Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fun Times at Steinbrenner Field...

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
Shhh, the Yankees are playing…

The primary takeaways from Friday’s exhibition opener at Steinbrenner Field which saw the Yankees defeat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1, were how great Giancarlo Stanton looks in pinstripes and how comfortably Aaron Boone fits into the manager’s chair. Sure, I was carefully watching Gleyber Torres and I held my breath when he laid out for the first inning grounder he was unable to handle, but overall he was solid for his five innings of work after missing so much time last year following Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm.   

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Stanton didn’t really do anything with the bat in the meaningless game but he has such a presence at the plate. You get the sense that when the games matter, this guy is going to be such a huge part of the team’s offense (in a classic statement of the obvious on my part). I watched parts of the Miami Marlins home game against the St Louis Cardinals later in the day and there is clearly a major difference in the vibe and energy generated by the home crowds (Tampa versus Jupiter). Starlin Castro hit a solid single to right before he was lifted for a pinch-runner in the Marlins game but maybe because I have no interest in the Marlins or the Cardinals, the overall mood of the game felt lethargic. Steinbrenner Field, by comparison, was buzzing with enthusiasm.  

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)
I couldn’t help but think of Joe Girardi when Austin Romine was batting, wearing Girardi’s #28 jersey. I am sure in time Romine will make it his number but for as much as I like Aaron Boone, I did sentimentally think of Girardi and what he meant to the team for ten years.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jeff Zelevansky)
The pitcher I am watching closely this Spring is Ben Heller. I think he’s capable of being the breakout reliever of the year for the Yankees. The right-hander is 26 (27 in August) and was 5-4 with 2.88 ERA last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struck out 82 batters in 40 games covering 56 1/3 innings. He spent limited time with the big league club, striking out 9 batters in 11 innings, while giving up only 5 hits and 1 run. In yesterday’s game, Heller followed starter Luis Cessa and gave up 2 hits but no runs in 2 innings of work, while striking out 3. Heller is a high character guy and I am really pulling for him to succeed with the big league club this year. He was acquired in 2016, along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Cleveland Indians in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Tribe. He may not break camp with the Yankees when they head north in late March but I am sure that we’ll be hearing his name frequently this season.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)
Waiting for J.D. Martinez and Scott Boras…

I haven’t been closely following the situation with J.D. Martinez in Fort Myers, FL with the Boston Red Sox but it’s funny that the team hasn’t announced the contract signing yet. Martinez took his physical on Wednesday but there’s been no word, good or bad. It is causing angst in the Red Sox Nation. I’ve heard things like the delay is normal in the off-season for free agent signings and that the team’s doctors are in Boston and not Fort Myers where Martinez had the physical. Manager Alex Cora has made comments that he is not concerned and I still fully expect Martinez to be in the heart of the Red Sox lineup this year but the drama surrounding his signing is enjoyable from afar. For the record, I find no humor in any potential physical issues that may be causing the delay. I do hope this works out for Martinez.

Help Wanted: Baseball Players to play for alleged MLB team in St Petersburg…

I really feel badly for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. It’s become worse than the Marlins situation as they continue to unload their best players. Days after being designated for assignment, the Rays traded their lone 2017 All-Star representative, outfielder Corey Dickerson, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson will help make up for the loss of offense when the Pirates traded star Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. The Rays received reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league prospect and cash considerations from the Pirates for Dickerson. The Rays will also be without the services of top pitching prospect Brett Honeywell, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, after it was revealed he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery. Looks like the Rays will be leaning very heavily on Chris Archer and “Nasty Nate”, Nathan Eovaldi, this season.

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times
Spring Training, Game 2…

The Yankees take on the Pittsburgh Pirates today at 1:05 pm for their second exhibition game. They’ll be at Lecom Park in Bradenton, FL. The lineup for today’s game is:

Tyler Wade, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Clint Frazier, LF
Danny Espinosa, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Estevan Florial, CF
Erik Kratz, C
Shane Robinson, RF

The starting pitcher will be Domingo German.

