Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.


Searching for the diamond in the rough, a/k/a the Rebuilding Program…

Happy New Year!

This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans.  Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger.  The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller.  Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.

It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him.  Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…

Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins.  While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful.  Prado provides great diversity to a roster.  While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.  I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.

Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports

But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.  I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees.  Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer.  Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball.  Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive.  After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014.  Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level.  It takes time.  There is still time for Banuelos to blossom.  To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been.  I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave,  and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.

Mike James – AP Photo

As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely.  Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team.  Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest.  I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed.  The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between.  So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck.  But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling.  So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more.  I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt.  But that’s not a bet I would take.  Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back.  That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.

I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!

So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference.  I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.

Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!


Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.


Slowly but Shirley…

It’s a Chess game…

I wanted to see the Yankees make a move but sending Martin Prado to Miami was not exactly what I had in mind.  As with my previous post, I understand why the Yankees can’t pay another $25 million per year for a top starter and how that figure balloons with the luxury cap limitations.

It’s good that the Yankees are acquiring a young arm with Nathan Eovaldi but when I heard the guy has had control problems and allowed the most hits among NL starters, I wasn’t exactly enthused.  Still, there must be something in Eovaldi that Larry Rothschild and company see and know that they can tweak for more effective results (or so one would hope).

The Yankees have long needed a quality back up first baseman so adding Garrett Jones does add some pop off the bench with an ability to play first for extended periods of time.

Al Behrman

I liked having Martin Prado on the roster given his versatility, however, if his departure means that Rob Refsnyder will get a legitimate shot at second base in the spring, then I am all for it.  Jose Pirela has been hitting all winter long and looks like he can be the utility player that Ramiro Pena never was and might even be an option at second base if Refsnyder stumbles.  Clearly, the Yankees do need to open starting spots for young guys and as such, the Prado trade was probably justified after the team re-signed veteran third baseman Chase Headley.

I still do not see the Yankees as more than an 85 win team (and most likely less).  But as some have said, they are accomplishing the goal of getting younger.  Personally, I think if this is the path they’ve chosen, then it’s best to move the most desired players to other teams for quality prospects and wait for the albatross contracts to expire.

As it stands, we’ll be watching the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers race for the AL Championship.  I don’t expect the Baltimore Orioles to go away, but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the thick of things come September based on the current roster configuration.  I am just not convinced that we’ll see the collective bounce back of the group that includes CC Sabathia, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira.  Chances are that one or more will spend a significant amount of time on the DL and the Yankees will be searching for replacements in AAA and on the scrap heap.

Would Max Scherzer change that outlook?  No, probably not.  The Yankees need a vast overhaul and it’s probably going to take a few years just to flush the toilet.  The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to maneuver very quickly to unload dead weight but the Yankees have too much of it.

The worst thing the Yankees could do at this point is to sign a veteran infielder like Asdrubal Cabrera to play second.  I don’t want to see a placeholder at the position.  I’d rather see a player with strong long term potential.  No more Mark Reynolds fill-ins.  It is time to develop the future core of the team.

I would love nothing more than to see a guy like Tyler Austin come to spring and force the Yankees to play him in right field.  Carlos Beltran should be the full-time DH at this stage of his career, not Alex Rodriguez.  A-Rod should be playing somewhere in Siberia.  If there is one move that would make me truly ecstatic this off-season, it would be to find a way to eliminate A-Rod’s presence.  If I was a billionaire, I’d gladly give another team $61 million to take him off my hands.

Chris Capuano qualifies as one of those Mark Reynolds fill-ins, but of course, he’ll be the first to go if Ivan Nova successfully returns in May or June.  The wild card that I like is to finally see Manny Banuelos fulfill his destiny of reaching the Bronx.  He is now far enough removed from his Tommy John surgery that 2015 should be his potential breakout year ala Dellin Betances.  If the Yankees broke camp with Banuelos in the starting rotation over Capuano, I’d be very happy.

I am sure that there are still more moves to be made, but at least the Yankees are finally doing something even if we do not yet fully understand the plan.

Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox fans continue to gloat…


The Mets must be New York’s team…

We’re mediocre and we like it!…

I fully understand why the Yankees can’t field a starting rotation full of $25 million per year starters.  I recognize that Max Scherzer is most likely cost prohibitive for even the rich Yankees.  But my problem is the off-season of inactivity has me concerned about the prospects for 2015.  I am glad the Yankees signed lefty reliever Andrew Miller and re-signed starting third baseman Chase Headley, but as it stands, the Yankees are not a better team today than the one who finished with 84 wins last season.  Miller’s addition was offset by closer David Robertson’s departure, and Headley is a returnee.

