Tagged: Zach Britton

A Week Closer to Spring Training…

Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).

The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.

Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to  speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.

Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic.  Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.

Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer  after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.

As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing…

DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.

I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)

Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18

Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton’s former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers

LHP Danny Coulombe

RHP Drew Hutchison

OF Billy Burns

OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees!

Zach in the New York Groove…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

Yankees to re-sign LHP Zach Britton…

The old Ace Frehley song seems so appropriate. With some slight alteration, …Zach’s back, back in the New York groove!

I was very pleased to see last night’s news. I don’t know who broke the news first, but it was a Jeff Passan/ESPN tweet that caught my attention. It’s always fun to see a story break on Twitter. First, it’s a random tweet or two and then it’s an avalanche. I wasn’t really expecting major news on a Saturday night but I’ll gladly take it.

The Yankees and Britton’s agent, Scott Boras, were able to get creative with the structure of the deal. It is essentially a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year. The Yankees must guarantee the fourth year after the completion of the 2020 season. If they do not, Britton has the right to opt-out  or he can choose to complete the third year. The contract pays $13 million per year, which guarantees Britton $39 million if he does not opt out. The fourth year, if exercised, would pay $14 million, bringing the total value to $53 million. If Britton is traded during the contract, he’ll get an assignment bonus of $1 million according to Ken Rosenthal.

I am excited to know Britton will be returning to join Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances at the back end of the Yankees bullpen. I’ve heard the complaints about his control but he got progressively better after the deadline trade that brought him to the Bronx from Baltimore. I think with a full spring training (he was unable to participate last year with the Orioles) and the further distance from the surgery on his right Achilles tendon in December 2017, he’ll be much closer to the elite reliever we saw in 2016 when he was electric for the Birds. In ’16, he was 2-1, 0.54 ERA in 69 games, converting all 47 save chances he was given. Britton set an American League record with 60 consecutive saves from October 1, 2015 through August 21, 2017.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rob Carr)

After joining the Yankees last summer, Britton was 1-0 with 2.88 ERA in 25 games, with 21 strikeouts. Although he got a late start to the 2018 season, he had the best groundball rate for any pitcher in MLB with at least 40 innings (73.0%).

The off-season assumption had been Britton would leave for a closing opportunity despite his late season comments about wanting to win more than collecting saves. Early in the off-season, he was connected to the St Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, but surprisingly in the end, the Yankees’ primary rival for Britton’s services was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Brian Cashman was able to beat his former chief lieutenant, Angels GM Billy Eppler, by offering more guaranteed money. The Cardinals took themselves out of the running by signing Andrew Miller and the Phillies, as we know, snagged David Robertson. The Red Sox are feeling the pain of high payroll and are waiting for prices to fall. I think eventually Craig Kimbrel’s asking price will come back into their range. There’s no way he is going to get $100 million regardless of his track record.

When season ended, I had wanted the Yankees to get one of Britton, Robertson or Adam Ottavino. After D-Rob moved on, I was hopeful for at least Britton or Ottavino but now that Britton is back in the fold, I want Ottavino too. I am excited about the potential of guys like Tommy Kahnle (if he can return to 2017 form), Stephen Tarpley, Domingo Acevedo, Chance Adams and others, but Ottavino would truly cap a return to a super bullpen, perhaps the best in Major League Baseball. With continued questions in the starting rotation, this is a must.

With no further moves, the 2019 Yankees are looking very good. Still need a strong defensive shortstop to back up Troy Tulowitzki. Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias, come on down! Actually, this could be a great opportunity for Hanser Alberto to make the Show. But imagine this team if they can sign Manny Machado and Adam Ottavino. I’d call that a very successful off-season. Regardless of what happens, I feel better about the team today than I did yesterday morning. I was worried that the holes in the bullpen would be filled with lesser talent. I guess one should never underestimate Brian Cashman and his ability to get Hal Steinbrenner to loosen the grip on his wallet.

Photo Credit: ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Once Britton takes his physical and the contract is finalized, the Yankees will have to make another roster decision. RHP A.J. Cole lost his seat at the table with Tulo’s signing. Next up appears to be Luis Cessa, Ben Heller or Joe Harvey if the Yankees can find a suitable trade partner as those guys have some value. Heller, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, might be the most vulnerable despite my preference to see Cessa go. Tim Locastro appears safe for now but things could change if Machado signs with the Yankees.

