Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tired of Wading for the Outfield...

Yanks Acquire, Surprise!, Another Colorado Rockie...

The Yankees acquired outfielder Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies on Saturday for reliever Phillip Diehl. Diehl had opened some eyes with his performance in Yankees camp this Spring but as a lefty specialist, he did not have a clear path to the Bronx (especially with next year's minimum three-batter rule). Hopefully he develops into something more for the Rockies.   

Not sure why The New York Post ran with a photo of Los Angeles Angels minor league second baseman Luis Rengifo as their representation of Tauchman but to their defense, both guys do wear beards.

Granted, I don't know Tauchman personally but I think he looks more like this:

Either way, lose the beard, Mr Tauchman.

I was surprised the Yankees made the trade. I had felt the team was comfortable moving forward with Tyler Wade acting as the team's fourth outfielder since Aaron Hicks will begin the year on the Injured List. It would have forced Giancarlo Stanton to play more left field than the team would have liked so maybe that was the motivation behind Tauchman's acquisition.  

Tauchman does not have much history at the game's highest level. Despite making his Major League debut in 2017, he has only accumulated 59 at-bats in 69 plate appearances over 52 games for the Colorado Rockies. He only has nine hits, including a double and triple, and has driven in a couple of runs. That's it in a very small sample size. Not even worth showing his batting line. Yet, the 28-year-old left-handed swinger has had very good success at Triple A. Granted, he played last year in a hitter's friendly park for the Albuquerque Isotopes but he did manage to hit .323/.408/.571, with .978 OPS, in 403 at-bats over 112 games.  He hit 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBIs for the Isotopes. Sure, it feels a little like Garrett Cooper's stats for Milwaukee's top farm team in Colorado Springs, CO when the Yankees acquired him a couple years ago (inflated by the mountain air). But this also has similarities to Luke Voit. A potentially under-valued player who has not been afforded sufficient big league opportunity due to a plethora of players at his position.  

The Rockies also seem to have a glut of outfielders. Last year, their starters from left to right were Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez. Parra now resides in San Francisco and CarGo is in camp with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract, but the Rockies still have outfield surplus. Blackmon has moved from center to right, Ian Desmond takes over in center after being pushed off first base by Daniel Murphy's signing, and David Dahl, finally healthy, eyes a breakout year in left. Raimel Tapia, with an ability to play all three outfield spots, is the fourth outfielder. So, the Rockies outfield was still crowded and the team needed to make room for non-roster invitee first baseman Mark Reynolds. Tauchman was the odd man out and now becomes the Tauch of the Town for the Yankees.  

I feel bad for Tyler Wade. It seemed like this was finally his year. However, he was optioned to Triple A this morning which presumably opens a spot for Tauchman to join the team for its travel to New York City. D.J. LeMahieu represents the bench strength for the infield, even if he'll play nearly every day. The Yankees will employ an infield rotation reminiscent of Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers to keep guys fresh and LeMahieu on the field, but realistically Wade was a luxury at that point for the infield with limited experience playing the outfield. Tauchman, meanwhile, a true outfielder, can play all three outfield spots, making him a more desirable fourth outfielder. It's not like Wade has hit at the MLB level so this appears to be another analytics-driven move and those have generally worked out well for the Yankees. It does kind of make me wonder if Wade will ever get a legitimate shot with the Yankees or if he'll need to move to another organization for his breakout chance. At this point, injuries seem to be the only way Wade will wear the famed Pinstripes in the foreseeable future, and I'd prefer everyone to stay healthy. The Yankees cleared room on the 40-man roster for Tauchman by placing LHP Jordan Montgomery on the 60-day Injured List (expected since Gumby continues to recover from last year's Tommy John surgery and won't be ready to help until probably August at the earliest).  

Tauchman is 6'2" and 220 lbs. He was taken in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Palatine, IL native made his Major League debut in June 27, 2017. Pinch-hitting for the pitcher, he grounded out in the 12th inning of 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. D.J. LeMahieu was pulled in the fourth inning of that game with a right groin cramp. Former Yankee Chad Qualls took the loss for the Rockies. The Rockies scored all of their runs on a 6th inning homer by former Yank Mark Reynolds.  

