Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Yankees and the MLB Winter Meetings...

 

Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill/Associated Press)

The Hot Stove is ready to boil over…

The Winter Meetings are upon us.

The 2022 MLB Meetings begin tomorrow, Sunday, December 4th, and run through Wednesday, December 7th. I guess it is a reminder to us that Winter is also here even if it technically does not start until December 21st. All eyes and ears will be on San Diego, California for the next few days. 

If last night’s announcement that the Texas Rangers had signed Jacob deGrom to an insane contract is any indication, it should be a furious and bumpy road ahead. As much as I respect deGrom, I am glad the Yankees did not invest five years and $185 million in a 34-year-old pitcher who has not pitched over 100 innings since the 2019 season. Sure, when deGrom is healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. It is the “healthy” part that concerns me. Pay a pitcher an average annual value of $37 million, only to see like a guy such as Domingo German make most of his starts. I hope deGrom stays healthy and has a productive five years in Texas. It is just not a bet that I would want to make, and I am glad the Yankees did not either. Justin Verlander would be nice but bring me Carlos Rodon and I will be quite happy. 


Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Thearon W Henderson/Getty Images)

To the Mets’ credit, their reported offer of three years for $120 million was extremely fair. So was the unsuccessful $175 million the Yankees offered Robinson Cano nine years ago. Sometimes other teams are more desperate. Oh well, life goes on. The desperation of other teams is probably what concerns me most about the current state of negotiations between the Yankees and Aaron Judge. How desperate are the San Francisco Giants to bring one of the biggest names in baseball, a high-profile Northern California native to the Bay Area? I suppose we shall soon find out.

My biggest frustration with the Judge situation is the Yankees could have avoided this. They had an opportunity to sign Judge to an extension prior to the season and chose to lowball him. Of course, that was before one of the most historic player seasons in Yankees history, but it seems that the two sides could have found common ground if they had tried. It has been reported that Hal Steinbrenner is willing to pursue Judge more aggressively than general manager Brian Cashman. If true, Steinbrenner should have gotten involved earlier to avoid Judge’s free agency. I find it hard to believe that Cashman would not be as aggressive as Steinbrenner wants him to be. If anything, the general manager should be more aggressive to push the owner’s comfort zone. 

While I respect Aaron Judge and his right to actively market his services to all teams, it is a complicated process for fans. One moment, the player is free to sign anywhere including the desired return to Pinstripes, but then the harsh, cold, and final words appear on MLB Trade Rumors…“Giants To Sign Aaron Judge”. I remain hopeful the Yankees bring back their brilliant right fielder. Honestly, it is hard to find solace in the experts who say that Judge will return to New York. No one knows what Aaron Judge is thinking or what his motivations may be for his next contract beyond the dollars. The truth is the Giants, or the Los Angeles Dodgers could win this lottery before it is over. We know one thing with absolute certainty, Aaron Judge will be a very rich man wherever he may go. 

Player Moves

The Yankees lost a bullpen member when free agent Miguel Castro signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a guaranteed $3.5 million. There is a $5 million vesting option for 2024 if Castro makes at least 60 appearances next season and passes a physical at the end of the year. Good for him. I did not really expect the Yankees to bring Castro back although I did appreciate his work when he was healthy. 

The guy the Yankees traded to acquire Castro last Spring, Joely Rodriguez, was recently signed by the Boston Red Sox. 

The Yankees need bullpen help and I would like to see a reunion with Zack Britton. Even if the Yankees were to sign Britton, he should not be the only answer. 


Zack Britton (Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams Jr/Newsday)

It will be interesting to see if the Yankees sign any ‘name’ relievers or if they go the ‘build your own’ route with signings or trades for under the radar guys like the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees trust their development team and feel they can help transform guys into better versions of themselves like they did with Clay Holmes. 

The price of proven relievers will not be cheap as evidenced by the two-year, $17.5 million contract signed by 37-year-old reliever, and ex-Yankee, Chris Martin with the Boston Red Sox.

The offseason rumor mill has been full of ‘Gleyber Torres to the Seattle Mariners’ talk, however, the Mariners are no longer in the market with their acquisition of second baseman Kolten Wong from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Jesse Winker (an oft rumored Yankee target) and infielder Abraham Toro.

I personally do not feel the Yankees should trade Torres. At least not yet. There is a chance, a strong one, that DJ LeMahieu may not be ready at the start of the season, and I firmly believe Anthony Volpe needs more time at Triple A before he is ready to ascend to the Majors. He will be a major star, but the Yankees need to handle him right (as they have to this point). I have already penciled in Oswald Peraza as the starting shortstop (hoping manager Aaron Boone feels the same). Oswaldo Cabrera’s greatest asset is his ability to play multiple positions so I would not want to lock him into one position. Gleyber Torres is the Yankees’ starting second baseman…until he is not. 

The three guys I want to see on the transaction wire are the obvious candidates. Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. If the Yankees could eliminate one, great; two, better; or all three, Yippee Ki-Yay M-Fers!

Despite teams making moves, the Yankees have been eerily quiet since November 18th when they signed Junior Fernandez. It seems they will be big participants this week, but then again, there have been years when I thought they would be active, and they were not. I know with certainty that the current roster cannot beat Jose Abreu and the Houston Astros and would have difficulty against their stronger AL East rivals. The Yankees need Judge and MORE…

Donnie Baseball behind Enemy Lines

As a longtime Don Mattingly fan, it was difficult to see him join the Toronto Blue Jays as their new bench coach. I know, for him it is a paycheck. It is his right to stay in a coaching position versus a role in a TV booth. I wanted him to join the YES Network and would have preferred that outcome as opposed to his upcoming stint north of the border, but I cannot fault him for his decision. 


I think as a fan, there is a preference that our heroes avoid going to our bitter rivals. Unfortunately, it did not stop David Wells or David Cone from pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Players and coaches view the game differently than we do. For them, it truly is a business.

