Results tagged ‘ Jacoby Ellsbury ’

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…

–Scott

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)…

–Scott

Do it again, only better…

The Apology…

When I heard today that Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had apologized to Yankee fans for the 2014 season, it did bring back memories of when the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 World Series and George Steinbrenner’s famed apology.

It’s tough to criticize ownership because they did spend money in the off-season to bring in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and others.  However, it was a flawed team from the start.  Even in April, when the starting rotation was still healthy, the infield looked to be a disaster with question marks around the bases.  The gaping hole created by Robinson Cano’s departure was never sufficiently addressed although Martin Prado was a good late season pickup.

With Mark Teixeira’s injuries in recent years, it was no sure thing that he’d bounce back after last year’s wrist surgery.  He was never the same player and may never be again.  Third base was poorly addressed with Kelly Johnson, particularly when considered in tandem with the hole at second base and the diminished skills, thanks to age, of the legendary shortstop.

I am not sure what moves the Yankees could have made that would have worked out better.  GM Brian Cashman was dealing with limited options last off-season and it is why they had to throw money at the situation.  Sadly, it’s not the 20-something, in the middle of your prime, guys that are routinely available.  It’s the aging veterans or the journeymen.

Via LoHud Yankees Blog

One of the guys who had been tied to the Yankees last off-season was second baseman Omar Infante.  Infante subsequently spurned the Yankees for the Kansas City Royals, and in retrospect, he made the perfect decision as his team has advanced to the AL Divisional Play-offs.  It is in what Infante saw regarding the Yankees situation that needs to be fixed.

Now that Alex Rodriguez is back, I hope that does not prevent the Yankees from bringing back Chase Headley.  Straight up, I’d take Headley at third over Rodriguez.  There’s going to be a huge fight for the DH spot next year with Beltran and A-Rod.  If Beltran is healthy, I’d give him the edge so this team may simply have no spot for A-Rod (which is what I would like to see).  I know the Yankees still owe A-Rod a great deal of money, but they’d be best served paying the majority of his contract to move him elsewhere (the proverbial “addition by subtraction”).

The first order of business for Yankee ownership is to re-sign Cashman.  All reports indicate that’s going to happen, but I’d prefer to see it happen before the end of the World Series so that the GM is not a distraction at the start of the Hot Stove League.  If anybody needs to be “all in”, it’s Cashman.

Typical Derek Jeter…

I was convinced all season long that there was no way Jeter could top Mariano Rivera’s 2013 farewell.  But I should have never underestimated him.  The game went from frustrating when David Robertson gave up the potential game winning lead to exhilaration when Derek hit the game winning, walk off single in the bottom of the 9th in his final Yankee Stadium appearance.  It was an incredible experience to watch.  The fans in attendance at the Stadium certainly got their money’s worth.

New York Times

At first, I was surprised when I heard that Jeter had no desire to play shortstop during the final series in Boston.  But I completely get his reasons for wanting to take something away from the final Yankee Stadium appearance.  By the end, Jeter was a guy ready to lay down his glove but he left the field with the same class and dignity as when he arrived.  Tough to see Jeter go, but it was time.  I saw the quotes that said ‘don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened’ and they are so true.  We were blessed to have Derek Jeter, but now it is time for somebody else.

So long, Derek.  Looking forward to the retirement of your number at Yankee Stadium and entry into the Hall of Fame.

–Scott

The End is near…

The Kid from Kalamazoo rides away…

I hate that I’ve been so pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances of making the play-offs this year, but the realization is slowly becoming a reality as time on the 2014 season draws to a close.  For whatever reason, this just has never felt like the Yankees’ season.  It had more promise than last year yet the team will actually end up with a worse record.  As I write this, the Yankees hold a two game lead for second place in the AL East and that’s the most the team can aspire for.

After losing Martin Prado for the season due to an appendectomy, the latest blow is the potential season-ending loss of Jacoby Ellsbury with a hamstring injury.

It’s sad that the final season for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter will end so quietly.  In a way, it carries the same sadness that saw Don Mattingly’s career end with the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners (his only post-season appearance in a tremendously successful Yankees career).  Granted, DJ has enjoyed far greater post-season success than Mattingly could have ever imagined, but still, for the man coined as Mr. November, it’s sad that we will no longer be able to see his presence grace October.

Ironically, it is Mattingly who will experience the post-season this year as he has his Los Angeles Dodgers in a good position with a play-off spot secured and a 3 ½ game lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants.

With Jeter’s desire to one day be a major league owner, I wonder where his post-Yankees career will take him.  It’s tough to see Mattingly wear another team’s uniform after he wore pinstripes for the duration of his Yankees career.  I can’t imagine seeing Derek wearing another uniform.  I was listening to Cal Ripken on the radio this week and his radio career ensures that he’ll forever be known as an Oriole and nothing else.  That’s the way it should be, but Jeter’s aspirations for ownership will inevitably lead him elsewhere.  I can’t see the Steinbrenner family selling him a substantial piece of the prized Yankees.

