Archive for the ‘ New York Yankees ’ Category

Roll camera, on your mark, ACTION!…

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season.  A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran.  I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York.  He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old.  For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense.  There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better.  Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.

Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now.  Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run.  In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans.  We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.

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Credit:  Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front.  A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense.  I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy.  He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth.  I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.

It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes.  Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire.  So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.

I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization.  I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames.  When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job.  It was not meant to be.  I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.

I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery.  Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.

Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…

—Scott

 

*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.

The Calm before the Storm…

Can I have my cake and eat it too?…

Thanksgiving Week is generally the calm before the storm as the Hot Stove League usually doesn’t begin percolating until we get closer to the December Winter Meetings.  No offense to catcher Jason Castro, but his signing with the Minnesota Twins was not exactly major news.

The trade of Brian McCann happened as expected.  I didn’t really anticipate any frontline prospects in the trade so all things considered, I was pleased with two young pitching prospects even if they are both projects at this point.  It would have been nice for a return that represented immediate help for the major league roster, but there’s nothing wrong with stockpiling quality arms.  While it is possible that neither Albert Abreu nor Jorge Guzman ever see the big leagues, the potential is there even if it is a few years away.

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Credit:  Ben Sandstrom and MiLB.com

While I hope for the eventual arrival of top Yankees “born” prospects James Kaprielian, Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, and Ian Clarkin, it’s fun watching the progress of the newcomers (Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and others).  So, it will be nice to see Abreu and Guzman in the mix.

I was very impressed with the Arizona Fall League performance by SS prospect Gleyber Torres.  Named the MVP of the AFL season, he has clearly shown that he is the future of the Yankees infield.  Didi Gregorius has been a very capable replacement for the retired Derek Jeter but at some point, he is going to be hearing Gleyber’s footsteps.  Well, either he or second baseman Starlin Castro.

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Credit:  Tim Holle / Brevard County Manatees

For my off-season wish list, it probably starts with the hopeful signing of former Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who graciously brought Torres to New York through the trade with the Chicago Cubs in July.  The news reports yesterday that Chapman is interested in rejoining the Yankees was very nice, but such a teaser.  It will be a disappointment if he signs elsewhere.

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Credit:  Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

While I’ve heard the Yankees are in the mix for Carlos Beltran, along with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, I would probably prefer to see the Yankees go with someone like Cleveland’s Mike Napoli for the 1B/DH role.  Napoli has been such a great clutch performer in his career.  It’s not to say that Beltran hasn’t been, but at this point, I am not really interested in 40-somethings on the roster occupying space with no upside.  Napoli is getting older but at least he’s younger than Beltran (even if only by 4 years or so).  Obviously, I would take Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion over Napoli but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the market for those players due to the dollars involved.  But I am hopeful that the Yankees can find protection in the lineup for catcher Gary Sanchez.

I remain hopeful for the trade of veterans Chase Headley and Brett Gardner.  I am not sure who’d replace Headley as prospect Miguel Andujar is not ready, but I am sure that Cashman can find other options.  If the Yankees could get rid of Jacoby Ellsbury, I’d want Gardner to stay but unfortunately, Ellsbury is not going anywhere.  Therefore, it makes sense to move Gardner to free up room for younger players.  With Aaron Judge slated for right field, guys like Aaron HIcks, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and others need opportunity.  The most logical spot is left field.

The next few weeks should be interesting…

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Be safe and enjoy the time with your families.

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—Scott

Enough about the Cubs…

Waiting for Brian Cashman’s microphone-drop…

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It’s November, the Presidential Election is behind us, and baseball free agency has begun.  The Hot Stove League is officially underway.

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The Yankees may be as inactive this off-season as they were last off-season, but the rumors that they’ve reached out to the agents for notable free agents is activity that we did not see or hear last year.

I am hopeful the Yankees land either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen for the back end of the bullpen.  I’d prefer Chapman for several reasons.  The familiarity with the Yankees (for the player and the fans), and no draft pick compensation attached.  But I would not be disappointed if the Yankees end up with Jansen.  I view them as 1A and 1B.  As good as he is, I am not really interested in a reunion with Mark Melancon.  My 2A choice would probably be Greg Holland.  The price tag for the elite closers may prove to be too much for the Yankees so there’s the chance that Dellin Betances retains his closer role.  I’d place him as my 3A choice given that I’d really prefer to see him return to a setup role and be used more like the way Andrew Miller was handled by Tito Francona after Miller’s arrival in Cleveland.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Brian McCann will be traded.  I have no doubt this will happen.  Despite McCann’s desire to stay, it makes too much sense to move him.  The backup catching role can be capably handled by Austin Romine or Kyle Higashioka.  For years, Alex Rodriguez blocked DH, and if on the roster, McCann would do the same thing.  Given the Yankees do not have a huge clutch bat for DH (like Boston did with David Ortiz), I’d prefer to see DH used by young hitters like Tyler Austin who might not otherwise have a spot in the starting lineup or rotate some of the older guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley.  Granted, the Yankees are not going to get two top prospects for McCann even if they eat half of his remaining salary but they should be able to get a return that does provide help in other areas.