Welcome to the Yankees family, Mike! We hope, like Luke Voit, this is the opportunity you've waited a lifetime for. We'd love nothing more than for you to become a household name in the Yankees Universe. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to prove Brian Cashman and his Analytics Team are truly the Modern Day geniuses in Major League Baseball.

The Yankees are in Fort Meyers, FL today to play the Minnesota Twins for their final exhibition game in Florida. It will be a good opportunity to catch up with old friends Tyler Austin, Ronald Torreyes, Michael Pineda, Blake Parker and Jake Cave. The Yankees will begin the journey home tomorrow when they play their final Spring game in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park against the Bryce Harper-less Nats. Opening Day is close, very close.  Is it Thursday yet?... 

CC Sabathia, as expected, will be on the Opening Day Roster (although he'll be suspended for the first five games of the season). He won't be allowed in the dugout with the team during the game, but he'll be able to experience the final Opening Day festivities of his glorious career. For CC, I am happy he'll be a part of Opening Day even if he'll have to watch the game from Hal Steinbrenner's luxury suite. Since the Yankees will open the season with only 24 active players, I am glad that they are facing the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for the first five short-handed games, and will be back at full strength for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros in mid-April. Jonathan Loaisiga was optioned to Triple A, but he'll return once CC finishes his suspension and is placed on the 10-day Injured List.

Congratulations to LHP reliever Stephen Tarpley for winning the James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in camp this Spring. Looking forward to seeing what Tarpley can do for the Yankees this year. He is part of perhaps the greatest bullpen in history. No pressure.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Taking the Long View...

2019 MLB Season is here…

As we round the final turn and head down the home stretch to Opening Day, excitement and anticipation is filling the air. For the Yankees, it carries a hope there are no further injuries as the team prepares to take its best (or healthiest) twenty-five men north to the Bronx. As we sit, the Seattle Mariners have a two-game lead on the rest of Major League Baseball, thanks to their two-time sweep of the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan earlier this week.  

It’s unfortunate because I think he has the most talent but the guess here is that Jonathan Loaisiga is the odd man out for the starting rotation with Luis Cessa and Domingo German grabbing the two temporary starting spots opened by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia starting the year on the Injured List. Since Dellin Betances is expected to begin the year on the Injured List too, it could open the door for Loaisiga to join the bullpen as the long man but the Yankees will probably send him to Triple A to keep him stretched out. Cessa and German might need help and Gio Gonzalez is not quite ready to contribute. I expect the Yankees to begin the year with Sabathia serving his five-game suspension before he is moved to the Injured List so I’ll include him on the Opening Day roster, which is  why I am going with six starters and seven relievers. It will shake out an eight-man pen after Sabathia is moved to the Injured List and the Yankees bring up Loaisiga or promote Gonzalez to take one of the temporary rotation spots, which would push either Cessa or German to the pen.  

Clint Frazier has been optioned for minor league reassignment and Aaron Hicks is expected to open on the Injured List which means the debate between Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first base won’t be resolved as both guys are making the final roster. Playing time will be tilted toward Voit, in my opinion, but Bird will have every opportunity, once again, to show that he belongs if he can stay healthy. I am losing confidence in Bird’s ability to stay healthy and play consistently but I would truly love to see that beautiful left-handed swing humming at Yankee Stadium.  

So, as I sit here on a Saturday morning, this is my latest projected Opening Day roster.

Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and CC Sabathia (suspended for five games, then headed to the Injured List)

Injured List:  Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery

Aroldis Chapman (Closer), Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, and Stephen Tarpley

Injured List: Dellin Betances and Ben Heller

Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine

Luke Voit, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade

Injured List: Didi Gregorius

Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Brett Gardner

Injured List: Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury

Tyler Wade becomes the de facto fourth outfielder until Aaron Hicks returns.  

Staying with the predictions theme, here is my projection for the upcoming MLB Season.