Thank you, Lord, for making him a Yankee…

Hats off to Hiroki Kuroda who has been such a great Yankee.  I respected him when he was a starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but never really got a sense of his professionalism and the honor he bestows wearing his team’s colors.  He has only been a Yankee for three years, but he made a difference and if this is his last year, he will leave a solid legacy.  If he does play another year in the majors, I hope that he does return to the Yankees rather than going back to the Dodgers.  But for whatever he decides, I will respect his decision because he has earned that right.  If he does pitch for the Dodgers next year, or plays in Japan, or simply calls it a career, I will remain a fan.

My choice…they passed the audition…

I really hope the Yankees move quickly to re-sign Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and decide to bring back Chris Young.  I think all three can play valuable roles for the 2015 season even with the return of Alex Rodriguez or the potential signing of a frontline starter like Jon Lester.  The first order of business when the season ends is for the Yankees to re-sign GM Brian Cashman (or move on and name Billy Eppler as his replacement).  The GM situation needs to be settled quickly so that the team can focus on its pursuit of improvement for 2015.  I clearly want Cashman back, but I’d be happy with Eppler in the role too.  I would not want to see the team bring in an outsider for fill the role.

I am anxious to see if Rob Refsnyder can take second base next spring.  He may not be Robinson Cano but I think he’d bring excitement to the position.

A plethora of catchers…

The Yankees will need to do something about the glut of catchers this off-season.  Francisco Cervelli is a great back-up and a potential starter, but John Ryan Murphy deserves a chance.  Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought and maybe he’d thrive with a change of scenery (not unlike what happened for his brother, Andrew Romine, who was dealt from the Angels organization and is now starting at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers).  One of these days, Gary Sanchez will be knocking at the door and he will force his way onto the roster.

We know who replaced Mariano Rivera…

I guess the predictions that reliever Jacob Lindgren would make the majors by the end of the year after he was drafted in June did not come to pass.  But there’s no doubt that he’ll be a contender for the bullpen next season.  I really have no clue what the Yankees intend to do with David Robertson.  If he becomes a free agent, there is a very real possibility that he will become a former Yankee.  I am sure the Yankees are intrigued with the possibility of making Dellin Betances the closer after his All-Star breakout season.  I think Betances can be a great closer but Robertson has certainly done everything the team expected from him.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I remember hating to see closer John Wetteland leave via free agency which thrust set up man Mariano Rivera into the closer’s role.  I think that situation played itself out correctly (statement of the obvious).  Time will tell if the team makes the right decision with Robertson.

Wanted:  Clutch hits…

One Yankee that has come under a great deal of heat is hitting coach Kevin Long.  Long respected at his craft, I wonder if the team’s offensive failures this year will force the Yankees to change coaches.  As great as Long is, if the players are not responding to his message, it’s either time to get new players or change coaches.  The latter is the cheaper route and it will most likely be the one the team makes.  There are no obvious choices for who would make a better hitting coach.  I’ve always liked Don Baylor but I don’t know his current situation.  I think Bernie Williams would have made a terrific coach if he had chosen that path, but his musical adventure is his passion.  Paul O’Neill?  Another one of the hard choices for the Yankees to make.

As Derek Jeter rides off to the sunset, many questions and few answers confront the Yankees as they move forward.

–Scott

No plans for October?…

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

The Yankees keep giving deceiving indications that they could actually snag the last Wild Card slot with great performances like the two walk-off wins over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The series ender when Chris Young broke up a no-hitter in the 8th with a double and won the game in the 9th with a three run homer seemed to possess the magical “mystique and aura”.  But the latest post-season hopes were dealt a harsh reality on Friday (September 12th) when the Baltimore Orioles swept the Yankees in a double-header.

The Yankees had a chance in the first game when they took a 1-0 lead in extra innings but the O’s dished the Yankees a taste of their own recent medicine in scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning to snatch victory away.  The second game was no contest as the Yankee bats couldn’t muster anything against Bud Norris.

Ichiro and the Yankees offense combine for one run in 20 innings of baseball on Friday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I have felt for some time that this year’s Yankees lack the necessary ingredients to thrive in the post-season and I did not see them hurdling over the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, and Mariners.

With post-season hopes fading fast, I think the Yankees should shut Masahiro Tanaka down rather than risk trying to bring him back this month for what appears to be a lost season.

It’s hard not to wonder how this year’s team would have done with Robinson Cano in the heart of the batting order.  Jacoby Ellsbury has been great at times but he doesn’t carry the consistency that Cano brought to the park every day.  Carlos Beltran has been a shell of his usual self due to injuries.

