Friday, March 24, 2017

No Seriously, Acquire James Paxton Please

Here’s a quick hit to end your Friday and kick off your weekend and it’s something that I have said on the blog here more than once already this offseason. The New York Yankees need to find a way to pry away left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton and they need to find a way to do it sooner rather than later because I truly think he is in line not only for a strong bounce-back type season but he may be in line for a season that could turn his career around for the foreseeable future as well. Don’t worry all, I’ll explain.

Why would the Yankees want Paxton? In parts of four Major League seasons the southpaw has lacked consistency on a team starved for starting pitching and every one of those seasons he has spent time in Triple-A Tacoma. His control was average at best and his velocity, low 90’s, did him no favors in hiding the fact that he simply struggled at the Major League level despite the hype of being a top prospect along with former teammate Taijuan Walker. These and many other reasons are exactly why the Yankees would want to acquire Paxton now and not later, buy low and sell high.

Paxton began the 2016 season down in the minor leagues where he worked with pitching coach Lance Painter who tweaked his delivery with astounding results. While Paxton did not suddenly dominating MLB hitters right away he did finish the 2016 season at the MLB level with an impressive 3.79 ERA and 2.80 FIP. The 2.80 FIP would have been the best in the American League had he had enough innings to qualify for the award besting Corey Kluber’s 3.26 FIP in 2016. That’s encouraging and shows a bit of bad luck in the overall stat line. What is not unlucky by any stretch of the imagination is his sudden increase in velocity due to the delivery change as Paxton finished last season with a 96.7 MPH average fastball which would have made him the third hardest thrower in the majors trailing just Noah Syndergaard and Nathan Eovaldi.

You have to remember the Yankees, at least for this season, are looking for a pitcher to pitch at the back end of their starting rotation and Paxton would easily fill that need for New York. If he can pitch like he has this spring though, thus far he has 11 L’s in nine spring innings with a 0.89 WHIP, with that 97 MPH fastball the Yankees may have the best #3 or #4 starter in all of Major League Baseball… and all for a low risk and high reward type trade. Get it done Cashman and get it done now before the Mariners realize what they have in him. 

So it Seems the World Finally Caught Up on Jordan Montgomery

Two “so it seems” in one day. How did you all get so damn lucky? But seriously, something this awesome and potentially big is exciting and deserving of such an honor in my very bias, yet oh so humble, opinion because it seems like the rest of the world and especially the Yankees blogosphere is finally catching up to the idea of loving them some Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery was thought to be a long shot in the Yankees starting rotation battle this spring but as we stand here less than two weeks away from Opening Day the lefty is still in Yankees camp and still working on securing that 5th spot. Montgomery has impressed the Yankees this spring and now that he’s popular to write about he is impressing a lot of sports writers as well, just don’t tell that one guy from that one publication that I’ve been writing about Montgomery for a while now or he will find another way to block me on another format for having “his” idea first.

Montgomery has some stiff competition for the Yankees starting rotation battle this spring including right-handers Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green, Luis Cessa and Adam Warren but none of them have stood out in camp this spring leaving Girardi to add the lefty Montgomery into the mix. Montgomery hasn’t merely been added into the mix because of the struggles of the others though, Montgomery has pitched his way onto the Yankees radar this spring and has pitched well enough to where he cannot be ignored any longer. Montgomery has only pitched in relief this spring but the highlight of his Grapefruit League schedule was when he threw four perfect innings against the Detroit Tigers to finish the Yankees spring combined no-hitter. That opened some eyes apparently.

Montgomery had a strong 2016 campaign as well posting a 14-5 record with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. While that stat line is impressive on its own when you look at his Triple-A stats, 5-1 record with a 0.97 ERA albeit in just six starts, you can see that Montgomery has little-to-nothing to prove in the minor leagues at this point in his development.

Will that lack of need for development lead him to the Yankees bullpen on Opening Day, remember the Yankees will only need four starters for the first two weeks or so of the season due to all the off days, and eventually into the Yankees starting rotation in mid-April? Will Montgomery be the Yankees fourth starter while the uber-talented Luis Severino heads into the bullpen? Or will Montgomery start the season down in Triple-A polishing up his skills? Your guess is as good as mine at this point but at the very least Montgomery is opening eyes everywhere now and that’d due to an immense amount of talent and hard work and that alone makes me happy and proud. Congrats to him no matter where he ends up on April 2nd

Replacing Didi Gregorius: Part Two

The New York Yankees will be without their starting shortstop Didi Gregorius for at least six weeks, four of those weeks running into the regular season, after Didi strained his shoulder playing for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. As we discussed earlier I opined that it would be foolish, not very fiscally responsible and simply unnecessary to acquire a shortstop in a trade to replace Didi just for a month so in this post we will discuss the potential internal replacements for Gregorius and how the Yankees can mix and match on the field until Gregorius returns from the disabled list.

