Archive for the ‘ MLB ’ Category

High Wire with No Safety Net…

Bargain Basement Shopping…

Well, so much for my dream that the Yankees would come out of the weeds to snag Wei-Yin Chen.  The Miami Marlins paid $80 million to bring the hurler to South Beach to pitch for Donnie Baseball.  It would have made so much sense for the Yankees to sign Chen.  Proceeding down Path Status Quo will ensure that we’ll see AAA or AA arms in the starting rotation at some point during the season.  I hope James Kaprielian is ready.  He’ll be getting his taste of the Bronx sooner rather than later barring any other moves.

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Credit:  MLB.com

As we proceed through January, the latest additions are infielder Ronald Torreyes and relievers Tyler Olson and Anthony Swarzak.  I don’t know much about Swarzak but I remember going to a Twins-Yankees game at Target Field in 2012 when they brought Swarzak into the game.  I remember thinking that it was a good opportunity to score some runs, and I think that’s exactly what happened.  Could be wrong, but suffice it to say that Swarzak did not put the fear of God into me that day.

Living in Los Angeles, my TV tends to be overrun with anything Dodgers so I was aware of Torreyes and his limited contributions in 2015.  Olson was with the Mariners last season and had only recently been acquired by the Dodgers.  All sound like fodder for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to me.  To get Torreyes and Olson, the Yankees gave up infielder Rob Segedin.  Once a third round draft pick, I once had hope that Segedin would eventually lock down third base.  But at 27, his days as a prospect with potential were gone.

At this point, I don’t see the Yankees making any surprise additions or trades.  It feels like what we have is what we have, and that’s what will be going to Tampa for spring training.

There’s a part of me that hopes for a Justin Upton signing, with the trade of Brett Gardner for a pitcher, but I realize that’s a pipe dream.  In so many ways, last season’s success was a detriment as it prevented Hal Steinbrenner from feeling a sense of urgency.  Admittedly, the team feels like it is preparing for 2018 or 2019, and willing to forego the next couple of seasons.  I guess New York will be Mets town for the forseeable future.

I am trying to stay positive but as long as the starting rotation is in a fragile state, it doesn’t matter how hard the closer throws.   Plus there is too much risk at first base, right, and center.  The shuttle between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and New York will be working overtime.

The Los Angeles Rams has such a familiar ring to it…

I may not be a Rams fan, but I was so excited to hear that the Rams were returning to the City of Angels.  As a resident of Los Angeles, it seemed so weird that the second largest city in the country and one of the largest cities in the World did not have professional football.  Granted, one could argue that the Rams are not professional but still, they belong to Los Angeles.  I know, they started as the Cleveland Rams, but they spent so many years in L.A.  Growing up as a Minnesota Vikings fan in the 70’s, their chief nemesis at the time was Chuck Knox and the Rams.  I could never get used to “St Louis Rams”.  It just didn’t sound right.  The Los Angeles Rams has a much more majestic sound to it.  The pressure will be on owner Stan Kroenke and head coach Jeff Fisher to deliver a winner for L.A.  But one thing’s for certain, the 2016 NFL Season will be a blast with football on Sundays at the L.A. Coliseum.

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I feel bad for the fans in St Louis, but I seriously doubt those fans were too concerned when Los Angeles lost the Rams in 1994.

Time will tell if the Rams are joined by the San Diego Chargers, but either way, it’s fun that the NFL is back in Los Angeles.  I know that I’ll be heading out for a game or two.

Ray Finkle revisited…

What can I say about the horrific loss by the Minnesota Vikings last weekend?  It was a game that they clearly could have and should have won.  Back in training camp, Kicker Blair Walsh couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  The Vikings stuck with him and he corrected his performance over the course of the regular season.  However, the trouble during training camp stayed with me.  Even as Walsh was lining up for what should have been a chip shot game winning field goal, the training camp yips were playing in the back of my head.  When he missed the kick, regardless of whether it was the fault of the holder or Donald Trump, I had such a sense of ‘I knew it’.  As a lifelong Vikings fan, they have given me more than a fair share of disappointment.

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Credit:  AP

I am still very optimistic about the future of the Vikings under Mike Zimmer’s leadership.  However, they had the ability to make noise THIS post-season and blew the opportunity.  Windows are short in the NFL.  The Vikings had better learn from this experience and show that they know how to win.  Next year will be the first year in the new stadium so perhaps they were just waiting to explode in US Bank Stadium.  I trust the decision makers will make the right decisions to continue the improvement of the Vikings and return a much stronger team when training camp breaks later this summer.

Baseball is getting close…just a month away.  I’m ready even if the Yankees aren’t.

—Scott

Life as a Maytag Repairfan…

Off-season moves or lack thereof…

A new year, but the same quiet off-season in the Bronx despite the acquisitions of Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman.  January has introduced names like Kirby Yates, Donovan Solano, and Jonathan Diaz.  Although all three have some major league experience, I can’t really say that I was aware of any of them.

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Yates, as a fly ball pitcher, scares me.  We already have Masahiro Tanaka who loves to give up the long ball.  Granted, Yates is a reliever, but 10 home runs in 20 innings for his 2015 work with the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t exactly instill confidence.  I know, it has been said that it was an aberration and his minor league numbers reflected much better performance.  I recognize that he is just another body for spring training, and if something shakes out from these low level signings, the Yankees have captured lightning in a bottle.

If any of these guys make the opening day roster, it’s going to be a long season at Yankee Stadium.

I still hold the opinion that Wei-Yin Chen would be a terrific addition.  He would provide a stabilizing force in the starting rotation, and he’s left-handed which makes him a good fit for the hitting friendly Yankee Stadium.  There is no way the quartet of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Ivan Nova stays healthy for the duration of the year.  At some point, one or more will be lost for extended periods of time.  Of course Nathan Eovaldi carries some injury risk as well.  With Chen, you could easily slot him for his 200 innings and worry about the other guys.

