Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Early Days of Spring...

After a day to think about it, I am warming up to the signing of former New York Mets pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league deal.  With a base of only $1.25 million and incentives that could boost the overall compensation to $2 million, Niese represents a low risk signing and is a hedge if any of the young arms falter. 

Credit:  Jeff Roberson, AP

Per Manager Joe Girardi, Niese will compete for a bullpen spot but if healthy, he is also insurance for the rotation.  I ripped Niese yesterday, but admittedly, I am never too excited when a former Met shows up in Yankees gear (Darryl Strawberry excluded). 

Niese tried to play through an injury last year and finally succumbed to arthroscopic surgery (for a torn meniscus) in August.  Whether or not the injury was a factor in giving up 25 home runs last year remains to be seen.  He did give up 20 homers the year before.  Nevertheless, he has a history of being a dependable back-end starter.  If he can return to what he was, he’ll have value on this Yankees team.

The contract contains several opt out clauses.  If the team does not offer a $100,000 retention bonus by the end of spring training, he can opt out.  If the retention bonus is offered and accepted, Niese will have another opt-out in mid-May.

It was fun watching video of the new first base crew (Greg Bird and Chris Carter) smashing monster home runs at training camp yesterday even if the pitches were soft tosses down the middle of the plate. 

It was good to see that the Yankees added outfielder Billy McKinney (acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade) as a non-roster invitee to training camp.  Only 22, he’s already been traded for Chapman and veteran major league pitcher Jeff Samardzija in separate deals.  McKinney has hit in all levels of the minor leagues and could eventually, at worst, platoon in left field.  I had been surprised he was left off the original non-roster invitees list. 

Now that training camp is fully underway, I am looking forward to the first exhibition game which will be Friday at Steinbrenner Field against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Let’s get this 2017 season going, even if it is only fake box scores for now…

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