The curtain will soon be closed on the Yankees and they can start to think about what it will take to improve the team for 2015.  Of the late season additions, I would like to see the returns of Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  I am hopeful that the team re-signs both players.  Martin Prado is under contract so he’ll be back.  It’s a small sample size, but Chris Young is showing enough to be the team’s fourth outfielder next year.  With the virtual certainty that this is Ichiro Suzuki’s final year in the Bronx, Young could play a valuable role next season.  Headley may not be the bat that you want at third, but he is a much better defender than Alex Rodriguez.  I am really not looking forward to A-Rod’s return and it’s anybody’s guess what the Yankees will get from the 39-year old.  At this stage of his career, I think he’s a full-time DH at best.  But he’ll never be the slugger he once was.

Team character takes a huge hit with the departure of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and the return of A-Rod.  Honestly, I’d love to see the Yankees find a way to divorce Rodriguez regardless of the cost…

I do think we’ll see a better version of Brian McCann with a year under his belt.  As for second base, I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder will be able to make the leap in spring training and claim the position.  I’d prefer that over a free agent signing or trade for a past-his-prime veteran.  I don’t think that Stephen Drew is the answer at short so I don’t know who will replace #2.  I am sure that will be a focal point of the off-season.  With A-Rod potentially blocking DH, that’s a predicament for Beltran.  I question his durability to play the field at this stage of his career and he’d be a better candidate (and performer) at DH.  The Yankees need to find a young slugger for right field.  I am not sure that the top prospects, like Aaron Judge, will be ready yet so they Yankees may have to explore the trade market.

Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees

It was interesting to see the reports that minor league director Mark Newman will be retiring at the end of the year and the subsequent reports that he most likely would not have returned anyway since his contract was up.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago Newman had great power within the organization and for a time battled GM Brian Cashman for control.  But now, Newman is quietly shown the door.  The first potential successor I heard is Trey Hillman.  I am ready for a change to see better performance from the minor league system.  Damon Oppenheimer has done well drafting in recent years but it always seems like the prospects get stuck at Triple A and never pan out.  Obviously, Dellin Betances is an exception but he had to re-invent himself as a reliever after an unsuccessful attempt to get to the majors as a starter.

The Yankees do need to make re-signing Brian Cashman an early priority so that it doesn’t detract from the team’s off-season plans.  If they can’t re-sign Cashman, I still think that Billy Eppler would be a very capable replacement.  But with Eppler’s name mentioned in every GM opening, the Yankees need to re-sign Cashman before Eppler departs.  A worst case scenario would be for Eppler to get the Arizona Diamondbacks job with the Yankees subsequently failing to lock up Cashman.

Yankees.JPG

Rob Antonelli/New York Daily News

There’s a great deal of uncertainty as the Yankees move forward.  It is unlikely they’ll go on another spending splurge like they did last off-season.  The Yankees do not have too many trade-able chips at the major league level.  Francisco Cervelli comes to mind.  He has done a good job for the Yankees in a much needed support role to McCann but I think John Ryan Murphy is capable of performing well in that role.  But it would take a lot more than Cervelli to bring an infusion of talent into the organization.  I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill…the type of player who has not lived up to his potential in his current environment but is someone capable to excelling in New York.  Then again, isn’t everybody?

Lots and lots of questions as the sun sets on the Yankees’ 2014 season…

–Scott

You win some, you lose some, i.e., 2014 Yankees…

Mediocrity continues…

Realistically, there was no way the Yankees could have been players at the trading deadline.  Despite the usual rumors tying the Yankees to David Price, Tampa Bay was not going to trade their prized pitcher to New York, only to have him haunt them for years.  It was potentially an opportunity for the Rays to strip the Yankees cupboards bare but that would have been foolish on the Yankees’ part.

Ditto for the Boston Red Sox.  If there was the slightest possibility the Rays would have considered moving Price to New York, there was none when it came to Boston.  There is no circumstance that would allow their pride to part with one of their core players to the hated Yankees.  Yes, the Yankees were able to pick up Stephen Drew, but he has not been a vital part of the success of the Red Sox in recent years.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew can't make

AP

Interestingly enough, Boston’s trade of Lester to the Oakland A’s increases the possibility that he becomes a Yankee next year in my opinion.  Oakland will not pony up the necessary dollars and I am not sure that Boston would get any hometown discount (if there ever would have been one to begin with).  I am sure that the Los Angeles Dodgers will make a play for Lester and I would not underestimate the Seattle Mariners since Lester is a Northwest native.

If, by chance, Lester does return to Boston in the off-season as a free agent, it would be quite a coup to land Yoenis Cespedes for a two month rental of Lester to the A’s.