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Credit:  Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports

At this point, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees are going to be able to make a trade for a young, controllable pitcher.  The team, as presently constructed, carries much risk in many areas.  If Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Carlos Beltran spend any significant time on the DL, Aaron Hicks and one or more of the young AAA outfielders (like Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams) will be exposed to much playing time.

What if Chase Headley continues his defensive slump?  Who is going to back him up?  If Greg Bird starts the year at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who spells Mark Teixeira?  If the Yankees need to do anything, they need to limit Teixeira as much as possible.  So perhaps it does make sense to carry Bird on the roster so that he can take the occasional start at first and provide late inning relief.  But sadly, he doesn’t play third.

Starlin Castro rebounded nicely last season after he became the Chicago Cubs starting second baseman but what if he struggles in the American League and shows a return to the player that struggled and was benched?  Dustin Ackley certainly looks to be a key reserve so I am sure he’ll get a lot of time at second during spring, as well as other positions.  Too bad he can’t pitch…

Sounds like we’ll know whether Chapman faces any suspension by spring.  At this point, I have to believe the Yankees are planning to start the season with incumbent closer Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances covering the 8th and 9th innings.  I’d like to see Chasen Shreve step up and into the departed Justin Wilson’s 7th inning role, along with James Pazos.  How the bullpen will look when Chapman returns is a decision for another day.

I seriously doubt the Yankees will be able to trade Ivan Nova.  He’ll need to show something in spring training to represent any type of trade chip.  Of the other players mentioned as possible trade chips, I really do not want to lose Andrew Miller.  I would prefer to see Brett Gardner go if one of them departs.  But that would leave the outfield very thin.  So the best bet is probably for both Miller and Gardner to stay.

Top NL Closers don’t die, they move to the AL East…

While I hate to see Drew Storen join the Toronto Blue Jays (at best, as their closer or at worst, a key setup guy), he is the single player that most needed a change in scenery.  Things got ugly for him last season in Washington after the Nationals acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon.  I think he’s a talented pitcher and he does deserve the opportunity to close again.  I just wish it wasn’t in the AL East.

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Credit:  Joe McDonnell, The Washington Post

Taking their rightful place in the Hall of Fame…

Congratulations to both Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Piazza for making the Hall of Fame.  They are the two players that I had felt were most deserving.  I would like to see Mike Mussina eventually make it, but it’s not his time yet.  Tim Raines most likely set himself up for induction next year with his strong performance in the results.  I admire Piazza’s choice to go into the Hall as a New York Met rather than the team he came up with, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  While Griffey hated the Yankees, I enjoyed him as a player and really wish that we could have seen a healthy Junior when he reached his 30’s.  There’s no telling where his final numbers would have ended up had he stayed healthy.

I have absolutely no problem with the poor support for the PED users, like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.  I don’t know if I would go as far as to say they should never get in, but not today…or tomorrow.

Only 40 days until pitchers and catchers report?  Nice…

—Scott

Spelling relief: A-R-O-L-D-I-S…

The Yankees at the end of the year…

On the last day of 2015, we can finally put the one game play-off loss to the Houston Astros in the rear view mirror.  It happened in a prior year; not this year.  It’s time to move into 2016 mode, and hope for the best is yet to come.

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Justin Lane/EPA

I am still trying to fully understand the trade for Aroldis Chapman but I have warmed to it considerably since my initial (poor) reaction.  I still believe in MLB’s investigation of his domestic violence incident back in October, and remain willing to accept whatever punishment MLB deems appropriate.  But the thought of a bullpen featuring Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman is very exciting.

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Getty Images

While I realize the Yankees have not formally named their closer, it’s a virtual certainty that it will be Chapman.  Miller is obviously much better suited (both mentally and physically) to slide back into a setup role.  There is no doubt he has been one of the best setup guys in baseball the last couple of years.  Hopefully, this means less reliance (and as a result, more endurance) on Betances.  With Chapman at the  back end of the bullpen, the trade of Justin Wilson to the Detroit Tigers makes much more sense than it did at the time of the trade.  I do think the Yankees will be able to get more out of Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and/or Jacob Lindgren, and in the long run, they’ll be better off for it.

Both Betances and Miller have opined on the Chapman trade, but I have not seen any comments by Chapman himself.  I am looking forward to hearing his words and thoughts about joining the Yankees.  I think those words will go a long way toward setting the perception of him in New York.  I always remember how rocky Randy Johnson’s start in the Bronx with the media was and it never really got any better.  Chapman would be best served by watching how Alex Rodriguez carried himself in 2015 when the court of public opinion is against you.

I am disappointed that Eric Jagielo’s career with the Yankees didn’t work out.  But the reports of his questionable glove and potential necessary move to first, along with his injury history, made his departure more palatable.  Perhaps he becomes the next great thing at third since, well, Todd Frazier, but it was not meant to be with the Yankees.  I remember having very high hopes for Eric Duncan, but that one never worked out either.  Rookie Davis had a great year in the Yankees’ farm system, and you have to love the name.  But I had not heard of the pitcher prior to this year.  The Yankees were right to package the four prospects into the trade for Chapman.  With prospects, there is no certainty.  With Chapman, he’ll be a force in the bullpen once he’s served any potential suspension.  It was a trade the Yankees had to make.

I still respect the Dodgers for walking away from Chapman, but equally, I do not blame the Yankees for taking a chance.  I believe in redemption, and Chapman deserves the opportunity to prove that the incident in October is not something that will ever repeat itself.