Other guys who helped make a difference last year, like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Cervelli, are no longer Yankees.  The Yankees were wise not to pay McCarthy $48 million for four years, but he will still be missed.  Cervelli brought lefty specialist Justin Wilson to the team and he’ll help in the bullpen, but it remains to be seen if John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine can match his intensity as Brian McCann’s backup.

It’s difficult watching other teams make bold moves to improve while the Yankees sit idly by.  If the Yankees are not in on Scherzer, then why are they not pursuing guys like Kris Medlen.  Medlen was a very talented pitcher before he got hurt.  There’s risk for the Kansas City Royals in signing Medlen today, however, there’s also very good upside potential.  The Yankees’ preference was to re-sign #5 starter Chris Capuano who failed in Boston and was considering Japan when the Yankees called.

If the Yankees had a strong farm system with the upper levels stacked with major league ready talent it would be one thing, but that’s not the case.  The best talent are years away from helping.

Honestly, if the Yankees are not going to try to win, I’d prefer to see them blow the team up and send the trade-able players away for quality prospects.  A few 95 loss seasons for the chance to return to prominence would be preferable to an annual 85 win team that consistently comes up short in September.

Or better yet, I’d prefer to see the Steinbrenner family sell the team to someone who shares the understanding that George Steinbrenner had about the importance of successful Yankee teams.

The Yankees are not going to win with the current roster.  Paying Alex Rodriguez nearly $30 million per year for the next three years has, so it seems, to have paralyzed the team’s finances.  Mediocrity courtesy of A-Rod.

It’s almost comical when I hear players like Andrew Miller say that he joined the Yankees to win.  With Team Mediocrity, the only winning he’ll see is going to the bank to deposit his paychecks.

Right now, the Yankees fan base seems very lethargic and disappointed.  Maybe that’s just me, but the fan base needs to be energized.  Management needs to do something to show the nation they are committed to being successful in 2015.  We need something to energize us.  I am not sure what it would take, but anything is better than nothing.  Pinning your hopes on the good health of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others is simply a suicide mission.

There’s still time for the Steinbrenner boys to show Major League Baseball that they are still the Yankees.  But each day of inactivity brings us closer to the inevitable season of disappointment.  It’s funny, the person who may pay the price ultimately is manager Joe Girardi.  If the Yankees continue the downward spiral, someone will have to be held accountable.  Somehow, I don’t think it will be Hal or Hank Steinbrenner.

George, we miss you.


Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.


How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.


Yanks have a new shortstop – yes, in-Didi!…

Filling a position of need…

Finally, there is life in the Bronx!  Of course, it was only a matter of time given the needs of the team, but today was a day of large activity by the New York Yankees.

The morning was greeted with news that the Yankees had acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, shipping starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way trade.  While it’s never good to relinquish young, controllable pitching talent, the price of a 4th or 5th starter (or possibly long reliever) in Greene to acquire a starting shortstop was a no-brainer.

Christian Peterson/Getty Images North America

Gregorius is not coming to the Bronx to replace Derek Jeter.  He is merely the man who will be penciled into the slot created by the retirement of the future Hall of Famer.  But truth be told, short looks so much better in the hands of a 25 year old than it would have with a 41 year old regardless of the achievements for the latter.  Gregorius will bring good defense to an infield that needed help.  He may not hit, but he’ll hit better than backup shortstop Brendan Ryan.  He may be headed into the season as a platoon with Ryan (per Brian Cashman’s words earlier today), but Gregorius will have every opportunity to prove that the position is his.  The Yankees are much better with his presence.  Time will tell if he is a short or long term solution, but for now, he is an improvement over the speculated possibilities of Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie.

SOMEONE had to take Jeter’s spot and it may as well be Didi.

With Greene’s departure, the obvious first question is whether this will motivate the Yankees to pursue Max Scherzer.  While I would love the Yankees to pursue Jon Lester, it seems almost too late in the process for the Yankees to enter the picture since it has been speculated that Lester will choose his destination next week during the Winter Meetings.

My fear is that the Boston Red Sox will soon be touting both Lester and Cole Hamels in their starting rotation which is even more reason that the Yankees need a true ace at the top of their staff.  Too many questions with the other starters so Scherzer is sorely needed.