Credit to Bryan Hoch of for this Aaron Boone quote, “I want us to be obsessed with controlling the strike zone. That’s one of our bumper stickers.”

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Hats off to the Yankees and Major League Baseball for the very classy decision to wear the Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps to honor the victims of the senseless tragedy in Parkland, Florida for the exhibition openers. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)
It’s fun to watch the Yankees back on the field against live pitching even if the games mean absolutely nothing. Good times.

Go Yankees!

Friday, February 23, 2018

The New York Yankees & Solving Their Outfield Logjam

Good afternoon everyone, it’s been a while. You all remember that movie “Angels in the Outfield” with that kid that could see and use ghosts to help the California Angels win games? Well I hear they are making a sequel in 2018, and I heard it will be called “Yankees in a Crowded Outfield” with the ghosts of Yankee Stadium helping to terrorize the rest of the American League, especially the Boston Red Sox. Now while the movie and movie title are a bit tongue-in-cheek, the fact that the New York Yankees have a crowded outfield (and ghosts that will hopefully continue to terrorize the Boston Red Sox) is not. The outfield is overcrowded with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury possibly all on the active 25-man roster, although Frazier is likely to start the season in Scranton in Triple-A, and the Yankees may need to address this over-population sooner rather than later. The good news for them is I have a plan; the bad news is this may not be one of my most popular blog posts from this offseason and spring.

Before I put forth my idea to clear the logjam I will preface this post by saying that the Yankees have a plan, and that plan has already been put into place by Aaron Boone and his staff this spring. Reggie Willits, a newcomer to the Boone staff and to the Yankees coaching staff this season, is already working with both Judge and Stanton in left field this spring with the hopes that either could play there in a pinch this season. The team has also left the designated hitter position open with the hopes of rotating their outfielders in and out of the position to not only get everyone at-bats, but to give the players a half-day off as well. It is also worth mentioning that Judge has reportedly spoken with and asked manager Boone about playing some center field in 2018, an idea I am admittedly not really keen on personally, giving the Yankees yet another option to help with the logjam. Unfortunately, I do not think this will be enough and there will always be one or more players on the outside looking in so here are my ideas on how the team could clear up the clutter.

The team tried, and reportedly failed, to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and his three-years and $68 million left on his contract all winter long so why not try and trade the man that replaced him instead, Aaron Hicks. I know this won’t be a popular decision as Hicks did well in 2017 posting a .266/.372/.475 triple slash with 15 home runs in 88 games, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Honestly, I cannot see the value for Hicks getting any higher than it already is and as much as I would hate to lose the switch-hitting center fielder, it may make the most sense for the Yankees this season. The production from Hicks is replaceable, in my opinion anyway, by having Clint Frazier take over center field, something he did with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees as a prospect and something he could do again until Estevan Florial is ready, while keeping Jacoby Ellsbury on the bench.

Trading Hicks could bring back a significant piece, especially if packaged with a prospect or two, to the pitching staff as well as a little bit of salary relief and roster space. It isn’t ideal losing Hicks, I admit that, but in my opinion, it isn’t ideal having Frazier down in Triple-A with nothing to prove either. That’s when bad attitudes and bad practices occur with a player, see Jesus Montero as a recent example of this. Trading Ellsbury would be ideal, no one would argue this fact, but for most of the same reasons the Yankees want rid of him other teams wouldn’t want him and his salary either. And don’t even get me started on his no-trade clause and his seemingly unwillingness to move it. More on that and bad journalism at a later time, I feel a rant coming on, but until then moving Hicks may make the most sense for the New York Yankees here before the 2018 season. I’m not sure where I would like to move him, or for who, but a move involving him just makes sense right now.

With that said and with the World Series in the Yankees sights I want to win at all costs. Sites like has the Yankees' odds to win set at +550, just behind the Dodgers (+500) and level with the defending champion Astros. Agree? Disagree? Leave it below in the comments.