I did like the idea of Kendrys Morales as a potential DH signing but now that he’s a Blue Jay (3 years for $33 million), the Yankees will have to look elsewhere if they pursue a free agent or trade candidate.

I understand the reasons the Yankees will non-tender Nathan Eovaldi.  He will miss the 2017 season following Tommy John surgery and it may be a couple of years before he can potentially get back to the progress point he had reached.  It’s equally possible that he never becomes a consistent, dependable starter in the big leagues.  Still, I’ll be saddened to see him go.  I had hoped he would be able to harness his great stuff and prove to be a solid #3 starter in the rotation.  I hope if the Yankees do non-tender him as expected, they attempt to re-sign him on a more reasonable deal that allows the pitcher to recuperate and get back to the Show.

For a team that’s been focused on getting younger, I am so glad that the Yankees did not pursue the two 40-somethings that signed with the Atlanta Braves (R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon).  I am a bit surprised that the Braves are investing in the older pitchers given the youth movement in Atlanta.  This might actually increase the odds that McCann returns to Atlanta, although the Houston Astros are looming as a very strong possibility.

This is also the off-season to move Brett Gardner.  The return may not be as great as it might have been just a year ago, but the Yankees need to open room in the outfield for the younger prospects.  Assuming that Aaron Judge takes right field, the Yankees are stuck with Jacoby Ellsbury in center, so left field is needed for guys like Aaron Hicks, Mason Williams and potentially Clint Frazier.  I guess eventually Ellsbury will need to move to left to make room for Frazier in center, and that could happen as early as the summer of 2017.  Keeping Gardner just delays the inevitable.

With free agent signings and trades starting to happen, I am anxious to hear some Yankees news.  The team definitely needs help for the starting rotation, but that will take a well researched trade or two since there is nothing on the free agent market outside of veteran Rich Hill.  There are no shortage of options for GM Brian Cashman to improve the roster and continue the youth enthusiasm we saw in August and September.

Let’s get this party started!…

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Credit:  New York Daily News

—Scott

The World Champion Chicago Cubs…

The Cubs can still say “Wait ’til next year!”…

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and their (true) fans for the long-awaited World Series championship!

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Credit:  Brian Cassella, The Chicago Tribune

Admittedly, I was pulling for the Cleveland Indians.  I have no great love for the Indians, but ace reliever Andrew Miller was my favorite Yankee during his time in New York.  Also, I have the highest respect for manager Terry Francona, who is probably my favorite manager outside of Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

Still, it was exciting to see the young Cubs finally bring closure to baseball’s longest drought.  It’s staggering to think how many Cubs fans lived their entire lives without seeing a Cubs championship.  For the first time in my life, the Cubs have won more recently than the Yankees.  The Cubs are poised for future success so, in a way, this feels like the 1996 Yankees.  The best of the Cubs may be yet to come.

It was an interesting World Series with both bullpens featuring pitchers who represented the back end of the Yankees’ pen earlier this year with flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman and the very versatile Andrew Miller.  There was speculation that the pitchers would play a key role in the seventh game of the series, but both had off nights (thanks in large part to the heavy load that both carried over the course of the series).

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Credit:  Nam Y. Huh, AP

It was arguably one of the greatest World Series that I’ve seen.  How often is the World Series tied at the end of the 9th inning of Game 7?  Not very…with a statement of the obvious.  I do feel bad for the Indians and their fans to come so close.  Victory was within their reach with a clutch hit or two.

Theo Epstein has proven that he is the master of dispelling curses.  He did it in Boston and now he’s done it in Chicago.  I wonder if he’s ever thought about pro football?  I am starting to think that he’d be a wise choice to take control of the Minnesota Vikings.  Seriously, Theo deserves much credit for bringing a championship to Chicago.

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Credit:  The Associated Press

I know that he was glad to return to New York, but I wonder if there was a part of reliever Adam Warren that missed being a member of the Cubs during October.

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Credit:  Bleacher Nation

The future of Pinstripes…

Now that the World Series is over, the Hot Stove League can begin.  Next week, we’ll see the opening of free agency, although any real activity is still a few weeks away.  I am very hopeful the Yankees aggressively pursue either Chapman or Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.  I am not really interested in a reunion with Washington Nationals free agent closer Mark Melancon.  I’d really like to see the Yankees employ Dellin Betances much like how Miller was used by the Indians.  With a strong closer, and hopefully continued improvement by young pitchers like Jonathan Holder, the Yankees bullpen has the potential to be as great as it was early last season.  I’ll miss Miller but the Yankees can take much pressure off the starting rotation with a strong pen.  That’s a much easier fix than a trade for a frontline starter like Chris Sale.