There’s been some talk about first base and the Yankees’ intent to go into Spring Training with Luke Voit as the starter. I don’t mind first base competition between Voit and Greg Bird. I know a few of us are getting tired of Bird’s inability to take advantage of opportunities due to a variety of injuries but I also know I am not ready to give up on Bird’s talents (apparently neither are the Yankees). I liked the energy Voit brought to the team but conversely I enjoy Bird’s sweet swing. My only hope is the better player gets the job and the other backs him up. At this point, I can’t say if it should be Voit or Bird. The competition begins in earnest next month so we’ll soon see. First base is a position I’ll be watching closely when the Grapefruit League games begin but I am cautiously optimistic we’ll be pleased with the outcome, whatever it may be. May the best man win.  Ready, set, go…

Photo Credit: AP, via NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

As always, Go Yankees!

It’s Manny Machado Day or Is It?…

Baseball: Dodgers' Machado
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Machado Rumor Mill Runs Rampant…

According to “Anthony in White Plains”, today is the day for the announcement Manny Machado is signing with the Yankees for an alleged 8-year deal worth $240 million. In a previous post, I had picked this date as the day Manny signs but admittedly as I write this post now, I am very skeptical there will be any news at all.  Until someone like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Paul Morosi, or Buster Olney says it’s happening, I am not going to believe it. I am certainly not going to take the word of Anthony in White Plains or Dan Clark in Australia.

I do know that I am so ready for the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper talk to end. This is as divided as I’ve ever seen the Yankees fan base. While I’ve wanted the Yankees to sign Manny despite others’ preference for Bryce, I am nearing the point where I just want them to sign somewhere…anywhere…even if it is not with the Yankees. Let’s move on with our lives. Sadly, that won’t be happening until Manny and Bryce know where they will be playing in April. Until then, we have to ride the roller coaster of rumors.

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I was saddened to see David Robertson sign with the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday. D-Rob has arguably been the most consistent reliever in baseball for the last decade. He was magical in critical jams, hence the “Houdini” nickname. I enjoyed having confidence on the mound in bases loaded jams because somehow you knew D-Rob would work his magic. With some guys in the pen, you know when they let a few guys on base, we’re going to have flashbacks of Tyler Clippard on the mound. That wasn’t the case with Robertson.

david-robertson-yankees-phillies
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I did bother me a little yesterday when Robertson said that he had talked with GM Brian Cashman this winter but Philadelphia was where he wanted to be. He says all the right things about a willingness to pitch anywhere in the late innings but no doubt the greater potential to close in Philly or at least have a job share with Seranthony Dominguez was more appealing than setting up Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. I also read that something had changed with Robertson during his time away in Chicago and he was not as beloved in the clubhouse his second time around. Specifically, it was mentioned he was not popular with the younger players. Considering the team is mostly comprised of younger players, that didn’t sound very good. I had never heard of any locker room dissension but of course we’ve all heard the role D-Rob played in the team vote that cost certain members of the organization, like assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere and traveling analyst Zac Fieroh, money from the distribution of the team’s playoff shares. I’ve defended D-Rob’s role as he didn’t force other players to vote for limiting shares but as a leader of the vote, there was a negative perception of his involvement. We may never know what exactly transpired (well, not until a book is written one day) but it does seem a parting of the ways was mutually beneficial. Thanks for the memories, D-Rob. We do wish you well in Philly unless they happen to be playing the Yankees in the World Series. It does kind of stink that the Phillies have now snagged two valuable members of the Yankees’ 2018 playoff team, having previously inked OF Andrew McCutchen, and could potentially steal Machado away from the Yankees.

