Results tagged ‘ Jon Lester ’

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

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!

–Scott

Your Objective, Mr Cashman, is to restore October baseball…

It’s a simple formula…

It is nice that Dellin Betances was nominated for AL Rookie of the Year, but it is a foregone conclusion that the award belongs to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.  I hope all of the accolades bestowed upon Betances (well deserved) do not go to the heads of the Yankee brass.  I am a bit concerned that they are ready to turn the closer’s role over to Betances, and I believe that’s a mistake.  The Yankees need to do what it takes to bring back David Robertson.  The thought of him potentially being the closer for Joe Maddon in Chicago is troubling, to say the least.

  • Sign Robertson…
  • Sign Brandon McCarthy…
  • Sign Chase Headley…

It’s that simple.  This isn’t rocket science.

If the Yankees are truly serious about not pursuing a frontline starter like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields, they need to bring back McCarthy…and then some.

New York Daily News

In my mind, Headley is THE Yankees third baseman.  I have no love for the other guy and there’s no way that he will be able to physically perform at the position through the duration of a long season, given that he’s about to turn 40 and has been away for a year.  Headley may not be a monster bat, but his defense was electrifying.  With new guys potentially slated for second and short, the Yankees need consistency and stability at third.  Headley, not A-Rod, is the man to bring it.

Even if the Yankees bring back Robertson and continue with the 1-2 punch of Betances-Robertson in the late innings, they need lights out relief in front of them.  I suspect that CC Sabathia will not go deep into his games, and with so many questions in the rotation (Masahiro Tanaka’s health, ability of Michael Pineda to stay healthy, etc.), the bullpen will be heavily relied upon.

Baseball is a game of lemmings, and the Kansas City Royals proved that a great bullpen can compensate for weaknesses in the starting rotation.

Truth or dare…

Regarding the reports that the Yankees will not pursue the Big Three (Scherzer, Lester or Shields), put me in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ category.  Those reports always strike me as a way for the Yankees to hopefully keep prices down or to give them leverage with the free agent.  The Yankees would be foolish not to pursue Scherzer or Lester.

Hey Cash!…

I remain heavily behind putting Rob Refsnyder at second.  I know that Jose Pirela is tearing up winter ball, but I still prefer Refsnyder.

As for short, I’d be okay with the Yankees bringing back Stephen Drew.  I really do think that Drew will have a much better season in 2015, with the benefit of spring training.  But if they go the free agent market, then Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense.  The cost to obtain Troy Tulowitzski or even Alexei Ramirez would be too high.  If there’s anything I want to accomplish this winter besides signing the above free agents, it’s to protect top prospects like Luis Severino or Aaron Judge.

With so many teams needing quality catching, and Russell Martin the lone option on the free agent market, it would seem the Yankees should put Francisco Cervelli on the table.  By himself, he wouldn’t bring top return, but he could be packaged with other prospects to bring a quality return.  Obviously, not game changers but quality talent that a winning club needs.

Wanted:  GM, no experience required…

The GM landscape is certainly taking a different look.  It seems like the veteran GM’s are showing up on radio talk shows (like Jim Duquette, Steve Phillips, and others), while newcomers are breaking into the GM inner circle.  I was very surprised to see the Dodgers name Farhan Zaidi as their GM as I felt Josh Byrnes would get the job, but the Dodgers got Byrnes anyway to lead its scouting and player development areas.  After listening to an interview with the 37 year old MIT-grad Zaidi, I am tremendously impressed and there’s no doubt that he’ll mesh very well with President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, Byrnes, and Manager Don Mattingly.  He gets it.

Another GM that surprised me was Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  But as a quality guy who can do the job, it’s Stewart.

Still, I wonder what guys like Duquette and Phillips think.  Perhaps they have no interest in returning to the GM role.  It would seem that the stress of a radio gig would be a little less stressful than trying to put together a championship caliber team and keeping it together.

At some point in the future, the Yankees would be wise to promote Brian Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and to move Billy Eppler to GM.

Whatever happened to Kim Ng?…

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I know, she works for MLB but I always thought that she’d be the first female GM.