I wish I knew with certainty that Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Tyler Austin will be as ready for the major leagues next spring as Gary Sanchez.  If these players struggle, it may be a long year in New York.

The Arizona Fall League has shown the Yankees have a great shortstop/second base prospect in Gleyber Torres, who could eventually force the Yankees to move Starlin Castro or Didi Gregorius, but he’s still a few years away.  The Yankees don’t have an immediate high level third base prospect, but Miguel Andujar has shown he is doing his best to fast track it to the Bronx to allow the Yankees to replace the disappointing Chase Headley.  I am excited about the future of starting pitcher James Kaprielian.  I just hope that he’s not included in any trades for more established pitchers.

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Credit:  Bill Mitchell

This is a difficult off-season for the Yankees.  If they stay the course and continue to acquire young prospects and avoid large free-agent signings, it’ll be hard for the team to take the next step to return to World Series contention.  After so much work to acquire top level prospects, it would be foolish to trade them away for players in their 30’s.

Clearly, the Yankees have guys they can and should move.  As much as Brian McCann wants to stay in New York, it makes too much sense to move him to Atlanta or elsewhere.  With young catchers like Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez, the Yankees have greater needs in other areas.  The Yankees do need to move either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury.  The latter would be preferable, but the former might be easier, but maybe not as easy as it would have been a year ago.  Chase Headley is an overpay, but until something better comes along, he’s not going anywhere.

While I understand the reasons the Yankees need to non-tender pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who is currently recuperating from Tommy John surgery, I do hope that they find a way to re-sign him to a deal to allow him to return following his recovery.  It’s a given that second baseman/utility-man Dustin Ackley will be non-tendered, ending his brief Yankees career.  I had always hoped that he’d finally unlock his potential in New York but it was not meant to be.

The next two months will go a long way toward shaping the 2017 Yankees.  They could be inactive, much like last year, or they could be aggressive.  I am hoping for something in the middle.  Cautious, strategic planning for long-term sustainability…and Aroldis Chapman.

Time will tell as it often does…

—Scott

Are the Cubbies moving toward a date with Destiny?…

Missing the Pinstripes in October…

I seriously thought the Boston Red Sox would advance to the World Series this year (to play the Chicago Cubs).  For some reason, it appeared to be destiny that Theo Epstein, who broke the Curse of the Bambino, would have the opportunity to break the Lovable Losers’ long-standing World Series drought against his former team.

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Credit:  AP

Admittedly, I was not disappointed to see the Cleveland Indians, and in particular manager Tito Francona, upstage Boston with the ALDS series win, sending the Red Sox home.  Primarily because of reliever Andrew Miller, I am pulling for the Indians in the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Francona has long been one of my favorite managers so it’s an easy team to root for.

Granted, I am still pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers given they are my favorite NL team, however, I believe this is the year of the Chicago Cubs.

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So, at this point, the only team I don’t really want to see in the World Series is the Blue Jays.  As a Yankees fan, it is very difficult to root for other AL East teams.

It is interesting that if the Indians and Cubs do meet in the Fall Classic, the two best Yankees relievers at the start of the year will be facing one another.  Miller, during his short time in New York, was my favorite Yankee after the retirement of Mariano Rivera.  Miller was great in New York, but Francona has found ways to use Miller in superior ways to take full advantage of the pitcher’s greatness.  Aroldis Chapman is arguably one of the best closers in baseball and he could very well find himself back in pinstripes at the end of the year.  It would be very fun to watch these two brilliant pitchers work their magic in the game’s biggest stage.

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Credit:  MLB.com

Every team remaining in the playoffs has at least one former Yankee on its roster.  Cleveland has former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister in addition to Miller.  The Cubs have Chapman.  The Dodgers have Rich Hill, who was briefly a Yankee a few years ago.  Lastly, the Blue Jays have former Yankees catcher Russell Martin.  His backup is former Yankees prospect Dioner Navarro.  So, at least one ex-Yankee is guaranteed a ring this year.

Perhaps they should invite him to Old Timer’s Day so that he can continue to terrorize Yankee pitching…

While there was delight in watching the Indians beat the Red Sox, there was sadness watching the end of the brilliant career of David Ortiz.  He was such a thorn in the Yankees’ side over the years, but I built up great respect for the player.  He ended his career without a noticeable dropoff in ability and production.  By comparison, it was clear Alex Rodriguez was done when he left.  Ortiz could have stayed in the game a few more years, earning multi-millions of dollars.  He should get the call for Cooperstown one day.  He earned it.  He is one of the very few players that was able to end his career on his terms.

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Credit:  ESPN.com

Coming soon to a stadium near you…

Last year in the Arizona Fall League, we were able to get an advance preview of how great catcher Gary Sanchez could be.  This year, pitcher James Kaprielian and shortstop Gleyber Torres have stood out in the early days of the AFL.  Kaprielian is showing that the Yankees should look inward for help in the starting rotation next spring, and Torres is providing a glimpse of the future when Yankees will be forced to make decisions regarding incumbent starters Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro to make room for Torres and second baseman/shortstop Jorge Mateo.