Brandon Drury vs. the AL East Pitching


Earlier in the day we took a look at what the newest member of Red Sox nation, JD Martinez, had done throughout his career against the pitching staff of the New York Yankees so it seems only fair that we do the same for the newest member of the Yankees family, right? Brandon Drury has played just three seasons at the Major League level and has spent all three of those seasons in the National League West with the Arizona Diamondbacks, so the sample size will be much smaller here than with Martinez, a former Detroit Tiger before he was also Drury’s teammate down in the desert, but these stats should paint a decent picture nonetheless. It is worth mentioning that Drury has been hitting in a pitcher friendly park out in Arizona and that his stats should improve somewhat while playing many of his games inside hitter friendly parks like Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Oriole Park and Camden Yards, the Rogers Centre and Tropicana Field.

Drury vs. Boston Red Sox

Drury vs. Baltimore Orioles

Drury vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Drury vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Big thanks to and Baseball Reference for the stats and for the images above.

JD Martinez vs. the Yankees Pitching

The Boston Red Sox felt like they needed to do just one thing this offseason to not only compete, but to win the American League East in 2018, and that was add some power to an already deep team and lineup. The team did just that this week when they added free agent JD Martinez to the club on a five-year deal worth $110 million. This post will not be about the extremely front-loaded contract or about the multiple opt-out clauses that the team needed to entice Martinez with just to get him to sign there, but instead we will focus on what Martinez has done against the pitching of the New York Yankees that he will have to see 20-or-so different times here in 2018. The sample sizes are small, the ballparks will be different, but the information will remain the same if history is any indicator of the future so here is a good look at what to expect here for the upcoming regular season.

Big thanks to and Baseball Reference for the stats and for the images above.

It's Time For Yankees Baseball...

Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)
It’s a meaningless game but hey, our guys take the field…

As Yankees fans, we’ve had a few enjoyable days so far this Spring. Pitchers and Catchers reporting on February 13th and everybody else, including the great Giancarlo Stanton, showing up last weekend. We’ve already experienced our first newcomer of 2018 with the trade that brought Brandon Drury to Steinbrenner Field to work out with his favorite childhood baseball team. Stanton is not a “newcomer”, he’s been here since last year (okay, December but still, Drury was an Arizona Diamondback until a few days ago). Today represents the first exhibition game of the season when the Yankees face the Detroit Tigers this afternoon at Steinbrenner Field. The game will be televised by the YES Network at 1 pm Eastern so we’ll get our first true glimpse of the 2018 Yankees even if guys like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez won’t be playing. Stanton will be there and is sure to attract a huge ovation. 

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Twitter is crazy place to follow Yankees baseball. There are so many fans that feel Drury is going to block Miguel Andujar and are upset about it. Personally, I don’t get it. The starter at third base on Opening Day will be the guy who earned it. Drury may have the leg up based on MLB experience, but Andujar can take the position with performance. I certainly have no problem with Andujar going back down to Triple A to further refine his defensive skills. For a team that is considered among the American League’s elite, there is no need to experiment with multiple rookies in the lineup. I’ve always liked Drury and his hard-nosed play. He strikes me as quiet but very focused and determined. Considering that he won’t turn 26 until August, his best years are ahead of him. I like his upside, and all things considered, I am pleased the way this turned out. Instead of overpaying Mike Moustakas (regardless of how much I liked his left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium) or signing a player in decline like Neil Walker, the Yankees brought in a high energy guy that will mesh well with the team’s youth.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
It’s worth checking out Drury’s play through YouTube. There are some great highlights shown including the time he crashed into the wall in right at Chase Field in Phoenix to record an out against the Yankees. It was good to see old friend Brian McCann as a Yankee in that clip.

I really like the way Drury has embraced Pinstripes. His words echo how much he appreciates being a part of the team and his recognition that this can be a special team. He left a team that had a very successful season last year and continues to be one of the stronger young teams in the National League, yet I’ve heard no words of remorse. 