Division Champions and Wild Cards:

New York Yankees

Cleveland Indians

Houston Astros

Boston Red Sox
Minnesota Twins

Atlanta Braves

Chicago Cubs

Los Angeles Dodgers

Milwaukee Brewers
St Louis Cardinals

League Champions:

New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers

And, last but certainly not least, your 2019 World Series Champions:

New York Yankees (over Los Angeles Dodgers in six games)

I know this is a Yankees blog but, hey, I am not biased! I am a realist.  

The poor Dodgers.  They have become the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. I think 2019 will be the end of their consecutive World Series appearance streak but sadly for them it will end like the past two years, another season ending in disappointment.  

In making my choices, the two teams I thought the most about but didn’t add were the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals. I really see the Minnesota Twins and the St Louis Cardinals as the surprise teams this season. With no offense to the New York Mets or Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, I don’t see those teams in the mix at the end. The Nationals, even without Harper, are a better team than the Mets or Phillies. Maybe Bryce can make October plans with Mike Trout for some non-baseball related activities so they can compare notes as Baseball’s two highest paid performers.   

The year of contract extensions continues. While Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Judge wait for agreement on future dollars, the St Louis Cardinals finalized their extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5 years for $130 million) which will be officially announced today and the Boston Red Sox locked up their ace, Chris Sale, with an extension of 5 years for $145 million. Sale can opt out after three years. He’ll earn $30 million per year for those three years, and then $27.5 million per year if he opts to stay for the final two seasons. I see so many Red Sox fans taking offense at Yankee fans making disparaging remarks about Sale but honestly the only people I ever see complaining about Sale are Red Sox fans.  Health is a risk for any pitcher. I think Sale is one of the best in the game and Boston was smart to keep their ace (although I’d rate Mookie Betts, a potential free agent after the 2020 season, as a greater need). Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are close to a two-year extension for $66 million with veteran starter Justin Verlander.   

As teams narrow their rosters to the final 25, some ex-Yankees are in the news.  Former Yankees reliever, Chasen Shreve, who went to St Louis with Giovanny Gallegos in the trade that brought Luke Voit to New York, was designated for assignment by the Cardinals. I wonder how much the Cardinals would love to undo the Voit trade. I feel bad for Shreve. As a LOOGY, his days are potentially numbered with next year’s minimum three-batter rule. Good guy but I am not convinced in his ability to adapt to the impending changes in the game. Adeiny Hechevarria, in camp with the New York Mets as a non-roster invitee, did not make the cut.  

Congratulations to infielder Yangervis Solarte, who did make the San Francisco Giants, and Curtis Granderson, who will be wearing the new Marlins gear for Team Derek Jeter. I am glad to see the Grandy Man still can.

After two massive home runs last night against the Philadelphia Phillies, I’d say Giancarlo Stanton is locked and loaded. I am really looking forward to watching him in his sophomore year with the Yankees. I am sure opposing pitchers, feeling the pain, will be saying “not so much”. 

As always, Go Yankees! 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Predicting the Opening Day Roster

Every year I get excited about the start of Spring Training, as it marks the beginning of baseball for the year. Sure, at times the offseason can be exciting to think and talk about, but for the most part it's boring and I can't wait for it to be over with.

Also, every year, the excitement for Spring Training quickly wears off and I'm left counting down the days to the real start of the baseball season... Opening Day. No longer am I going to watch a Yankees' game only to ask myself "who is that guy?" when a player enters a game.

Don't get me wrong, it's fun to see the prospects play, but I'd much rather watch guys like Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar play in a real game rather than Francisco Diaz or Trey Amburgey in a glorified scrimmage.

Thankfully we're just a week away from Opening Day. Sadly, due to the Yankees seemingly suffering an injury every day, the Opening Day roster is not going to look like I'd originally hoped. But that hasn't stopped me from thinking about what it will look like, and to be honest it'll be much more interesting to see how things shake out now.

Speaking of injuries, I wanted to start by pointing out the players that would have been on the Opening Day roster if it wasn't for being injured...