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Credit:  Tim Holle/Brevard County Manatees via River Ave Blues

It’s also good to see first baseman Greg Bird, the most probable replacement for the retired Mark Teixeira, back on the field.  He does seem a little out of place in the AFL as a bonafide major leaguer among a sea of prospects, but the lost year due to injury makes this a necessity to prepare Bird for next season.

I am anxious for the current season to reach its conclusion so that the Hot Stove League can start to simmer.  I am anxious to see what GM Brian Cashman can do to help the Yankees take the first step back to contender status.  This was a very promising year after the so-so start.  I don’t expect the Yankees to be World Series contenders next year, but I do believe that another championship could be attained within two to three years with the right moves now.  I am hopeful that 2017 brings more of what we saw in September with the Baby Bombers.

As the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…

—Scott

Home for the Holidays…

Glad my favorite NFL team is 4-0…

The playoffs have started but it clearly feels as though baseball is over for me this year given the Yankees are home for the holidays.  I’ve picked up the mantle for the Los Angeles Dodgers given they are my favorite National League team, but of course, it’s just not the same.  Realistically, I don’t think anyone is beating the Chicago Cubs in the NL this year.  They seem to be the team of destiny.  In our lifetime, we’ve seen the end of the Curse of the Bambino and now it seems the end of the Cubbies’ World Series drought is near.

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On the AL side, I thought the Boston Red Sox would emerge as the premier team.  But two games into the AL playoffs has shown a short 5 game series is anybody’s to win.  The Red Sox are not playing like the team that completely destroyed the Yankees in Boston a few weeks ago.  I have no doubt the Red Sox can sweep the next three games to win their series against the Cleveland Indians but obviously they do find themselves in a precarious situation with no room for error.  I have been quietly surprised and pleased by Cleveland’s performance.  Tito Francona has long been one of my favorite managers (Don Mattingly is the other) and he is showing why in this series against his former team.

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Credit:  Jake Roth, USA Today Sports

The Texas Rangers quietly had the best year in the AL, but they have absolutely no pitching answer for the devastating bats in the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup.  Right now, the odds are in favor of a Blue Jays-Indians American League Championship Series.  I thought we’d be looking at Red Sox-Rangers but I guess that’s why they play the games.

Fortunately, the quick start by the health-challenged Minnesota Vikings gives me something to think about other than baseball and the absence of America’s favorite team.

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Credit:  Jerry Holt, TNS

Excuse me, can I have that chair?…

With spots on the 40-man roster at a premium, it wasn’t a surprise to see the recent moves to free up space.  While Blake Parker and Kirby Yates did well, at times, during the season, they are replaceable parts.  It didn’t take the Los Angeles Angels long to snatch up both players.  The Yankees also cut ties with Eric Young, Jr but that was no surprise as his only role was speed for September (filling the Rico Noel role from a year earlier).  No doubt there are more moves to be made.  I am glad to see the Yankees protect young guys like catcher Kyle Higashioka who could have been lost without a spot on the 40-man roster.  Tough decisions for GM Brian Cashman.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA Today Sports

When you are trying to protect young talent, the 40-man roster suddenly feels so limiting.  I am sure there will be some losses of quality talent in this year’s Rule 5 draft.  It is always hard to see lost prospects achieve major league success elsewhere (Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox comes to mind).  Last year saw the Yankees lose a couple of guys, like outfielder Jake Cave, but fortunately none stuck on their respective major league rosters and were returned.  I don’t think they’ll  be so lucky this year.

I am thankful that Alex Rodriguez will not be filling one of those seats this off-season.  As much as Brian McCann would like to stay, I think the Yankees need to find a way to move him and his salary.  I would prefer a more consistent bat at DH but even if the Yankees don’t go outside for help, they have a plethora of young outfielders.  Greg Bird will most likely replace Mark Teixeira at first which means the Yankees need to find a place for Tyler Austin.  With so many outfield options, DH might be the best spot for the young slugger who could then spell Bird at times.

With such a youthful roster, guys like Chase Headley are suddenly looking very old.

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Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA Today Sports

I remain hopeful that the Yankees will pursue a proven closer like Aroldis Chapman (my preference) or Kenley Jansen in the off-season.  With Dellin Betances moving back into the primary setup role, the Yankees bullpen could return to its status as one of the game’s best which would relieve pressure on the starting rotation.  I just don’t see any great starting pitching options available in the trade market which wouldn’t cost multiple top prospects.

As much as I would love to have one of the impending free agent bats in Toronto, I think the cost would be too great for the team at this point in time.  I like the strategy of acquiring a young players with upside like Aaron Hicks even if that one didn’t exactly pan out…yet.  That’s exactly what the Blue Jays did when they acquired Jose Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates and I think that one turned out well for the acquiring team.