Many Yankees fans, at least on Twitter, have been livid that the Yankees traded outfielder Jabari Blash to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later or cash because it basically represents no return for the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres. Nothing against Headley but the Yankees got the Padres to take his salary by including a pitcher that was at risk for losing his spot on the 40-man roster. I liked Mitchell but I think he stands a better chance for success in San Diego than he would have in the Bronx. Eliminating Headley’s contract has given the Yankees a genuine chance to reset the luxury tax penalties which meets Owner Hal Steinbrenner’s objective. If Hal is happy, I am happy. Blash was never going to be a difference-maker for the Yankees. He was an excess outfielder on a team filled with quality outfielders. He became a 40-man roster casualty candidate from the moment he joined the Yankees. Maybe he becomes a late bloomer with the Angels. That’s fine, he would have never gotten the opportunity with the Yankees. I remain convinced the Headley/Mitchell deal was a good one even if all it brought us was a box of Dunkin Donuts. Plus, I am glad that we have Brandon Drury (or Miguel Andujar) at third over Headley.

While I am not trying to date myself, the subject of firsts made me think of the first regular season game that I experienced as a Yankees fan. The date was April 8, 1975 and the Yankees were in Cleveland to face the Indians. Sadly, the Yankees lost that day, 5-3. The starting lineup featured the following players that I remember well:

Sandy Alomar (Senior), 2B
Lou Pinella, LF
Bobby Bonds, CF
Ron Blomberg, RF
Graig Nettles, 3B
Ed Hermann, DH
Chris Chambliss, 1B
Thurman Munson, C
Jim Mason, SS

Doc Medich was the starter and loser. Future, now former, Yankee Gaylord Perry was the winner for the Tribe. The Indians lineup included Oscar Gamble (a personal favorite who recently passed away), Frank Robinson, George Hendrick, Buddy Bell, and a former Yankee at catcher, John Ellis.  Robinson and Boog Powell homered for the Indians in the victory. The Yankees didn’t pick up their first win until the fourth game of the season when Doc Medich’s turn in the rotation came up again. Medich was the winner in the Yankees’ 6-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It’s good to see these names again (at least for me) so pardon the self-indulgence with the trip down Memory Lane. 

Back to today’s game, here is the starting lineup for your New York Yankees:

Jacoby Ellsbury, DH
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Greg Bird, 1B
Aaron Hicks, CF
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Austin Romine, C
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Clint Frazier, LF

The starting pitcher is Luis Cessa but also pitching today (thanks to Brendan Kuty of are Cale Coshow, J.P. Feyereisen, Giovanny Gallegos, David Hale, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder (I wanted to type Kyle), Brady Lail, and Trevor Lane.

Photo Credit: New York Yankees

Go Yankees!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Do You Choose Trade Number 1, Trade Number 2, Or Trade Number 3?

The acquisition of Brandon Drury has not only created many possibilities for this season, but it also creates many opportunities for the future. Brandon's only 25 years old, and won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season. And although his numbers don't suggest he's a long-time solution (.275/.323/.453 with an OPS+ of 95 in his last 269 games for Arizona), his youth and the hype surrounding him (Brian Cashman has been chasing Drury for a while now) makes it a definite possibility.

Look at it this way... Didi Gregorius hit .241/.314/.368 with an OPS+ of 88 in 183 games for the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Yankees, and now we're happy to have him as the regular shortstop for the team, at least through 2019 when he's scheduled to hit free agency.

So where do the Yankees go from here? Cashman has been after another starter this entire offseason, and I see a great opportunity to make it happen now. Let's look at the possibilities...

1. Brian Cashman can trade Miguel Andujar in a package for a starting pitcher, while Drury handles third base this season. However, I don't think Brandon isn't good enough to keep the Yankees from going after Manny Machado in the offseason.

2. If Cashman and Company aren't convinced Drury is good enough, they can hold onto Andujar to take over third base. In that case trade Clint Frazier in a package for a starter. Then, in the offseason, let Brett Gardner go and bring in Bryce Harper to play left field.

3. Nobody knows how good a pitcher the Yankees could get in a trade including Andujar or Frazier. However, a trade including Andujar and Frazier could surely net the Yankees an incredible return. So perhaps that's the way to go. In this case, the Yankees could go with Drury at third base regularly and sign Harper, or sign both Harper and Machado.

