Lock-down Pen to Knocked-down Pen…
Well, we’ve gone from the best bullpen in baseball to just another collection of misfits in front of a hard thrower. I know, I’m selling guys like Chasen Shreve and Bryan Mitchell short, but the dreams of simply making it to the 7th inning and game over have been put on hold. First, there was the expected loss of closer Aroldis Chapman who was suspended by the Commissioner for domestic violence. But today, we received more devastating news when former and interim closer Andrew Miller was hit by a batted ball and suffered a chip fracture in his wrist.
Elsa/Getty Images North America
Suddenly, Dellin Betances is the interim closer. No word yet on how long Miller will be out, but with the Yankees’ conservative attitude when it comes to injuries, there’s no doubt he’ll open the season on the Ellsbury Express, a/k/a the Disabled List. This means that the setup cast will include the aforementioned Shreve and perhaps one of the new guys (Kirby Yates or Luis Cessa). Depending upon what the Yankees do with Ivan Nova, Bryan Mitchell should be the long man in the pen replacing Adam Warren, but more than likely, Nova takes that role which would push Mitchell to shorter relief.
I wonder if the Yankees will try to pick up a short man as a temporary fix since the vaunted three headed monster pen won’t make an appearance until mid-May.
With Miller and Betances, I felt good about the Yankees’ bullpen despite Chapman’s absence. But with Miller’s anticipated loss, the pen looks very shaky at the moment. With question marks looming in the starting rotation, there’s going to be early stress on the replacement crew.
While I mention Mitchell, it should be noted that news came out today about his toe injury so there are questions if he’ll be ready. It certainly opens up potential roster spots for the relievers on the bubble like Yates, Cessa, and Anthony Swarzak.
Contract no longer equals talent…
As for the starters, my preference would be to start Ivan Nova over CC Sabathia but it does raise the question of what to do with CC. As a reliever, he’d be the most expensive one in history. It’s too bad that he has degenerated to such an albatross. He now blocks younger, more talented guys. It’s too bad that baseball contracts are guaranteed. If they were like the NFL, CC would be pounding the pavement looking for a new job.
As for the outfield, the only surefire option to start Opening Day is the old man of the group, right fielder Carlos Beltran. It’s almost a certainty that Aaron Hicks will be one of the starters, replacing either Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. I like Hicks, but I didn’t like the high strikeouts in spring training. I am hopeful that he is able to rise to the occasion.
Hoping the Reds “Cave-in”…
Speaking of outfielders, I have been keeping an eye on Jake Cave’s spring with the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the Yankees’ wealth of left handed hitting young outfielders, I would like to see Cave’s return if he doesn’t make the Reds’ Opening Day roster. Cincy has to keep him on the roster all season as a Rule 5 selection or offer him back to the Yankees. I am sure that Cave is hoping he sticks with the Reds, but I’d like to see him back in pinstripes. I think he has a future in New York as a fourth outfielder at the very least.
Backing up Brian McCann…
I thought that Gary Sanchez would continue his torrid hitting from last fall into spring training but it didn’t happen. As a result, Sanchez found himself back in the minor leagues. That means the Yankees’ back up catcher will either be long-time prospect Austin Romine or recent addition Carlos Corporan. I know the latter has the major league experience, but I am really hoping the Yankees go with Romine. He deserves this opportunity. Of course, if he doesn’t make the roster, he’s as good as gone. I think Romine can do the job and would be a very capable solution until the day Sanchez is ready for the major leagues.
If at Third…
I thought that Rob Refsnyder was going to win the utility infield role, particularly as he gained experience at third. Then his unspectacular birthday weekend occurred where he was hit in the face on successive days with infield grounders, which illustrated the weaknesses in his defensive game. He very quickly found himself in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, vacating the bench role for either Ronald Torreyes or Pete Kozma to grab. At the moment, it sounds like Torreyes has the leg up. Hopefully, Refsnyder can settle down and make the transition to third at the AAA level.
Tomorrow should be a fairly important day as the Yankees begin making their final roster decisions as we head into the weekend. I am not as optimistic as I was a few weeks ago, but this is an opportunity for guys to step up. Baseball is not always about simply having the talent to succeed, it also takes timing and support with a little bit of luck.
I wish we were heading into the season with better health but it is what it is. It is time to play ball.
Have bat, will travel…
The Yankees have two players in camp that were part of the Chicago Cubs’ magical 98-win season that ended thanks to the Yanks’ cross-town rival, and it is hopeful that Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia can bring some of that magic to the Bronx. Castro, of course, is a shoo-in for a roster spot given that he’s ticketed to be the Yankees’ starting second baseman. For Denorfia, it is a much more difficult road. If he makes the team, it will be as its fifth outfielder. But with a starting trio of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner, it is a certainty that the backup outfielders will play. The edge that Denorfia brings is a right handed bat which is a positive when there is a surplus of lefties.
