Tagged: Zack Britton

The Cuban Missile Fails to Launch…

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Chapman Agrees to Extension w/Yanks…

Aroldis Chapman had the right to opt out of his contract on Saturday night but in the end, he agreed to a one-year extension worth $18 million (in addition to the remaining 2 years/$30 million left on his current contract). So, the opt out did not happen and the Cuban Missile, thankfully, did not launch into Free Agency.

As I wrote yesterday, I was prepared for Chapman to leave. I felt the Yankees would be fine with or without him but you can argue the Yankees would be better served by using Chapman’s money toward a frontline starter. Prior to the news of Chapman’s extension, word spread that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had opted out of his contract. Strasburg gives the Free Agency Market two top starters and frankly, I’ll be disappointed if the Yankees do not try to sign either Strasburg or Gerrit Cole.

Honestly, the realist in me knows that the Yankees will not sign either Strasburg or Cole, and the Chapman extension has nothing to do with it. But until they sign, I’ll carry hope that one of them is a Yankee before the next season starts. Supposedly, agent Scott Boras and the Nationals are set to begin negotiations today but we’ll see. The Lerner family is capable of making Strasburg a very rich man but the question is will they? I thought they’d do what it takes to keep Bryce Harper last year rather than let him walk away to a division rival but I was wrong. Granted, they didn’t need Harper to win the World Series, but in Strasburg’s case, he is one of the game’s best and as we know too well, pitchers do not grow on trees.

Photo Credit: Thomas B Shea, USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Yankees lost out on Patrick Corbin because their offer was blown out of the water by the Nats. It would be very ironic (and poetic) if the Yankees snatched Strasburg away from Washington. Pitcher to pitcher, I’d much rather have Strasburg over Corbin. So it is possible that this could work out to the best possible case scenario for everyone who wanted the Yankees to sign Corbin last year.

Anyway, sorry for the digression, let’s get back to Aroldis Chapman. I am glad he’s a Yankee today. I don’t blame him for the ALCS exit on the walk-off homer by Jose Altuve. Losses never come down to a single play. There are plenty of other things the Yankees could have done differently to change the outcome. You can’t pin the blame on one guy. Even the great Mariano Rivera was human at times. Chapman turns 32 in February so he’ll be a free agent again at age 35. I suspect that’s when the Yankees and Chapman part ways but for now, he’s the team’s closer and I am happy about the outcome. In a way, I do feel bad for Zack Britton who deserves the opportunity to close but he represents great insurance for the health of Chapman. Chapman, to go with Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, ensures the Yankees will have a top bullpen in 2020.

Welcome back, Chappy! We’re glad you decided to stay with us for another run or two or three at October.

Stephen James Strasburg turns 32 in July. In 2019, he was 18-6 for the Nationals with 3.32 ERA. His K/9 was 10.81, HR/9 1.03, and WAR 5.7. He made 33 starts, good for 209 innings of work. It’s easy to salivate about a potential starting rotation of Strasburg, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery (sorry J.A. Happ, don’t let the door hit you on the way out).

I probably still want Gerrit Cole over Strasburg. He’s a little younger (won’t turn 30 until September). He had a brilliant 2019, going 20-5 with 2.50 ERA which should pay off with the AL Cy Young Award. His K/9 was a career best 13.82, HR/9 1.23 and he had the higher WAR at 7.4. The number of starts and innings were similar to Strasburg’s totals…same number of starts with 3 1/3 more innings. But regardless of whether it is Cole or Strasburg, either would look fantastic in Pinstripes.

All of this just means that I should probably begin looking for my Zack Wheeler Yankees jersey.

Photo Credit: Twitter via @Wheelerpro45

There’s a name that Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes has been pushing for months. German Marquez. He’ll only be 25 heading into next season and he has a wealth of talent and potential. He regressed in 2019 (like the entire Rockies team) but remains arguably the best pitcher on Colorado’s starting staff. I’ve long admired Jon Gray but at this point, there’s no question Marquez is the better pitcher.  He was 12-5 last season with 4.06 ERA (give the guy a break, he pitches at Coors Field). His K/9 was 9.05, HR/9 1.50 (again, Coors Field), and WAR 3.4. This guy is on clear path to replicating the numbers produced by Cole and Strasburg, and he’s five years younger than Cole. I didn’t think the Rockies would be willing to part with their young ace, but after a very disappointing season in the Mile High City, they need more than just help in the rotation.  The Yankees have the pieces that could help a Rockies rebuild and Marquez would fit nicely in the Bronx. Rumor has it that former Rockies do very well in the Bronx. If the Yankees do acquire Marquez, Van Dusen deserves much credit for continuing to shout his name. Marquez is one of a select very few number of pitchers that I’d consider giving up Deivi Garcia for. Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds is another.