As for what I would choose...

First of all, let me say that I would rather see the Yankees sign Bryce Harper than Manny Machado. It's not that I don't like Manny, but Bryce is clearly the better hitter. Not to mention that another big lefty bat to hit around righties Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez would be great. And can you imagine how many home runs Harper could hit at Yankee Stadium?

So you can eliminate scenario 1.

Although Didi Gregorius has been a big hit for the Yankees, I don't have the confidence in Brandon Drury doing the same thing. I'll fully admit that I could be wrong here, after all Drury does make very good contact, but keeping Miguel Andujar around would be ideal.

And I'll go ahead and say this now... signing both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would be insane. It would be hard enough having Harper signed for the next 12+ years, along with having Giancarlo Stanton signed for another eight (assuming Stanton doesn't opt-out). But throw in another guy signed for 8+ years? No thank you.

So you can eliminate scenario 2.

Yes, and it's not the first time I've said it... put Clint Frazier in a package along with Chance Adams and trade for a good/young starter. You might think that's not enough for somebody like Michael Fulmer, but after reading that Cashman was offering Frazier and Nick Solak for Gerrit Cole, as well as seeing some recent trades, I think it very well could be. Even if he traded for a guy that's not a future ace, but a top of the rotation guy under team control for a while, that would be great. Especially having Luis Severino around through 2022, Masahiro Tanaka signed through 2020, Sonny Gray being around at least through 2019, and prospects like Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu.

So to reiterate, trade Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and whatever smaller pieces (maybe flip Drury, as teams love guys that have as much MLB experience as Brandon does at such a young age) for a starter. Which could be done right now, instead of waiting to see what things look like at the trade deadline when so many other teams will be hunting for pitching. And in the offseason decline the team option for Brett Gardner, and sign Bryce Harper.

You think the current lineup looks like a monster? Check this out...

1. Gleyber Torres - 2B
2. Aaron Judge - RF
3. *Bryce Harper - LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton - DH
5. Gary Sanchez - C
6. *Greg Bird - 1B
7. *Didi Gregorius - SS
8. #Miguel Andujar - 3B
9. Aaron Hicks - CF (note: *Estevan Florial could make his MLB debut in 2019)
* - denotes left-handed hitter
# - denotes switch-hitter

And by being able to juggle Judge, Harper, and Stanton at designated hitter, you can keep them healthy longer (especially in regards to Harper and Stanton who would be under contract for a while longer).

Just for the heck of it, the possible starting rotation...

1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. Sonny Gray
4. Michael Fulmer (or somebody like him)
5. Justus Sheffield

And there's still Jordan Montgomery hanging around, while Albert Abreu could make his MLB debut next season.

I'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments or on Twitter. Which scenario from above do you like? Or maybe it's none of those, as you would pass on trading for a pitcher while keeping both Frazier and Andujar instead of signing either Machado or Harper?

The Official 2018 Brian Cashman Appreciation Post

May I have your attention please, thank you. Can we have a quick moment of silence for all the opposing pitching staffs that have to face the New York Yankees here in 2018.

Thank you.

Now as we move on this morning, this winter and into this spring I wanted to take a second to give my true appreciation to the General Manager of the New York Yankees, Mr. Brian Cashman. Not only did Brian Cashman build up an amazing farm system from the ground up, but Cashman showed a willingness to use those prospects not only in trades, but at the Major League level too. Cashman and his Baby Bombers made it all the way to the American League Championship Series in 2017 and were one win away from heading to the World Series. While most GM’s and teams would be happy with this, especially given the fact that the Yankees weren’t expected by many to even compete until the 2018 season, but Mr. Cashman obviously was not.

Cashman, with the plans and orders to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold in hand, went out and improved the team this offseason the best way he knew how, like a ninja on the trade market. Not only did Cashman bring in the reigning National League MVP in Giancarlo Stanton for essentially Starlin Castro and a couple table scraps, but he also unloaded Chase Headley’s contract on the San Diego Padres to essentially even out the financial commitment the team took on with the Stanton trade. Cashman then went out and acquired an extremely useful and versatile Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of prospects that would never reach the Major Leagues as it stands today with the Yankees, I call that highway robbery.

