Thursday, December 14, 2017

The End of the Winter Meetings...

Lots of Sun in Florida for the Yankees…

The Baseball Winter Meetings are always my favorite time of the off-season and this year did not disappoint.  

I just returned from a trip (hence, my silence on the site for the past few days). As I was departing on Saturday morning, I first read some tweets that the Yankees had been talking aggressively overnight with the Miami Marlins. By the time, I reached the airport, Twitter was exploding with tweets that the Yankees had pulled off the trade that brought the great Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. 

Credit:  Willie J Allen, Jr, Associated Press 
I hadn’t really thought about Stanton in pinstripes until recently when Bryan Van Dusen had  raised the possibility on The Greedy Pinstripes website. At first, I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way to fit Giancarlo into Hal Steinbrenner’s budget for 2018. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Still, I thought either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals, with negotiated trades in place with the Marlins, would be successful in their talks with the slugger to get him to waive his no-trade clause. I also kept thinking the Los Angeles Dodgers were waiting in the weeds to make their strike.  Much to my surprise, Stanton’s representatives announced on Friday that the Cardinals were out, followed later that he would not be going to San Francisco. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Yankees had already been making headway in their talks with Miami and Stanton had rejected St Louis and San Francisco because he had knowledge that he would be headed to one of his original four desired destinations.  

I had a strong feeling that the Yankees were going to trade Starlin Castro this winter based on some reports that I had heard. Perhaps he would have stayed in Pinstripes if Stanton hadn’t fallen into GM Brian Cashman’s lap. But regardless of his faults, I am sorry to see Castro go. There were a lot of jokes about how the Yankees fleeced the Marlins and got Stanton for nothing, but I disagree. The Marlins landed an All-Star second baseman and an all-around good guy in All-Starlin. The two prospects acquired by the Marlins were lower level but we’ve all heard about the 100 mph arm of Jorge Guzman (one half of the return, along with Albert Abreu, for former Yankees catcher Brian McCann from the Houston Astros last winter).  Guzman has a chance to be a quality Major League arm. The other, infielder Jose Devers, is only 18, and is a cousin of Rafael Devers, the young Boston Red Sox third baseman. Granted, the Yankees didn’t relinquish any of their top prospects but they still paid a good price to take Stanton’s contract. If Stanton doesn’t exercise his opt-out in three years (his agent has already said that he will not), the Marlins will send $30 million to the Yankees to help pay down the contract. There’s no doubt this was a trade the Yankees had to make and any of us would have pulled the trigger on it, but it does carry a sense of loss for those players the Yankees sent to South Beach. So, I am tired of hearing that the Yankees acquired Stanton for nothing. 

Credit:  Joseph D Sullivan
From a roster standpoint, I really like that it opened second base for super prospect Gleyber Torres. I’ve felt that second or short would be a much better fit for Torres than the previously projected third base. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is not going anywhere anytime soon so second is the next best spot. There’s no doubt that Torres could have been special at third base but I like him better as the team’s second baseman. I doubt we see Torres at the start of the season as the Yankees will delay his service time for a few weeks to gain an extra year of control. This means we’ll have patchwork at second until Torres arrives…most likely some combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade.  

It’s probably too early to speculate how the Yankees will use Stanton and Aaron Judge. At first, I thought Judge would probably be moved to left to make room for Stanton in right, but Judge’s defense is too valuable. There’s the speculation that the outfield will be a rotation with the DH spot which makes sense, but I think we’ll have better clarity in the coming days and weeks.  Both Stanton and Judge are too young to be used exclusively at DH. It would be huge if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract along with oodles of the cash it will take. 

Tuesday’s trade that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres surprised me. The biggest surprise was San Diego’s willingness to take Headley’s contract. The Yankees paid half the assignment bonus (or $500,000 in this case) but did not have to ship cash to accompany the monies still owed to Headley. I figured that Mitchell’s time was coming to an end. I really like the pitcher but he’s been very inconsistent in his limited opportunities in the Bronx. If he hadn’t been traded, he was probably a candidate to be designated for assignment at some point in the upcoming season to free up room on the 40-man roster. I think Mitchell will thrive in San Diego and will achieve the potential we had projected for him (which is obviously the reason that the Padres were willing to take Headley’s contract). Last night, there were strong reports that the Padres could possibly trade Headley to the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels had acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers earlier in the evening as they attempt to rebuild the talent around Mike Trout and newly signed two-way Japanese star Shohei Otani. Angels GM Billy Eppler was behind the Yankees’ acquisition of Headley from San Diego a few years ago so he’s a Headley fan.   

