Monday, March 13, 2017

The better Tanaka pitches, the harder it will hurt…

Credit:  Jim McIsaac

The Ace.  

That’s how dominant Masahiro Tanaka has been so far in training camp.  In 3 starts over 9 innings, Tanaka is 1-0 with 13 strikeouts and has yet to give up a run.  He’s scattered three hits.  If he continues to pitch like this, it will be great…and horrible.  Great for what he means to the Yankees this season, and horrible for the potential opt-out at the end of the season.  Odds are that he will exercise the opt-out anyway, but a dominant pitching performance ensures that a huge payday awaits him later this year.  

As if $155 million is not enough money, Tanaka should be able to surpass those dollars with his next deal.  He may not get Clayton Kershaw money ($215 million) but he’ll come close.  At this point,  the contracts of Justin Verlander (6-years, $162 million ) and Felix Hernandez (7-years, $175 million) are probably the benchmarks for Tanaka’s new deal.  

The Yankees can’t afford to let their ace walk away.  This will be very challenging.  The team intends to get under the luxury tax threshold next year, but they’ll need to pay premium dollars to retain Tanaka.  If the Yankees negotiate with Tanaka like they did with Robinson Cano or most recently Delllin Betances, there’s a good chance that Tanaka goes elsewhere.  With the contracts of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia expiring, they’ll have the money to re-sign Tanaka. But he will be a pitcher in demand.  He would be beloved in a place like San Francisco where he wouldn’t have the pressure of being the team’s top pitcher thanks to the presence of Madison Bumgarner.  I am sure the Los Angeles Dodgers would love to find a way to pencil Tanaka in behind Kershaw. 

Tanaka has been a good Yankee and hopefully the relationship between player and team will continue for years to come.

They keep saying that this is a make it or break it year for Michael Pineda.  I think we’ll get a better version of Pineda this season than we did last year, but I am not convinced he has turned the corner.  For the Yankees to be successful this year, Pineda has to perform.  The team can ill afford continued inconsistent play from the 6’7” right-hander.  If Tanaka walks, Pineda could be the team’s #1 starter.  Frankly, that scares me.  Here’s hoping that Big Mike finally puts it all together.

The Yankees have made their first cuts of the spring.  The following players were re-assigned to minor league camp:
  • C Kellin Deglan
  • C Francisco Diaz
  • C Jorge Saez
  • LHP Justus Sheffield
  • LHP Daniel Camarena
  • LHP Joe Mantiply
  • LHP James Reeves
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen
  • RHP Brady Lail
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow
  • RHP Evan Rutckyj (and his 19.29 ERA)
With Sunday’s cuts, the Yankees now have 56 players in camp (including those currently away with the WBC).  27 pitchers, 4 catchers, 16 infielders, 8 outfielders and 1 DH.  Mantiply’s departure probably enhances the chances for Jon Niese to make the team as a lefty out of the pen to go with Tommy Layne.  None of the other moves were surprising.  Sheffield might be the biggest name, but there was no chance of him breaking camp with team.  I’m sure that we’ll see Feyereisen again sometime this season.

The Philadelphia Phillies have become the fifth organization to employ former Yankees switch pitcher Pat Venditte.  They acquired the 31-year-old lefty/righty from the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.  He’s one of those guys you root for but know that he is never going to make it in the long run.  

I was surprised to see former Yankees closer Andrew Miller lose the WBC game for the USA against the Dominican Republic on Saturday night when he gave up  the go-ahead three-run bomb to Nelson Cruz.  Up to that point in the 8th inning, the USA had been in control of the game.  You don’t expect Miller to give up the lead in a situation like that.  

Is it time to panic about the state of the pitching rotation yet (well, for anyone not named Tanaka)?  In Sunday’s match-up against the Atlanta Braves, CC Sabathia couldn’t even get out of the first inning in the 10-2 loss.  He departed after recording two outs, thanks to the allowance of six hits and six runs (four earned).  Ronald Torreyes, who has appeared to be in control of the run for the team’s utility man roster spot, contributed three errors to the loss.  Austin Romine and Jorge Mateo both had solo homers, their first round-trippers of the spring.  

Manager Joe Girardi apparently has no concerns about Sabathia as he made the ‘zero’ sign when asked about his level of concern. I know that the stats do not count and there’s still plenty of time before Opening Day but I can’t say that I have no concerns.  I know that poor fielding was partly responsible for Sabathia’s early hook but at his age, you just hope that he can give you what he did last year.  With his knee and another year in age, the odds for regression are more likely.  

“It was just a bad day today”, Girardi said after the game.  Agreed.  With the forgettable loss, the Yankees dropped to 13-4.  Fortunately, today represents a much-needed off day.

Have a great Monday!

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