Aaron Hicks - OF
Didi Gregorius - SS
Luis Severino - SP
CC Sabathia - SP (although he may be healthy, he'll at least miss time due to suspsension)
Jordan Montgomery - SP (J.A. Happ may not even be on the team if not for Jordan's Tommy John surgery)
Dellin Betances - RP

While I wasn't counting on Jacoby Ellsbury to be on the Opening Day roster like those previous six players above, due to Aaron Hicks being out he could have been included.

I'm going to begin my predictions for the roster with the starting rotation. We all know the first three starters (Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ), but I believe that Luis Cessa and Domingo German will get at least a start or two in the early going.

Cessa has thrown the most innings (17) and has been very impressive (0.53 ERA), while German has thrown 11.1 innings with only a 1.54 ERA. Neither man has a ton of fans, but I think they've both earned rotation spots.

I've heard good things about how Gio Gonzalez has looked so far, and while I don't expect him to be on the Opening Day roster, he'll be right there should one of Cessa or German look bad or suffer an injury.

Four of the eight bullpen spots are no-brainers. Aroldis Chapman will be the closer, with Zack Britton setting him up. Chad Green and Adam Ottavino will also be available for any important innings between the time the starter is taken out and Aaron Boone can hand the ball to Britton.

Jonathan Holder may not have been a "lock" to be in the bullpen, but he's certainly earned a spot there after looking good last season along with 10.1 innings during Spring Training with a 0.87 ERA. Tommy Kahnle has looked pretty good in Spring Training as well, throwing 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts and no walks, and since I think the Yankees want to see if he can be effective again now's as good a time as any to see.

The final two bullpen spots were a little harder to predict. Under the new rule limiting September call-ups Stephen Tarpley may not have even been on the Yankees' radar, but not only did he do well upon being called up last year he's also had a nice spring having not given up a run in 10.1 innings. Besides Britton and Chapman, who are set in their roles, the team could also use a left-handed reliever for the middle innings. The last spot is hardly a no-brainer, but Joe Harvey's ten strikeouts in 6.1 innings along with having a nice year between AA and AAA in 2018 makes me lean his way.

Moving onto the run production side of the team I'm going to start with the bench.

Austin Romine is one of the better backup catchers in the entire league. That's not to say I'd be okay if he were the team's regular starter, but he's a very capable backup.

If it weren't for Jacoby Ellsbury not being ready by Opening Day he'd likely take this spot on the bench, but instead that will go to Tyler Wade. Wade is very versatile, and like Kahnle the Yankees likely feel it's now or never for Tyler. If it wasn't for Wade's ability to play the outfield, though, I'd probably be talking about someone else.

The last spot is tough only because I'd rather see him starting at second base instead, but unfortunately the Yankees seem set on giving Troy Tulowitski the starting role at shortstop. Therefore, D.J. LeMahieu will be watching the game from the bench on Opening Day.

Finally we come to the starters. Due to the thing about Tulowitski that I already mentioned, and the rash of injuries the team has suffered this spring, there really aren't any surprises here.

The outfield will consist of Aaron Judge in right, Brett Gardner in center, and Giancarlo Stanton in left. While it's not a surprise to see Stanton in the outfield instead of DH, I can't help but feel the offense is better off this way as it opens up the DH spot for someone else. Plus it would be that "someone else" over Tyler Wade as a starter, which is clearly the right choice.

Miguel Andujar will be at third base, the aforementioned Troy Tulowitski at shortstop, Gleyber Torres at second, and due to him being the better defender Greg Bird will be at first. Gary Sanchez will take his rightful place behind the plate.

The designated hitter will be Luke Voit. Luke killed it when he came over from St. Louis last year, and this spring he's been hitting very well too. No matter the injury situation the Yankees were in, it would be very hard to keep Voit out of the Opening Day lineup.

There was just one other player I wanted to bring up before ending things, and that's Clint Frazier. Even before the offseason began I expected Clint to begin this season in AAA to make sure his head is clear and to get back to game speed, so I'm hardly surprised here. It's true I was rooting for him in Spring Training to come out guns blazing, but it just hasn't happened. So let the guy get going in AAA and push his way back to MLB.

