Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

He said what?…

Hey Billy, you’re fired!…

alg-martin-jpg

Pescatore/New York Daily News

I have to admit that there’s a singe of disappointment when I hear the Steinbrenner Family has no intention of selling the team.  I admire Hal Steinbrenner for his disciplined and calm leadership style, and I do not disagree with the approach to shed excessive dollars from the payroll.  There is no need to pay the exorbitant luxury taxes on dollars exceeding the cap when having the highest payroll does not ensure the Commissioner’s Trophy.

But…I admittedly miss the excitement of the bold moves by former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.  George would often do what the rest of us were thinking.  He overreacted, he overvalued other teams’ stars while undervaluing his own, and he was incredibly impatient.  Hal exhibits none of these characteristics, but there was something to living life on the edge.  You always knew the Yankees were going to be entertaining.  I remember the 1980’s and how the fans would boo Steinbrenner, but I never did.  I didn’t like watching former Yankees prospects thrive elsewhere while aging former stars with bloated contracts came to the Bronx.  But you knew that George was never satisfied.  With Hal, you don’t really know where he stands unless GM Brian Cashman tells you.  Occasionally, Hal will give an interview that gives a little more insight but he is never too revealing.  The days of the Bronx Zoo are nothing but a distant memory.

Hal talks about a long term plan that will cede control of the team to the next generation of Steinbrenners.  He clearly has no intention to ever see a Donald Trump like individual take control of the Yankees.  We’ll see if his approach is successful.  I am glad to see the core of the young prospects remain in the organization.  There will be losses, such as the Rule 5 loss of OF Jake Cave (assuming he makes the Reds’ roster this year) or 3B Eric Jagielo (sent to Cincinnati in the Aroldis Chapman trade).  But I am sure these players are carefully evaluated before being sent away.  For whatever reason, they were deemed to be expendable.  In Cave’s case, it is a plethora of young lefthanded outfielders.

The perfect Yankees owner, in my opinion, would lie somewhere between father George and son Hal.  Cautious but aggressive.  Long term vision but highly competitive.  Supportive but with an inability to accept ineptitude.  I know there’s more to Hal than meets the eye, but being a Yankees fan today involves much patience.  For those of us who grew up with Yankees impatience, this is a difficult transition.  Nevertheless, the Yankees are stronger today than they were a few years ago, so they’re on the right track it would seem.  Hal deserves more time to see if his leadership style proves to be championship quality.

Still, there’s the part of me that yearns for immediate results.  So that’s why I felt disappointment when Hal indicated no plans for the future sale of the team.  Yet, I am supportive of the current ownership team, and obviously I will continue to be a Yankees fan for the rest of my life.  Life is about change.  You adapt…

Chapman’s extended vacation in Tampa…

I am glad Commissioner Rob Manfred finally handed down the penalty for closer Aroldis Chapman.  The uncertainty was becoming a distraction.  I was anticipating something in the neighborhood of 40 games, so the sentence of 30 games was a little lighter than expected.  It sounds as though Chapman’s decision to not appeal led to the shorter sentence.  It’s a tough loss, and the Yankees will need to find strong relief for the middle innings.  But there’s comfort at the back end of the bullpen with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.  Miller proved he is a great closer last year, and his attitude is even better than his skills which is rather amazing.

17498836-standard

Bill Kostroun/AP

It would be better knowing that Justin Wilson was still on board to assist, but that ship has obviously sailed.  It will be up to the younger guys, like Chasen Shreve, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos, and others, to step up their game.  The talent is there to succeed.

As for the penalty for Chapman, I am supportive.  There is no excuse for domestic violence, and a cry for no punishment would be a plea for its continuation.  My only hope is that Chapman learns from this, and he takes the steps necessary to ensure that he never crosses this line again.  I really don’t know if Chapman will be a long term Yankee or if he’ll just be a brief member of the team before departing via free agency in the fall.  But whatever the future holds, I hope Chapman is able to become a better man.