With relievers Robertson and Andrew Miller off the board, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino are the most desirable options available. Reports show the Yankees focusing on Britton and we know the player enjoyed his time in the Bronx and was amiable to returning so I am hopeful the two sides can come together on an agreement soon. NJ Advance Media for NJ.com was reporting this morning the Yankees have not been as engaged with Britton as other teams in recent days so I am hopeful this is a ‘get back to us with your best offer and we’ll see if we can match it’ situation. I like Ottavino, but I’d rather have Britton among the two. It’s rumored Britton wants a four-year deal. It seems like the Yankees could come up with a solid three-year contract with vesting option for the fourth year to entice Britton to return. If Britton wants four years, he should have some skin in the game to ensure the fourth-year option is exercised. My biggest disappointment will be if the Yankees fail to sign either player.  Regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a strong rebound season from Tommy Kahnle. As it stands right now, he is one of the most crucial pieces in the pen. Another year like last year would be detrimental to the team. As for free agent Craig Kimbrel, thanks but no thanks.

Apparently, Troy Tulowitzki took his physical yesterday so the official announcement of his signing should be imminent. Once it happens, someone will lose his place on the 40-man roster. The most logical candidates appear to be infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Tim Locastro. Position-wise, Alberto appears to the odd man out but player-to-player, I’d probably keep Alberto over Locastro. Locastro is not going to beat out Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, or, gasp, Jacoby Ellsbury and appears to be more of a depth piece for Triple A. Not that I think Alberto is going to make the Major League roster, but he’s had a good winter and offers infield versatility. I’d like to see what he can do in the organization. The only thing that I’ve really heard about Locastro is that he is fast. That’s nice. Next.

As for Tulo, I really wish I could get excited about his addition. But honestly, we don’t know what we are getting. He could be the starting shortstop on Opening Day or he could be released at the end of training camp. It’s not like he was a huge investment. The guy hasn’t played in a year and a half and has not shown an ability to stay healthy for the last few years. He may have looked great in the tryout that preceded his signing with the Yankees but playing the game will be the true test. Until then, I want a strong plan in place for shortstop/second base should Tulo fail. Sorry Tyler Wade, you are not a strong plan.

Inevitably, the departure(s) of Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa and/or A.J.Cole will free up space but I don’t think those are moves made yet. Could be wrong. I am far from having any inside knowledge of the situation.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting Cleveland’s chances of trading either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer are diminishing by the day so it doesn’t look like the Yankees will be in play for another starter until potentially the trading deadline in July unless it is some random (i.e., bargain bin) arm they decide to bring into camp.

Well, let’s see what today brings. Manny Machado could be exciting the Yankees Universe by day’s end or we could be listening to the continued chirp of crickets emanating from Yankee Stadium. Hal, please loosen the wallet. We know you can afford to make Yankee fans very happy. What’s good for us is good for you.

As always, Go Yankees!

Destination: 2019 World Series Championship…

NHF-Champions

Yankees are one or two moves away from “full throttle”…

Another day, another 24 hours gone by with no news on the Yankees front. Waiting for Manny Machado’s decision feels like an eternity. While many of you may be hopeful the Yankees pass on the…don’t say it, don’t say it…”generational” talent, I think it will be a huge disappointment for those of us who wish to see the Yankees sign the young superstar shortstop/third baseman.

Manny

Probably the worst thing about waiting for Manny is how it has placed other moves on hold. Or at least that’s the way it seems from an outsider’s perspective. Not knowing how many dollars it might take to reel in Machado, the Yankees don’t know how much they will have to spend on the bullpen. It also prevents the Yankees from pursuing Plans B or C for the temporary replacement of Didi Gregorius. I know I’ve mentioned D.J. LeMahieu in the past and Daniel Burch wrote a piece about the player yesterday, but I don’t really want to see the Yankees sign a multi-year deal with a free agent second baseman that could potentially spell the end of the illustrious Yankee career of Didi Gregorius. If you make a huge multi- year deal for an above-average second baseman, it increases the likelihood the Yankees permanently move Gleyber Torres to his natural shortstop position and pass on offering Didi an extension. So, I think all things considered, I’d prefer to see a temporary glove-first shortstop like Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias over someone like LeMahieu even if the latter’s bat could help. I want Didi Gregorius as the Yankees’ shortstop for the long-term and I am certainly not prepared to see him leave next off-season. I think in my mind, I envision Didi’s return somewhere around the trading deadline in July but some reports have him back sooner. I know that’s also an argument for why the team shouldn’t sign Machado but this is still a good Yankees team that can withstand a few months without Didi in the lineup.