Back to the Yankees, there really wasn’t a blockbuster deal in the cards for them.  The pitchers they were linked to (most notably John Danks) all have their own question marks and the Yankees would still have had to overpay.  So, all things considered, losing C/1B prospect Peter O’Brien (in the deal to acquire Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks) was a small price to pay.  The Yankees have no shortage of replacement prospects for O’Brien (he wasn’t going to be a catcher and his departure allowed the Yankees to promote 1B Greg Bird to AA).  Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew made sense as Johnson wasn’t really being used by the Yankees, and Stephen Drew gets an audition as a potential 2015 replacement for the retiring Derek Jeter even if he’ll be out of position (2B instead of SS) for the next two months.

Drew’s arrival (a surprise given that it involved an infrequent trade with Boston) spelled the end of the line for former Baltimore Orioles great Brian Roberts.  Roberts seemed like a good guy but the Yankees needed more at 2B.  Drew, even though he had never played 2B at the major league level, was still an upgrade at a position that has been sorely lacking since the day Robinson Cano signed in Seattle.  I wish that Drew had a stronger bat, but his athleticism seems to play well on defense.

Prado is a great all purpose guy but not exactly what I had envisioned for right field.  Yet, he’s an improvement over the aging Ichiro Suzuki.  I heard the Yankees had tried to acquire Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners before they turned their sights on Prado.  Apparently, Seattle’s request for minor league pitcher Bryan Mitchell was a deal breaker.  That’s too bad because I’ve long thought that Ackley would fit well with the Yankees.  Personally, I would have given up Mitchell to get Ackley.

The Yankees did need help on offense and even if they weren’t flashy moves, the additions of Drew and Prado were upgrades.  But I had really hoped the Yankees would have been able to secure an additional arm for the rotation which didn’t happen.  But I never wanted to see a deal that involved losing top prospects so perhaps it was best that nothing happened.  Clearly, the Yankees are not going to win a World Series this year unless they get ridiculously lucky in the next couple of months.  As it stands, they’d be easily dismissed by either Oakland or Detroit.

It’s possible the Yankees made a waiver deal or two this month, but I seriously doubt there will be any major additions.  Win or lose, this is the 2014 Yankees.

Chasing A-Rod…

It is early in Chase Headley’s Yankee career, however, I really like what I’ve seen so far.  Granted, he doesn’t bring a monster bat, but his defensive plays have been something that has been missing from Yankee Stadium for many years.  There’s no doubt I prefer Headley over Alex Rodriguez and I hope the Yankees decide to bring Headley back next year.

New Yankee Chase Headley belts game-winning single in 14th

Getty Images

Considering that Yangervis Solarte has been hitting with consistency since he arrived in San Diego, the Headley trade is one of those that seems to have worked out well for both teams involved.

Friendships revisited…

With the acquisitions of Drew and Prado, it was interesting how it reunited former teammates.  For Drew, it was a reunion with former Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and lefty specialist Matt Thornton.  He was traded for a close friend, Kelly Johnson, a former teammate when they were both in Arizona.  Ironically, I read that Drew and Johnson were together in Drew’s home when news of the trade broke.  I am sure that probably hasn’t happened too often.

For Prado, he was teammates in Atlanta with catcher Brian McCann and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

AP/John Bazemore

Even Carlos Beltran was able to catch up with old friends, even though they are playing in the opposing dugout with former Cardinals teammates Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.  It wasn’t that long ago Beltran, Craig and Kelly were playing in the World Series, along with now Boston reliever Edward Mujica, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Assimilating with a new team…

When Wednesday’s games were over, I am sure that Stephen Drew’s mind was on the upcoming series against the Yankees.  So, when Thursday’s trade put him in the opposite dugout, I wonder how long it takes to drop the loyalty to the former team.  Not that I would think Drew would do anything to hurt the Yankees’ chances to beat the Red Sox but I wonder if there is a part of you that quietly roots for your former teammates.  When you are used to cheering the home team at Fenway, does that feeling automatically leave because you are suddenly wearing a different uniform?  For Drew, when he played second base for the Yankees on Friday night, he had much deeper and more meaningful relationships with the Red Sox than he did with his own teammates.  He’ll develop those friendships on the team in time, but it just seems to me that it would be very difficult to change loyalties at the drop of a hat.