It’s Miller Time!…

In the morning, it was also reported that reliever Andrew Miller would be deciding his selection today.  Later, it was announced the Yankees were his choice.  I wouldn’t say that they ‘won’ the bidding since technically, they were runner-up to the Houston Astros who offered more, but Miller felt the Yankees were the better destination.  Of course, it helps that Miller makes his home in Tampa so it will be a short commute to spring training.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Miller’s signing makes the most sense if the Yankees can somehow re-sign closer David Robertson.  The bullpen is so much stronger with the trio of Robertson, Dellin Betances and Miller than it is with Betances and Miller as co-closers.  Given the shortcomings of the starting rotation, mastery of the 6th innings on will be crucial.  I really like the thought of two powerful lefties in the pen (Miller and newcomer Justin Wilson, acquired earlier in the off-season from Pittsburgh).  Of course, last year’s top draft selection, lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren is burning through the system and will be in the major league bullpen in the not so distant future.  So, for a team that has struggled with finding dominant left-handed relief in recent years, they’ll soon be dealing with a position of strength.  Manager Joe Girardi must be getting good night’s sleep these days.

I love the Baseball Winter Meetings.  It is always my favorite time of the off-season.  Of course, as a Yankees fan, my team is generally very active during the week.  Last year’s flurry of acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on the same day was such a rush.  Kind of like today when the Yankees acquired Gregorius and Miller…

When they needed a manager, the Rays simply took the Cash…

Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays announced their new manager when they named former catcher Kevin Cash to the position.

I was a little surprised that the Rays are replacing perhaps baseball’s best manager with a guy who has never managed before.  But Cash has been learning the craft under the watchful eye of Tito Francona in Cleveland as bullpen coach, and he brings the right amount of enthusiasm and intelligence to the position.  Clearly, new Rays President Matt Silverman is trying to place his own stamp on the team.  The best choice would have been to hire former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez but of course, that would have been a carryover from the Andrew Friedman-Joe Maddon regime.  All things considered, I am glad that Martinez was able to slide over to the Chicago Cubs to continue his role as bench coach for Maddon.

It will be interesting to see how Cash does.  It’s interesting that he can claim World Series rings with both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.  Now, he’ll see those teams routinely as a member of the AL East.  Hopefully, he does well and his stay in St Petersburg is long and mutually rewarding.  Well so long as it doesn’t involve any AL East or World Series championships.

The next week should be interesting regardless of what happens.  The Yankees have awakened from their slumber…


Waiting for Signs of Life…

How to build an 80-win team…

The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks.  The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s.  The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects.  Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.

Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles.  They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.

I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays.  They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show.  So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.

So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship.  Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…

Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran.  It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent.  Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays).  Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk.  He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team.  But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field.  Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.

Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels).  The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.

I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.  Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015.  They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed.  As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.

The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson.  With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above.  At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.

I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training.  As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew.  It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure.  Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level.  So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp.  I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.

If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place.  If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats.  Something has to give….soon.

I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion.  Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days.  Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.

Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.

Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…


All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

Still no shortstop, closer, help for the starting rotation, hitting coach, first base coach, legitimate third baseman…

Understandably, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are always quiet.  Okay, we’ve seen signings elsewhere (Russell Martin to the Toronto Blue Jays, Michael Cuddyer to the New York Mets) and a new $325 million dollar man.  But in the Yankees Universe, the biggest news this week was GM Brian Cashman’s Thursday night sleepover on the streets of New York.

There have been reports the Yankees will not pursue any of the major free agents, comments that they may join the chase, followed by more reports of non-interest.  With the Yankees, you never know if that’s just a smoke screen to help keep prices down or if it is genuine Hal Steinbrenner fiscal conservatism at play.  But one thing is known, the 2015 Yankees will not win with the current roster.  As it stands, they are losing talent from last year’s team that arguably over-achieved.

I know the thought of another long-term mega contract is frightful, but to plug Max Scherzer or Jon Lester into the starting rotation would provide an immediate upgrade.  Yes, they still need to bring back David Robertson, Chase Headley, and Brandon McCarthy but there’s too much uncertainty in the starting rotation at the moment.  The San Francisco Giants have proven time and again that a great starting pitching rotation helps to offset a less than elite offensive lineup.

Honestly, I am not sure what to expect this winter.  If the Yankees maintain the status quo, it will be yet another October-less season for the Yanks.