I don’t think I’ll be ready to proclaim the Yankees as a World Series contender come Spring, but hopefully the team continues to make the moves to set up the Yankees for a run in 2018 and beyond.  A strong base for sustained success is unquestionably the best path over any quick fixes.

Now is the time when Brian Cashman truly earns his paycheck…

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Credit:  Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News

—Scott

A time to reflect…

Saving the best dance for last…

After a ho-hum drive to the trading deadline, it was a fun ride after the Yankees disposed of their top relievers and their best bat.  The release of Alex Rodriguez signaled the opening of the youth movement, which had technically already begun with the trades for Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.  Yet, it wasn’t until catcher Gary Sanchez arrived that the magic was re-inserted into Yankee Stadium.  With Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin as the opening act in August, the team thrust themselves back into post-season contention.  For a time, it seemed as though it might work, but a brutal September schedule brought an end to those aspirations.  Still, for the Yankees to be in contention as late as September 29th, it was an improbable ride.

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The Baby Bombers gave Yankees fans reason to be optimistic again.  Judge’s stay was short-lived due to injury but it gave the Yankees a chance to see other guys like Mason Williams.

I am not foolish enough to believe that Luis Cessa or Chad Green are the next great aces in baseball, but both achieved some success at the major league level and are posed to compete for jobs next spring.

It’s clear that the off-season strategy should involve getting a high caliber bat, a starting pitcher and help for the relief corps.  I am not convinced that Dellin Betances can be a frontline closer but as a set up guy, he’s among the best.  The Yankees would be wise to re-secure the services of former closer Aroldis Chapman in free agency.  I prefer Chapman over Dodgers closer and free agent to be Kenley Jansen because Chapman is just a freak of nature…and he’s shown he can have success in New York.  Chapman should be the team’s top target so that they can shorten games and take pressure off the starting rotation.

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts

Feb 18, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) works out as the pitchers and catchers arrive for spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Credit:  Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

I am not sure who’s out there for starting pitching but I’d prefer not to invest big dollars in a 36 year old like Rich Hill who has reinvented himself as a top starter.  Young, controllable talent will come at a very steep price, and there’s not really much available through free agency.  The Yankees would be wise to see what they could get for Michael Pineda but after his disappointing 6-12 season, the return would be minimal.  Actually, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be all in for a Pineda trade.  Struggling Yankees pitchers always seem to pitch like aces in Pittsburgh.

The only obvious starters in the rotation for next season are Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia.  It could also be the final years as Yankees for both pitchers.  Tanaka can opt out of his contract after next season and Sabathia’s long-term and at times onerous contract finally reaches it conclusion.

A year lost to injury probably removes James Kaprielian as a rotation option next year.  Hopefully, other guys like Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield will have a chance to show what they can bring.

GM Brian Cashman has his work cut out in trying to restructure the team’s pitching.

As for offense, I am sure that we’ll hear names like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.  But neither name really excites me.  I am hopeful that Aaron Judge can play to his potential and that Gary Sanchez shows that his hot start was not a fluke.  Greg Bird will be the team’s starting first baseman with the retirement of Mark Teixeira and barring competition from Tyler Austin.  It would be nice if the team could find a new third baseman, and perhaps trade Brett Gardner.  Moving both Chase Headley and Brian McCann would be a huge win.

The Yankees need to make some off-season moves to put the team in better position for 2017 but it will be difficult without sacrificing some of the quality prospects they acquired over the last couple of months or their own homegrown talent.

I don’t see any obvious answers other than to let Cashman continue to piece together his hope and vision for the coming years.

I am thankful the Yankees gave us a few months of excitement after the up and down start.  I feel better about the team as it enters this off-season than I did last year.  It’s unfortunate that the team was unable to make the playoffs but realistically, this team was not ready for October success.  Hopefully the current Cashman path has the Yankees on a collision course for next October.  Time will tell.  It should be an interesting off-season.

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Farewell to #16…

A week ago, I woke up on Sunday morning to the dreadful news that Miami Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez had perished in a boating accident.  At first, I didn’t want to believe and had hoped it was just another internet hoax.  But sadly, it was true.  When I thought of pitchers the Yankees should try to trade for, I always thought of Fernandez.  Aside from being one of the best pitchers in baseball, his enthusiasm and team spirit were always at the forefront.  His personality would have captured New York.

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Credit:  Getty Images

It was probably unlikely the Yankees ever could have secured Fernandez as the price tag would have been very high but it was fun to think about.  Now, we’re left only with thoughts of what could have been.  For his short time in the majors, he made a mark.  When the Marlins made the decision to retire his number even though he had only been in the majors a few years, it was the right thing to do.  If Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, Fernandez was in the same room.