On the short list to replace Gregorius on the 25 man roster you have infielders Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Pete Kozma, Ruben Tejada and Rob Refsnyder while the Yankees also have Starlin Castro who will undoubtedly make the team as either the starting shortstop or the team’s starting second baseman. Gleyber Torres will not make the club out of spring training as much as many Yankees fans would like him to and neither will Jorge Mateo unfortunately but that still gives Yankees manager Joe Girardi an absolute ton of options to choose from.

Now the likeliest option to occur here is that Castro would move over to shortstop while some combination of Refsnyder and Torreyes man second base for the first month of the season. Kozma or Tejada could always break camp with the team but honestly I think the combination of Refsnyder and Torreyes could more than fill the job plus fill the jobs on the bench since both men can play most anywhere in the infield as well as the outfield. Tyler Wade unfortunately will not be making the team this spring unless a whole lot happens between now and April 2nd, and it won’t.

The Yankees have already stated that they would prefer Wade to start the season in Triple-A Scranton after spending the entire 2016 season in Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. Wade hit just .259 with five home runs and 27 RBI in 133 games last season in Double-A but he has had a strong spring training camp and his work ethic and dedication to the game has impressed many Yankees coaches and players. Will it be enough to snag a roster spot? Not likely. Not as long as Refsnyder has a minor league option and not as long as Torreyes is healthy. But hey like the New York lotter, you never know. Stay tuned. 

Congratulations to Team USA in the WBC – My Thoughts

The World Baseball Classic came to an end on Wednesday and while I have been absent from the blog this week, once again my apologies, that doesn’t mean I have been absent from my fandom with the sport. I watched and rooted on Team USA as they blanked Team Puerto Rico in the WBC finale to win their first championship from the tournament in its short history and I wanted to take the time to not only congratulate them this afternoon but I also want to give my thoughts on the game and the entire tournament as a whole for Team USA.

I have to say that as a whole I am not a huge fan of the World Baseball Classic. I get the whole idea behind it, representing your country on a worldwide stage, but I think my biggest beef with it is when the games are actually played. In years past I have always said that teams like Team Dominican Republic and Team Venezuela and Team Puerto Rico to name a few have a clear and concise advantage because they have warm weather nearly year round and they have winter leagues such as the Dominican Winter League where players can play baseball year round. While Americans can play baseball and stay in shape all year long there is and always will be a huge difference in training and exhibition type baseball and the real live thing giving players outside the country a distinct advantage in my opinion, well until this year of course.

Team USA stormed the mound on Wednesday night not after only beating Team Puerto Rico but completely dominating and shutting them out 8-0 to capture the championship. Players hoisted the decorative bald eagle mascot on their shoulders and ran across the field with American flags across their backs and dammit I’d be lying if it didn’t make me proud to be an American. The chants of USA-USA-USA inside Dodger Stadium were echoing and chilling and they sent shivers down my spine as Team USA simply lowered their heads and received their gold medals in pride.

Honestly I think the WBC, until this week anyway, was a much bigger deal and was way more important to countries like the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan etc. than it was to the United States. We have Major League Baseball…. But now we have a World Baseball Classic championship and we earned it in front of over 57,000 fans in Dodger Stadium. This may change the WBC for Team USA forever. You think Mike Trout and Bryce Harper so “no” to defending the title again in a few years? Part of me wants to say “hell no” they won’t. Stay tuned. 

Replacing Didi Gregorius: Part One

The New York Yankees will be without their starting shortstop for at least the first month of the 2017 campaign after losing him to a sore shoulder while with Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Now before you think this is about to turn into another “The WBC is played too damn early in the season” rant, and trust me I feel another one of those coming but I’ll refrain for now, I’d rather spend my time and energy into discussing and plotting on how to replace Didi Gregorius. We will break this down into a two-part sessions and focus on potential trades in one post, this post, and later on we will discuss internal options. Enjoy them both.

The Cincinnati Reds have made basically anyone and everyone that isn’t tied down available and reportedly the New York Yankees have already shown preliminary interest in Zack Cozart. The Detroit Tigers are also in the midst of a rebuild and have at least began discussing deals for Jose Iglesias although the New York Yankees have not publicly shown any interest in pursuing a deal with the Tigers for their shortstop.

Both players make more money than the Yankees are presumably willing to take on for a month of the season. Cozart is a free agent following the 2017 season and is set to make $5.325 million this season which should be more money than any team is comfortable paying for essentially a bench player. Now the financial hit is a little less significant in the case of Iglesias, the Tigers shortstop is set to make $4.1 million in 2017, but is still in the area of discomfort when it comes to paying a glorified bench player.

Looking around the league the possible shortstops that could be acquired for a decent price include the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Freddie Galvis and Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed with the usual dark horse thrown in there, as always. The bottom line is though that it’s just for a month and as I explain later on today the Yankees have plenty already on the roster to fill in for a month. There’s no need to make a panic move here ladies and gentleman. Period.

Get well soon Didi.