It wasn’t just his trades that were seemingly unreal at times, but his ability to bring back a veteran like CC Sabathia on a team-friendly deal will never get enough publication or praise in my opinion. The 1990’s Yankees Dynasty was great, but it wasn’t just the likes of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera that made it special. It was also the acquisitions of Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius and others with a little bit of magic from the farm system sprinkled in from time to time in players like Chad Curtis, Shane Spencer and Alfonso Soriano that really made what those teams did magical. Build a core from within, build up the middle and fill in the cracks via free agency and trade. That’s the blueprint, and Brian Cashman has done that to a “T” lately, this offseason especially. Cashman has just been masterful, and I don’t think he receives as much praise as he should, so here it is…the official Brian Cashman appreciation thread for the 2018 season.

Haters, leave your things at the door. You’re not welcome here. Enjoy the day.

The Boston Red Sox are AL East Champs...

Photo Credit:
Until the Yankees reclaim the Throne…

Many Yankees fans are quick to anoint the Yankees as the AL East champs, but yesterday, GM Brian Cashman, in interviews, echoed my beliefs. The Boston Red Sox are the AL East Champions until proven otherwise. We may like the 2018 Yankees but until they dethrone the Red Sox, J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox are the hunted. Sure, the Yankees made it further in the post-season in 2017 but it does not matter. The Yankees may have taken the Astros deeper into their series than the Red Sox did against the same opponent but the truth is that the Yankees and Red Sox both lost to the eventual World Series Champions.

Photo Credit: Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Zuma Press (Keith Birmingham)
I would argue that Martinez helps his team’s lineup more than Giancarlo Stanton helps his. I am not saying that Martinez will be a better slugger than Stanton, but it terms of how the player affects his own team, I think Martinez can have the bigger impact. The Red Sox were clearly missing something last year with the retirement of future Hall of Famer David Ortiz. Martinez brings power to his club and he’ll help those around him. The Yankees are destined to hit a lot of home runs with or without Stanton.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Ross D Franklin)
Courtesy of The New York Post, Cashman told reporters on Wednesday, “They are the American League East Champs so we are not on equal footing. We were a wild card. They are the American League East champs and we are not. We are not on equal footing until we take it away from them.”  

ESPN writer Marly Rivera reported that David Price (with a big smile on his face) gave the following response when asked about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry with the Stanton/Martinez acquisitions: “You guys want it, let’s do it, we hate the Yankees. You guys want it, yeah we hate the Yankees. We hate them.” Price has a lot of work to do rebuild his image in his own city, but I do expect him to be much better this year than last. It gets lost but the Red Sox have two excellent relievers coming back this year from injury (Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg) which will make their bullpen much stronger in front of elite closer Craig Kimbrel.

There's no doubt it is time to end Boston's reign.  Let's do this.

Oh yes, I know the Muffin Man who lives in Drury Lane…

The song I repeatedly sang to my son when he was an infant has been going through my head lately, for some reason.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, via The Athletic
it’s funny but J.D. Martinez signing with the Red Sox may have led to the arrival of Brandon Drury in the Bronx. Cashman told the YES Network’s Michael Kay yesterday that the Yankees have been trying to acquire Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks since back in the days when the late Kevin Towers was the team’s general manager. Cashman didn’t have any success in finding a match with Towers or the subsequent GM, Dave Stewart. He was finally able to get his man when he identified that current Arizona GM Mike Hazen was having trouble matching up with the Tampa Bay Rays in an effort to acquire outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. He stepped in to offer help through a three-way trade, and it resulted in both Hazen and Cashman getting their men. If the D-Backs had been successful in re-signing Martinez, their desire to get Souza would have been diminished and the odds are that Drury would still be working out in Phoenix.

The Yankees website hasn’t been updated with Drury’s new number yet but his Instagram account was sporting Todd Frazier’s number 29 yesterday (identifying the Yankees as his team). Drury wore 27 in Arizona so a number change was inevitable.  