Watching Marlins manager Don Mattingly break down while talking about Fernandez was hard to see.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair, and the world would have been a much better place had Fernandez been able to take the field for his scheduled start last Monday against the New York Mets.  He will be missed.  His loss is felt all across Major League Baseball, and he will not be forgotten.  In various parts around the world, there are young boys who idolized Fernandez.  Undoubtedly, some of those young men will one day make their MLB dreams come true.  Through them, Fernandez will continue to live on.

Rest in peace, Jose…

New York Mets v Miami Marlins

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 26: Miami Marlins leave their hats on the pitching mound to honor the late Jose Fernandez after the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

—Scott

It’s been a fun ride but…

The Fat Lady sings…

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It’s been a fun ride since the Baby Bombers era began, but alas, all good things must end.  The series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox have all but ended any playoff aspirations.  Admittedly, I didn’t feel the Yankees would have been successful in October but still, it’s disappointing it will not happen given how close the team came.  Probably even more disappointing is how winnable the games on the current losing streak were.

Gary Sanchez has proven he is a bonafide future superstar.  There’s no doubt he is the team’s catcher now and in the future.  Yogi Berra and Thurman Munson would have been proud.

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Credit:  Christopher Pastieri, Getty Images

I remain unconvinced that Dellin Betances can be the dominant closer that his predecessors were.  His inability to hold runners and the mental aspect of his game can be too challenging.  I think he is better served as the primary setup guy.  In the off-season, I’d really like to see the Yankees go after pending free agents Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.  Given how frugal the team has become, it’s most probable that the team will keep the status quo.  Clearly, the team will need to bring in at least one proven starting pitcher (#3 caliber or better) so it’s unlikely they’d spend big dollars on a closer and go after an ace.

The commitment to youth is great, but the Yankees really need to do more to replace the underachieving veterans on the team.  Jacoby Ellsbury has only proven the Yankees were foolish for not spending more to retain former second baseman Robinson Cano.  Cano is far more valuable than the duo of Ellsbury and Starlin Castro.

The Yankees probably missed the window to trade Gardner for a quality return.

I know that Brian McCann will most likely be moved in the off-season even if cash is involved to help cover the cost of the contract.  It’s too bad the team can’t find a way to move Ellsbury and Chase Headley too.

Good hire by the Blue Jays…

I was disappointed to see Ben Cherington take the VP of Baseball Ops position with the Toronto Blue Jays.  I still think the Yankees should promote GM Brian Cashman and hire a new GM.  Alex Anthopoulos remains my favorite choice, but Ben Cherington was a very close second.  He is a good baseball executive who does not get enough credit for the job he did with the Boston Red Sox.

Whew, I won’t miss that bat…

I am glad to hear that the Yankees will be honoring retiring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz on September 29th.  He has been such a great opponent over the years, and I certainly will not miss his walk-off hits against the Yankees.  He’s been one of the game’s best for a long time and he certainly leaves behind his mark of excellence.

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Credit:  Elsa, Getty Images North America

Purple Rising…

Today represents the opening of the new US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota as the Vikings face their chief rival, the Green Bay Packers, in Sunday night football.  The game should also feature the introduction of Sam Bradford as the new starting quarterback.  I am ready to see what Bradford can do with a solid supporting cast.  Hopefully his ability to throw downfield will open up the running lanes for Adrian Peterson.

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Overall from the South end zone as the Vikings take on the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, August 28, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

Credit:  John Autey, Pioneer Press

Although the Vikings lost when they opened their temporary home (TCF Bank Stadium) a couple of years ago, they have not lost when opening a permanent home (winning the inaugural games at both Metropolitan Stadium and the Metrodome).  Let’s hope that history repeats itself.  Go Vikings!

—Scott

Who is THAT in the rear view mirror?…

Knocking on the door in September…

I am surprised.  Pleasantly surprised, but what a ride it has been since Alex Rodriguez was released.  All season, I have been pessimistic about the 2016 Yankees.  The inconsistent, uninspired play leading up to the July trading deadline gave me no reason for optimism.  The Yankees had arguably the best bullpen in baseball, but it didn’t matter because the offense couldn’t consistently produce.

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Credit:  Associated Press

The trading deadline found the Yankees to be sellers as they moved Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova for prospects.  The youth movement had begun.  Through those trades, the only notable veteran acquired was reliever Adam Warren.  The subsequent release of Rodriguez allowed the Yankees to bring up catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin, and outfielder Aaron Judge.  The trade of Nova opened the rotation for Chad Green and Luis Cessa.  Green has subsequently been lost for the season, and starter Nathan Eovaldi is out for 12-18 months due to Tommy John surgery.  Cessa has shown signs of brilliance with his multiple pitches and is a bright spot for the future.  The latest entrant into the starting rotation, Bryan Mitchell, excelled in his first major league appearance this year following his recovery from a spring training injury.