It will be uneasy to watch Mattingly come into Yankee Stadium wearing a Blue Jays uniform, actively trying to help his players find ways to beat the Yankees while Monument Park holds his name and number.  I guess the solace is managers and coaches are hired to be fired. Until then, we must deal with Mattingly the Blue Jay. While I appreciate Mattingly, the player, Mattingly the coach is now just another coach I want to see fail. It was better when he was in the National League, and we rarely saw him in an opposing dugout.

I would have preferred the Yankees to hire Mattingly as their bench coach and reassign Carlos Mendoza to a different role. I suppose that would have been too uncomfortable for Aaron Boone. The hard truth, for as much as I have respected Mattingly, he has not really enjoyed great success in coaching. He was a better player than coach. He can be better (we all can), but I just hope it does not happen while he is in Toronto. 

Farewell to Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry passed away Thursday at age 84.

Most fans today do not remember when Perry was a Yankee. He pitched in the Major Leagues for eight teams from 1962 through 1983, compiling 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts. The five-time 20-game winner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. 

I probably remember Perry most as a Texas Ranger where he pitched in the mid-70s. My family made annual treks to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to visit relatives for summer vacations, and I distinctly remember buying Slurpee’s at 7-Eleven convenience stores in Arlington, Texas with Ranger player-themed cups and adding Gaylord Perry to my cup collection. No idea where those cups are today, but the point is the childhood memory. 

Perry’s time in Pinstripes was short. He was acquired for the stretch run in August 1980 from the Rangers before departing that winter through free agency. He pitched in ten games, making eight starts for the Yankees at age 41. He did not appear in the 1980 American League Championship Series when the 103-win Yankees were swept by the Kansas City Royals. Overall, his time as a Yankee was forgettable but it does not detract from the greatness of the player or the man over the span of his career and life.


(Photo Credit: Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Rest in peace, Gaylord. May some spit ease your way into Heaven. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Embrace the Current Yankees Boss...

  

Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: Jason Szenes/Getty Images)

Hal, not George, runs the New York Yankees…

George Steinbrenner died July 13, 2010...

As someone who lived during the George Steinbrenner era, you will never find me wishing the Boss was still alive. I miss his passion and love for the Yankees, sure, but I remember the faults. As a kid, it seemed like there was a new manager every year and of course there was the unhealthy love/hate relationship the Boss had with Billy Martin. I loved every hiring and was deeply saddened by every firing. It was impossible to keep up with the pitching coaches. Those guys churned more than the revolving managerial door. 


Gabe Paul, Billy Martin & George Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: Marty Lederhandler/AP)

I remember going to my first game at the old Yankee Stadium in 1987 and the anti-Boss yells were noticeable. There was no love for George Steinbrenner during those days. Many of us were frustrated last March when the Yankees acquired the aging Josh Donaldson and his fat contract. Those type of acquisitions were frequent under the Boss. Overpaying veterans who were “past their prime” was commonplace.

I truly believe the 1990s dynasty would not have happened if not for the Boss’s time away. Dave Winfield signed a 10-year contract with the Yankees after the 1980 season (for a now laughable $23 million given where salaries are for elite players today). Winfield never brought a championship to New York, and of course, he earned the nickname “Mr. May” from Steinbrenner for his poor October performances. The contract did not age well, for Steinbrenner, and he suspended annual payments to Winfield’s foundation in the latter years of the contract, payments required under the terms and conditions of Winfield’s agreement with the team, with the belief the funds were mismanaged. This led to lawsuits between Winfield and the Boss. Steinbrenner, to prove Winfield’s mismanagement of the foundation payments, paid a gambler named Howard Spira $40,000. Spira had been a foundation volunteer and was willing to confirm Steinbrenner’s suspicions…for a price.

When Steinbrenner’s actions came to light, it led then MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent to bar Steinbrenner for life. Although the Boss was not required to sell his interest in the Yankees, he was barred from day-to-day management of the team. Steinbrenner had requested the lifetime ban over a two-year suspension because he feared a suspension would jeopardize his place as Vice President of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Limited Partner Robert Nederlander took over as the Managing General Partner for two years, and subsequently replaced by Joe Molloy, Steinbrenner’s former son-in-law. Under Nederlander and Molloy, Yankees executive Gene Michael was able to build the framework for the late 1990s championship run. The trade which brought Paul O’Neill to New York happened while the Boss was “away” and of course the Core Four, plus Bernie Williams, rose to prominence because they were given the time to blossom. 

After requesting reinstatement, the lifetime ban was lifted, and the Boss returned to his role as the Managing General Partner in 1993. He largely allowed Michael to continue building the eventual championship teams. The notable exception was following the 1995 season, after the stunning playoff loss to the Seattle Mariners, when Buck Showalter turned down a two-year contract extension because it included a provision to fire then-hitting coach Rick Down. Steinbrenner took this as a “resignation” which created a managerial vacancy.

Although Michael lost a manager he would have retained, he rebounded by naming Joe Torre as Yankees manager and of course the rest is history. If pre-lifetime ban Steinbrenner had been present, the new Yankees manager most likely would have been Davey Johnson or Tony LaRussa. Fortunately, the post-lifetime ban Boss supported Michael’s decision, and the championships soon followed. 

The point is the championship run was probably only possible because of Steinbrenner’s time away. It allowed Gene Michael to make the right moves. Credit to both Nederlander and Molloy for their roles in providing the necessary support for Michael.


Gene "Stick" Michael (Photo Credit: AP)

I do not dislike current Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. I may harbor frustration that he does not outwardly show his passion and love for the Yankees like his father did. Hal is a businessman, a bean counter by education. For all intents and purposes, he is a good man. Hal took over the Yankees after the 2007 season following the decision not to bring back Joe Torre and the subsequent retirement of his father, who had suffered through strokes and dementia in his final years. The Yankees have never had a losing record under Hal’s watch. In fact, the Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992.  Granted, there were only 84 wins in the 2014 and 2016 seasons, but they were “winning” seasons. Amazing to think that any Yankee fan in their 20s have never experienced a losing season. 