I watched a little of Jon Lester’s debut with the Oakland A’s on Saturday.  Admittedly, Lester looked a little strange in Oakland’s uniform.  Jeff Samardzija looked more at ease than Lester did during their respective debuts, but it didn’t show up in Lester’s performance as he beat the Kansas City Royals while the Red Sox were losing to the Yankees.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics

USA Today Sports

David Price’s debut as a Detroit Tiger takes place this week against the Yankees.  As if they didn’t see Price enough while he was with the Rays.  Oh well, to be the best, you have to beat the best or so they say…

–Scott

 

The Carlos has landed…

 

Welcome to the Bronx!…

With one swing of the bat, Carlos Beltran has arrived as a Yankee.  On Friday night, with the Yankees down by one run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Beltran crushed his most important hit to date into the left center stands with two on to give the Yankees a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

 

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Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

 

For many new Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka excluded, it takes a while to get acclimated to pinstripes.  I remember that it took Jason Giambi a season or so to really feel comfortable.  Brian McCann started his Bronx career a little on the slow side, and in many Fantasy Baseball rankings, his replacement in Atlanta and former backup, Evan Gattis was rated higher among catchers.  He delivered a key hit this past week to win a game and perhaps that was his “moment”.  He is starting to hit so there’s no reason not to believe that he’ll be an offensive force for the remainder of the season.  But Beltran came with high expectations even at his age.  Not to say that McCann didn’t, but perhaps the bar is a little higher for Beltran given his history in the City with the Mets.

 

Carlos B

 Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

 

Ironically, Beltran may never have gotten his “moment” if not for a clutch RBI single by McCann in the prior at-bat.  The game had many heroes.  A diving stop by Jacoby Ellsbury that could have easily bounced past him to allow more Oriole runners to score in the late innings, David Huff limiting the O’s to one run in the top of the 9th after an error by Yangervis Solarte, and the very strong performance by Hiroki Kuroda.  Conversely, Solarte could have been the goat with the error, in combination with his inning ending at-bat with two on in the bottom of the 8th.  Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the Gatorade was dunked on Beltran and all was good in the Bronx.

If second basemen were as plentiful as catchers…

I like Francisco Cervelli as backup catcher given his versatility.  But it was still sad to see John Ryan Murphy sent down to AAA.  I know, he’ll get the chance to start every day, but I thought he did a great job backing up McCann.  I know that when the Yankees make a deadline move in July, it will almost certainly include one of the young catchers (Murphy or top prospect Gary Sanchez).   If the Yankees somehow swing a deal for David Price (unlikely in my opinion), Sanchez would have to be one of the pieces headed to Tampa.  But in other deals, it’s more likely that Murphy will go unless the Yankees move Cervelli.  Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought.

Have bat, will travel…

I am glad to see that prospect Peter O’Brien is thriving.  Another catcher, he has been performing well at first base and is perhaps an option to replace Mark Teixeira at some future point if he doesn’t get moved in July.  Conversely, it is sad to see that talented prospect but oft-injured Slade Heathcott is dealing with, surprise, injuries…

 

Peter O'Brien hit a walk-off home run to score two runs and give Tampa the 6-5 win.

Mark LoMoglio/Yankees, via MLB.com

 

Sabathia, Nova and Pineda who?…

Hats off to the young Yankee pitchers.  Entering the season, the bullpen was perceived as a weakness but young arms Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have become go-to guys, and represent superior upgrades to guys like Joba Chamberlain and other former relievers.  But the biggest surprise is how well the replacement pitchers, Chase Whitley and David Phelps in particular, have performed.  Vidal Nuno has done a decent job but he is the top candidate to go to the pen or to AAA when CC Sabathia returns after the All-Star break.  It’s almost a given that the Yankees will pursue another starting pitcher in July but the reason the Yankees are buyers and not sellers is directly attributable to the support that Whitley and Phelps have provided for ace Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.

The bearded brigade…

I am glad to see that Phil Hughes has found a home in Minneapolis but I am among those who believe his strong performance would not have happened in the Bronx.  I wish that he could have worked out for him, but he did need the change of scenery.  It wasn’t that long ago that Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were cited as the next great Yankee pitching hopefuls, and now they play in Minnesota, San Diego and Detroit, respectively.  The only one that the Yankees received a return for was Kennedy and in retrospect it was not for market value.  Kennedy went to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson.  Given that Granderson left as a free agent, the Yankees essentially have nothing left to show for the losses of the three former top prospects.

What’s with the former Yankees who feel the need to grow a beard when they leave New York?…

 

ESPN.com

 

I know the Yankees have history and tradition with their no facial hair policy, but I feel that it is something that the new Steinbrenner regime should consider relaxing.  Some guys just need a beard.  Sorry McCann…

No reminder needed, thank you…

I have to admit that I had almost forgotten about Alex Rodriguez (it was nice) until I heard his name yesterday after it was announced that he had dropped his lawsuit against the team’s doctor.  I don’t know what A-Rod has left in his bat but honestly I do not care.  I am not looking forward to his return next year and remain hopeful that the Yankees will find a way to sever ties.  But I know that’s wishful thinking on my part.  For now, I just have to enjoy that the team is doing fine without A-Rod and know that he is not missed.