The 2017 Ex-New York Yankees Opening Day Roster…

Credit:  Jason Miller, Getty Images

As training camp nears its final days, I was thinking about former Yankees (or players that spent time in the Yankees organization) and thought that I’d try to take a crack at an All Ex-Yankees Team using players that are currently on other teams’ 40-man rosters.  So, for my pool, I did not include any non-roster invitees.  For manager, the pool was only open to current MLB managers so Joe Torre was out of the mix.

Admittedly, this is a very subjective roster and I had to tweak some positions due to a limited pool of players.  I am sure that I left off some good ex-Yankees and you might not agree with this starting lineup but it was my thoughts based on the available player pool.

C- Russell Martin
1B- Steve Pearce
2B- Robinson Cano
SS- Eduardo Nunez
3B- Yangervis Solarte
RF- Carlos Beltran
CF- Curtis Granderson
LF- Melky Cabrera
DH- Brian McCann

OF: Chris Young
INF: Martin Prado
INF: Stephen Drew
OF: Ichiro Suzuki

SP: Jose Quintana
SP: Rich Hill
SP: Ian Kennedy
SP: Ivan Nova
SP: Bartolo Colon

RP: Shawn Kelley
RP: Boone Logan
RP: Justin Wilson
RP: Arodys Vizcaino
RP: David Robertson
SU: Andrew Miller
CL:  Mark Melancon

Don Mattingly

Mattingly never managed the Yankees but he’s a Yankee by birthright.  There was no way that I was going to hire Buck Showalter to manage my team.  

I wasn’t crazy about putting Granderson in center but I needed to get Melky Cabrera into the lineup.  Outside of Martin Prado, I am not thrilled about the bench at all.  Brian McCann at DH is my backup catcher so that’s the only reason that I did not add Francisco Cervelli.  I suppose that if I made McCann a DH only, I’d drop Suzuki to add Cervelli. 

If I had to pick a closer between Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon, I’d easily take Miller.  But for the purposes of my roster, Miller has the most flexibility so he was the best fit in the setup role.  I like David Robertson but at this point in his career, he is behind both Miller and Melancon. 

This exercise does tend to show you that the Yankees have done a very good job evaluating talent.  Very few superstars have gotten away.  Robinson Cano and Jose Quintana are probably at the head of the class with no return for the Yankees, but at least Andrew Miller brought in top prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield. 

Yangervis Solarte and Eduardo Nunez stand out as two players that have performed better than I expected they would when they left New York.  Man, I how I would love to have Martin Prado back.

It was tough to leave Mike Dunn off the bullpen list.  I also wanted to put Phil Hughes in the starting rotation but his health has been too unreliable for me.  David Phelps was another strong candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation.

I doubt this team would win the World Series but it would certainly win a few games.

I know it's just spring training and we shouldn't read too much into stats, but I thought Jordan Montgomery did an excellent job on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays.  He pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and two runs.  He struck out eight.  When he departed, he had only given up one run, but he left a runner who subsequently scored against an ineffective JR Graham.  Thanks to heads up base-running by Tyler Wade (he stole third and scored on a throwing error by Rays catcher Michael McKenry) in the top of the 9th, the Yankees came away with a 5-5 tie after trailing most of the game.  Mighty Mouse (Ronald Torreyes) also homered in the game.  

Montgomery has firmly inserted himself as a finalist for a spot in the rotation.  I would not be disappointed to see Bryan Mitchell and Montgomery take the final spots, with Luis Severino on an outbound bus for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  

With the tie, the Yankees' spring record is 19-7-1 although no one seems to be reporting the tie in Grapefruit League standings.  I know it's not a real game but it did happen!  Didn't it?...

Have a great Friday!

So it Seems Life Resumed My Ass Kicking

First off I want to start off yet another day and another post with an apology for my absence. It’s been about a week now since I have been on the blog and for good reason, life has resumed my ass kicking from earlier on in the year. When it rains it pours and when it pours it apparently turns into snow and that’s when the snowball effect happens. Some things are just out of your control and some things are just overwhelming to me when you have as much going on in my life that I do. Not an excuse though, I’m just talking to you guys and girls this morning because I miss it. I miss you. And I love you all.

I’m back, again, and for however long life lets me. Now let’s get this Friday going because TGIF. Love you all and thank you for your patience and understanding. I’m sick and tired of having to apologize so maybe this will be the last one for a while. Have a great Friday everyone.

Oh and if you haven’t checked out Bryan van Dusen’s epic post on Aroldis Chapman and whether to root for him or not you should definitely check it out. He put in an awful lot of work into it and even went as far as to get police reports and such to show that Chapman’s girlfriend may not have been as innocent as some may seem or think because it’s portrayed that way in the media. You don’t have to agree with it but please at least check it out. Thank you in advance. 

This Day in New York Yankees History 3/24: Babe Ruth Takes a Pay Cut

On this day in 1933 Babe Ruth, another victim of the great depression in the United States, was forced to take a pay cut of $23,000 from his $75,000 salary. #Merica