If it’s my money, I pay the most dollars to bring in bullpen help to restore its status as a super bullpen and find a reasonably cheap deal for an interim shortstop to keep Gleyber Torres firmly planted at second base.

nyjj108-ap
Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I know I’ve said that I want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton, but the truth is I want Britton. I think this becomes more apparent to me with each passing day that Britton remains a free agent. I am ready to see D-Rob go, even if that means he calls Fenway Park home, if it means the return of #53 to the Yankees bullpen. Obviously, if Britton decides he wants to be a closer again and takes more money elsewhere, I’d want the Yankees to go hard after D-Rob or Ottavino. I think for the second open bullpen slot, the Yankees will attempt to fill it from within with the likes of Stephen Tarpley, Joe Harvey and Chance Adams. Surely, Tommy Kahnle has to be better this year. He can’t possibly be any worse than he was last season.

The San Diego Padres keep popping up in trade rumors involving top starting pitchers like Corey Kluber and Marcus Stroman. I don’t really get why a young San Diego team with a very strong farm system that could potentially set up the team as a contender in two or three years would trade prospects for a thirty-something starter. Kluber is one of the game’s best right now but by the time the Padres are ready to contend, he’ll be on the inevitable downward slide. Kevin Acee, the Padres beat writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted yesterday that the Padres won’t be adding Kluber or Stroman and mentioned the team’s priority is a third baseman.  We know the Padres like Miguel Andujar, which does make you wonder if the Yankees and Padres could team up to make a three-way deal with the Indians to bring Kluber to New York. The Padres could potentially get their hands on Sonny Gray in addition to Andujar in a deal that might make sense for all three teams. I keep reading the Indians won’t trade their ace to an American League team but if the Padres and Yankees work collectively, they can make the Indians an offer they can’t refuse. I think Sonny Gray would thrive in Petco Park and would give the Padres the starter they’ve been seeking. I know that we keep hearing the Dodgers associated with Kluber, but I think they’d be stronger pursuing a trade with the Miami Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto, a huge need for the Dodgers, and signing a free agent starter like Dallas Keuchel than using prospects to bring Kluber to Chavez Ravine. If the Yankees can somehow acquire Kluber, I don’t really care what they do the rest of the offseason. They’ll have a team ready to dethrone the defending World Series champions.

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Circling back to the wonderful world of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the buzz yesterday was neither player really likes Philadelphia. I don’t really care for the Philly bashing as I like the city, but there’s no doubt, to me, Philly does not hold the same glamour, glitz, and prestige that New York City has. If your primary concern is your legacy in Major League Baseball, there’s no better place to play than New York. Of course, it takes two to tango. I know the Yankees are waiting for prices to drop and maybe that’s the smart play. But the team has the financial strength to bring one of the two best free agent superstars to hit the open market in years to the Bronx in a way that requires virtually no thought from the player or his agent. Well, let’s be honest, the Yankees have the money for both players, but realistically, that’s never going to happen in the bean-counting world of Hal Steinbrenner. I remember how jazzed the fan base was last year when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton. I know Stanton has taken his not-so-fair share of heat, but he’s a great slugger capable of so much more. Imagine bringing a guy like Machado or Harper to the team with Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyer Torres and others. This would excite the fan base beyond heights we’ve seen in years.

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We’re probably facing another quiet day in the Hot Stove League. I doubt anything heats up until we get to late next week. I’d love a surprise Yankees addition before then, but for now the wait must go on. We will persevere and hopefully by the time pitchers and catchers head for Tampa in February, the Yankees will be a much stronger team than they are today. The Yankees Universe has one primary New Year’s resolution…take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox! Hal, say goodbye to your money, and let’s do this!

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As always, Go Yankees!

 

Waiting for Gifts from Santa Cashman…

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Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media (Scott Mullin), via Stamford Advocate

One holiday down, one to go…

It’s the day after Christmas and there are still a number of questions yet to be answered for the New York Yankees. Sure, the Yankees acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in November and they re-signed LHP J.A. Happ earlier this month but we’re the ‘what have you done for me lately’ crowd.