We may be frustrated with the moves Hal Steinbrenner makes or does not make, but to say he has been bad for the Yankees is wrong.  I do not pine for George Steinbrenner; I want Hal Steinbrenner to step up in a way that would make his father proud. Hal is his own man, and I do respect the trust he places in Yankees Management. The stability and continuity have been invaluable in helping the Yankees to become one of the best run teams in Major League Baseball. I did not enjoy the Bronx Zoo days.  Loved some of the characters, of course, but not the entire chaotic mess.

The singular point is ‘do better’. No more stop gaps. No more bloated contracts that hold the team back (saying this while hopeful the Yankees re-sign Aaron Judge to an excessively fat contract, in a sense of hypocrisy). I am probably referring more to guys like Josh Donaldson who seemed like a mistake from the moment the Gary Sanchez trade was announced last Spring.  Or “knee jerk” signings like Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees have a winning team, but they have proven they are not a championship team. Running it back with the same guys, hoping for better results is a flawed strategy.

I am hopeful the Yankees recognize they were not as good as their first half run last season. Bringing back Aaron Judge is a must, but the off-season improvements cannot stop there. I keep seeing fans who want Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe in next season’s Opening Day lineup. Not me. I do not want to roll out three rookies in attempt to de-throne the Houston Astros. I believe Peraza should be the team’s starting shortstop (based on the current roster), but there is no question I would sign Trea Turner or Carlos Correa if I could. Oswaldo Cabrera is next season’s Marwin Gonzalez, only younger and better. Volpe will be great, but let him season a little more in Triple A. The end result will be worth it. 

Assuming Judge returns (I am a little more optimistic after hearing Jeff Passan on The Michael Kay Show last week, “All signs point to Aaron Judge remaining with the Yankees”), how the Yankees address the starting rotation (need better options than Clarke Schmidt or Domingo German to replace Jameson Taillon), the bullpen, and left field will go a long way toward building a team ready for the October hurdles.  Turner or Correa would be insurance it happens. 

Time for Hal Steinbrenner to win a World Series championship without his father’s watchful eye.

Thanksgiving Weekend…

I hope everyone had a joyous and memorable Thanksgiving Day yesterday. 


I know I was thankful to see my Minnesota Vikings finally defeat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The Vikings had not beaten the Pats since 2000. It is always beautiful anytime a Boston team loses. Sorry to my fellow Yankee fans who bleed Blue for the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the New York Giants. Sadly, I think the Giants are like the Vikings…not as good as their respective records. But as the saying goes, “On any given Sunday…”.   

The Boston Red Sox have a Yankees fetish. With a few former Yankees on their roster (James Paxton, Garrett Whitlock, Kaleb Ort, and Rob Refsnyder) and one player named after a Yankees legend (Jeter Downs), the Red Sox added two more former Yankees last week. They acquired infielder Hoy Park, who had been designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Park went to Pittsburgh as part of the trade that brought Clay Holmes to New York. The Red Sox also signed free agent reliever Joely Rodriguez who spent last season as a Met after being traded for reliever Miguel Castro. 

As soon as I saw that the Pirates had DFA’d Park, my first thought was ‘future Red Sock’. Sure enough, it happened like clockwork.

Wondering when the Yankees will announce new contracts for general manager Brian Cashman and pitching coach Matt Blake. It seems odd while chasing free agent Aaron Judge and potential pitching options, the Yankees have not locked up two key members of the organization. I do not take this to mean they may not return, I think both will be back but the sooner their returns are announced, the better. 


Matt Blake (Photo Credit: Robert Sabo)

It will be interesting to see if the Yankees replace assistant hitting coach Hensley Meulens who left to become the hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies. The Yankees could just stand pat with only one assistant hitting coach (Desi Druschel) for hitting coach Dillon Lawson, but I feel there is value in an old school hitter to pair with analytics-driven coaches. I would love to see Brett Gardner rejoin the Yankees in this role.  As a former team leader, he has the command and respect of the clubhouse.

I thought it was funny the Los Angeles Angels acquired Mike Trout-lookalike Hunter Renfroe.


Hunter Renfroe

Mike Trout

Former Yankee prospect Janson Junk went to Milwaukee as part of the deal to bring Renfroe to Orange County, California. The Angels had previously acquired third baseman Gio Urshela from the Minnesota Twins, and signed former Dodgers starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, a free agent, so they are clearly trying to do something before Shohei Ohtani leaves. The Angels see Urshela as an option at third base and first base, and occasionally at short, second base or the outfield.  Anthony Rendon has struggled to stay healthy since he signed with the Angels so no doubt Gio will be manning third base more than the Angels currently expect. Good for him. 

I am always glad to get the Thanksgiving holiday behind us for no other reason than we are closer to the annual Baseball Winter Meetings. It is always my favorite week of the MLB offseason, and it was missed immensely last season after cancellation due to the lockout. The bittersweet part of the week is the Rule 5 Draft when multiple Yankee prospects are chosen annually. At least with the MLB portion of the draft, the Yankees can get the prospects back if they fail to stick on the Major League rosters for their new teams. The only time I am openly rooting for Yankee prospects to fail. 

As a baseball fan, I am sorry to hear that Bryce Harper needed Tommy John surgery. I wish him a speedy and full recovery and look forward to his return to MLB sometime next season for the Philadelphia Phillies. Baseball is better when Bryce is playing.

Happy Birthday to the YES Network’s Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES on Twitter)! Jack is 58 years old today. Looking forward to his breaking news that Aaron Judge has re-signed with the Yankees (I hope). I hope it is a wonderful birthday, Jack, and we look forward to your work in the coming year. 