As for Miller, I really hope that he is not moved for a starting pitcher.  As much as I recognize the Yankees need another starter, I am hopeful that it does not require the loss of Miller.  Granted, he’s only been a Yankee for a year, but his attitude is commensurate with his physical ability…and his height (6’7”).

As for a starter, I still think the Yankees should pay the money and go out and sign Wei-Yin Chen.  He’d provide the stabilizing force for the starting rotation, and would be someone that the Yankees can count on to take the ball every 5 days.  He doesn’t carry the injury risk like the other starters, and is a proven veteran pitcher.  He is only 30 years old so it’s not like the team would be paying for a pitcher past his prime.  A young, controllable pitcher would be nice, but it’s not exciting like teams would be crawling other themselves trying to unload young, talented pitchers with amazing upside.

If a player is to be moved, I would probably favor Brett Gardner.  I am optimistic about Aaron Hicks, and feel that he is capable of being more than a fourth outfielder.  Among Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, and others, I think the Yankees can find their replacement for Chris Young.  As with anybody, I would prefer to see Ellsbury go, but that’s not going to happen with his contract.  So that makes Gardner the makes attractive trade chip.  At some point in 2016, I fully expect Aaron Judge to make his major league debut and begin his stranglehold on right field.  With Judge slated for right in the not-so-distant future, and Ellsbury locked into center, left field is the best spot for Hicks.

In addition to the need for a starting pitcher, I am still concerned about a backup third baseman.  I wonder if Dustin Ackley will play some third in spring training to see if he can make the transition.  With Jagielo gone, there’s not really any immediate help on the way from the farm system.  I would have loved to have seen the Yankees sign the disappointing Will Middlebrooks but he opted for Milwaukee.  If the season starts with Greg Bird in AAA, that means regular third baseman Chase Headley may have to provide some back up for Mark Teixeira at first.  This puts more pressure on the Yankees to find a back up third base solution.  I guess the other option is to begin Brian McCann’s transition to first base as the back up, freeing up catcher for Gary Sanchez for the days that McCann doesn’t catch.

For a team that has largely been quiet this off-season, the Yankees should be commended for adding a new second baseman (Starlin Castro) and closer (Chapman).  But there is still much work to be done before the team heads to Tampa for spring training.  Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner does not allow GM Brian Cashman to take any vacation time in January because we’re expecting him to be working 24/7 to improve the 2016 Yankees.  If the Yankees expect to compete with Houston, or with the recharged Boston Red Sox, or World Champion Kansas City Royals, or any of the other AL competitors, they’ll need to do more.  The most common phrase that I expect to hear in January in the offices of MLB general managers is, “Brian Cashman on Line 1”.  Now is the time to make the team better.

Have a very Happy and safe New Year!

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—Scott

A Red, Hot Controversy…

Wow…

My first reaction at the news was “I don’t want Aroldis Chapman!”.

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As a Los Angeles resident (and because the team was formerly managed by one of my all-time favorites, Don Mattingly), the Dodgers have been my “second” favorite team or you could say my favorite NL team.  When the Dodgers had the deal in place to acquire flamethrower Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds, I had initially been excited to hear about it.  Well, until the news broke about his domestic violence.  When the deal collapsed as a result, I admired the Dodgers for walking away.

I have been a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, and have experienced firsthand what it is like to have a star player on the team with domestic violence issues.  I would never condone Adrian Peterson’s behavior, and I supported the punishment he received.  In the end, I did find that the player deserved a chance to redeem himself.  With rumors of possible trades, I didn’t want to see Peterson leave Minnesota.  Peterson served his penalty, and has returned hopefully a better man.

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Andy King, Associated Press

So, maybe it’s in Peterson that I am finally starting to warm to the idea of Chapman in pinstripes.  This isn’t about wanting the player because he is an incredible pitcher.  Well, perhaps a little.  But I do believe in the process.  The MLB is currently investigating the incident with Chapman, and when the time comes, they’ll take the appropriate action.  If it means a suspension of 10 games…or 75 games…so be it.  As they say, if he did the crime, he can do the time.  I am content with a bullpen that features Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller at the backend.  The bridge to them might be suspect but I think GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi will figure it out by the end of spring training.

Chapman, like Peterson, deserves a chance for redemption.  I don’t know the player beyond what I saw from afar while he was a Cincinnati Red.  I couldn’t tell you if he is a nice guy or a complete jerk.  Still, he should have the right to amend his wrongs.  As a major league baseball player, there is great responsibility.  Sorry, that sounds similar to a line from Spiderman, but baseball is bigger than any individual.  If you wear the uniform of a major league team, you represent that team, its city and fans, and all of major league baseball.  Your actions are a direct reflection upon the two major leagues.  I hope this incident teaches Chapman that he is not above the game.  Like Peterson, I hope he comes back a better man.

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I don’t know if Chapman is just a short term rental (one year and out via free agency) or a long-term fixture in the Bronx.  Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when he’s served his sentence and is able to resume his professional career.

Welcome to the Bronx, Aroldis Chapman…

—Scott

Life as a “small market” team…

Shopping at Nordy’s Rack…

The latest news about Yankee acquisitions does leave one a bit unfulfilled on this post Christmas day.  Sebastian Valle, Vince Pestano, Jose Rosario, Richard Bleier and Juan Silva are not exactly household names.  They represent the Yankees’ latest minor league signings or fodder for the upper levels of the farm system.  The Yankees also signed former New York Mets prospect RF Cesar Puello.  I am not familiar with Puello, but his status as the only player suspended in the Biogenesis scandal not to play in the major leagues is not exactly awe inspiring.

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John Munson photo, NJ.com

Nothing against these guys but how times have changed.  While all notable major league free agents sign elsewhere, the Yankees are sticking to their new business model (seeking young, controllable players).  I am sure that they are hoping to find a diamond in the rough with the minor league signings.  Someone like Yangervis Solarte who was able to make the opening day roster the year he signed a minor league contract with the Yankees.  A few of these players were once notable prospects with their original teams, such as C Valle with the Philadelphia Phillies.  There’s always a chance they can find that promise they once held, but odds are against it.