635869177808879239-0713ASGpresser-11

The Enquirer/Sam Greene

—Scott

 

The migration to Tampa begins…

What do you write about when nothing happens?…

After a winter of no major league free agent signings, the Yankees will soon open camp with Team Status Quo.  Well, albeit with newcomers via trade Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman, and Aaron Hicks.  All three are expected to play major roles in 2016.

Castro is not going to make fans forget Robinson Cano but he’ll be a major improvement over Stephen Drew.  Admittedly, I was looking forward to seeing what Rob Refsnyder could do with the position on a full-time basis or at least a part-time platoon with Dustin Ackley.  But even with Castro on the roster, there’s still a role for Refsnyder if he takes it through performance this spring.  Ackley will become the Yankees’ latest attempt to replace Martin Prado as the jack of all trades.

Dustin Ackley

New York Yankees’ Dustin Ackley celebrates his two-run home run off Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey with teammates in the dugout in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

With the loss of Justin Wilson via trade with the Detroit Tigers, Chapman’s arrival just resets the pecking order in the pen.  I recognize that Wilson is a loss but I also feel that Chasen Shreve has the potential to come back much stronger than last season and fill that pivotal role as the setup for the three headed monster of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman.  The team will miss swingman Adam Warren, but there’s no question that the final three innings will be electrifying.  There are surprises every year in the bullpen and there’s no doubt the Yankees will uncover a gem among the arms in camp.  Warren was great at his role, no doubt, but he is replaceable.  I am somewhat intrigued by one of the pitchers the Yankees acquired for Wilson, Luis Cessa.  Everyone rips the Yankees for trading Wilson, but I think that Cessa has the potential to make the trade an equalizer.  Could he get the opportunity to replace Warren?  I am sure that he’ll be in the mix if he is ready to play at the major league level.

Luis-Cessa-2

Courtesy:  MetsMerizedOnline.com and Savannahnow.com (via MetsMinors.net)

Adding Hicks was a surprise, but it made sense given the plethora of young outfielders in the Minnesota Twins organization and the impending big league arrival of catcher Gary Sanchez (which made John Ryan Murphy expendable).  I like the job that Chris Young did the last couple of years and felt that he had revitalized his career after a disappointing stay with the New York Mets.  But as much as I hated to see Young leave (to sign with the Boston Red Sox which added a little salt to the wound), I feel that Hicks will prove to be the better player for the long run.  If there is a certainty about the 2016 Yankees, one or more of the starting outfielders will spend time on the disabled list.  Hicks will move to front and center, or maybe left or right.  He’ll get an opportunity to put the promise he held with the Twins on display for fans in the Bronx.  If he is successful, he will no doubt become a fan favorite.  I think Hicks is in a great spot.  This also means that there will be opportunity to other young outfielders like Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and recent MiLB free agent signee Jared Mitchell.  There’s also the chance the Yankees get Rule 5 draftee Jake Cave back from the Cincinnati Reds if he is unable to make the major league roster.

So, the new additions all clearly fit the team’s roster and make it better than the day they lost to the Houston Astros last October.  But from a results standpoint, I am not sure that the 2016 Yankees will be much better than the 2015 version.  Last year’s team over-achieved, so if this year’s team plays to expectations, the results will be marginally the same despite being the better team.  It is possible that this year’s team can over-achieve, particularly if the starting pitching stays healthy and Sanchez arrives on the scene as the offensive monster he displayed in the Arizona Fall League.

I am starting to see the reports that the Yankees aren’t spending money in anticipation of the 2018 off-season free agent signing of mega superstar Bryce Harper.  I think that would be foolish and narrow minded of the Yankees to think along those lines, which is why I do not believe it is true.  I am sure that they’ll be players for Harper, but there’s always one team that jumps off the deep end (i.e., the Seattle Mariners and their $240 million contract for Cano).  Plus, the talk is that Harper could be the first $500 million man.  That’s insane.  When is the money simply enough?  I am pretty sure that you could give me $10 million and I’d be happy for the rest of my life!

counterfeit-money-funny

Super Bowl Sunday…

I will watch today’s Super Bowl but I honestly do not feel strongly about either team.  I think the Carolina Panthers have the better team and the more explosive QB, but it would be a great story for future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to ride off into the Sunset with a Super Bowl championship.