As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

While We Wait for (the) Judge's Decision...

  

Aaron Judge and Friends (Photo Credit: @MLB via Twitter)

Aaron Judge, 2022 AL MVP…

Aaron Judge is the King of New York.

With 28 of 30 first place votes by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Aaron Judge became the American League’s Most Valuable Player for 2022. The two non-votes were courtesy of Los Angeles area writers who opted for the multi-talented Shohei Ohtani.

While I have no issue with the two writers who chose to vote for their hometown star, a player they followed every day, there is no question Aaron Judge was THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the American League this year. The focus was on the home run count (62, an American League record, eclipsing the great Roger Maris by one). However, Judge’s dominance did not stop there. He had a Major League best 11.4 fWAR. By comparison, the NL MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, had a 7.1 fWAR. Baseball Reference lists Judge with 10.6 WAR but regardless of how you score at home, Judge crushed it. Judge led the American League with On-Base Percentage (.425), Slugging Percentage (.686), On-Base Plus Slugging (1.111), Runs Scored (133), Total Bases (391), Runs Batted In (131), Bases on Balls (111), Extra Base Hits (90), and Times on Base (294). Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Judge’s batting average of .311 was second in the AL. 

Aaron Judge may never have another season like this one, and it was a fun year to be a Yankee fan despite the disappointing ending. During the pre- and post-Award win interviews, Judge handled himself with the utmost grace, unseen since the days of Derek Jeter. It is the same Judge we see after games, and anytime he faces the public. He is the consummate professional and made for New York. There was little doubt Judge would win when the MLB Network brought former tallest MVP Giancarlo Stanton on-screen to announce the winner.

The experts continue to point toward free agent Judge signing with the Yankees. I hope they are right. There was a bittersweet feeling watching Judge win MVP, knowing that he could depart for another team in the coming weeks. The Yankees are saying the right words, and they have submitted an upgraded offer to Judge according to GM Brian Cashman. It seems there will be no resolution until at least the Winter Meetings next month. The fear is that this drags out and prevents the team from making other upgrades despite the team’s assurances it will not. I want Judge back in Pinstripes. I know his age, and concerns about such a large man aging well as he moves through his thirties. Some guys are meant to wear only one uniform in their career and Judge is one of those guys.  The Captaincy of the Yankees awaits, as does a future date in Monument Park.

I do not want to lose Aaron Judge. We do not want to lose Aaron Judge. He is ours. The power is within Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s control. Make Judge happy with wealth which, in turn, will provide us with a wealth of happiness.

Aaron, please stay.

The return of Anthony Rizzo.

It was music to my ears to hear the Yankees had re-signed Anthony Rizzo to return as their brilliant first baseman for the next two years. As we know, Rizzo had exercised the player option on his previous contract to opt out. Tagged with the qualifying offer, Rizzo rejected it but no sooner than you could say the words “The Houston Astros are interested in Rizzo”, the veteran first baseman had re-signed with your favorite baseball team.

Rizzo’s new deal calls for $17 million in each of the 2023 and 2024 seasons. There is a team option for $17 million in 2025 or $6 million buyout. So, the contract is worth at least $40 million and could be worth as much as $51 million. Rizzo has limited no-trade protection and can block deals to six clubs annually. 

I am very happy Rizzo chose to return to the Yankees. In retrospect, it is clear Rizzo had no desire to go elsewhere. He did not speak to other clubs, and after signing the new contract, he expressed his love being a Yankee. Rizzo, rest assured, we love you as a Yankee too. 

Anthony Rizzo, Yankee

The left-handed balance, the timely hits and home runs, the protection he provides the lineup, his brilliant defense at first base (saving countless runs), his elite clubhouse leadership, there are so many reasons that Rizzo is right for the Yankees.

The problems Rizzo encountered last season with the back spasms are a concern. Rizzo is no Spring Chicken; he is 33 years old. But let the record show he is nearly two years younger than NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt. There is hope he will benefit from the elimination of the shift next season, and I hope they can find the right treatment to limit any issues or concerns related to his back. Despite the concerns, I would rather have Rizzo on the team than not. 

Welcome back, Anthony!

Yankees re-sign Key Player.

Okay, the title is misleading…at least in my opinion. After the Yankees had announced they had signed infielder (I refuse to call him shortstop) Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a guaranteed 1-year, $6 million contract for the 2023 season, I saw an article that declared the Yankees had re-signed a key player. Um, excuse me? Most of the fan base wanted IKF non-tendered. So, there was a collective groan in the Yankees Universe when the news of the signing surfaced. 

IKF is not a bad guy. He is not “unlikeable” (like a certain third baseman who plays to his right). There are positive factors about his play, both offensively and defensively, but he should not be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. I did not really see the Yankees non-tendering IKF although I would not have been disappointed if they had. He has value as a utility man given his ability to play the left side of the infield and can even catch if necessary.  Maybe that role is not worth $6 million, but it is not my money.

Although IKF is presently a Yankee, there is no guarantee he will be when the team takes the field on March 30th.  There is always a chance the Yankees find a trade partner. The Minnesota Twins liked IKF well enough last year to send their starting catcher to the Texas Rangers for the infielder. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so there is always a chance another team sees the value IKF can bring to their team. He strikes me as a player would thrive away from the Main Stage of Major League Baseball. I think he is a good guy, and I would like to see him have success. It does not mean that I think he should be a Yankee. I am hopeful for a trade, although I will support him if he is on the Opening Day Roster so long as he is not the starting shortstop.

Although it is possible Anthony Volpe could absolutely kill it in Spring Training (ala Greg Bird and Kyle Higashioka), I think it is more likely the Yankees break camp with Oswald Peraza as their starting shortstop. Volpe will have his chances, but I think it will be closer to summertime before he makes an impact for the big-league club. Until they are signed, there is always a lottery chance that Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, or Dansby Swanson could be Yankees although they seem unlikely. 