When I read people predict the Red Sox to win the American League East again, at first, I get upset. I mean, no real Yankees fan ever wants to see anything good happen to Boston. But one thing I like about it is less expectations, and therefore less pressure, on the Yankees. Kind of like how things were in 2017. Sure, there's more to expect from this team, but at least it's not like last year when they were coming off a season in which they were one win away from the World Series.

One thing's for sure, this squad will give us plenty to talk about during the season. And I fully expect to have a lot of fun.

I'll leave you with a simple list of the Yankees' Opening Day roster...

C-Gary Sanchez
1B-Greg Bird
2B-Gleyber Torres
SS-Troy Tulowitzki
3B-Miguel Andujar
LF-Giancarlo Stanton
CF-Brett Gardner
RF-Aaron Judge
DH-Luke Voit

D.J. LeMahieu
Tyler Wade
Austin Romine

Starting Rotation:
Masahiro Tanaka
James Paxton
J.A. Happ
Luis Cessa
Domingo German

Aroldis Chapman
Zack Britton
Chad Green
Adam Ottavino
Jonathan Holder
Tommy Kahnle
Stephen Tarpley
Joe Harvey

Thursday, March 21, 2019

7 Days to Yankee Stadium...

(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)
Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field. 

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own. 

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.  

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm. 

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is. 

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Yankees Sign LHP Gio Gonzalez...

(Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Athletic-National-Brewer Signs Minor League Deal w/Yanks…

So, the Yankees signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a very short-term minor league deal. So what? I’ve seen so many negative comments on Social Media and I don’t get it. This late in Spring Training, the top replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia appear to be Luis Cessa and Domingo German. After I trashed him in my last post, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched very well on Sunday. Nothing changes with the Gonzalez signing.   

I know Gonzales is not a savior. Heck, he’s not even a very good starting pitcher anymore. His signing prompted many to ask why the Yankees aren’t trying to sign Dallas Keuchel. It’s an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. If Gonzalez makes the Major League roster, he’ll get paid $3 million. If not, he can opt out of the contract on April 20th.  He basically has a month to prepare on the Yankees’ dime. It will either get him a roster spot on everybody’s favorite team or he opens eyes in another organization who may be seeking starting pitching. No sooner than the word of the verbal agreement between Gonzalez and the Yankees had been reported, the Texas Rangers lost a starting pitcher (Yohander Mendez), who was diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. Shit happens and you need to be prepared. I think best-case scenario is we never see Gio in Pinstripes. It will mean that two of Cessa, German and Loaisiga are doing well. However, if one falters, Gio will be ready to step in assuming he proves he is ready. It’s really a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel, despite it being so late in Spring Training, is still going to cost you a lot of money and years. He’s not taking a minor league deal for chump change. There’s also the small issue of draft pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros. I have no problems with the Yankees’ decision to pass on Keuchel and to roll the dice the Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez is far removed from his 21-win season of 2012 or even his 15 wins two years ago. At age 33, his fastball velocity is down, strikeout rate is falling, and WHIP is increasing. The degradation of his curveball has been noted and per Fangraphs, “Without that big hook in his back pocket, it will be tough for Gonzalez to return quality innings with a sub 90 mph fastball and middling changeup and we may see Gonzalez go the way of James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez shortly.”  

Nevertheless, Gonzalez has been a very consistent pitcher over the years even if he is on the downward slide. After his August 31st trade from the Washington Nationals to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, Gio was 3-0 in five starts with a 2.13 ERA. He pitched 25 1/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and 6 earned runs. He walked 10 and struck out 22.  Steamer projects Gonzalez at 6-7 with 4.40 ERA in 19 starts in 2019.  K/9 of 7.80 and BB/9 of 3.72, with fWAR of 1.1. With so much pressure on the young pitchers to perform, I like the idea of a veteran insurance policy.  We’re not looking at him to be the J.A. Happ of 2019.  He may never find a spot on the 25-man roster. But I much prefer having him as a safety net as opposed to other young arms in the farm system that might not be ready should Cessa, German, and/or Loaisiga falter. 