You’d think that losing the top relievers in your bullpen, a starter in the rotation, and your best offensive player without equal or better major league replacements would mean further regression in performance.  Instead, the Yankees have become a more exciting team to watch.  The youthful attitudes of the rookies have energized the team and the city.  Suddenly, the Yankees are mentioned as a play-off contender.  As I type this, they are only one game out for the second wild card slot.

Seriously, I still do not expect this year’s team to be a World Series contender or to have success in the play-offs if they do miraculously nail that last Wild Card.  But who would have thought the Yankees would be in the conversation in mid-September.  The last month has given so much hope for future success.  Sanchez, Austin, and Judge will be so much stronger next spring for this experience, and 2017 will see the potential infusion of the continued youth movement through the possible call-ups of outfielder Clint Frazier, pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield and others.

Brian McCann has been a solid Yankee, but Gary Sanchez has quickly become one of the league’s best through his combination of professional hitting and highlight reel worthy defense.  Even if Sanchez is slumping with the bat, he has made himself an invaluable piece of the starting lineup with his stellar defensive play.

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Credit:  Wendell Cruz, USA Today Sports

Tyler Austin starting with a bang (home run in his first at-bat) but followed it up with a prolong slump.  But recently, he’s turned it around and hit a home run on his recent birthday and again the other night with a walk-off to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.  He has shown that he knows what he is doing with a bat in his hands, and clearly has a plan with each at-bat.  It is assumed that Greg Bird will become the starting first baseman next year, but Austin is showing that there may be spring training competition for the job.

It’s fun to be excited about the Yankees again.  Win or lose, the latest version of the Pinstripers has shown they are a team to be reckoned with in future years.  This is so much better than being an old team in decay.  While I greatly miss guys like Andrew Miller, the team is better because of those July trades.  The returns may not bear fruit until future seasons, but it opened the door for the organization’s existing top farmhands.

Excellent job by GM Brian Cashman to recapture the mystique and aura for Yankee Stadium.

The Hired Gun…

I have had a week to digest the news that Sam Bradford is the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.  He may not be the starter in Game 1 (tomorrow against the Tennessee Titans) but there’s no doubt it is only a matter of time.  From afar, I’ve always looked at Bradford with disappointment given his injury history and unfulfilled promise.  But here we are.  I do think the talent and potential still reside with Bradford and the Vikings represent his best supporting cast yet.  He has the ability to show that he was once worthy of being the first overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.

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Credit:  Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

I feel so much better about the Vikings’ quarterback situation today than I did the days immediately following Teddy Bridgewater’s devastating non-contact knee injury.  The oddsmakers obviously do too as they have restored the Vikings chances this year to the pre-Bridgewater injury level.

I had really felt that this was going to be Bridgewater’s breakout year.  He had a tremendous pre-season, and the Vikings have done a good job in finding talented playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Nothing against veteran QB Shaun HIll, but the thought of Hill as the starting quarterback was disappointing at best.

It is a bit scary that the Vikings go into the regular season carrying only two quarterbacks on the active roster.  QB Taylor Heinicke is still a few weeks from returning due to injury, and practice squad QB Joel Stave has shown that he is not ready for this level.  I really felt that the Vikings should have added a third quarterback with potential.  I thought the Denver Broncos did a good job in adding former Rams quarterback Austin Davis as their third-stringer and thought Minnesota should have added someone like that.

While I expect Shaun Hill to be named the starter for the Titans game, I do anticipate the entry of Bradford into the game at some point.  I am glad that he chose to go with his Rams number of 8 as opposed to the number 7 he wore with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Not that a number really matters in the grand scheme of things, but I know that I still associate #7 with underachievement and poor play thanks to former Viking Christian Ponder.

It’s tough having a new playbook thrown at the quarterback a week before the start of the regular season, but I expect Bradford to progress quickly.  May good health be his…

—Scott

False Optimism holds true…

Save the ammunition for next year…

Friday night’s 8-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles underscored that the 2016 New York Yankees are not a bonafide play-off contender.  Yes, they are still in the thick of things regarding the Wild Card chase but legitimately, the team is not ready to be branded as a contender.  The youthful infusion into the roster has been great, but there are also growing pains as evidenced by Aaron Judge’s prolonged slump.

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Credit:  Adam Hunger, USA Today Sports

While I have been impressed by the great minor league season performed by reliever Jonathan Holder.  The recent four inning save in which he struck out 12 of 13 batters he faced was a huge accomplishment, and he’ll certainly be a factor next spring.  Adding Holder to the roster now does not make sense to me.  The Yankees had control of him this off-season without placing him on the 40-man roster, but now that he has been called up (and placed on the 40-man roster), he will cost another prospect the opportunity to be protected.  I would love to see Holder do well at the major league level and it would be terrific if he is able to rise to the level of a late inning option to bridge to Dellin Betances.  But admittedly, I am looking to the future with the Yankees and do not feel that they should expend unnecessary resources this year for a futile chance to grab the last Wild Card slot.  Even if they somehow managed to snag the spot, their stay in the play-offs would be very short lived.