Cody Bellinger to the Yankees?

In a surprise to no one, the Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered former NL MVP outfielder Cody Bellinger. Fans immediately began clamoring for the Yankees to sign the new free agent, son of a former Yankee. I like Cody. He is good defensive player and can play all outfield positions, plus first base. The problem is his bat.

Bellinger has declining production since his MVP year of 2019. In 2022, he hit .210/.265/.389, with .284 wOBA and 83 wRC+. He played 144 games, hitting 19 home runs and drove in 68 runs. He also stole 14 bags.


Cody Bellinger (Photo Credit: Carole Brehman/EPA, via Shutterstock)

The Yankees do not need another hitter who cannot hit. Maybe the Yankees see something they can tweak to return Bellinger to his 2019 glory, but I would rather have more of a sure thing. Realistically, I think the Los Angeles Dodgers will strike a new deal to bring Belli back to Chavez Ravine. His production did not warrant the $18 million he would have cost next season, thus, the non-tender. However, it does not mean he is not wanted in Los Angeles. I would hate to see him re-surface in Toronto or Boston and find his prior success.  I am hoping for his return to the Dodgers.

As for the Yankees, my left field favorite remains Andrew Benintendi. Brandon Nimmo would be ideal; however, I think Benny is the more reasonable target for Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet. I would really like to see Benny for a full season in the Bronx. He was starting to make a difference when he suffered the broken hook of his hamate bone last season. I know many people love Oswaldo Cabrera, and he did a fine job replacing Benny last season. However, I feel he is best used as a regularly playing super-sub, capable of playing both the infield and outfield. Keeping guys fresh for the long haul of an arduous season is paramount for a team’s chances in October.

Roster maintenance.

The Yankees chose to vacate Stephen Ridings’ spot on the 40-man roster. Whether or not, they thought he would pass through waivers, he did not. The New York Mets were the beneficiaries of Ridings’ slide through waiver claim priority. Clearly many teams passed before a 101-win team in the other league claimed the 6’8” reliever.

I would say the loss of Ridings is bittersweet. You always wonder what he could have been if healthy, but then again, can he stay healthy? The Mets will find out. I wish Ridings the best, and I certainly do not want him to fail even if he is now a Met.

The Yankees added right-handed pitcher Randy Vasquez to the 40-man roster this week, as expected. Rosters had to be finalized in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. 

Randy Vasquez (Photo Credit: Somerset Patriots, via NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

I guess the surprise was other strong prospects who were not protected. It guarantees there will be Yankee prospects chosen by other teams next month, which of course is the case every year. Having too many good players is a nice problem to have. The bright side is Rule 5 players tend not to stick with their new teams and are returned. Boston’s Garrett Whitlock and Cleveland’s Trevor Stephan are the exceptions to the rule, but they are a clear minority. I would rather not lose catchers Josh Breaux or Anthony Siegler, or pitcher Matt Sauer, but if they are lost, there will be other guys to replace them.

The Yankees also avoided arbitration with reliever Lou Trivino. While some were suspecting that he would be non-tendered, the Yankees announced they had signed Trivino to a one-year, $4.1 million contract for 2023. It was reported the Yankees did not non-tender any of their arbitration-eligible players. The arbitration-eligible list includes Wandy Peralta, Frankie Montas, Gleyber Torres, Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Lucas Luetge, Kyle Higashioka, Nestor Torres, Jose Trevino, and Michael King. I thought Higgy might be a non-tender candidate. It seems like his half of the catching platoon is ripe for upgrade, but he lives to see another day as a Yankee. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Judge Rules for Freedom...

  

Giancarlo Stanton, Samantha Bracksieck-Judge, & Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Bryan Bedder/New York Road Runners via Getty Images)

Yankees outfielder is THE top Major League free agent…

It has been a long road for Aaron Judge, but he has finally reached free agency at age thirty. If the Yankees had been more aggressive with their offers before the season, perhaps Judge would not have reached this point. They did not and Judge had one of the greatest seasons in Yankees history. The ultimate “bet on yourself” move. He has earned the right to market himself to all teams. To be wined and dined by the other executives and hear the sales pitches for how fantastic he would be for their organizations would be wonderful for anyone to hear.  The antithesis to an arbitration hearing where your worth is blown up instead of torn down.

As a Yankee fan, it is admittedly tough to watch. He is ours. It is a bit shocking when you look at the current 40-man Yankees roster and the only outfielder named Aaron is Aaron Hicks.  Over the years, it has been hard to see some guys leave via free agency. Robinson Cano stands out as a painful one, and while I am not trying to be disrespectful, the loss of Judge would be far worse. 

The YES Network will air an interview of Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner by Meredith Marakovits on Monday. Through excerpts released from the interview, Steinbrenner told Meredith he has had more than one conversation with Aaron Judge since the end of the season. He expressed his desire to retain Judge by saying, “I have made it clear to him that is our wish. He means a lot to this organization, and I’ve made it clear to him we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: YES Network)

I am slightly disappointed the Judge camp has not told the Yankees they will give them the right to match or beat any final offer.  The words “(Insert team name) to sign Aaron Judge” are going to hit hard one way or the other. The San Francisco Giants are the most frequently mentioned team. Judge is from Linden, California and the Bay Area is a short ride from his parents’ home. Linden is approximately 90 to 100 miles from AT&T Park depending upon the route taken. 