Peyton’s dad, Archie, had the misfortune to play on some pretty bad football teams, and he ended his career playing for a pathetic Minnesota Vikings team that finished 3-13 in 1984.  I remember those final years, and Archie was clearly not the player he once had been.  Conversely, Peyton is no longer the Peyton we knew earlier in his career, but he still has the ability to pull out a surprise win.

BIO_Mini-Bios_0_Peyton-Manning_0_FIX_SF_HD_768x432-16x9

Courtesy:  Biography.com

I’ll go with…Carolina Panthers 27, Denver Broncos 17.

cam-newton-111615-getty-ftrjpg_109kzimizqgc71b3rse1zq1cd0.jpg

Courtesy:  Getty Images

—Scott

Game of Moans…

Ronald Torreyes, we hardly knew ye! Oh wait, hello again…

Former Yankee Ronald Torreyes is now a current Yankee once again.  Very exciting for a guy who has never worn the pinstripes and most likely won’t be on the Opening Day roster.  Earlier in the off-season, the Yankees traded former prospect Rob Segedin to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Torreyes and pitcher Tyler Olson.  Shortly thereafter, Torreyes was DFA’d when the Yankees had a chance to sign Kansas City Royals cast-off outfielder Lane Adams.  The Yanks tried to sneak Torreyes through waivers but former Assistant GM and now Los Angeles Angels GM Billy Eppler took a flyer.  But the Angels soon saw another player they wanted to sign, and Torreyes was DFA’d again.  This time, the Yankees DFA’d the guy they signed when they threw Torreyes to the wind.  So goes Peyton Place in the Bronx…

Torreyes

Courtesy: elimpulso.com

I actually thought Adams was a good signing.  For a team filled with lefty swinging outfielders, Adams was a right hander with plus speed.  I really think that the Yankees will need a 5th outfielder as I feel Aaron Hicks will be pushed into starting duty due to injury risks from left to right in the Yankees’ outfield.  If Adams could take his game to the next level, I saw him as a better fit than Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams.  I am not quite sure where Torreyes fits.  I think Rob Refsnyder has a leg up for a utility role with the Yanks, and there’s good, young infielders on the way up.

Maybe the Yankees are hoping that Adams will slide through waivers, much as they had hoped Torreyes would.  With his speed, I think the odds are better that some team will take a chance.  All of which makes the move to DFA Torreyes and sign Adams all the more curious.  Right now, the Yankees feel like such a small market team.  Or least a big city team with a small market budget.

Pedro Alvarez seems like such a great fit for the Yankees now that it has been announced that first baseman Greg Bird will miss the season due to shoulder surgery.  But almost immediately, GM Brian Cashman downplayed any major league signings by saying that Dustin Ackley is the back up first baseman and that the Yankees would seek to find a first base replacement for Bird at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  I think as the 1B/3B backup, Alvarez would get his share of at-bats.  The Yankees need to exercise caution with Mark Teixeira in the final year of his contract and most likely his swan song in pinstripes.  Playing Teixeira the majority of the time will only heighten the risk of injury.  Equally, Chase Headley needs a breather or probably better yet, competition.  I like Ackley and I think it’s good to find ways to get him into the lineup, but still, I think the Yankees would be a better team with Alvarez on the roster.

But for Team Fiscal Constraint, that’s not going to happen.

As for Bird, the odds are that he was going to spend the majority of 2016 in AAA.  It doesn’t make sense to carry a back up first baseman who can’t play other positions.  So, the impact of Bird’s loss is probably insignificant so long as Teixeira stays healthy.  But that’s why the Yankees  need a firm Plan B in place.

Given that Bird is slated to be the starting first baseman in 2017, let’s hope that the surgery and his subsequent recovery are overwhelmingly successful.

2016 Baseball…

I am disappointed that the Yankees won’t be coming to my home city (Los Angeles).  Sorry, Anaheim is an away city when you live in LA.  Nevertheless, the Boston Red Sox are coming to Dodger Stadium so I have my ticket to see a game when the Sox invade Chavez Ravine in early August.  Needless to say, I will be wearing my Dodgers cap although I could probably make an argument to wear my more valuable Yankees cap.