Luis Severino is expected to resume light throwing this week in anticipation of being ready in May assuming there are no further setbacks, but the Yankees needed a contingency plan. There are too many health-related questions in the starting rotation to hook your wagon exclusively on prospects and internal options. Do we really want to see another David Hale start? To sign Gonzalez now in no way prevents the Yankees from improving the pitching staff in July if necessary.

So, welcome to the Yankees family, Gio!  We’re glad you’re here. We hope like hell we don’t need you but still, make yourself at home. You’re one of us for at least the next 30 days. If anything, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids one day that you were a Yankee for a month.

I really enjoyed Ken Davidoff’s piece in the The New York Post this morning entitled “Jacoby Ellsbury reveals firststeps of plan that’s impossible to embrace”.  I honestly cannot think of any Yankee player I’ve ever been less excited about seeing return than Jacoby Ellsbury. I honestly never thought we’d see Ellsbury in Pinstripes again, and maybe we won’t. We are at the point the Yankees could decide to cut bait with Ellsbury if he’s too healthy to collect insurance payments but not good enough to resume his Yankees career. Despite owing Ellsbury nearly $50 million on his remaining contract, the loss would hurt the Yankees less than it did for the Toronto Blue Jays when they swallowed $38 million to set Troy Tulowitzki free.  The Yankees are in much better position to absorb that type of loss.  I’ve always felt cutting Ellsbury would be addition by subtraction, but as Davidoff notes in his closing paragraph: “Stay pessimistic, Yankees fans. Let Ellsbury surprise you with a positive outcome. And if this goes the same way as the bulk of his time in pinstripes, then you’ll have no reason to feel disappointed.” Point taken, Ken. I agree. If Ellsbury can play, let him play. If not, don’t let the door hit him on the way out. 

(Photo: Edward Linsmier-The New York Times)
So much has been made of the Yankees’ Super Bullpen but I continue to hold the belief the Bullpen may not be as great as we imagine while the maligned Boston Red Sox pen could be better than expected.  Too many fans are relishing the fact the Yankees sit atop the Grapefruit League standings while the Red Sox hold the cellar. The standings mean absolutely nothing. When the Yankees and Red Sox begin play on March 28th, they’ll both be 0-0.  The Yankees don’t get bonus points because they had a better Spring and it certainly does not guarantee a spot in the American League Championship Series.  The Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I am optimistic heading into the regular season but I will never underestimate the Red Sox. You may not like their bullpen (for good reason) but they still have a very good team capable of winning its second consecutive World Series.  Our job, or that of the Yankees, is to ensure it does not happen. For those of you who feel the need to boast about superiority, let’s win a few games that count first.

It is kind of weird there will be games that do matter this week when the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s open the 2019 MLB Season in Japan. I love it that former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki will be in Seattle’s starting lineup for the opener tomorrow in Tokyo. No doubt the end of Ichiro’s career is near but he’s obviously a future Hall of Famer who is very beloved in his home county. At age 45, Ichiro will probably not be part of Seattle’s roster when they return to the United States. For the trip to Japan, the teams were authorized expanded 28-man rosters which will reduce to 25 when they come home after the two-game series. I would love to see Ichiro get one more hit before he says sayonara to his lengthy and amazing playing career.  He currently stands at 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball. 

(Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images)
On Thursday, Mariners lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in his native country against the A’s. Very cool. 

A reminder that the Yankees will be featured on the MLB Network this evening at 7 pm Eastern as part of MLB Tonight’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

As always, Go Yankees!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Gio Oh Gio!  

The Yankees and Gio Gonzalez have agreed to a minor league contract, if GiO makes the Big team he gets a $3M base salary with incentives based on starts. Gio also has an April 20th opt-out if he’s not on the big league roster. Good move by the Yanks. Yes Gio is another lefty, however C.C. Is on the Dl to start the year, and it’s a good depth move. 