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When will the Yankees sign infielder Manny Machado?  As we’ve been told, Machado does not intend to make any decisions until after the first of the year.  Does that mean we’ll know something on January 2nd? Probably not. This thing could drag out for days or weeks into January before it plays out. I feel the team needs to brace itself for Plan B in the event Machado takes the money from Philadelphia or Chicago and runs (well, in his case, slowly jogs). Although I am not excited about the idea, the Yankees should consider signing Troy Tulowitski but they’d be foolish to rest their hopes on Tulo as a Didi Gregorius “fill-in”. I really like the diversity of Marwin Gonzalez and he has a championship pedigree thanks to his role in helping the Houston Astros win it all in 2017. I’m not excited about moving Gleyber Torres temporarily off second base to cover for Didi at short, but a second baseman like D.J. LeMahieu or Jed Lowrie could help this team. I think Brian Dozier has seen his better days so that’s a hard pass for me. Neil Walker, I’ve already seen that show. It’s probably not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to stay in-house and give Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Hanser Alberto opportunities during Spring Training. For a team ready to contend for the World Series, I hope not. There’s too much at stake for the Yankees to come up, pardon the pun, short.

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When will the Yankees focus on the bullpen?  The obvious answer is now. With Machado’s decision pushed off until next week at the earliest, I really wish the Yankees would fill at least one of the two vacancies this week. With each passing day, there is an increasing likelihood that David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton sign elsewhere. It really sucks listening to St Louis Cardinals fans and players talk about how excited they are to have Andrew Miller. As much as I like Robertson, I don’t really get the sense he is a priority for the Yankees, therefore, I really hope they are actively working with the agents for Ottavino and Britton. I know Britton has the potential to get “closer” money, but we need his talent and skills in the Yankees bullpen. Last year showed that we cannot place 100% faith in Aroldis Chapman and his problematic knee. Dellin Betances did a fine job, but I prefer to keep him in a setup role which means we need a proven backup closer to help Chappy. Ottavino has closed and certainly offers that ability, but I’d rather see Britton return among the two choices. Healthy, he is ready to dominate once again. But I won’t be disappointed if Ottavino is the one.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Do the Yankees need to bring in another starter?  Quite simply, the answer is yes. Perhaps the Yankees are convinced Jonathan Loaisiga is the solution for the role of “sixth man”. But he’s about as much of a question mark as the starting rotation itself.  Loaisiga is a talented pitcher but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, he’s going to carry the injury-risk label. Starting with the back end of the rotation, CC Sabathia is expected to be ready for Spring Training but realistically the Yankees need to prepare for other options in the event CC suffers any setbacks. Encountering heart problems at 38 is never a good sign and we do not know how Sabathia will hold up to the rigors of a 162-game schedule. J.A. Happ was solid for the Yankees down the stretch, but he’s 36. A smart pitcher, yes, but a year closer to retirement. With Masahiro Tanaka, you know we’ll eventually hear “he needs Tommy John surgery”. We’ve been living on borrowed time and it is inevitable he’ll eventually need the surgery to continue. Despite a successful 2018 campaign, James Paxton carries his own injury concerns. Luis Severino is perhaps the pitcher with the fewest question marks but he needs to overcome his second half regression from last season. The Yankees need a bona fide starter to serve as the long man/spot starter. I really hope the 2019 answer is not Luis Cessa or A.J. Cole.

Why is Sonny Gray still on this team?  I really thought Gray would be an ex-Yankee before 2019 but we’re running out of time. There has presumably been strong interest in Gray, with as many as eleven teams expressing interest, but GM Brian Cashman has yet to receive an enticing offer. Although I am surprised he hasn’t been traded yet, I fully expect Gray to be gone before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, FL on February 13th. I think many fans were hopeful the Yankees could package Gray with a few high end prospects to grab Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett but I think that ship has sailed. With the Reds acquiring Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the team is clearly focused on squeezing a few more wins out of their roster next season. Parting with their talented second baseman would not be consistent with that objective. At this point, I don’t think Gray’s presence on the roster is helping anyone. There seems to be an increasing number of Yankee fans wanting the team to hold onto Gray for the hope he can still be what we once thought he would be. For me, I’m done with Gray as much as I am done with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Which leads me to the next question, why is Jacoby Ellsbury still on this team?  Insurance payments. As long as the Yankees have the potential to collect on insurance to defray Ellsbury’s cost, he isn’t going anywhere. If and when he is finally healthy, the Yankees will either make the hard decision to stash Clint Frazier at Triple A or they’ll cut bait with Ellsbury and eat the remainder of his contract. If you count the 2021 buyout of his contract, the Yankees still owe Ellsbury $47.3 million. If the Toronto Blue Jays can afford to absorb $38 million to sever ways with Troy Tulowitski, the Yankees can afford $47 million to make Ellsbury an ex-Yankee. It amazes me how the Los Angeles Dodgers can routinely shed bloated contracts but the Yankees cannot. Well, credit to Cashman for the Chase Headley contract elimination but he needs to find the way to part ways with Ellsbury. If Ellsbury is on the Opening Day Roster (I highly doubt it), I will have no choice but to root for him but, ideally, I hope that day never comes.