Coming to the Yankees organization from San Diego is outfielder Jabari Blash.  Blash hit .213 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 164 at-bats for the Padres last year.  His numbers at Triple A were much better (.285, 20 HR, 62 RBI in 235 at-bats).  Outfield is a position of redundancy in the Yankees organization so this leads me to believe that some of the congestion will be relieved in a future trade.  

The Yankees now have openings on both sides of Didi Gregorius. I find it unlikely they’d go with rookies at both second and third, but stranger things have happened. Ideally, it would be great if the Yankees and Todd Frazier could come together on a short time deal. However, the Toddfather has earned a multi-year deal opportunity which probably removes the Yankees from the equation.   

The Yankees are expected to make a play for a starting pitcher but I hope that it doesn’t result in the loss of free agent CC Sabathia. There’s room to add a starting pitcher and bring back CC, the team’s leader.  Sabathia’s camp has talked with the Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be difficult to watch Sabathia go to either of those teams. The longer the Yankees put off Sabathia, the greater the chance he goes elsewhere. If one of the Bay Area teams came calling, it would probably be hard for Sabathia to pass up the chance to go home to play for his final season(s).  

Regardless of Josh Bard’s qualifications, I was disappointed with his selection as the Yankees new bench coach. Last year, the Yankees had a wealth of experience with Rob Thomson sitting next to Joe Girardi. When Thomson left after not getting the manager’s job, I was hoping that the Yankees would find someone with commensurate experience. The toughest part for new Yankees manager Aaron Boone to master will be in-game action and I was hopeful that he’d have someone who has served time on the battle lines to help his learning curve.  Granted, Boone has managerial experience with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and new third base coach Phil Nevin but Bard will be the chief lieutenant on the bench. I hope that ‘smart’ and ‘confident’ help yield the right in-game decisions. As expected, the Yankees promoted minor league coaches Reggie Willets and Carlos Mendoza.  Willets will take first base (replacing long-time Yankees coach Tony Pena), while Mendoza will serve as infield coach/quality control and will be in uniform during games. Marcus Thames (hitting coach) and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach) are expected to return.  

I knew the Rule 5 Draft was going to be difficult in terms of potential losses and it was.  In the first round of the Major League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Anyelo Gomez (Atlanta Braves), LHP Nestor Cortes (Baltimore Orioles) and 1B Mike Ford (Seattle Mariners). In the third round, the Orioles grabbed RHP Jose Mesa, Jr. I don’t think any of the names are a surprise as  all of them had been cited as potential losses. Of course, they have to stick on their new team’s MLB roster for the entire year or they must be offered back to the Yankees. Last year, the Yankees lost C Luis Torrens to the San Diego Padres when he stuck the entire year on their active MLB roster. I am expecting at least one of this year’s draftees to stick. Nestor Cortes is probably the one that I wanted to keep the most as quality left-handers are hard to find. I thought RHP J.P. Feyereisen would be taken but he was not. In the Minor League Phase, the Yankees lost RHP Yancarlos Baez (Minnesota Twins) and C Sharif Othman (Miami Marlins). These are permanent losses. The Yankees grabbed a Single-A outfielder, Junior Soto, from the Cleveland Indians. In 2017 for Single A-Lake County Captains, Soto hit 9 home runs and 17 RBI’s in 52 games while batting .172.  He struck out 61 times in 174 at-bats, while taking only 6 walks.

The Winter Meetings have come to an end but the Yankees still have much work to do. There are rumors that the Orioles have Manny Machado in play but I seriously doubt the O’s would trade him intra-division. To me, it would make sense. The O’s will lose Machado at some point and why not grab top prospects from a key division rival. But O’s owner Peter Angelos is 88 and I am sure that he does not want to spend his final years watching Machado star for the Yankees. All things considered, I’d rather use the prospects to grab another frontline starter and then potentially sign Machado after next season when he is a free agent. But of course, the “greedy” side of me would love to march both Machado and Stanton out onto the field at Yankee Stadium next year for simultaneous debuts along with another quality starter to join the rotation.

I wonder what Joe Girardi thinks about all this?…

Go Yankees!

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