GettyImages-733302.0

I was a big Don Mattingly fan (well, I still am).  So, I hated to see Donnie Baseball leave the Dodgers.  But I am looking forward to seeing what Dave Roberts can do.  He’ll have arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, and will have a full season of MLB’s top prospect, SS Cory Seager.  But I fully expect to see a re-charged Red Sox squad heavily involved in the pennant race when they visit LA in August, led by Cy Young contender David Price.

I do not have any trips planned to New York this year so most likely no Yankee Stadium visits.  I’ll probably make a trip down to the OC to see the “Los Angeles” Angels play the Yanks, but it is simply not the same as Dodger Stadium.

Now that the calendar has turned to February, it’s not long before pitchers and catchers report.  This has been a somewhat disappointing off-season for the Yankees even if they can now call 2B Starlin Castro and ace closer Aroldis Chapman their own.  But the proof is in the pudding, so we’ll get the opportunity to see how the chemistry of the 2016 Yankees works.

Here’s to the expiration of bloated contracts…

—Scott

Why start now?…

Team Status Quo…

While perusing the NJ.com website, I came across a feature on the Yankees page that cited free agents the Yankees should sign.  It is interesting that, at this point, the Yankees have not signed a major league free agent this off-season.  There were free agents that I wish they had signed, but they chose not to.  I realize the need to drop some heavy contracts before taking on more, but with a couple of contracts due to expire this fall, it would be beneficial to improve certain areas of the team.

Next season, Greg Bird will be the starting first baseman.  This season, he is most likely headed to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a few more AAA at-bats.  It doesn’t really make sense to have Bird on the major league roster to play sporadically.  So, I agree the Yankees should take a gander at the bargain bin to see what’s left.

Here are the major league free agents that NJ.com cited:

  1. Cliff Lee
  2. Pedro Alvarez
  3. Doug Fister
  4. Tim Lincecum
  5. Greg Holland
  6. Alex Rios
  7. Bobby Parnell
  8. Mike Minor

My simple thoughts:

CLIFF LEE

No, I’d rather pass.  Yes, he could potentially help a starting rotation if healthy, but this is a player that has rejected New York several times in the past.  I would prefer if the Yankees are the ones to push the reject button this time.  The Yankees have enough injury concerns in the starting rotation.  There is no need to add more kindling to the fire.

PEDRO ALVAREZ

Alvarez would not excite me as a starting third baseman, but he does have value as a backup first AND third baseman.  Bird is one-dimensional.  He only plays first, so the talk is stirring that Starlin Castro will back up Chase Headley at third.  Alvarez would keep Castro at second, and allow Bird to get those precious AAA at-bats.  He has some pop and would strengthen the bench.  So, I’d take Alvarez.

DOUG FISTER

He is a good pitcher, and he’ll help somebody.  But for some reason, I am not enthused about him as a Yankee.  For a team trying to get younger, I’d prefer to take a chance on a  younger pitcher with upside.  If the Yankees were in championship mode now, then I’d say take a shot.  But they are not ready to play at that level yet, so why spend the money.  Pass.

TIM LINCECUM

I am intrigued with the thought of Lincecum as the long man out of the pen.  At this stage of his career, I think he can be a very effective reliever if used in the right situations and not overly exposed.  With Adam Warren in Chicago, there’s a strong need for a good long man and Lincecum can be the man.  Take the chance.

GREG HOLLAND

Since 2016 is lost due to Tommy John surgery, this is a hedge for the inevitable free agent departure of Aroldis Chapman.  I am hopeful that the Yankees can sign Chapman to an extension, but if they get cheap like this off-season, there’s no doubt that Chapman will be pitching elsewhere.  The Yankees will have the compensation pick as a result, but that’s pennies on the dollar when you are talking about the best closer in baseball.  Signing Holland would provide a top closer if/when Chapman leaves.  I’d pass.  Nothing against Holland, but the availability of good closers is much better than other positions.  No need to pay Holland to recuperate and hopefully return to form.  Andrew Miller can be the closer if Chapman departs, and the Yankees can find a replacement for setup work.  Pass.