I was disappointed to see Chad Green suffer an arm injury in Friday’s game.  Hopefully it isn’t too serious but we should know something soon.  In the interim, I’d probably prefer to see Bryan Mitchell elevated to take his place in the starting rotation over the disappointing Luis Severino.  I feel that Severino needs work before he is ready to become a viable starter again and is probably better suited for the bullpen for the duration of the year.

This was supposed to have been Mitchell’s year to perform but an injury suffered in spring training cost him the majority of the season.  He was labeled as the new Adam Warren, but of course Adam Warren has returned to become the new/old Adam Warren.  Still, I’d like to see Mitchell have success as a Yankee and this might be his opportunity.

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Credit:  Bill Kostroun, AP

There are other intriguing young arms (Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield, among others) but for the same reason I don’t think Holder should have been added to the 40-man roster, the same holds true for these young arms.  Mitchell is already on the 40-man roster so he makes the most sense to me.

A Bird in hand…

I was glad to hear that first baseman Greg Bird will be participating in the Arizona Fall League.  It’s been a lost year for Bird with his injury, but the AFL will be a good spring board to training camp next year when Bird will most likely be the Yankees’ new starting first baseman (barring a trade for a more proven veteran).

I wish Bird the best as he continues his comeback.  I am hopeful that he can recapture the promise and potential that he held last September.

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Optimism deflated faster than Tom Brady footballs…

Speaking of injuries, it was devastating to hear that the Minnesota Vikings lost starting QB Teddy Bridgewater for the season due to a non-contact knee injury.  The injury was horrific as it has been mentioned that the medical crew onsite not only saved his career but potentially his life.  I am hopeful that Teddy is able to make a full recovery to resume his career with the Vikings.  It’s fortunate that he has youth on his side.  This type of injury to an aging QB would most likely be career-ending.

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Credit:  Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Clearly, the Vikings had to do something about the QB position.  After capturing the NFC North title from the Green Bay Packers last year, the Vikings are a team on the rise, led by a terrific defense that Head Coach Mike Zimmer has built.  Bridgewater was set to make the step to the next level, and of course, he had numerous weapons at his disposal, including RB Adrian Peterson, WRs Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell, and others.  Suddenly, with the loss of Bridgewater, the excitement and promise of a terrific 2016 season evaporated.

Journeyman QB Shaun Hill, a career backup, was thrust into the starting role.  Last year’s third string QB Taylor Heinicke injured himself earlier this summer in a non-football related incident so he is not available as an option.  The only other QB’s on the roster were free agent rookie Joel Stave and former Chargers backup Brad Sorensen (who has since been released).

As I listened the news reports of the various options, a trade for AJ McCarron of the Cincinnati Bengals or Mike Glennon of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the most sense to me.  I did not like the thought of a trade for Mark Sanchez of the Denver Broncos or Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.  A free agent signing of Michael Vick also was not appealing to me.  The Kansas City Chiefs released backup Aaron Murray so he is intriguing but the Dallas Cowboys, with a similar need at QB, have a higher waiver priority.  So, I suppose that the announcement of today’s acquisition of Sam Bradford makes the most sense.  The cost is very high (a first round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018) and Bradford is always an injury-risk as injuries have slowed the development of the player who was once the first pick of the overall 2010 NFL Draft.

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Credit:  FOX Sports

The Vikings had to do something.  They needed a QB capable of not being a detriment to the success of the team for this year and potentially next year dependent upon how Bridgewater’s recovery and rehabilitation goes.  The Vikings also had no leverage in trade talks so their only options were to rummage through the late roster cuts in the coming days as teams pare down to 53 players or pay a King’s ransom for a proven QB.

This is not the first time that Bradford has been on the same roster as RB Adrian Peterson.  They were teammates for a year when Bradford was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma.  That will help hasten the rapport between Bradford and Peterson.  It also helps that the Vikings have a coach with an extended history with Bradford.  Tight Ends coach Pat Shurmur spent time with Bradford in both St Louis and Philadelphia.

Wearing #7, Bradford can’t be any worse than the last guy to wear the jersey (Christian Ponder).  I think the Vikings should still explore other potential backup options even if Heinicke is due back in a few weeks.  I am hopeful that Bradford can stay injury-free during his time with the Vikings.  The success of the team’s immediate future now rests in his hands.  No pressure…

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Credit:  Ann Heisenfelt, AP

It’s hard to believe that it is September now.  The Yankees will only be playing for 30 or so more games, and the Vikings will be kicking off the new season in a week.   I may not be as excited about the Vikings’ chances this year as I was just a few weeks ago, but I do feel much better than I did yesterday.  Similarly, I remain hopeful and optimistic about the Yankees’ chances in 2017.

It’s always good to have reason for optimism…

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—Scott