 

alex rodriguez

–Scott

 

It is high, it is far, it is caught…

A penny for your hits…

What does it take to buy a hit?  Apparently not the $45 million the Yankees paid to Carlos Beltran or the $85 mil to Brian McCann or $175 million for former Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  This season has been a struggle for wins despite the team’s winning record.  It was finally starting to feel a little better at 29-25 but then the Yankees promptly lost 4 in a row.

 

 

Playing a good team like the Oakland A’s, the Yankees bullpen failed miserably until the final game of the series when David Robertson locked away a win for ace Masahiro Tanaka.  That bleeding started in the series with the Minnesota Twins and was inevitable with the short innings being provided by the replacement starters (i.e., David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley).  When the Yankees are only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game, the starters need to throw a gem almost every outing which obviously is not realistic given the current state of arms.

I thought the Yankees should have aggressively tried to sign Stephen Drew before the Boston Red Sox re-signed him, and now I feel the same way about slugger Kendrys Morales.  Now that there is no longer draft pick compensation tied to him since the MLB started yesterday, I felt the Yankees should go after him.  Maybe they are, but there’s competition.  Based on yesterday’s first draft pick for the Yankees in the second, had they signed Morales earlier, the cost would have been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren who is already projected to make an appearance in the Yankees bullpen this year.  But now it’s an open field for Morales and the Yankees have reluctance, wanting to see how Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran perform.  In my opinion, the odds of one or both going back to the DL at some point is very high, and the designated hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is not hitting, so I would aggressively pursue Morales to cover 1B/DH.  Ironically, Morales is the guy the Los Angeles Angels turned to when Mark Teixeira left as a free agent.  It worked out well for the Angels and I think it can work out well for the Yankees.  No ifs, ands, or buts, the Yankees need a proven consistent run producer in the middle of the order.  I agree with those who say the Yankees sorely miss Robinson Cano’s bat.  Ironically, the Yankees were also unable to re-sign another slugger having a good year in Milwaukee this year (Mark Reynolds) despite the usual anemic batting average.  Those home runs would look pretty good about now in Yankee Stadium.

 Courtesy:  hailstate.com

On nights the Yankees are scoring only a run or getting shut out, I even see guys like Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, another 2013 Yankee, driving in a couple of runs for his new team.  And of course, who delivered the key hit in the Yankees last game with the Twins when the Yankees bullpen collapsed in the late innings?  None other than former backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to run away with the division.  They are clearly playing like the class of the division and they just came off a very successful series against perennial AL contender Detroit.  If I had to pick two teams playing in the ALCS right now, I’d pick the Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s.  If the Yankees do not figure out how to fix the current offensive drought, they really will be offensive and done for the season in September.

Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…

Nothing against David Robertson but I am still not sold on him as the team’s closer.  Sure, replacing Mariano Rivera is big shoes to fill.  However, I still think that Robertson’s stuff plays best in a Set Up role.  I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying Dellin Betances in the role, but he needs more major league experience so maybe next year.  The reliever the Yankees picked yesterday (Jacob Lindgren) is also a future possibility.  If Robertson blows a few more games like he did against Minnesota, I’d really consider using Andrew Bailey in the role when he gets healthy…for now.

I love you, I love you not…

Speaking of former Yankees thriving outside of New York, both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain seem to be doing fine.  Hughes even captured a victory in the Bronx with the aforementioned bullpen collapse, a place that he couldn’t buy a win last year.  Chamberlain has a couple of saves and a decent ERA.  I can’t say that I’ve watched him too closely but his stats seem to say that all is good.  Why couldn’t have these guys performed like this last year?  Rhetorical question and of course, there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in New York.  It’s not for everyone.

Farewell to a champion…

It was sound to hear about the passing of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer this week.  The image of Zim sitting next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench is forever burned into my memory.  He was such a part of those late 90’s championships and he helped mold Torre into a Hall of Fame manager and one who will soon have his number retired in Memorial Park.  I realize that sooner or later, all of us must depart.  But still, it is sad to see Zim go now.  I understand he had been in poor health since April and hopefully he is now at peace.  He will be missed as he was truly one of Major League Baseball’s landmarks.

 Courtesy:  Keith Torrie/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

–Scott

The Road More Travelled…

Where’s the reset button?…

2014 has been a year of disappointment for many.  Pitchers are lining up for Tommy John surgery at an alarming rate and proven star performers like Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper are on the DL.