Hip, hip Jorge?…

When Baseball Prospectus recently named SS Jorge Mateo as the Yankees’ top prospect.  I was a little surprised.  I agree that Mateo has the potential to be a great player, but he is still only 20 and far from a sure thing.  I would have thought RF Aaron Judge would have been the top prospect.  2016 will be a very critical year for Judge.  If he plays his cards right, he can supplant Carlos Beltran in right field at some point in 2016, whether it is through injury or simply the given fact that Beltran has become a defensive liability in right, thanks to age.  If Judge is not ready, it will make the transition more challenging.  I am sure that Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams will be doing everything they can to find a place in the outfield so Judge will not be handed right field.  His job is to take it, and the sooner, the better.

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Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News

As for Mateo, it makes me wonder how long Didi Gregorius will be a Yankee.  It’s inevitable that Mateo will one day be the starting shortstop.  But will it be with the Yankees or for another team like the Miami Marlins?  Time will tell.  I am sure that GM Brian Cashman likes the #1 prospect tag as it makes the player seemingly more valuable.  Under the former Steinbrenner regime, I would have almost guaranteed that Mateo would play elsewhere.  But under Team Hal, the odds are Gregorius is a Yankee only until he starts to get expensive, and then Mateo slides into his spot.

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MiLB.com

Taking one on the Chen…

Clearly, the Yankees need a frontline starter.  They passed on the mid range free agent starters like Mike Leake although I suppose Wei-Yin Chen is still available.  I think Chen would be a good fit, but of all the teams that have been linked to Chen, the Yankees are not one of them.  Still, it would be a good opportunity for the Yankees to strengthen their rotation and protect it against injury to the other starters and weaken a chief AL East rival.  In my opinion, it would be a good investment even for a team that no longer wants to spend money.

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Rob Carr, Getty Images North America

Too much ink talking about 2018…

I dislike the stories indicating the Yankees are waiting for the 2018 free agent market when Bryce Harper tops the inventory.  Every team will be making a run at players like Harper.  The Yankees cannot outspend a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, and based on their recent history, they won’t.  So, 2018 is not the great savior year for the Yankees.  Perhaps they do ultimately end up with Harper, but that’s not the ‘be all, end all’.  Too many factors need to fall the Yankees’ way for Harper to pull on the pinstripes and it is certainly not a given.  So making moves today to set up the free agent signing of Harper in 2018 is a flawed business plan for a team that is seeking to eliminate excessive long-term contracts.

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Where do we go from here?…

With so many young players being added to the team, the Yankees do need to keep or add veterans who simply know how to win.  The Chicago Cubs did a great job in adding the versatile Ben Zobrist as their new second baseman as the guy is a winner.  The Yankees need a few players like that instead of the ‘me first’ guys like Mark Teixeira.  1998 was such a great year for the Yankees because it felt like a “team”.  That is the culture I am hopeful Brian Cashman is able to re-create.

I am worried about third base.  I always thought that Chase Headley would be a good fit for the Yankees during his years with the San Diego Padres.  He did a great job in 2014 when he was acquired by the Yankees.  His defensive play was a notable upgrade, and going into 2015, the Yankees looked to be set defensively-speaking on the left side of the infield.  Then, Headley proceeded to have one of his worst years on both sides of the ball.  Will 2016 see a continuation of 2015 or will he recapture the magic he flashed in 2014?  Probably somewhere in between, but at some point, the Yankees will need to find a replacement.  Here’s hoping that minor league 3B Eric Jagielo can make great strides next season.

I am not sure who I would prefer to see backup Brian McCann next season.  The popular choice is Gary Sanchez, however, I feel that he’ll need meaningful at-bats.  Given that DH is clogged with Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, I am not sure that it would be in the best interests of the development of Sanchez to not play every day.  Therefore, Austin Romine might be the better player suited for the backup role.  Player to player, Sanchez is clearly the better catcher, but the Yankees need to ensure he’s built to be a key cog for the next decade.  Sitting on the bench in 2016 is not the best use of the player.  On the other hand, if the Yankees do go with Sanchez, Austin Romine’s time with the Yankees will almost certainly come to an end.  The Yankees have had good luck in flipping the last couple of catching backups for talent in other areas so I’d prefer to see Romine make the roster in an attempt to boost his trade value.  And then turn to Sanchez in 2017 when he can begin to take the catcher’s role away from McCann (the obvious DH of the future).

Starlin Castro may never be the player that Robinson Cano is or was, but I still prefer the 26 year old Castro over the 30-something $240 million Mariner.  At this point, with Team Frugal, I am glad that they don’t have the albatross of Cano’s contract hanging over their heads as the bloated contracts of Rodriguez, Teixeira, and CC Sabathia expire.

The Yankees have much to do between now and spring training.  Granted, there will be no splashy moves, but I anticipate a Nathan Eovaldi type of trade looming on the horizon.  Not a trade sending Eovaldi away, but rather a trade to bring a young, cost-controlled player/pitcher with significant upside to the Bronx.

So, we remain waiting for those additional moves that Brian Cashman alluded to.

Hey Cash, your move…

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—Scott

Do the Yanks have a Star in Castro?…

Well, it’s all quiet on the Eastern Front, a.k.a. The Bronx…

The winter has seen the arrival of a new second baseman (Starlin Castro) and fourth outfielder (Aaron Hicks).  However, the cost included the young backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy) and the ultimate “6th man” (starter/reliever Adam Warren).  Another trade sent away the key 7th inning reliever (Justin Wilson) for average prospects.