As always Let’s G⚾️ Yankee’s!  


   The Greedy Pinstripes

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Crushing AL East Rivals...

(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)
Even if it means absolutely nothing…

Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.  

It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.   

Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.  

MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.   

Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him.  No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.   

(Photo: Chris Pedota/North
A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time.  In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA.  He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.

There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.  

If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.

Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield.  Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.   

Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!  

As always, Go Yankees!  

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Unwritten Rules of Baseball in 2019

Baseball has been one of the backbones of the American culture for around 160 years. It has evolved as has the world, but the basis of the game is still the same. The commissioner Rob Manfred is very innovative and trying to make the game quicker and appeal to younger people. When most of the outcomes of an a bat is one of the three true outcomes, of a home run, strikeout or walk there is not much action. Hitters focus on launch angle and hitting the ball as hard as possible. They don’t try to get on base in order to create runs. Through this evolution of the game from the 19th century to the 21st, baseball has had at least one consistent thing, though it is a widely disputed topic. The unwritten rules of baseball and the things you absolutely can not do on a baseball field. Older baseball fans tend to have a more traditional perspective on this while the new players want to celebrate their accomplishments and show more personality. They play with a little bit of flare and this makes some veteran players and managers upset. Here is a rundown of some of the most present and disputed unwritten rules.

Never say the word no hitter or perfect game while it's happening. This unwritten rule is more of a superstition. When a pitcher is throwing a perfect game you probably don’t want to mess with them or say something that make them overthink what they are doing. Most of the time they are in sync with the catcher and absolutely dealing. In my personal experiences about a year ago I was throwing a no hitter in a High School game. I did not know I had a no hitter because I walked a couple of hitters and we made a few errors in the first inning. Of course one of my teammates noticed and told me. I told him that because he told me, the first batter in the next inning would hit a gapper. Of course the first pitch in the next inning I gave up a gapper between the center and left fielder. The pitch limit in the league was 95 and I was relatively close so I was unlikely to complete it but it still got on my nerves that he had to say that. Not saying those words is a just a baseball thing that not many people understand but it just has been around forever and makes sense. When watching a Yankees game on TV, Michael Kay and David Cone have said the word, and no Yankee pitcher has thrown a no hitter since the 90s. Is this a coincidence? Maybe.

When a team is up by a lot or down by a lot, base runners should never steal. When a team is winning or losing by six or more runs if a base runner attempts to steal a base.  When a team is up by ten runs it is seen as disrespectful if a runner attempts to steal a base. The pitcher is already struggling and the runner stealing is just messing with the other team even more. Stealing the base is not going to impact the outcome of the game most likely and is unnecessary. Older players take exception to this. They may throw at a batter and this creates an even bigger problem as mentioned below. When a team is losing badly, the runner definitely does not want to make an out stealing a base. The probability of them being out definitely outweighs the importance of the extra out. The team needs a bloop and a blast at least to get back into the game, the stolen base is not going to help. In the major leagues, stealing bases is becoming an even less part of the game. Why would a player on the Yankees like Aaron Hicks risk running into an out when you have Judge,Stanton and Sanchez hitting behind you. It just doesn’t make sense to take the chance unless it is a 95% chance of being successful. This rule makes sense and should continue to be exercised.

Another unwritten rule is that you should not swing in a 3-0 count unless you for a fact know that you are going to put it 40 rows deep to straight center. This rule makes sense. The player needs to make sure he is going to get a hit. In a 3-0 count the hitter has the greatest chance of getting on base, which is the most important part of hitting. If the pitcher throws three straight balls, the probability of him throwing a strike is probably not that good. If they groove one right down the middle, hit it 450 feet. I do hate to see times like Gary Sanchez in the 2017 ALCS. He was in a 3-0 count against Justin Verlander in the 6th inning. He got a curve ball in a 3-0 count and rolled it over to get Verlander out of the jam. The team is was down 3 runs in the 6th inning and missed out on a chance for a rally. Verlander went on the throw a complete game and the Astros won that game by five runs. The Astros won the series in 7 games. That could’ve been the difference in winning the World Series for the Yankees. This rule should just be using the player using common sense.  Here is a link to a clip of that game