ALEX RIOS

Signing Rios doesn’t excite me.  It’s hard to accept when there was a chance to sign either Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes.  The Yankees passed on those players, and I’d prefer that they do not reach for a lower shelf talent like Rios.  I like Aaron HIcks and if he is pushed into starting duty due to an injury or trade of Brett Gardner, I’d prefer to see Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams get the opportunity to take Hicks’ fourth outfielder role.  Pass.

BOBBY PARNELL

This falls into the same category as Greg Holland.  I don’t want a reclamation project.  Let him return to health and try to return to form elsewhere.  Pass.

MIKE MINOR

This one I like.  I know that he’s had his problems and injuries, but he’s still young.  I feel that if he is healthy, he could be an effective fifth starter.  I’d take the chance.

Odds are the Yankees do not sign any of these guys.  Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is very fond of his money, and he’d prefer to win just enough to draw the fans.  The days of a World Series Championship or bust are over.  Time will tell if Steinbrenner is willing to spend money after the bloated contracts expire or if he prefers to field a team of young, controllable players.  It will take a mix to make this strategy work.  The Yankees’ farm system has improved but it is not capable of producing a high caliber champion without some help.

Heading into spring training, the biggest needs are the backup first/third baseman and potentially another starter for the rotation.  I am still hopeful that Ivan Nova can be dealt but the optimism erodes with each passing day.  I do not trust CC Sabathia, even with the knee brace.  His better days are long gone.  It would have been nice if the Yankees could have acquired an ace as I feel Masahiro Tanaka would be better suited to be the #2 starter.  But that wasn’t going to happen with the suddenly small market minded Yankees.

I totally get why the Yankees want to get out of the luxury tax penalty box.  I don’t blame them, however, it ensures that there will be plenty of disappointments on the field for the next few years.  The Yankees couldn’t compete with the Houston Astros in a one game playoff.  It actually felt like a loss even before they played.  The Yankees have not done anything to improve.   They already had a stellar bullpen with Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller.  Betances, Miller and Chapman will be a formidable trio, but statistics-wise, there is not much they can do to improve upon last season.  Starlin Castro is a better option than a platoon of Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley, but the bullpen lost its long man.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles re-signed slugging first baseman Chris Davis and the Boston Red Sox added an elite starter (David Price) and elite closer (Craig Kimbrel) in moves that did not weaken other areas of their respective teams.

It is possible the Yankees once again over-achieve, but it’s equally likely that the team will take a step back in 2016.  I don’t think you’ll see the Yankees appear on any pre-season World Series predictions.

Still, I am hoping for a promising season.  Fortunately, pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks.  I am ready for the game to return and end of the quietness of the Yankees’ disappointing off-season.

—Scott

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.

mlbf_413803983_th_45

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.

Los-Angeles-Rams-NFL-Team-Colors-Arch-Mitchell-And-Ness-Snapback-With-Gray-Under-Visor-1

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.

maxresdefault

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.

Funny-Scared-20

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.

wei-yin-chen-mlb-baltimore-orioles-seattle-mariners-850x560

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.

natt031372820531

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.

New-York-Yankees-001

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.

BetancesChapmanMiller_e1kgv90f_tztur6e7

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!

image.aspx

—Scott

A Red, Hot Controversy…

Wow…

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

Close up of angry man with steam coming out from his ears

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.

VIKINGS-articleLarge

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.

aroldis-chapman-mlb-cincinnati-reds-workout1-850x560

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.

cesar-puello-john-munson

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.

yankees-spring-training

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.

11325975_935712796470803_421463828_n

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.

Detroit+Tigers+v+Baltimore+Orioles+VqhzzcYZcnCl

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.

bryce-harper

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…

width_650.height_300.mode_FillAreaWithCrop.pos_Default.color_White

—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.

chin120415DavidPriceRedSox_spt1

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).

mlb-los-angeles-dodgers-detroit-tigers-850x560

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.

larry-rothschild-a2472fcf4bc50c81

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.

images-3.jpg

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.

barry-bonds

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.

565e28aa31496.image

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?…

santa-baseball

—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…