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ESPN

Now with a weakened bullpen, the starting rotation remains the greatest risk on the team.

There’s no backup at third, the new starting second baseman is the backup shortstop, and despite the youthful acquisitions, the Yankees are old and getting older at first base, right field and DH.

The moves made so far by the Yankees seem to echo the team is looking ahead to 2017 and 2018 when the big ticket contracts finally fall off the books.  There’s been nothing done that instills confidence the Yankees can keep up with the Toronto Blue Jays or Boston Red Sox in 2016.

I do think that Castro is an upgrade, but I was fully prepared to go into the season with the combo of Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley.  It wasn’t like the Yankees did not have a plan for the position.  I get why the organization is not playing in the $150-$200+ million market this winter but standing pat is not going to get the job done.  GM Brian Cashman alluded to more moves to come but the last couple of weeks have just been crickets.

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After the holidays, teams are starting to get more focused on spring training so I don’t see the potential for any blockbuster trades.  If any deals are made, they will probably be the lower key variety for young, unproven players with good upside potential.

I was pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances last off-season, and as it stands now, I’ll be pessimistic again.  The Yankees outperformed my expectations last year, but still, at the end, you knew it was a team that was not going to catch fire and tear through the play-offs.  The wild card game against the Houston Astros felt like a loss before it happened and it was.

It’s too bad the Yankees can’t find a way to unload some of the dead wood but of course they’d have to send money away to do it.  Hal Steinbrenner is a bean counter by trade and this is a bottom line business.  I agree with his assessment that you don’t have to have a $200 million payroll to be a champion, but this period of transition in organizational philosophy is painful given the Yankees didn’t have the greatest farm system when the transition began.

Watching the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys flounder with backup QB’s during Tony Romo’s absence is what it will feel like if the Yankees lose any of their starters for extended periods next season.  It’s not impossible that we’ll see James Kaprelian pitch at the big league level next season for no other reason than necessity.

James Kaprielian

James Kaprielian #11 of the UCLA Bruins pitches against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Jackie Robinson Stadium on March 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. UCLA defeated Arizona State 7-3. (Larry Goren/Four Seam Images)

Hopefully the Yankees can again outperform my expectations.  As they say, time will tell as it often does…

Life as Baseball’s Biggest Spender…

I may not be a fan of the Yankees’ off-season, but it could be worse.  They could be the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers have lost their manager, arguably their best pitcher last season, and have seen a trade for Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman fall apart.  Meanwhile, their rivals in the AL West have beefed up their starting rotations.  The Arizona Diamondbacks feature former Dodger Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller as their modern version of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, while the San Francisco Giants have Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto following Madison Bumgarner.  The San Diego Padres underperformed last season, but I expect improved play from them this year.  The Dodgers have clearly lost ground.  They made a good decision with their new manager (Dave Roberts) but their starting rotation after Clayton Kershaw is a far greater risk than even the Yankees’ starting five.

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It’s been a crazy off-season when baseball’s two largest market teams sit on the sidelines while the other smaller market teams throw millions at free agents.  The Yankees and Dodgers had the deep pockets to withstand bad financial investments.  I wonder how that will play out for the teams that are not as deep in cash.  Things could get ugly if the latest multi-millionaires begin the downward spiral of their careers too soon.  The days of the Yankees and Dodgers stepping in to pick up the remaining balances on bloated contracts are over.

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My Christmas wish list for the Yankees is simple.  Another starter for the rotation, a sound backup third baseman,  and a new reliable 7th inning bridge for the bullpen.  Perhaps the latter will be an in-house solution, such as James Pazos or Chasen Shreve, but the other two will need to be acquisitions.  I have no clue who they might be, but that is Cashman’s problem to worry about.

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We’ll see…

—Scott

Hot Stove League starting to simmer…

SURPRISE ME, SURPRISE ME NOT…

The week has seen much activity on the free agent front even if the Yankees have not been involved (like anyone really expected them to be).  It was no surprise to see David Price sign with the Boston Red Sox.  Weeks earlier, the club clearly stated its intention to go big game hunting in its search for an ace.  It was a given that they’d overpay to get their man and in the end, they did.  Price certainly improves the Red Sox rotation but of course he’s only one man.  I guess that’s where Craig Kimbrel comes in…to help on the days that Price doesn’t pitch.  I am sure the Red Sox still have a move or two to make before Truck Day.

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AP

The surprise was Zack Greinke signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The speculation had been that he would sign with either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants.  I had really expected the Dodgers to step up to keep their “co-ace”.  I didn’t see Tony LaRussa and the D-Backs lying in the weeds.  It will be interesting to see what the Dodgers do now as they clearly need help in their rotation (beyond just Greinke’s spot).

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DWINDLING ROTATION OPTIONS…

It is becoming less and less likely that the Yankees will be able to snag a Jeff Samardzija.  The teams that missed out on the aces will be much more aggressive with the next tier which of course means more overspending.  If there are any certainties with the Yankees, it is that Hal Steinbrenner is not going to overspend as long as he is still responsible for the bloated contracts to Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran.

If I owned the Yankees, I would target Samardzija* for the rotation and Jason Heyward for the outfield.  Beltran has just one year left on his contract and he is 39.  Heyward could represent the future and allow the Yankees to decrease their reliance on Beltran.  With all the health risks in the Yankees’ rotation, they need a workhorse.  I’ve never been a fan of Johnny Cueto so I’d certainly prefer Samardzija.  I am intrigued by Yankees prospect and Micheal Pineda clone Domingo Acevedo but he’s still in development and won’t help in early 2016.  Shelby Miller would be nice but it appears the price tag is too much.  Last year, I didn’t really know anything about Nathan Eovaldi other than he was one of the worst NL pitchers in 2014.  But youth and promise were on his side, and he turned out to be a very good acquisition.  Perhaps GM Brian Cashman is targeting another similar project.  It certainly helps to have a quality pitching coach like Larry Rothschild.