While I get the “home” connection, signing with the Giants would mean the end of Judge’s involvement with the New York City community and he would be far from his current home in Tampa, Florida, near the Yankees training facility. The Giants train in Scottsdale, Arizona. While the Giants have a few more World Series championships than the Yankees since 2009, their seasons tend to run hot and cold. They won the NL West with 107 victories in 2021 and followed it up by winning only 81 games this season.  Another factor is the weather. I know, California weather is beautiful. I live in Southern California, and complaints about the weather are not part of my vocabulary. Yet, San Francisco can be quite cold in the summertime. There is a quote attributed to (possibly misattributed to) Mark Twain that says, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I experienced this once wearing shorts. The day started in San Jose which sits on the South Bay, with the temperature nearly reaching 90. Made the trip to San Francisco to see the Giants play, and I nearly froze to death. I was surrounded by fans wearing winter coats. I never made that mistake again. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers loom as a factor. Harder for me personally to find reasons not to want to live in the greater Los Angeles area since I do, but Clayton Kershaw is an example of a great player who belongs to stay in one uniform…just like Aaron Judge should remain in Pinstripes. Kershaw was just re-signed by the Dodgers to a one-year, $20 million contract for the 2023 season despite the speculation over the last few years that he would return to his home in North Texas.  Kershaw may no longer be the heart of the Dodgers when he is not even the best pitcher on the team anymore, but he means so much to the organization. He will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown, and no other Dodger will wear number 22. This is exactly the path Judge should take with the Yankees. Ride the Pinstripes to the Hall of Fame, unscathed by not wearing any other uniform.  Judge is the heart of the current Yankees and his stature with the Dodgers would not be the same. Sure, he could become the heart and soul of the team like he is with the Yankees, but it would take time, or it might not happen at all. Why take the chance?

In October 1941, Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio said words that later reached the heart of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee”. I hope these words reach a little further (and higher) into Judge’s heart. He is a Yankee, and he should always be a Yankee.


The next Yankees Captain?

Aaron Judge, please come home to the Yankees. We miss you.

Award Season is upon us. The Silver Slugger Awards were announced Thursday on the MLB Network. The best offensive players at each position are voted on by MLB managers and coaches. Aaron Judge received his third Silver Slugger for the outfield. He was joined by fellow AL outfielders, Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, the possible AL Rookie of the Year, and Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Judge, the likely AL MVP, continues to assemble hardware for the trophy case. He really should not try to move those valuable trophies and awards across country for fear they might get damaged in transit. Just sayin’…

The magical season for Jose Trevino continues. He arrived at Spring Training in Arizona with the Texas Rangers as a backup catcher. By the end of the season, he was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees. Living the dream. On Friday, the winners of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Awards were named. The award is given to the best defensive player in both leagues. Jose Trevino won the award for the American League, while Nolan Arenado of the St Louis Cardinals was the National League winner. It is a tremendous honor for a deserving player.


Jose Trevino (Photo Credit: FOX Sports)

Congratulations to both Aaron Judge and Jose Trevino!

The Roster Chess Match begins. Facing minor league free agency, the Yankees made several moves to add players to the 40-man roster this week. RHP Jhony Brito and LHP Matt Krook were added to the Major League roster, and the Yankees selected the contract of RHP Jimmy Cordero from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cordero, the former White Sox reliever, underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2021. He signed a minor league contract with the Yankees last year while rehabbing. He should be ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen in 2023. 


Jimmy Cordero (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Speedy Tim Locastro elected free agency after he was removed from the 40-man roster, so he joins Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Jameson Taillon, Andrew Benintendi, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Carpenter, Zack Britton, Miguel Castro, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman as guys on the open market.

The Yankees must set their 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection by next Tuesday so there should be a few more moves made between now and then.

Here are some of the minor league players who elected free agency:

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple A)

RHP Richard Rodriguez, RHP Jose Mujica, RHP Tyler Duffey, DH Jake Bauers, RHP Matt Bowman, LHP Chasen Shreve (I had legitimately forgotten he had returned to the organization), C Rob Brantly, RHP Braden Bristo, LF Ryan LaMarre, LF Michael Beltre, RHP Reggie McClain, CF Blake Perkins, 3B Armando Alvarez, 2B Derek Dietrich, SS Chris Owings, RHP Shane Greene, and 3B Phillip Evans.

Somerset Patriots (Double A)

RHP Carlos Espinal, RHP Emmanuel Ramirez, and C Rodolfo Duran.

Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A)

SS Wilkerman Garcia, C Saul Torres, and RHP Wellington Diaz.

Tampa Tarpons (Single-A)

RHP Nolan Martinez.

I remember my optimism when the Yankees signed Wilkerman Garcia as an international free agent in 2014 for $1.35 million. The Yankees made a big splash in international free agency that year, blowing past the bonus allotment (which was allowed with penalty at the time).  Dermis Garcia was the big fish that year, signing for $3.2 million. He is currently with the Oakland A’s. The other forgotten names are 3B Nelson Gomez, OF Juan De Leon, OF Jonathan Amundaray, C Miguel Flames, and SS Hoy Park. Sad to look at the names, and Park is the only one that stands out. He was packaged with infielder Diego Castillo in the July 2021 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that brought reliever Clay Holmes to New York.

Houston Astros GM Jim Click departs team shortly after the World Series championship. The contracts for both Click and manager Dusty Baker had expired after the World Series. The Astros re-signed Baker, but everyone was surprised when it was announced on Friday that the Astros had parted ways with their general manager.

Ken Rosenthal had written a piece in The Athletic prior to the World Series that alluded to the possible breakup, so it was not a surprise. Yankee fans immediately began clamoring for Click as the Yankees’ new general manager. Click probably gets too much credit for building the World Champions since the roster was largely put together by disgraced former GM Jeff Luhnow, but he knew enough not to tinker too much with a successful team. He knows how the Astros are built and why they are successful.  I am not saying fire Brian Cashman and hire Click, but a scenario that elevates Cashman to President of Baseball Operations with Click as the new GM is not unreasonable.  I doubt it happens, but I really believe the Yankees would benefit with a new voice in the GM seat and Click certainly carries the qualifications.

To be clear, I am not on the ‘Fire Cashman’ bandwagon. He has a place in the organization and should be promoted accordingly.  I do find it odd that the Yankees have yet to announce a new contract for Cashman who continues as an at-will employee.  If Steinbrenner is struggling to find the right terms with Cashman, what does that say about his ability to get Aaron Judge’s signature on the bottom line? A rhetorical question, it is simply an observation that Steinbrenner can be too passive at times, creating missed opportunities. 