Cashman indicated that Drury will play third base which they feel is his best position although many have given strong reasons for why Drury should start at second. He wasn’t handing the third base job to Drury (it must be earned) but I have no doubt that the Opening Day Lineup will feature Drury at third base, barring injury. I do feel that if/when Miguel Andujar proves that he is ready, he’ll have every opportunity to compete with Drury for the job.  May the best third baseman win. I like competition. It tends to draw out the best in everyone.

The Arizona Republic, in an article about their new outfielder, cited that you have to give up good players to get good players. They acknowledged that Drury, returning to his natural position at third, could blossom in New York.

Project Gleyber Torres at second base continues in full force. With Drury at third, Torres continues to be the favorite at Starlin Castro’s old position regardless of whether he starts Opening Day or a few weeks later to delay his service time. Many of you may be upset the Yankees most likely will not be starting rookies at both second and third bases, but I feel much better breaking in one rookie at a time for a team with high expectations. I do feel that both Andujar and Torres will be making contributions by late summer (assuming that Andujar does not get shipped elsewhere at the Trading Deadline).  

I am anxious to see the first images of Drury at Yankees camp. He is excited to be here and it's infectious. His all-out style of play is going to make him a fan favorite. A lot of guys know how to play, but not everyone is a winner. I think you can easily put Drury in both categories.  

Go Yankees!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On Second Thought Brandon Drury Should Start At 2B

Late in the evening yesterday the New York Yankees acquired infielder/outfielder Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays. When the dust settled the Yankees acquired Drury while giving up prospects Nick Solak and Taylor Widener while the Diamondbacks got Steven Souza Jr. The Rays, as always, received prospects back in the deal. Last night I mentioned in my initials thoughts on the trade that Drury would be the Yankees starting third baseman on Opening Day, but now that I have had a night to sleep on it and really give it some thought and research I think I have changed my mind just a bit. I think Drury will be the Yankees starting second baseman on Opening Day 2018, and here’s why.

The New York Yankees have a tough pitching staff, but the pitchers can only do so much. The team needs defense behind their starters for any pitcher to be successful and looking at defensive metrics it just makes sense for Drury to start at second base. Drury has 1,067 innings at second base in his career with a .976 fielding percentage and above average stats in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), although Drury did spend just 620 innings at second base during his minor league career. Despite logging over 3,000 minor league innings at third base Drury has played just 311 Major League innings at the hot corner posting below average defensive metrics. With the need for defense behind their pitchers and defensive metrics on their side it only makes sense that New York would start Drury at second base where he excels, and not third base where he would presumably do no better defensively than Miguel Andujar.

Allowing Drury to man second base gives Miguel Andujar at least two-to-three weeks to prove to the Yankees that he belongs in the Major Leagues and has made strides defensively to stick at third base long term, maybe a bit longer. If Andujar shows the Yankees that he needs a little more time to work on his defense he can easily be sent back down to Triple-A Scranton when Gleyber Torres is deemed ready, especially since Gleyber can play either second base or third base for New York. If Andujar is excelling at the position then he could easily stay there while Torres takes over second base, essentially moving Drury to the bench as a super utility player and possibly forcing Ronald Torreyes off the team and/or the 40-man roster.

The Yankees have tons of versatility and quite a few options now that they have acquired Brandon Drury, a lot more realistic options than they had just a day ago at this time, so there is no rush to make a decision or make a decision based off the future. These decisions need to be made for the now, and in the now it only makes sense for Drury to be your starting second baseman on Opening Day and Miguel Andujar be your starting third baseman when the 2018 season starts.

Booking a Flight from Phoenix to Tampa...

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)
Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…

Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.

The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders. 

Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.  

Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience. 

Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)
Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.  

The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great. 

Photo Credit: (Chris Pedota)
Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there.  I am thinking about the opportunity I have.  Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).”  He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.

I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres.  Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.  

I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas.  No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year's starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.  

Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee) 
At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team's GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.

The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.

Go Yankees!