Over the past few years, I have missed the clutch hits that we grew accustomed to with guys like Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. Denorfia delivered a huge clutch hit last September when his pinch hit home run in the 11th inning defeated the Kansas City Royals 1-0. It was the Cubs’ first pinch hit home run to break a scoreless tie since the great Joe Pepitone hit one off Mudcat Grant in June 1971.
Brian Cassella/The Chicago Tribune
I like the above picture because it’s not only celebratory of Denorfia’s hit, but you can see a very excited Castro. The goal this season is to keep that smile on Starlin’s face!
I don’t know if Denorfia will make the final roster. He is 35 so father time is starting to work against him. The Yankees have a much younger right-handed outfield candidate in Lane Adams, and all things considered, I’d probably prefer to see Adams win the job (if the Yankees choose righty over lefty). Slade Heathcott certainly deserves to be on the team, but he is one of the many lefties. While I may prefer Heathcott or Adams, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Denorfia shows enough this spring to warrant a big league job.
Enjoy the Bronx while it lasts…
I almost feel badly for Didi Gregorius. He did a terrific job replacing a legend at shortstop. He started slowly in April, but for the remainder of the season, he was very capable with both bat and glove. He showed that GM Brian Cashman made a terrific decision to acquire Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, sending starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-way trade.
New York Daily News
Yet, as good as Gregorius was, his time in New York could be short. The Yankees’ top prospect, SS Jorge Mateo, is blazing through the minors. Although he’ll most like start the season in High A ball this year, he has opened eyes this spring to show why he is the organization’s top talent. No offense to Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez, but Mateo is the most exciting player to rise through the system in a very long time. Mateo’s continued progression could eventually make Gregorius obsolete.
If at second…
I thought it was really weird when I heard talk of Starlin Castro playing some third base this spring to be the potential backup for Chase Headley in addition to his duties as the regular second baseman. Given that he only played 38 games at the position last season after the Cubs removed him as the starting shortstop, it was apparent to me that Castro needed to focus on the nuances of second base and not try to tackle learning another new position simultaneously.
So, now I read that Manager Joe Girardi has rescinded the plan for Castro to play third so that he can focus on second. Duh…
Learning to play third base, however, is a great opportunity for Rob Refsnyder. I would really like to see the Yankees break camp with Refsnyder on the roster as the backup second baseman and now potentially backup third baseman. Castro can slide to short when necessary, which would open a spot for Refsnyder on occasion. I do wish the Yankees had stronger bench support for the corner infield spots as Dustin Ackley is playing out of position too in backing up Mark Teixeira even if he did play there in college. The Baltimore Orioles made a good spring signing with Pedro Alvarez, one guy that I thought might be a good fit for the Yankees. It is possible the backup 1B/3B is not yet on the roster, but if it comes down to Refsnyder and Ackley, the Yankees could certainly do worse.
The Future of the Rotation…
I know that he is only 21 and not ready for the major leagues, but James Kaprielian has a great presence about him and his attitude, along with his physical talents, sets him up for a very bright future. There was always something special about Andy Pettitte, and Kaprielian seems to have that same “it” factor. Andy was never truly the ace of the rotation, but he was the guy you wanted to have the ball in October. Kaprielian can be that same type of player.
Robert M Pimpsner
The Rehearsal before the Big Show…
I wasn’t trying to diss Aaron Judge above in talking about Jorge Mateo. Judge is the future of right field. More than likely, he’ll be in pinstripes for good by September. Next year, right field will be his. But he still has to go out and show the World that he is ready. He underwhelmed last year the Triple A level so this will be the year he needs to show he is ready for the main stage. I have no doubt he was the talent to succeed, and it will be great watching him hit home runs for the home team. This is a big year for Judge, but everything is up to him. The job is his for the taking. Not many young players get such a huge opening for opportunity.
Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
This is a tough one. I believe in Gary Sanchez and feel that he is the future, but I am not ready to say goodbye to Austin Romine. If Sanchez makes the team as backup to Brian McCann, Romine’s long association with the Yankees will inevitably be over. I like the tandem of Sanchez and Romine, but the Yankees are not going to carry three catchers and McCann is not going anywhere.
Robert Murray/The Star Ledger
I probably want Sanchez on the roster, but there is a part of me rooting for Romine. Sanchez’s day will come. I’d prefer to see Romine establish himself as a big league catcher with the Yankees, and not become yet another former Yankees catcher in, say, Pittsburgh.
The decisions of Spring. The job is never easy for Cashman and Girardi…
Hey Billy, you’re fired!…
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.
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.
The Enquirer/Sam Greene
Spring is coming…
The off-season is officially over as spring training is back in full force. This week saw the arrival of the full team in Tampa as they begin preparation for the 2016 season. Soon, the exhibition games will begin and we’ll see the guys experiencing spring for the first time at Steinbrenner Field, such as Dustin Ackley, Starlin Castro, and (hopefully) Aroldis Chapman.