These first few weeks in November are always so quiet.  Awards will be announced next week and the GM meetings are coming up so there’ll be a little activity.  However, it always takes the Baseball Winter Meetings in December to really get things cooking.  I am anxious to see what the 2015 Yankees will look like.  Hopefully, the roster will include Robertson, McCarthy, and Headley.  I shouldn’t say it, but I would not be disappointed if it didn’t include Rodriguez…

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

Getty Images

When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott

I know the Fat Lady is not singing but…

So close, yet so far away…

The Yankees may only be 3 games back in the Wild Card chase as they enter play this evening, but trailing three teams for two spots sounds a bit daunting.  Particularly when two of those teams are perhaps the best in the American League with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers.  At the end of play last night, Oakland, Detroit and the Seattle Mariners were tied.  While I think the Yankees could catch the Mariners, the odds are against them when it comes to the A’s (or Angels) or the Tigers (or Royals).

Much larger leads have fallen in the past, but I think the superiority of the A’s and Tigers will win out.  If they take their divisions, the Angels and Royals both field superior teams to the Yankees.  I don’t think there are any waiver deals at the deadline that can be made to improve this year’s Yankees.  As with the non-waiver deadline in July, I didn’t want the Yankees to part with prospects nor do I now.  If I legitimately felt that the team had a chance in October, perhaps I’d feel differently.  But the 2014 Yankees, even if they landed a Wild Card spot, would be destined for a one game Wild Card loss or if they prevailed, they’d be bounced in the first round. 

It’s disappointing as a Yankees fan as it doesn’t feel like championship hopes can be restored in the short term.  The Yankees are 11 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and yet, the outlook for the 2015 Red Sox is far more promising. 

Huh, I didn’t know he was available?…

When I heard that the Yankees had signed Chris Young to a minor league deal, my first thought was when did the Seattle Mariners get rid of their starting pitcher who is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA on the season?  But then I heard the talk about him playing the outfield and realized they were talking about the other one.  I don’t know much about OF Chris Young but it seems like he was once a promising Arizona Diamondback who had a disappointing 2013, signed with the Mets and continued to underwhelm until his release.  Given the Yanks success with ex-Diamondbacks (i.e., Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy) perhaps Young will revert to his old form under the tutelage of the Pinstripes.  Not sure if the Yankees will call him up before or after September 1st but he seems like a good replacement for Ichiro Suzuki if he is successful.

A little early to look to next year but…

With the success of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy in the starting rotation, it will be interesting next year.  While CC Sabathia will be returning, I honestly do not know what the Yankees will be getting and if it will be an upgrade over Greene or McCarthy.  Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are obvious locks, although Ivan Nova might be delayed since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery.  I think this is the final year in the United States for Hiroki Kuroda before he heads back to Japan permanently.  Still, even if the starting rotation projects to be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-McCarthy-Greene, I fully expect the Yankees to go after a free agent pitcher like Jon Lester.  Lester, partnered with a healthy Tanaka, at the head of the rotation would be huge. 

Lester was my favorite pitcher when he played for Boston so having him on the Yankees would be ideal. 

There will be lots of interesting decisions to be made by Manager Joe Girardi and company.  And oh yeah, we’ll have to deal with the return of he who shall remain nameless at third and DH. 

–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

 

Baseball and bad decisions…

 

A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…

This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002?  Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found.  For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft.  Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams.  But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.

Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers.  He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.

But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from.  I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).

I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.

But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees.  I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past.  But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.

2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball.  The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.

2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been.  Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.

For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen.  Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year.  Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.

In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round.  Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively.  Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen.  Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.

Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister.  He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season.  That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s.  McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.

I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees.  I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.

2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it.  Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.

As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees.  Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole.  Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation.  What could have been…

This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level.  It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.

It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive.  In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability.  For the Yankees, they are successful despite it.  I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system.  This is not rocket science.  Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.

Stupid is as stupid does…

The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck.  After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass.  Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to.  So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda.  This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees.  Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.

For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.  The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. 

Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision.  I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.

For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps.  But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly.  Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.

 

–Scott

 

Are Youk freakin’ serious?…

 

Sleeping with the Enemy…

News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously.  Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk.  His crime?  Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees.  He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over.  Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players.  I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season.  Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.

Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract.  But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery.  Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way.  No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season.  With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down.  But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.

When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around.  Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team.  It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life.  When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.

There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia.  Youk was one of those guys.  Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him.  Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee.  It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago.  I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.

I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely:  “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.  I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.”  Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.

Ichiro, Part II…

All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx.  The question is whether it will be one or two years.  At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year.  Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.