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John Munson/The Star Ledger

The Yankees’ success this past season has reinforced Hal Steinbrenner’s belief that he doesn’t need to spend to build a winner.  However, I feel that it will be harder and harder for the older guys to replicate past performances.  That’s a statement of the obvious, but last season saw solid performances from A-Rod and Teixeira.  It is inevitable that that the day is coming when their performances collapse and they become a shell of their former selves.  A-Rod will be 41 and we know that Teixeira likes to get cozy on the DL.  If all of the older players regress next season, it will be a very long one.  I wonder if the Yankees had finished last like the Red Sox if there would have been a greater sense of urgency in the Bronx.  I guess next off-season should be more active if the Yankees do indeed regress, combined with the contracts that will be coming off the books.

BIG “LITTLE” SPENDERS…

It’s funny.  For years, it was teams like the Yankees and Dodgers that could spend at will, and could cover up mistakes by spending more money.  Now those teams are trying to show fiscal constraint, and the lower market teams, flush with cash from revenue sharing and cable deals, are starting to make the foolish financial decisions.

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OH, BY THE WAY…

Congratulations to Don Mattingly and the Miami Marlins for stepping up to hire Barry Bonds as their hitting coach.  Say what you will about Bonds, but his hand/eye coordination was among the best in major league history.  The all-time home run champion will never see the Hall of Fame but he deserves a chance to continue his career in baseball and try to restore some credibility.  It has worked for Mark McGwire, and Bonds deserves the same opportunity.  I think he’ll be a very effective hitting coach.

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NBC Sports

Also congratulations to the Dodgers for their new manager, Dave Roberts.  I think it was a tremendous hire, and a much better choice than the in-house candidate, Gabe Kapler.  Nothing against Kapler, but I just feel that Roberts has the personality and drive to succeed with the Dodgers.  The Dodgers were also wise in prying bench coach Bob Geren from the New York Mets to fill the same role with them.  The Dodgers bench is in very strong hands with Roberts and Geren.

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AP Photo/NIck Ut

Next week is my favorite week of the Hot Stove League, the Baseball Winter Meetings.  I know that it’s unlikely the Yankees will be active participants, but it is a fun week with the flurry of activity.  While I don’t expect the Yankees to make any major moves, there’s the part of me that knows there is always the chance.  The Yankees didn’t suddenly get poor when the rest of the team became rich.  They still sit in the largest market in the country and have revenue streams that other teams can only dream about.

By the way, is it really December already?…

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—Scott

*After writing this post, the reports came out that the San Francisco Giants have signed Samardzija for 5 years/$90 million.  At that price, the Yankees should have played.  But they didn’t, and I still don’t want Johnny Cueto.  Looks like it will be a year of rotation turbulence in the Bronx…

Let’s get this party started…

The lull before the storm?…

I like Thanksgiving as much as the next guy (or gal), but from a baseball perspective, this week is generally no fun.  Not much trade activity (even if the Astros traded Jed Lowrie to the Athletics) or free agent signings (sorry Alex Avila, you are not a big ticket purchase).

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The Yankees struck quickly with the acquisitions of outfielder Aaron Hicks and pitcher Ronald Herrera, but have been very quiet the last couple of weeks (aside from losing pitcher Chase Whitley to the Tampa Bay Rays).

Of the rumors, it was interesting to hear that Robinson Cano wanted to find his way back to New York.  True or untrue, that’s an acquisition that would not make sense to me.  I liked Cano as the Yankees’ second baseman, and he was arguably the best player on the team in his final years as a Yankee.  However, he is now 33 years old, coming off a disappointing year, and still carrying a bloated contract.  I would not want to see the Yankees pick up a contract that would take Cano to age 40.  Those last few years have the potential to be very, very ugly.  I prefer the present scenario which features a platoon with Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley.  Part of me keeps hoping that Ackley will finally find the promise he once held, but truly Refsnyder is the key.  I want to see him play.  Maybe he is a miserable failure, but he deserves the chance to show that he can be a capable second baseman for the New York Yankees.

Rob Refsnyder, Hanley Ramirez

Boston Red Sox’s Hanley Ramirez is forced out at second base as New York Yankees’ Rob Refsnyder turns the double play on Mike Napoli during the second inning of a baseball game in Boston, Saturday, July 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

MLB.com

I would love for the Yankees to be in on David Price but the realist in me knows that I should not hope for a top shelf signing.  I know that George Steinbrenner would be all over either Price or Zack Greinke, but Hal is not his father’s son.  Well, maybe he is by blood, but that’s it.  I would gladly accept a second tier free agent pitcher, but I am not sure the Yankees are even going there.  Based on recent reports, there is much to be excited about prospect pitcher Domingo Acevedo, and perhaps he is next year’s Luis Severino.  If the Yankees continue down the path toward youth, I don’t think they’ll be a legitimate World Series threat for a few years.

It’s too bad that the Yankees can’t find a way to unload an older guy like Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira but they’d get too little in return.

It is exciting that Gary Sanchez has a legitimate shot at making the Yankees’ roster next year, although I think that inevitably he’ll be ticketed for AAA with Austin Romine taking the back up job that was held by former Yankee John Ryan Murphy last year.

When I first heard the Yankees connected with free agent outfielder Jason Heyward, I was somewhat lukewarm on the idea.  But as time as passed, I really like the potential of adding Heyward and trading Brett Gardner for positions of need.  It’s a given that 2016 will be the final year for Carlos Beltran as a Yankee so a 2017 outfield of Heyward, Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury looks pretty good to me.  It looks even better if Gardner, in combo with prospects, is capable of bringing in an upper tier starting pitcher.