It was a strange off-season given the Yankees were the only team not to sign a major league free agent. But GM Brian Cashman did protect the Yankees first pick in the MLB Draft. I suppose it would have mattered more if it was a higher pick. The Baltimore Orioles felt that pitcher Yovani Gallardo was worth sacrificing the 14th pick and that pick had much more value than the lower one the Yankees protected. I still feel the Yankees should have made a free agent move to strengthen the pitching staff or to find a suitable back up for third baseman Chase Headley.
Speaking of Headley, I am not opposed to trying Rob Refsnyder at the position. I feel that it only increases his value as a role player. But I don’t like hearing that Starlin Castro will also play there some this spring to possibly back up Headley. With second base a relatively new position for Castro, I’d prefer for him to continue focusing on the nuances of learning the position rather than trying to learn two new positions. The only way moving Castro to third makes sense to me is if the plan is for him to eventually start there, with Refsnyder taking over at second.
I am very concerned about Mark Teixeira’s health (that’s every year at this stage of his career). I am cautiously hopeful that Ackley is the right guy to back him up, but he hasn’t played there regularly since college. If the Yankees are playing multiple out of position guys on the field this year, it’s a sign of sure trouble. I thought signing Ike Davis would have made perfect sense for a back up role. But the Yankees passed (or didn’t try hard enough) and the former Met signed with the Texas Rangers.
I am remain optimistic that Cashman will swing a trade this spring to bring in a reliable corner infield bench player…with experience. Backing up Teixeira means you will play…alot!
Courtesy: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Newsday.com
If Aaron Judge has a monster spring, I wonder if the Yankees will accelerate the plan for his arrival at the major league level. But then, what do you do with Carlos Beltran? The guy showed he can still play, but his time with the Yankees is fading faster than the erosion of his skills due to age.
On the other side of the outfield, the news that Brett Gardner is still not healthy as he recovers from off-season surgery is not a good sign. Like backing Teixeira, the Yankees’ fourth outfielder (i.e., Aaron Hicks) will be a full-time fixture in the outfield given the health concerns and injury risks with Gardner, Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury. That makes the younger guys (Judge, Slade Heathcott, and others) so valuable as they will see playing time in the Bronx this year.
Courtesy: Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
The starting rotation is what it is. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi, and CC Sabathia. Ivan Nova is on the outside looking in, waiting for a spot to open. If Nova could only embrace the long role, he’d be a good replacement for the departed Adam Warren. But I don’t think he’ll be successful which leads me to hope that he shows something this spring as a starter to increase his value as a trade chip.
But at the moment, the primary concern at the beginning stages of spring training is the bullpen. Much has been talked about how incredible the back-end of the Yankees bullpen will be. When the trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances threw bullpen sessions together in Tampa recently, it created a stir and excitement. However, until MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hands down the domestic abuse penalty for Chapman, no one knows when the three great relievers will be able to pitch together in a meaningful game. With Chapman missing spring training for a few days already this spring (for reasons apparently unrelated to the impending suspension), it is a mystery where his head is right now.
This makes Andrew Miller perhaps the most valuable man in the bullpen. The Yankees need him to continue as their closer until Chapman is either cleared or returns. Miller’s attitude is MVP-caliber. I’ve never seen such grace when he spoke of only the team winning when talking about being displaced as the closer by Chapman. That attitude says that he’ll do whatever it takes to win, so there’s no doubt he’ll be ready in the 9th inning when he gets the call from Manager Joe Girardi.
Courtesy: Jim Mcisaac/Getty Images
With Chapman out, the Yankees will need to make sure that they have the 7th inning replacement for the traded Justin Wilson. I am hopeful that either James Pazos or Chasen Shreve will be ready to step to the next level. That’s perhaps the most critical role in the bullpen that needs to be filled as it might be harder than finding adequate long relief.
Donnie Baseball, South Beach Style…
The Yankees will get to see Don Mattingly three times this spring with an exhibition game in Mid-March, and then they end the exhibition season with two games in Miami. While I was disappointed to see Mattingly leave the Los Angeles Dodgers, I am anxious to see what he can do as the manager for the Miami Marlins. There’s certainly talent on the team with Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez.
It is almost guaranteed the team will receive much media attention this year with Barry Bonds serving as the hitting coach. But for Mattingly, the spotlight shouldn’t shine as brightly as it did in Los Angeles. At least he is back in a situation where he is the choice of current management unlike with the Dodgers where he wasn’t “their” guy. Mattingly will always be one of my favorite Yankees, and I am hopeful that he’ll succeed in Miami. I am optimistic that it is a path that will eventually lead him back to the Bronx as a future successor for Joe Girardi.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I’ll go with…Carolina Panthers 27, Denver Broncos 17.
Courtesy: Getty Images
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…
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.
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.
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…
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:
- Cliff Lee
- Pedro Alvarez
- Doug Fister
- Tim Lincecum
- Greg Holland
- Alex Rios
- Bobby Parnell
- Mike Minor
My simple thoughts:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!