If the Yankees are looking to add to the bullpen, particularly if Dellin Betances leaves (I hope not), it won’t include Tony Watson, who has long been a Cashman target. Watson exercised his player option with the San Francisco Giants yesterday which will most likely keep him in the City by the Bay for another year.  Granted, he had a disappointing 2019 season but he remains one of the better lefty relievers around. I know, he’s 34 and he’s recovering from a broken wrist suffered in September but he’s a good guy to have in the pen.

On the same day that Strasburg opted out of his contract, the Nationals dropped the hammer on two guys that helped bring the first World Series championship to Washington since 1924 yesterday (the same day as their victory parade). The team declined the options for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes. While Zimmerman was expected (he’s simply not a $20 million/year player anymore), I was a little surprised about Gomes even if he didn’t have a great season statistically-speaking.  I’ve seen more than a few people suggest the Yankees should go after him to back up Gary Sanchez. While I am comfortable going into 2020 with Kyle Higashioka as the backup, I’ll admit that it would be intriguing to have Gomes. He did very well with the great pitching staffs in Cleveland. As much as I want Gary Sanchez to have a healthy, monster season next year, the hard truth is that whomever backs him up will see plenty of playing time. Gomes should be given consideration, in my opinion, if the price is right.

Are the Mets really considering their former manager, Terry Collins, as Carlos Beltran’s bench coach? That’s funny. No disrespect to Collins, who I think is an excellent baseball guy, but it just seems odd that he’d take a coaching position with the Mets after being fired as their manager a couple of years ago. Carlos Beltran recently said that Collins was the best manager he had played for, a group that includes Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy, and A.J. Hinch.

The five-day exclusive negotiating period for teams and their own free agents will officially end tomorrow so let the Hot Stove League begin! For Yankee fans, we’ll see the names of Cole and Strasburg ad nauseam until we don’t (meaning they sign somewhere).

Buckle up, this should be fun.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sweet Sound of Victory…

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

As John Sterling said, “David John makes long gone!”…

Finally, the Yankees solved the A’s even if it took eleven innings and a few innings of bases juiced with stranded Oakland runners (the A’s left a total 15 men on base, which seems like a 2018 Yankees stat).

Sure, the Yankees should have called for replay of Matt Chapman’s “double” to left that temporarily gave the A’s a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning. TV replay clearly showed the ball landed outside the left field foul line even if by a fraction of an inch. The entirety of the ball’s imprint in the dirt was on the other side of the chalk line. After the game, Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged he should have asked for replay but the speed of the moment and some uncertainty caused the missed opportunity. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well.

DJ LeMahieu’s lead-off first pitch home run to right in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Yankees the win, 4-3, and snapped the Yankees’ losing streak to the A’s.  The 11th inning happened with such lightning speed. No sooner than I had let out a groan when the A’s Matt Olson led off the top of the frame with a single to center, a quick double play and a pop out ended the inning for Oakland before I could even exhale and set the stage for The Machine’s rapid fire ending.

Living in Denver, I can remember DJ’s bottom of the ninth, two-out two-run come-from-behind home run as the Colorado Rockies defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-4, on September 12, 2018. Clearly, big moments do not phase this man. I am sure that more than a few Rockies fans were wishing the Big Fundy was wearing purple yesterday.

Photo Credit: Andy Cross, The Denver Post

The Yankees scored all of their runs on solo homers. Two, his 31st and 32nd, by the  so-called ‘fat and lazy’ Gary Sanchez (leaving him one short of his own team record) and a game-tying dinger by Aaron Judge in the bottom of the eighth which set the stage for LeMahieu’s late game heroics. The four home runs in the game gave the Yankees 74 homers for the month, setting a new MLB record for most team homers in a single month. For the record, I do not think El Gary is fat and lazy and he’s had my support from the start of his career.

I was worried the Yankees had lost another player to a critical injury when Zack Britton left the game in the eighth inning with a slight limp. With a ‘glass is half empty’ view, I immediately thought there might be issues with the achilles he tore a couple of years ago. Fortunately, it was reported after the game to be nothing more than cramps and no further tests are scheduled. Whew! We need a healthy Britton in the March to October. Losing Britton would have placed greater urgency on getting Dellin Betances ready to pitch for the first time this year.