Greg Bird, I really don’t want you to spend 2016 in AAA.  Fortunately, it’s an inevitability that Mark Teixeira will be wrapping his arms around the disabled list at some point.  Hopefully sooner than later.

I was in favor of acquiring third baseman Chase Headley, but I have to admit that my support is weakening.  I think he should be given one more year to prove that the yips are a thing of the past, but admittedly, I am hoping that prospect Eric Jagielo grows by leaps and bounds next year.

The next couple of weeks should be very interesting and will go a long way toward determining how successful the 2016 Yankees will be.  Hey Brian Cashman, no pressure…

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New York’s a cake walk compared to Los Angeles…

As a Los Angeles resident, I hate that Don Mattingly will not be the manager of the local Dodgers.  I’ve been a Donnie Baseball fan since the day he arrived at the major league level with the Yankees.  But I do feel that the Dodgers made the best possible decision in choosing San Diego Padres bench coach Dave Roberts as their manager.  It wasn’t fun re-living all those stories about how Roberts helped the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, but he seems to me to be the best man for the job.  I like him much better than the previous frontrunner (Gabe Kapler).

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MLB.com

If anything is certain, the pressure on Roberts to succeed will be immense.

 

As for Mattingly, I will definitely pull for the Marlins so long as they are not playing the Yankees or the Dodgers.  I remain hopeful that Mattingly will one day find his way back to the Bronx.  He is and always will be a Yankee.

Well, time to go get the turkey ready for tomorrow.  Let’s hope that Cashman is not serving any turkeys any time soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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—Scott

 

2015 was fun but on to 2016!…

Now the real season begins…

Admittedly, I didn’t watch any of the World Series games.  It was hard for me to get excited about either the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.  I was definitely not one of the Yankees fans that jumped on the Mets bandwagon.  Congratulations to the Royals for their championship as they truly played like champions to get the title (even if I didn’t see it).

The end of the World Series is good as it signaled the start of the Hot Stove League.  Of course, November tends to be a slower month, especially as we get closer to Thanksgiving.  But things should be humming this time next month.

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Hopefully, the Yankees do not have another off-season of inactivity.  The free agent market doesn’t look overly appealing but I doubt the Yankees will be big ticket buyers anyway since no large contracts are coming off the books.  Of the possible moves, I would support a move to sign Justin Upton and trade Brett Gardner.  When Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are on, they are a dynamite duo.  But it happened too infrequently last season due to injuries.  As for pitchers, I know the Yankees won’t spend the money for Zack Greinke, but either Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmerman would be good.  I have heard the complaints about Samardzija and how he wouldn’t play at Yankee Stadium since he is a flyball pitcher, but he’s an innings eater.  With so many health risks in the starting rotation, it would be nice to have dependability in at least one spot (well, two if you consider Luis Severino).  Otherwise, the others are almost assured of being part of DL-R-US at some point in the season.

Aside from those guys, there really isn’t much that excites me.  I respect Ben Zobrist, but he’s on the wrong side of 30.  I understand Rob Refsnyder’s defensive limitations, but I’d still rather go with youth and potential at second over age even if it means sacrifice in the short run.  I like Dustin Ackley and keep hoping that he has a resurgence to reach some of the potential he had early in his career.  That one might be a pipe dream, but I am fine with Refsnyder and Ackley at second over bringing in a higher cost free agent.

I have my concerns about Chase Headley at third, but he’s not going anywhere.  Of course, there’s Mark Teixeira and it is inevitable that 2016 will be broken up by another stint or stints on the DL.  I am sure that Greg Bird will be a frequent traveler on the Scranton/Wilkes Barre to NYC Shuttle which is too bad since Bird has proven he can play at this level.  Just waiting for Teixeira’s contract to expire…

Nothing against Brian McCann but it’s too bad his contract is so long and that DH is occupied by Alex Rodriguez.  Gary Sanchez is starting to show the promise that we’ve known for so many years and it won’t be long until he’s knocking on the door at Yankee Stadium.  I like John Ryan Murphy, but Sanchez will push him aside when its time.

It should be a fun off-season.

Staying home…

I had hoped that GM Brian Cashman would go outside the organization to bring in a replacement for Assistant GM Billy Eppler who left to take the GM job with the Los Angeles Angels.  However, they stayed in-house and went with Tim Naehring although he won’t get Eppler’s Assistant GM job title.  I have no qualms with the choice (even if the guy is a Red Sock), but wish they had brought some new blood into the organization.

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I later read the Yankees reached out to former Boston GM Ben Cherington which would have been a good choice.  But I understand his reasons for staying out of the game for now.

Speaking of GM’s, I was shocked to see the sudden departure of Alex Anthopoulos.  He reinvigorated the Blue Jays with his bold moves.  He shouldn’t have a problem getting another gig but the timing wasn’t the best since all of the GM slots are presently filled.  Of all the good things I’ve heard about Mark Shapiro (the new president of the Blue Jays), I am surprised that Anthopoulos didn’t stick around at least one year to give it a chance.

Donnie Baseball in South Beach…

Congratulations to Don Mattingly for getting another job so quickly.  He’ll see some familiarity with guys like Dee Gordon (a former Dodger) but he’ll find it’s different going from a team that isn’t afraid of spending money to one that routinely shows its frugal ways.  But I’d take Giancarlo Stanton over Yasiel Puig any day of the week.  I am sure that Mattingly will miss Clayton Kershaw, but he should do well in Miami.  It didn’t work out for Joe Girardi and countless others, but Mattingly has the right personality and attitude to make it work.