Never admire a home run or show up the other team. Here we go, we’re to the one you have all been waiting for. When a baseball player hits home run, it is one of the biggest accomplishments in all of sports. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever with more movement. The skill it takes to make contact is downright amazing and to be able to hit a baseball four hundred feet with a piece of wood is incredible. The reaction time and decision making of a hitter in the majors is unlike that of any other sport. If the home run is in the playoffs or a walk off, that makes it even more dramatic. So allow players to bat flip if they just made history or did something they’ve been working at for their whole life. It makes the game more fun and entertaining when someone hits a moonshot and just throws their bat in the air and is excited. Luke Voits’ little hop is one of the cooler things you can see in a Yankees game. Now to showing up the other team. If it is a game where there is a large gap in the score and you bat flip, that is uncalled for. If a player bat flips and the ball is caught or hits the warning track, that is also not cool. If a player watches the ball after they hit it but they are moving up the line and not obnoxiously staring down the pitcher that is fine. Younger players in the game today bring an energy that some older fans and players don’t like or understand. For example when Francisco Lindor hit a home run in his homeland of Puerto Rico in front of all his friends, family and fans, that was one of the cooler moments in baseball history. Bat flips make the crowd go crazy, make the game more dramatic and are just fun for the game. So keep on bat flipping, they are pretty awesome.

Do not celebrate a big strikeout on the mound. Winner takes all game, in a jam, the pitcher gets a huge strike out…… That’s all I have to say about that.

Don't make the first or last out of an inning at third base. When you have no outs, a player should not take the risk of trying to get to third. There is at least three more chances for the runner to score from second base. A single usually scores a player from second so why should a player run the risk of getting an out at third. Also, with two outs, the risk of going to third should not be taken because they can’t get home from a sac fly with two outs and if they are at second base they can score from a single. This rule makes sense, a player should have common sense when advancing an extra base.

Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter. If it is the third inning and a player bunts to break up a no hitter that is fine. If it's the ninth inning, someone is getting thrown at. In my opinion a no hitter should be broken but by a solid base hit in the gap, not a little blooper or a bunt. It would be very annoying to lose a no hitter because a guy on the other team wants to be a jerk and sort of cheat to get on base. Don’t get me wrong, if it is a 0-0 game and the team is trying to win by bunting, that is fine. That’s trying to win the game and being competitive.  

Don’t show a pitcher that the hit by pitch hurt. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be okay. Getting hit by a fast pitch can really hurt, and pitchers throw faster now than ever. It really depends where it hits you. If it hits a very muscular part of your body like your thigh, it's probably not going to hurt that much. If it hits your elbow, wrist, back, head, ankle or where the sun doesn’t shine, it will hurt a lot. This is more of a thing of the old days where men did not want to show weakness and ruin their pride. It is okay to admit that something really hurt. MLB players have virtually no time to react so, if your afraid of getting hit by a pitch don’t play baseball.

Retaliating for HBPs. When a teammate gets hit by a pitch, intentionally or unintentionally. Some if not all pitchers take it personally. They are not going to let the other team's pitcher, get away with hitting your guy. Sometimes they just throw some chin music, or back them off the plate if it was unintentional, but if it was on purpose, you have to hit him. There is a certain way to do this. The pitcher should never throw above the letters, because that’s outright dangerous. These matches can go back and forth and cause a brawl sometimes. This is very entertaining but who wants their favorite player to be on the DL (injured player list, my bad) because of a preventable injury.

Don’t show up your teammates. Teammates are friends and family. If someone drops a ball or doesn’t perform well, they shouldn’t be made fun of or shown up. The major lesson in baseball is respect.

Don’t throw pitchers breaking balls. All I have to say about this is have a universal DH.

Baseball is the greatest sport in the world, and should be played with character and excitement. Let the kids play. They are doing what they love and if you take away their personality the sport of baseball would lose the interest of many fans.