Photo Credit: AP

The win gives the Yankees (89-48) the best record in MLB. The Houston Astros lost, 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays, to fall a game behind the Yanks. Their record is 88-49.  The Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-5 losers to the Arizona Diamondbacks, dropped to 88-50.

I was optimistic after the game that the Yankees could win this series against the A’s today, but then realized the starting pitcher will be J.A. Happ.  Oh well. I really wish I had more confidence in Happ but unfortunately any confidence has left the building. My only hope is that Happ proves me wrong. Oakland’s Sean Manea will make his 2019 season debut after recovering from left shoulder arthroscopic surgery last September.

He’s back! Clint Frazier has returned to Yankee Stadium and will be in the Yankees lineup today at DH. I am glad to see Frazier back in Pinstripes. A couple of months ago, I thought he had worn them for the final time. I am hopeful he takes advantage of the latest opportunity to show that he belongs here. With rosters expanding today, the Yankees also recalled RHPs Ryan Dull and Chance Adams. They also moved RHP David Hale to the 60-day IL and signed LHP Tyler Lyons to a MLB contract and selected him from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I am glad to see the former Cardinals reliever get a shot. Poor Adams has to take a chance on a new number since the last two he has worn are taken. Jonathan Loaisiga has 43 and Mike Mussina “lookalike” Cory Gearrin has Moose’s number 35. I’d call Gearrin ‘Mussina’s Clone’ but that would imply he has the same set of skills which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s too bad that today, a day Mike Mussina will be honored for his induction into MLB’s Hall of Fame, his number will be active and worn by a journeyman reliever. I love Don Mattingly but I’ve long believed the Yankees should have the same policy as the Los Angeles Dodgers to only retire numbers for Hall of Fame players. Moose now fits that criteria. Well, I guess that I should preface that by saying I am glad nobody will ever wear 15 again.

Last year, the Yankees set the Major League record for most team home runs with 267 long balls. Sadly, the record was erased yesterday when the Minnesota Twins hit six home runs. Mitch Garver’s second bomb of the game, in the ninth inning of Minnesota’s 10-7 loss to the Detroit Tigers, gave them 268. The Yankees are within striking distance, with 254 home runs, but time is running out to make up ground on the 14 dinger shortage. It really makes you wonder where the Yankees would be if health had been their friend in 2019. No doubt a healthy Giancarlo Stanton could have been the difference maker.

The Yankees made a minor trade yesterday when they sent Triple A first baseman Ryan McBroom to the Kansas City Royals for international signing bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations. I realize that McBroom was buried behind more talented players and at 27, he’s not really a prospect anymore. But I liked the guy and he was tearing up Triple A pitching this season with a batting line of .315/.402/.574 and 146 wRC+ (26 home runs and 87 RBIs). The Yankees acquired McBroom from the Toronto Blue Jays on July 23, 2017 for Robert Refsnyder. I’m happy for McBroom. I was hopeful he’d get a shot with the Yankees but it was not meant to be. With rosters expanding today, he should get a shot to make his Major League debut this month with the Royals. Or at least I hope he does. He’s earned the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Tim Dougherty, The Free Lance-Star

I didn’t see how much international signing bonus pool money the Yankees acquired but it’s too bad it came too late to save the signing of talented international outfield prospect Jhon Diaz, who grew tired of waiting for the Yankees to make room for his   $1.4 million signing bonus and signed with AL East rival Tampa Bay. Of the international prospects linked to the Yankees, Diaz was second behind only outfielder Jasson Dominguez who was the head of the class and recipient of most of the year’s allocated bonus pool money.

Okay, let’s hope our favorite team will HAPPen to find victory today.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

Credit: Getty Images

CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream…

Atlanta Braves v Colorado Rockies
The Denver Post

Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

IF THE YANKEES WANT NOLAN ARENADO THEY HAVE TO WAIT AS ROCKIES INK THIRD BASEMAN TO 8-YEAR, $260M DEAL

– The New York Daily News

NOLAN ARENADO’S $260M IS YANKEES BLOW AND BRYCE HARPER TARGET 

– The New York Post

MLB RUMORS: YANKEES WHIFF ON ROCKIES’ NOLAN ARENADO, WHO GETS RECORD-SETTING CONTRACT TO SKIP FREE AGENCY 

– NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him.

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado.

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud.

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Getty Images

Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

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I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It’s been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!