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Twitter/@Marlins

As a Los Angeles resident, I’ll miss Mattingly heading the local team.  As for the Dodgers, it’s anybody’s guess who will be the new manager.  If they opt for Nebraska coach Darin Erstad, it would be funny to see an Angel as the Dodgers manager considering the Angels have a Dodger as their manager.  I am intrigued with the idea of Kirk Gibson given his history with the Dodgers, and of course, I think Dave Martinez is ready to be a manager and he has strong ties to Andrew Friedman from their days in Tampa.  Whomever gets the job will experience the incredible heat that Mattingly endured the last couple of years.  It’s funny that the Yankees job would be an easier one than the Dodgers, but times have changed.

—-Scott

What have you done for me lately?…

End of a run…

Sadly, the 2015 postseason has meant the demise of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  Mattingly was always one of my favorite players so it was easy to cheer for the Dodgers as my second favorite or favorite NL team when I moved to Los Angeles.  I didn’t think Mattingly was ready to manage when he was a contender for the Yankees’ managerial position that ultimately went to Joe Girardi when Joe Torre left.  But since becoming the Dodgers manager, I felt that Donnie Baseball has grown every year.

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USATSI

The post-season is such a weird, frenetic time.  It’s not really about the best team in baseball as the St Louis Cardinals can attest but rather whichever teams are playing the best in October.  In shortened one or five game series, anything can happen.  For a team with a $300+ million payroll, the Dodgers had too many flaws.  A weak starting rotation after the big two of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, short on a few big or clutch bats, and the disadvantage to run into a New York Mets starting pitching staff that jelled at the right time (just ask the Chicago Cubs).

I’d have a very hard time pinning this one on Mattingly.  I know that he has not enjoyed playoff success, but his teams effectively compete year after year.  His time will come and he will be soaking in the bubbly at some future point.

I am hopeful that Mattingly is a big league manager next year.  Not crazy about the thought of the Miami Marlins, but they would be very fortunate to have him.

As a game strategist, I would clearly take Joe Girardi over Don Mattingly.  But man for man, the preference is Mattingly.  If I owned the Yankees, I could easily fire Girardi to replace him with Mattingly.  Of course, I’d also look for a very strong bench coach, but I think Mattingly does a better job of relating to people.

Maybe one day Donnie Baseball can make the return to the Yankees organization, but sadly, that time is not now.  So, I’ll cheer for him wherever he lands, wherever that may be.

Snooze alert…

Sorry, it’s just hard for me to get excited about the upcoming New York Mets-Kansas City Royals World Series.  I really have no interest in seeing either team become the latest World Champions.  I guess this is one of those years that I’ll have to impatiently await the start of the Hot Stove League.

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Let the Bird fly…

I dislike reading the reports that first baseman Greg Bird may have to go back to the minor leagues.  He proved that he is major league ready and he’ll only get better.  I know that Mark Teixeira is the better defender, but I simply do not trust Teixeira’s ability to stay healthy.  I guess that’s part of the logic in sending Bird down.  Inevitably, there will be a point in time that he’ll be needed.  It’s too bad.  I would rather turn the page, and move forward with Bird today.  Then, look for a solid backup with good defensive skills.  In other words, I am ready for the Mark Teixeira Show to end its run in New York.

TORONTO, CANADA SEPTEMBER 22:  Greg Bird #31 of the New York Yankees hits a three run home run scoring Brian McCann and  Slade Heathcott putting the Yankees ahead 6-3 during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Center on Monday, September 22, 2015. (Photo by Anthony J Causi)

TORONTO, CANADA SEPTEMBER 22: Greg Bird #31 of the New York Yankees hits a three run home run scoring Brian McCann and Slade Heathcott putting the Yankees ahead 6-3 during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Center on Monday, September 22, 2015. (Photo by Anthony J Causi)

Anthony J. Causi

With so many heavy contracts still on the roster, it appears that the Yankees will be very limited in their ability to create roster flexibility this off-season.  I think it would be foolish to expect the same (or better) production from the older guys, like Alex Rodriguez.  Somehow, the 2016 Yankees need to be re-constructed knowing that there will be continued regression among the above 30 players. I know, an obvious statement, but not one that’s easy to do.  I would expect significant major league contributions at some point next season by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.  But that will mean potential injuries to Carlos Beltran and/or Brian McCann.  Injuries break continuity and momentum.  I would rather do what it takes to eliminate or at least reduce the odds of injury.

Best of luck to Billy Eppler…

I was disappointed to see Billy Eppler go, but it’s a good opportunity for him to return to his native California as the new GM of the Los Angeles Angels.  Time will tell if his run is successful, but he certainly has the tools.  I know that I’d love to have Mike Trout as the core player on my team.

Longtime Yankees executive Billy Eppler, left, is greeted by Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno during a news conference announcing Eppler as the new general manager for the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The 40-year-old Eppler replaces interim GM Bill Stoneman, who took over after Jerry Dipoto quit his job at midseason following his latest disagreement with Scioscia, the longest-serving manager in baseball.  (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Longtime Yankees executive Billy Eppler, left, is greeted by Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno during a news conference announcing Eppler as the new general manager for the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The 40-year-old Eppler replaces interim GM Bill Stoneman, who took over after Jerry Dipoto quit his job at midseason following his latest disagreement with Scioscia, the longest-serving manager in baseball. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

AP

I am not sure if GM Brian Cashman has plans to replace Eppler, but if he does, I hope that he brings in new blood from the outside rather than promote from the old guard.  The commitment to youth is working, but sustainability is continuing to make the right decisions on players.  The Yankees have made a few too many poor player decisions, so this is an area that continually needs improvement.

I wish the Yankees could have found a way to keep Eppler, even if it meant moving Cashman up and out of the GM role.  But now that he’s gone, the Yankees need to find that next potential superstar GM to serve as Cashman’s chief lieutenant.

Is the World Series over yet?…  ;(

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—Scott

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