I know there are more questions that need to be answered before the Yankees show up for Spring Training in February but these are a few on my mind. I am not sure the tandem of Greg Bird/Luke Voit offers the best hope for first base in the long run but we need more time to see how this plays out. Voit has earned the right to play first base for the Yankees, but Greg Bird should be given the opportunity to play during Spring Training and earn his right to be part of the Opening Day roster. He is running out of time and chances, but I don’t think it is the end of the road for Bird yet nor should it be.

Miguel Andujar is my third baseman until he isn’t.

If there is one starting position on the team that concerns me, it is left field. I love Brett Gardner as much as the next guy, but at this point in his career, he’s better suited to serve as fourth outfielder in my humble opinion. I suppose there’s always a possibility that Giancarlo Stanton plays left more often next season or Clint Frazier works himself into a platoon with Gardy or even takes the job. So much is dependent upon whether or not the Yankees sign Machado. If they do, there will be a chain reaction when Didi Gregorius returns late next summer which will presumably push Machado to third, displacing Andujar who will have to move to first, left or DH. Until this is figured out, it will concern me.

One position that does not cause any alarm for me is catcher. I really expect to see an improved Gary Sanchez in 2019. I honestly feel that he’ll continue to improve defensively with each passing season. I was never in favor of the trade rumors for J.T. Realmuto and stand by El Gary as the present and future of Yankees catching. Austin Romine is a fine backup so I have no desire to see any changes with the current catching duo. I’d certainly have no qualms about Kyle Higashioka taking Romine’s job away if his performance dictates it. That would be a nice problem to have. Until younger guys like Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are knocking at the door, Sanchez is this team’s catcher.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

These were just some random thoughts on my mind. There hasn’t been much baseball talk the last few days with the holiday season upon us so I’ve been missing it. I turned on MLB Network Radio this morning and had to listen to one-time Yank C.J. Nitkowski talk about his Christmas gifts for his wife. That’s nice. Let’s get this talk back to Baseball. Is it time for Spring Training yet?

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As always, Go Yankees!

Yes, Is Brian Cashman Available?…

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman baseball executive

Mr Cashman, Dan Lozano is on Line 1…

And now we wait.

The Manny Caravan completed its tour yesterday with dinner last night in downtown Philadelphia at Royal Boucherie in Old City with Phillies executives.

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Rumors continue to swirl that Manny prefers the Yankees, but we all know at the end of the day, the team pulling up to Manny’s doorstep with the most Benjamins will be the winner. I have no clue how this is going to turn out. Many Yankee fans are confident he’ll be wearing Pinstripes while others feel it is a foregone conclusion that he’ll be calling the City of Brotherly Love home. The Chicago White Sox remain a strong possibility although I’d have to question why.  I know they have a strong farm system but a great network of prospects does not automatically equate to a World Series contender. Former top prospects Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada have not exactly set the World on fire. I know I’ll offend White Sox fans with this comment but I’ve always looked at the White Sox as a second class citizen compared to the Cubs when it comes to Chicago. Well, kind of the way I view the Mets.

I think as a baseball player, there is always sentimental attachments for your original team. Maybe that’s not true since I never played professional baseball but it seems to me that you’d be fond of the team you grew up with regardless where the Major League road may take you. With the Yankees, Manny would have multiple opportunities every year to play at Camden Yards.  Sure, the White Sox visit once a year and the Phillies might show up every three years in interleague play, but the Yankees and O’s have annual multiple home and away series as divisional foes. Opening Day at Yankee Stadium next season will bring the Manny-less Orioles to the Bronx.  Plus, there is the added incentive of staying in Baseball’s best division after a brief hiatus and World Series visit in the NL West. If you want to know how great the AL East is, just follow Marcus Stroman on Twitter. I hear he’s been tweeting up a storm about it.

