timer’s Day, who is going to be the DH?  At the moment, it’s a DH by committee with a rotation of A-Rod, Andruw Jones, and others.  It does make one believe that there is a potential acquisition for a veteran hitter in the making.  Bring back Johnny Damon?  It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

The sleeping giant has awakened…

I know the Yankees objective is to get under $189 million in salary by 2014, but the team is always a sleeping giant.  If the Texas Rangers can come up with $51 million just to talk to Yu Darvish, you know the Yankees are capable of so much more.  It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold.  After a season of inactivity, the Hot Stove League just got warmed up for the Yankees…

–Scott