Certainly, the Boston Red Sox rank of one of the year’s greatest disappointments (as discussed in Nick Cafardo’s column today in the Boston Globe).  I realize the team has struggled with the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jared Saltalamacchia, but the effort and focus of the team collectively seems to be lacking.  I know, a Yankee fan making negative comments about the Red Sox…shocking.  But still, watch the 15th inning of yesterday’s Sox-Rays game seemed to be a microcosm of Boston’s season.  While everyone was critical of reliever Andrew Miller’s errant throw at second base that allowed Tampa Bay to score the winning run, it was an earlier play that I felt was equally as critical.  The Rays laid down a perfect bunt toward third and Miller had the closest line to the ball, yet he pulled up and didn’t make an attempt for it.  It appeared to me that they would have been able to record an out had Miller gone for the ball, but instead the runners advanced.  Sure, the loss cannot be placed on Miller alone. But it was a random sample of what ails the Sox.

 

Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller walks off after his throwing error in the 15th allowed the Rays to celebrate their walkoff win. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

 

I know better than to ever underestimate the Red Sox.  They’ve overcome adversity too often to think their season is done.  But they need to find the “magic” soon if they intend to defend their crown.

Battling to stay above .500…

Of course, as I write about the Red Sox, my team…the Yankees…have their own problems.  Entering the season, there were two primary concerns:  the infield and the bullpen.

The latter has become a strength with the emergence of young relievers like Dellin Betances and Adam Warren.  I have lost no sleep about Joba Chamberlain being in Detroit, whlle Betances has become a late inning force.  David Robertson has been very effective as Mariano Rivera’s replacement (regardless of the two run walk-off home run by Chicago’s Adam Dunn the other night).  But time will tell how long it will hold up with the collapse…at least injury-wise…of the starting rotation.  With CC Sabathia, ivan Nova and Michael Pineda on the DL, the bullpen has lost reliable arms to the rotation (Vidal Nuno and David Phelps).  The Yankees ability to find a permanent solution for the losses of Sabathia and Nova and the successful return of Pineda will go a long way toward determining where the Yankees will be in late September.

The infield has been as expected.  Sure, Yangervis Solarte has been a pleasant surprise but I do not realistically expect him to keep it up for the duration of the season.  Brian Roberts, to no surprise, is nicked up and hasn’t played for a couple of games.  Kelly Johnson is a better role player than starter.  But sadly, the biggest disappointment might be Derek Jeter.  A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek is unquestionably on his last legs.  I am not trying to knock Jeter but he’s just as susceptible to age as the rest of us.  Only Mariano Rivera was exempt…

So, it becomes a question of what changes can be made at what price…and when?…

The end of the streak…

In a way, it was good to see Masahiro Tanaka finally lose his first regular season game since 2012.  The streak was becoming the focus and with it, a distraction.    Everyone has a bad day and Tanaka is no exception.  But now, he can just pitch and continue to improve his game without the added pressure of maintaining the streak.

The loss was inevitable and the many storylines about it have been written.  Let’s move on.

 

Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports

 

The Boy Who Cried Wolf…

Now that Kim Kardashian’s wedding in Florence, Italy is over, I wonder what she’ll do for her next wedding when she gets re-married…

 

–Scott

 

Ready or not, here’s the 2014 New York Yankees!…

Introducing the 2014 New York Yankees.  With the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have finalized, for now, their major league roster as the team heads to Houston to open the season against the Astros.

Starting rotation:

  1.        CC Sabathia
  2.        Hiroki Kuroda
  3.        Ivan Nova
  4.        Masahiro Tanaka
  5.        Michael Pineda

No great surprises here.  There was talk of a spring battle between David Phelps and Pineda, but I never expected Pineda to lose the last spot in the rotation regardless of how well Phelps pitched.  I personally prefer to see Phelps as the long man in the pen.  I think he is better suited for that role than Pineda and of course he’ll be the first arm called upon if the Yankees lose any of the starters to injury.

Closer:

  1.        David Robertson

Again, no surprises.  This job is Robertson’s to lose.  While the Yankees do not have any relievers with proven closing experience on the active roster should Robertson falter, Andrew Bailey looms in the wings when he returns to active duty later in the year.  My hope is that Robertson takes the job and runs with it.  He disappointed in the role a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and Rafael Soriano ended up as the team’s primary closer.  But that was then and this is now.  It is my hope the Yankees never have to look for Plan B.

Setup:

  1.        Shawn Kelley
  2.        Dellin Betances

This is an area of concern.  It was great having a setup artist like Robertson.  Kelley was good in the pen last year, but he’s no David Robertson.  I am hopeful that this is Dellin’s niche after his previous prospect status as a future starter.  I would like to see him develop into the clear-cut 8th inning option to set the bridge to Robertson.  It’s also great to see a NYC-born player on the main stage.

Lefty specialist:

  1.        Matt Thornton

His departure in free agency was very quiet, but I was sad to see Boone Logan leave.  I am not convinced that Matt Thornton is the answer.  He’s been a great reliever over the course of his career but his best days are behind him.  The Boston Red Sox even left him off the post-season roster last fall.  I thought that Cesar Cabral would make the team as second lefty, but the Yankees expressed a greater need for long relief in the early days of the season so that solidified a position for Vidal Nuno.  Thornton may be starting the season as the Yankees’ lefty specialist but I doubt he finishes it.