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The Phillies are a fine organization and I personally enjoy the City of Philadelphia. When I was younger, I worked across from Independence Hall and used to love the history within the city during my walks through the streets of downtown Philly. But c’mon, nothing compares to the bright lights, big city of New York. Putting the money aside, I feel the attraction of New York City and the history and tradition of the Yankees places them head and shoulders above the White Sox and Phillies. Regardless of Manny’s ultimate decision, he’s going to make more money than he’ll ever need. Imagine having so much money you could live anywhere you want.  In the United States, it would have to be NYC for me.  I love Los Angeles and San Francisco but nothing compares to the Big Apple.

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We know the Yankees have the money to make an offer to Manny that he cannot refuse. But times have changed under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. A bean counter by education, he’s so much more conservative than his father. I’ve often wondered how much influence Hank Steinbrenner has on his brother since they are Co-Chairpersons of the Yankees. Somehow, I get an image of Hank sitting in the board room saying, “F’ it!  Let’s sign both Harper and Machado!”. Or at least I hope that’s what he is saying even if the Steinbrenner Family would never allow it. I guess we should say the Steinbrenner Siblings now with a hat tip to the departed Joan Steinbrenner.

I don’t blame the Yankees for not making an offer to Patrick Corbin after the Washington Nationals blew away the field with their six-year, $140 million contract to snag the left-hander. But there’s a big difference between Corbin and Manny Machado. Corbin may have been the best free agent pitcher, but he’s certainly not elite and he is far from a sure thing. Manny is one of the best players in MLB, as is Bryce Harper. No, they’re not Mike Trout but then again who is?  Well, I guess that would be Mike Trout. But aside from baseball’s best player, Machado and Harper reign supreme. Regardless of whether you give them 8 or 10 years, these are guys who will still be performing at the back end of their contracts. Like I heard someone say, this is not like getting a 36-year old Robinson Cano with five years left on his massive contract. Rare is the opportunity to grab a potential future Hall of Famer for only money. This is not about paying huge dollars for past performance, this is compensation for the best yet to come. Sign Machado.  Sign Harper. I really don’t care which one. Just do it, Hal.

Manny enjoys the role of the villain. Actually, thinking about it, I feel it would help deflect some of the heat off Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton crushed the baseball last year in Pinstripes and was still booed unmercifully at times.  Shift the focus to Manny.  I think the guy would eat it up. Manny, despite his Miami roots, was made for the Main Stage in New York.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Bill Streicher)

I know the Yankees have been working hard behind the scenes, but we can’t really see the efforts from the outside looking in. I really wish the Yankees would make the moves to shore up the bullpen before all the best options are gone. It was tough to see Andrew Miller sign earlier today to play with Chasen Shreve in St. Louis. I get the injury and age concerns with Miller but he remains one of my favorite Yankees in recent memory and I would have loved a reunion in Pinstripes. I didn’t really want Joakim Soria but the Yankees were slightly connected to him earlier in the off-season. He represented one of the cheaper options on the market with the potential to help, but he’s now gone as the Oakland A’s scooped him up last night. I really want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton. I am losing confidence the Yankees will re-sign D-Rob and fear that we’ll see him in a Red Sox uniform in the not-so-distant future. I had a dream last night which featured D-Rob wearing that ugly “B” cap on the mound at Fenway Park. I guess you could call the dream a “nightmare”.  Ottavino, a New Yorker, would easily assimilate onto MLB’s biggest stage, and I think Britton will be much closer to his dominant 2016 self as he distances himself from the recent series of injuries. Give me one and get him now! I’d love two of them but I recognize that the second may need to be an under-the-radar type with potential (i.e., “cheap”).

I’d love to see the Yankees do something before we hit the lull between Christmas and New Year’s. I know, they’re working hard and there is so much we can’t see.  After all this watering, I’d love to see a little fruit. Hey Hal, throw us bone! We want to dethrone the Boston Red Sox but we need your help. It’s only money. Come on, brother, it’s Christmas. Please give to those of us less fortunate.

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As always, Go Yankees!