When the Yankees drafted shortstop Cito Culver a few years ago, it was the perfect setup for him to be the eventual successor for Derek Jeter.  He never developed as expected and will always be left to wonder what could have been.  The Yankees are certainly worse off for his failure as they’ll either need to pay to bring back Stephen Drew as a temporary solution or give up quality prospects to bring in other options.  There’s absolutely nothing in the upper levels of the farm system to provide relief in the foreseeable future.

I look at the current Yankees roster and do not see anyone that is worthy of replacing Derek Jeter as Captain.  That’s one spot that will sit vacant for a few years.  There’s certainly no urgency to pass the baton.

There’s no doubt the Yankees have a plan.  Eventually, the plan will start to unfold and we’ll see what the team has up its sleeve.  Until then, eat lots of Turkey, potatoes and gravy and look forward to the Winter Meetings in December.  We’re at the calm before the storm.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


If we pay you this money, can you get 8 of your buddies to cover the other positions on the field?…

13 long years…

Say what?…

As Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins approach the finish line on the potential largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball, I can’t help but wonder how crazy this is.  13 years at $325 million is a lot of money any way you slice it.  Granted, Stanton will only be 37 at the end of the deal, but I stand with the many who believe that excessively long contracts are not good for the sport.

While guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera earned their pay through their last games, the tail end of the contracts for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia are looking ghastly.  For A-Rod and over $30 mil per year for three more years, the Yankees get a guy who hasn’t played for a year and is being mentioned as a back-up first baseman/DH type.  If he manages to hit 20 home runs next season, it will be considered a success but not when you tally the cost of each of those home runs.  Stanton is not A-Rod and odds are that Stanton will be playing at a higher level toward the back end of his contract, but there is so much potential for this deal to go drastically wrong.  With players now frequently receiving opt out clauses, it’s too bad that the teams do not get an opt out when things go sourly.  I would love to see the Yankees use the money slated for A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia elsewhere.  If the Yankees maintain the status quo this offseason (signing only their own free agents) and do not make any attempt to upgrade the team, we’re faced with another mediocre season and it’s directly the result of the bad contracts.

The Yankees lost a great player when Robinson Cano signed his monster deal in Seattle, but even in retrospect, I think the Yankees were smart in not matching Seattle’s offer.

Giancarlo Stanton is a great player and the Marlins are better with him than without.  But I do not like the precedent that it sets.  Odds are that Stanton opts out and gets even more money so good for him.  Yet, what protects the Marlins from a bad investment?  Or how the bar is elevated for future deals?  I am trying wondering if I will see players receiving a percentage of team ownership one day.

When I was a kid, I remember star pitcher Ron Guidry having to settle for $900,000 because George Steinbrenner said that he’d never pay a pitcher a million dollars a year.  I guess times have changed…

The early results…

So far, the Yankees have re-signed Chris Young and acquired lefty reliever Justin Wilson.  I think both moves are good for the back of the roster.  The Yankees needed to do something with Francisco Cervelli given the catching depth and to get a guy like Wilson was a smart move given the team’s difficulty in finding a replacement for Boone Logan.

Young earned a return to the Bronx with his September performance.  Hopefully, that’s the player the Yankees are getting for 2015 and not the earlier Mets version.

As much as I would like to see the Yankees pursue Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, I’ll be very relieved if and when the Yankees re-sign David Robertson, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  New York is a hard place to play, but all three of these guys have shown they can prosper in the Bronx.  Robertson followed a legend with grace and ease, Headley showed brilliant defense at a position we really haven’t seen since Graig Nettles, and McCarthy gave the Yankees a chance to win with almost every start.  Dellin Betances had a great first year but we really do not know if he could make the transition to closer.  It wasn’t something that Robertson was able to do immediately as he did not enjoy success the year Mariano Rivera was hurt in Kansas City.  I believe that A-Rod will look to be the older, injury prone player that he has become, if not worse.

The Yankees need to make some inspired trades.  It may mean taking a chance on someone who, for whatever reason, has not found his potential, but that’s okay.  I’d rather take a chance on a young player with upside than getting locked into a three year deal with an aging outfielder.

I was glad to see former Yankee and Pirate A.J. Burnett re-sign with Pittsburgh, foregoing more money from his last year’s team, the Philadelphia Phillies.  Burnett was a good fit in Pittsburgh and it was nice to see a player take an offer that extended beyond just money.

Not that I want to wish the year away, but I am anxious for next month’s winter meetings so that Project Improve the Yankees can start taking form…



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