Long relief:

  1.        David Phelps
  2.        Adam Warren
  3.        Vidal Nuno

I expect it to take a few months for Joe Girardi to find the right pieces for the bullpen but I fully expect him to make it a team strength by September.  Tampa’s Joe Maddon has shown a tremendous ability to piece together a strong bullpen from a collection of spare parts, and I have every confidence Joe Girardi has the same ability.

Catcher:

  1.        Brian McCann
  2.        Francisco Cervelli

Honestly, I thought the Yankees would trade Cervelli in spring training and make Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy the backup catcher.  But, aside from my disappointment with Cervelli last year due to his drug suspension, I do like the player and his intensity.  McCann has been everything as advertised.  I have been particularly impressed by how he was gone out of his way to get to know his pitchers.  I had always heard he was a great team leader on the Atlanta Braves and that continues to hold true with his presence in the Yankees locker room.

First base:

  1.        Mark Teixeira

Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.

Second base:

  1.        Brian Roberts
  2.        Yangervis Solarte

I really do not expect Roberts to stay healthy so I hope he proves me wrong.  I was glad to see Solarte make the team over Eduardo Nunez, and I hope his success in the spring carries over to the regular season.  But it will be a long time before we see Robinson Cano-like production at this position.  I just hope the position doesn’t become the team’s Achilles heel this year.

Shortstop:

  1.        Derek Jeter
  2.        Dean Anna

It will be bittersweet watching Jeter on his farewell tour, but a key to the season will be the performance of Jeter’s backups as he won’t be able to do this alone.

Third base:

  1.        Kelly Johnson

Solarte will also spend time at this position, but overall, I am disappointed the Yankees did not do more to try and upgrade this position.  I do not like uncertainty at both second and third, in combination with a 40 year old shortstop and a first baseman attempting to come back from a serious wrist injury.  After years of rumors, maybe this is the year that Chase Headley becomes a Yankee.  Time will tell.

Left field:

  1.        Brett Gardner

The team has made a significant investment in Gardner despite their acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury.  While I love team speed, I always shutter when I think of the Yankees attempt to convert to speed in the 1980’s with the signing of Dave Collins.  I know this is a complete different situation that draws no parallel to the 80’s disaster, but I still prefer the three run homer.

Center field:

  1.        Jacoby Ellsbury

It still seems weird to see this name in the Yankees lineup.  Nevertheless, he’s here and I hope, really hope that he can stay healthy.  I know, that’s asking a lot.  If he’s hurt, Gardner slides to center and Soriano is the starting left fielder which will weaken team offense and defense.

Right field:

  1.        Carlos Beltran

This might the position that I have the least amount of concerns with.  I fully expect it to be business as usual for the 36 year old Beltran.  He’s happy and excited to be in the Bronx, and he’s played under more difficult conditions in the past and has prospered.

DH:

  1.        Alfonso Soriano

I expect some of the team’s older players to rotate through DH, but Soriano should get the bulk of the at-bat’s in what most likely will be his final year in pinstripes regardless of whether or not his playing career continues.  I can see Derek Jeter getting a healthy number of DH at-bat’s but this goes back to how well Jeter’s backups at short can perform.

Role to be determined:

  1.        Ichiro Suzuki

In actuality, he’ll be the team’s fifth outfielder.  I expect Soriano to be the first option should any holes open in the outfield.  This is a sad way for a Hall of Fame career to end.  I had hoped that the Yankees would trade Ichiro to a team that had a greater need for his services than they do out of respect for the legendary player.  It may still happen, but at this point, I’d rather see someone like Zoilo Almonte as the reserve outfielder behind Soriano.

Ichiro aside, I think the two most vulnerable players for roster moves are Dean Anna (when Brendan Ryan returns in May) and Vidal Nuno (I can see Cesar Cabral being promoted in mid-April).

I’d like to say that I am very optimistic about the 2014 season but the uncertainty of the infield and the unproven bullpen give me hesitation.  I do not think the Yankees have done enough (despite all those dollars) to close the gap with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor the Baltimore Orioles will be pushovers in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division.

I do feel better about this team than last year’s version.  People have said the Yankees over-achieved to reach 85 wins and that the Yankees are still an 85 win team despite the upgrades.  I think they can reach 90 wins and perhaps a few more if the pieces come together (younger players take it to the next level, the right in-season acquisitions, and strong overall performance from the team collectively).   It may not be enough to reach October, but the Yankees will help determine who does go.

I am glad that the baseball season is upon us.  It should be an exciting and memorable year.  Time for Joe Girardi’s masterful encore performance…

 

–Scott

 

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