As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder.  Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit.  I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup.  All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme.  Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it.  The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved.  Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers.  Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields.  Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve.  I do not know what next year will bring.  The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day.  If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like?  I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents.  I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.

Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…

My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball.  My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle.  I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year.  I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers.  I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon.  My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago.  I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.

Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…

–Scott

 

Forgiving Damon for that 2004 homer…

 

Sayonara, old friends…

This was a sad week for former Yankees stars as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were designated for assignment by their respective teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians).  Matsui has subsequently been released and Damon’s release is imminent.  I doubt that either player will be picked up at this point in the season so it is most likely the sunset of both careers.

For Matsui, I think his original plan was to only play in the United States for three years but I am grateful that he extended his stay. He may not have been the “monster” player that he was in Japan (a/k/a Godzilla), but he knew and understood the power of the timely hit.  Time and again, Matsui had a key hit to propel the Yanks to victory.  He always seemed to rise to the occasion in the intense Boston-New York wars.  In terms of character, he could easily stand in the same room with guys like Derek Jeter.

It hasn’t been fun watching Matsui wear Angels, A’s, and Rays jerseys, but he will always be Yankee.

As for Damon, it is ironic that a player who played such a key role in the Red Sox breaking ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, plus the entire Caveman image, could become a valued Yankee.  Unlike Matsui, I won’t view Damon as a “Yankee” given his long tenure and success with other teams, but for his time in New York, he showed nothing but class and dignity.  Like Matsui, he was a clutch player who seemed to excel in the bright lights.

Introducing Billy Beane’s latest star pitcher…

With the apparent end of two great careers this week, I saw the opposite on a plane trip from Portland, OR to Oakland on Thursday.  The guy I was sitting next to was excited to be flying to Oakland to see his son, Dan Straily, make his major league pitching debut for the A’s on Friday night.  He was proud to say that his son led all of baseball in strikeouts, and talked about the hard work his son had accomplished to get to this point.  For the game, Straily didn’t figure in the decision, but his performance was a success:

 

Oakland Athletics
Pitchers

IP

 H

 R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

D Straily

6.0

5

1

1

1

5

0

102-70

1.50

 

The A’s won the game, 5-4, in 15 innings.  I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Straily.  Here’s hoping this is the start of a long and memorable career for Straily, his father and the rest of their family.

When in doubt, pick up a Pirate…

While the trading deadline was very active compared to recent years, it was another quiet period for the Yankees.  As the now fiscally conservative Yankees had been preaching, they did not make any moves for expensive, short-term rentals.  They picked up a need (third baseman Casey McGehee) to ensure that backup third baseman Eric Chavez is not over exposed to playing time while starter Alex Rodriguez is on the DL.  It’s a shame that Chavez is such an injury risk at this stage of his career, but I agree that it is best to limit his playing time for the good of his long-term health.

I thought the Yanks might try to make a move for a pitcher (someone like Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza) but it was clear that they would not overpay.  Time will tell if they made the right decisions, but I still have concerns about the team’s offense in the play-offs when every pitcher they face will be a #1 or #2 starter.  But September should see the return of top pitcher Andy Pettitte and a fresh Alex Rodriguez so perhaps those will be the team’s noteworthy “acquisitions” that boost team momentum.

Magic seems to be enjoying his new hobby…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have clearly re-emerged as a force in baseball with the new ownership group as they were the most active team in acquiring upgrades over the past couple of weeks (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton).  I guess they’ve gotten over the reign of Frank McCourt and have shown that they are back in the game.  The San Francisco Giants are a strong team, but I think the Dodgers’ moves will help propel them past the Giants to the NL West pennant.  Good for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite guys in Major League Baseball.

Nothing but crickets…

I was surprised the Boston Red Sox didn’t make any moves.  If there was a team that I had expected to make noise at the trading deadline, it was the Sox.  I don’t think they should give up quality guys like Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, but there were moves they could have made to give the team a jolt.  I may not be a fan of the Red Sox so I might be biased in making this comment, but I hope that this is a ‘one and done’ season for Boston manager Bobby Valentine.

We’ve moved into August and the Yankees hold a 6 ½ game advantage at the moment, but admittedly, it’s hard to get comfortable when that team in the rear view mirror is the Tampa Bay Rays.  The next couple of months should be interesting.  Let’s win this thing!…

–Scott

 

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