As always, Go Yankees! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Undies' EDITED Offseason Plans for 2023

I've looked at my original offseason plan a number of times and it just didn't sit right with me. I wasn't sure what it was for a while, but it turns out the problem was Carlos Correa. It's not that I don't like Correa, it's that I don't see it necessary to give someone that size of a contract. Of course, that goes back to Hal's freakin' budget, which my signing of Carlos was to say "screw Hal's budget". But I'm reminded of Sheldon telling Leonard that you don't screw the roommate agreement, the roommate agreement screws you. In that vein, you don't screw Hal's budget, Hal's budget screws you. 

Yes, what I propose the Yankees do instead actually leads to a higher team payroll, but the length of contracts and spreading out the money makes the spending make more sense.

I'm still letting the same guys go to free agency. I'm also still signing Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. While this move already happened, I would have also still picked up Luis Severino's option. Finally, I'm also making the same three trades. But, besides not signing Carlos Correa, here are the differences...

1. I'm trading Domingo German. I decided not to look at a separate deal, as he could be added to the Donaldson or Hicks trade so the Yankees wouldn't have to kick in as much money. Heck, I have the Yankees taking back over $14 million for 2023 in the Hicks trade, so German going to LAA in that deal as well might be the way to go.

2. I actually am going to bring back Andrew Benintendi. But after reading around a bit more I think he can come a little cheaper, so instead of 3 years and $54 million, I'm bringing Andrew back on a 3-year/$48 million deal (I'm okay with a 4th-year option if necessary).

3. I completely understand a lot of Yankees fans wanting a new starter, but I didn't think that was necessary so I left the rotation as is for 2023. However, after reading about this guy I wanted him. Now, he's not someone that would go toward the top of the rotation like Carlos Rodon would, but I think he'd be a very welcome addition. 

I'm signing Chris Bassitt to a 3-year/$54 million deal (perhaps with a 4th-year option).

Here's what Keith Law has to say about Bassitt, "he doesn’t throw hard, but he limits hard contact, gets ground balls, and doesn’t walk too many guys. His sinker was one of the most valuable in baseball in the last two years, with 62 percent of balls in play off the pitch hit on the ground."

The stats back up Keith on this, too. Furthermore, Chris has been relatively healthy since 2019. I noticed that his slider wasn't very effective last year while his curveball was, so changing his repertoire up a bit might help make him even better. Plus, he knows what to expect in NY as he's said that he believes hearing the boos and such made him tougher. And we all know some guys do well and then fail in NYC, so I feel good about Chris.

This plan means Oswaldo Cabrera moves back into the infield, and actually moves to second base where he played the most in the minor leagues. Not that I didn't think Oswaldo could handle LF but seeing a middle infield of him and Peraza is pretty sweet.

So here is where I'm at as far as what I'd like to see the Yankees do now...

LF Andrew Benintendi* ($16m)
RF Aaron Judge ($38m)
1B Anthony Rizzo* ($17m)
DH Giancarlo Stanton ($25m)
3B DJ LeMahieu ($15m)
CF Harrison Bader ($5.2m)
2B Oswaldo Cabrera# ($.75m)
SS Oswald Peraza ($.75m)
C Jose Trevino ($2m-A1)

BE Ben Rortvedt* - C ($.75m)
BE David Fletcher - MI ($5.833m)
BE Estevan Florial* - OF ($.75m)
BE Ryan LaMarre - OF ($.75m)

SP1 Gerrit Cole ($36m)
SP2 Nestor Cortes* ($3.5m-A1)
SP3 Luis Severino ($15m)
SP4 Chris Bassitt ($18m)
SP5 Frankie Montas ($7.7m-A3)

RP Jonathan Loaisiga ($2.1m-A2)
RP Clay Holmes ($2.9m-A2)
RP Wandy Peralta* ($3.1m-A4)
RP Ron Marinaccio ($.75m)
RP Mike King ($1.2m-A1)
RP Lucas Luetge* ($1.7m-A2)
RP Hunter Harvey ($1m-A1)
RP Aaron Loup* ($8.5m)

MISCELLANEOUS SALARY INFORMATION
Money from Miami for Giancarlo Stanton: -$3 million
Paid to Washington for Josh Donaldson: $12.5 million
Paid to Los Angeles (AL) for Aaron Hicks: $3.33 million
Player Benefits: $16.5 million
40-Man Players in Minors: $2.25 million
0-3 yr bonus pool: $1.667 million

TEAM PAYROLL
$262.48 million ($259.31 million in 2021)

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Trust the Process (or Not)...

  

Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post)

Boone and Cashman meet the Media for post-season presser…

Yankees manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman held their annual end-of-season press conference on Friday which essentially equated to ninety minutes of “not much”. Brian Cashman proved yet again that he is a master deflector with words.

I think it is important to remember the Yankees are not going to reveal their cards to the public. The season may be over, but “the game has just begun” in terms of offseason strategy. There is no way the Yankees would rip their own players, coaches, and front office executives (or ownership). There are too many adverse ramifications of negativity, and it would be counterproductive in the team’s efforts to improve for 2023. Trades and free agent signings are dependent upon the perception of value.  

  

Clearly, the elephant in the room is the impending free agency of Aaron Judge. The Judge negotiations will determine what the Yankees are able to accomplish this offseason. If the talks drag out until January or February, the Yankees will seemingly be an unlikely aggressor in trades and free agent signings for other impact players.  Best case scenario, which Cashman alluded to, would be quick resolution if Judge wants to stay. Sadly, I think Judge will take his time and visit the other interested clubs. He has earned the right and this is his once in a lifetime opportunity to make the largest financial investment in his life and career. Who would not want to wine and dine with the executives and top players of other teams telling you how great you are and what you would mean for their organizations? Everyone loves to be wanted. So, even if Judge has a desire to be a Yankee for life, it will not be a quick signing.

Of all the off-season’s in recent memory, this is as pessimistic as I have ever been. There is a genuine fear the Yankees will attempt to “run it back” with the same guys (with or without Aaron Judge).

It was evident the Yankees have much confidence in their “process”. I wish they would recognize the process is flawed and requires modification. Perhaps, behind the scenes, those discussions are actively underway. The players need to improve, sure, but the process needs to improve too.  Brian Cashman will never admit he failed. It is not in his vocabulary. Maybe that is part of his persona that allows him to thrive in New York. I try not to read too much into Cashman’s words, but hope…trust…he is making the right decisions and choses behind closed doors. 

Aaron Boone blamed Josh Donaldson’s disappointing production on the lockout and subsequent trade during spring training. He feels Donaldson is better than he showed offensively this season and can be more productive next season. That is not a bet I would make, but honestly, regardless of what the Yankees do with Donaldson, Boone must say he is capable of more. Unloading Donaldson and his contract would be a boon, no pun intended, even if the Yankees must include cash (also, no pun intended). 


Josh Donaldson (Photo Credit: ESPN.com)

The real cost is the prospect capital it might take to entice another team to make a deal for a soon-to-be 37-year-old third baseman with tremendous glove but declining production. Good luck with that one, Cashman.

I expected news of Brian Cashman’s extension. His contract expired October 31st and although he acknowledged brief conversations with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, there is no contract extension yet. So, Cashman continues as an at-will employee. Asked if other teams had reached out to him, he deflected the question saying they cannot while he remains in the employ of the Yankees. With so much to be accomplished in the coming days, weeks, and months, you would think Steinbrenner is motivated to get Cashman’s new contract finished as quickly as possible.

Whether we believe Cashman should continue his role as General Manager for baseball’s greatest franchise or not, the truth is he is here to stay if he wants to. Complaining about it is pointless. Hal Steinbrenner is not his father, and Brian Cashman helps feed the Steinbrenner family. Nothing as joyous for Hal as the achievement of the 2022 MLB Profitability Championship. 


Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/AP)

It is tiring to hear the team’s continued defense of Isiah Kiner-Falefa. IKF should NOT be the Yankees starting shortstop in 2023. While many fans are clamoring for Anthony Volpe to be the Opening Day starter, he is not ready. Maybe at some point next season but for now, he needs to finish his development in Triple A. Oswald Peraza should be the starter when the Yankees take the field at Yankee Stadium on March 30th to play the (hopefully Aaron Judge-less) San Francisco Giants.

I would love Trea Turner, who has expressed a desire to return to the East Coast, but I will not get my hopes up for that one.



No surprise with Cashman’s announcement of the intent to pick up Luis Severino’s option. The Yankees would have been foolish not to. It WAS surprising that no decisions have been made regarding whether DJ LeMahieu needs surgery. Could be a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation with the risks for and against surgery. I am hopeful for the best, yet we must be prepared he might not be ready for Spring Training. 

Anthony Rizzo will opt out. As a proven team leader and strong performer on the field, the Yankees need to make Rizzo a priority. I am worried that the heavy focus on Aaron Judge could cause the Yankees to lose sight of Rizzo. I hope not. I am not in a hurry to see the return of an iron glove at first base like we had with Luke Voit. Sorry Luke…love the personality and the bat…but the glove, not so much.

Rizzo buys time for the organization to prepare TJ Rumsfield, Tyler Hardman (if he is moved from third base) or Austin Wells (if he is moved from catcher) for eventual ascension to first base at Yankee Stadium. Smooth transitions without a “stopgap” are best.


Austin Wells (Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Another priority is pitching coach Matt Blake. If Blake leaves, it seems the Yankees would replace him with another young analytics-driven coach. The fans’ choice would be David Cone. I have always thought, for sentimental reasons, Mel Stottlemyre, Jr would be an interesting choice. The son of the legendary Yankees pitcher and pitching coach was part of Don Mattingly’s coaching staff in Miami and has built a strong reputation for his role with pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez. However, the Marlins just announced they have signed him to a new contract that places him among the highest-paid MLB pitching coaches.

The offseason awards for Aaron Judge have begun. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has named Judge the American League Outstanding Player and the overall Outstanding Player with their 2022 Players Choice Awards.

Per MLBPA:

“Aaron Judge captivated the baseball world with his power and all-around hitting acumen in 2022. His 62 home runs broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League record. Judge also led the majors in runs scored (133), OBP (.425), slugging (.686), OPS (1.111) and extra-base hits, while tying for first with 131 RBI. He led the majors by 16 home runs, the largest gap at the top of the home run leader board since Jimmie Foxx outpaced the pack by 17 in 1932. Judge’s MLB-leading 391 total bases were the most by an AL player since Alex Rodriguez recorded 393 for the Texas Rangers in 2001.”

Congratulations to Aaron Judge for the first of many offseason accolades and awards. The best possible award, for me, is Judge’s signature on a new Yankees contract.

Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Chris Donovan/The New York Times)

Two Gold Glove Award winners. Jose Trevino and DJ LeMahieu were chosen as Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners last Tuesday.

For Trevi, this is his first Gold Glove. Funny how last November, porous defense at the catching position (namely Gary Sanchez) was a hot topic of discussion. Funny how quickly things change.

LeMahieu is a four-time GG winner, but his first with the Yankees. This year’s award is for the newly created AL Utility position. LeMahieu’s prior awards were for second base with the Colorado Rockies.

While Trevi and LeMahieu should be congratulated, so should Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson for their stellar glove play. No doubt Harrison Bader will be in the conversation for 2023.  I love exemplary defense (except when Aaron Boone tries to use it to defend IKF). 

As always, Go Yankees!