Thursday, December 28, 2017

Some Quick Thoughts...

As the Yankees are currently constructed I don't think they need to do anything else in order to enter the 2018 season as World Series championship contenders.

The starting rotation consists of five good pitchers...

1. Luis Severino finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last year, showing that he's at worst a good starter, and at best he's one of the top hurlers in the league.
2. Masahiro Tanaka is coming off his worst season, however he still won 13 games and actually had a sub-4.00 ERA since the beginning of August.
3. Sonny Gray bounced back from an injury-riddled 2016 to have a very good 2017 season (now if only we can give him some run support...geesh!).
4. Jordan Montgomery finished 6th in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and despite only winning nine games I only see two or three in which the Yankees didn't have a chance to win the game when he was removed.
5. CC Sabathia's career has been rejuvenated since the middle of the 2015 season, when he finally learned that he's no longer a power pitcher and transitioned into a smarter pitcher.

And the starting position players look great as well...

Catcher - Gary Sanchez
First Base - Greg Bird
Second Base - ???
Shortstop - Didi Gregorius
Third Base - ???
Left Field - Aaron Judge*
Center Field - Aaron Hicks
Right Field - Brett Gardner
Designated Hitter - Giancarlo Stanton*
* - I believe Judge and Stanton will share regular DH duties, and every once in a while start at the same time in the corner OF positions.

Now, yes, the Yankees need to figure out what to do at second and third base. However, they don't have to go outside the organization in order to fill those spots.

Second base can be handled by Ronald Torreyes until Gleyber Torres, inevitably, takes over there (my guess is Gleyber is called up by June).

And after debuting in the Majors last season, albeit briefly, Miguel Andujar could very well be the team's starting third baseman on Opening Day.

So for those of you out there that are the least bit upset that Brian Cashman hasn't pulled off a trade for somebody like Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer, you can relax. Nothing needs to be done, so making a move that isn't an obvious win for the Yankees here is unnecessary. And face it... it's still early in the offseason, and there are a ton of free agent options available.

I don't mean to ignore what I've said about trading Clint Frazier, because I still believe Frazier is expendable to New York. But I don't want Cashman to make a deal involving Clint unless it's a clear win for the Yankees.

For a while I've felt that the Yankees should bring in somebody like Todd Frazier to start at third base, as well as backup first base. However, Tyler Austin can help should Greg Bird get hurt or simply need a day off here and there.

The big issue I see in signing somebody like Todd Frazier is the length of the deal. The Yankees would be better off only signing a guy for one year, but it'll be hard to get somebody good on just a one year deal. But keep in mind that if they got a "so-so" third baseman, and he didn't work out, the Yankees could just start Andujar there instead.

At that point Miguel would get more MLB experience, thus making him a hotter commodity as trade bait in the offseason, because at that point I see the Yankees going hard after Manny Machado.

By the way... pass on Bryce Harper. As great as he is, I see no point in having another huge contract on the books. Giancarlo may not opt-out, and Machado would be better suited for the Yankees due to what they need.

Besides, if the Yankees are going to add another big contract to the books next offseason, I'd like it to be for a starter such as Clayton Kershaw (should he actually leave the Dodgers), Dallas Keuchel, or Patrick Corbin.

*takes a deep breath*

I'm not used to just throwing a bunch of quick thoughts out there. However, I'm sure it's a nice break for you readers who are used to me being a bit long-winded.

Let's Get Back to Baseball at Yankee Stadium...

The Holiday Season Slowdown…

As the final days of 2017 burn away, there’s not much happening in the Yankees Universe…at the moment. Granted, this has been one of the quieter off-seasons for all MLB teams with so many unsigned free agents. I know, we already got our shiny new toy (Giancarlo Stanton) but there is still work to be done.

Credit:  Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe
The Yankees finally announced the one-year, $10 million deal for CC Sabathia this week. Realistically, I am expecting some regression from Sabathia at this point (it would be hard to replicate last year’s statistics considering he turns 38 in late July), but he means so much to the clubhouse. I always thought Mike Mussina finishing his career with a 20-win season was the best way to go (short of winning a World Series championship). I doubt Sabathia’s knee will allow him the former but he certainly has a shot at the latter. The value of veteran leadership is understated. I don’t think Matt Holliday gets enough credit for his “behind-the-scenes” work with Aaron Judge last season. With new coaches on board, Sabathia brings a wealth of consistency and mentorship that would otherwise be missing. I am not trying to sell the other team veterans short, but Sabathia has been such a leader in the clubhouse and a guy that the team loves. I am glad to see him back in Pinstripes.

Speaking of Mussina, I think it is a travesty that he currently trails Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame voting. According to MLB Network, with 27.9% of the votes completed, Clemens currently has 71.6% (75% is needed for induction into the Hall of Fame). Mussina trails Clemens by nearly a percentage point (70.7%).  Granted, Clemens has the better stats but he also cheated. Moose played the game cleanly and spent his entire career in the highly charged AL East. I feel that Moose deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame ahead of Clemens. It’s inevitable that Clemens and other Steroid-users like Barry Bonds will eventually make the Hall but I’d prefer that it takes a few more years.

Brendan Kuty of is reporting that a reunion between the Yankees and third baseman Todd Frazier is unlikely. With the Sabathia signing, the projected Yankees payroll currently stands at $178 million. Frazier made $12 million in 2017. The Yankees still desire to add a cost-controlled pitcher and need room for trading deadline additions and roster call-ups.  This is where the pain of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract really hurts. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can move Ellsbury. One writer recently suggested that the Yankees pay all but $15 million still owed to Ellsbury (which equates to nearly $53.5 million including $5 million buyout in 2022). The writer (I do not recall who) correctly stated that Ellsbury, still a good player, should be worth at least $5 million per year for another team. He doesn’t steal as many bases as he used to and he’s always an injury risk whenever he takes the field, but if healthy, he can help a team. Of course it has to be a team that he’d waive his no-trade clause for. I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and hoping their efforts to acquire Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton fail. An additional $5 million for payroll would certainly help the Yankees achieve their objective of adding another pitcher while bringing in quality veteran talent at third. I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back but the optimism has faded.

While the Yankees are the early favorites to sign 2018 free agent-to-be Manny Machado, there is no certainty that he will sign with the team. As such, I think a two-year offer for Frazier makes sense if the Yankees can find the payroll room to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. If the Yankees do sign Machado next year, Frazier is still a valuable roster component, especially if he can play more first base during the upcoming season. If the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make a trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Machado, there’s a good chance one of those teams could entice Machado to sign a long-term deal. The cost to acquire Machado, even with just one year left on his contract, will be high so any team parting with the level of talent necessary to acquire the premium player will make every attempt to lock up Machado. Pulling the trigger on such a deal would indicate some willingness or optimism on the receiving team’s part that they could sign Machado. There is no guarantee that Miguel Andujar will be successful at the Major League level or defensively-speaking, that he is even ready. With youth at second base (should Gleyber Torres win the job as expected), I feel that it is too risky to have MLB inexperience at third base too for a team with heightened expectations.

More Cash for Cash…

By now, we all know that GM Brian Cashman has received a 5-year extension worth approximately $25 million. Even the most fervent Cashman critics have acknowledged the good job that Cash has done to rebuild the Yankees farm system. If I owned the team, I would re-structure the front office to model the Chicago Cubs arrangement with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Under that structure, Cashman would become President, Baseball Operations.  Randy Levine’s title (President) would be realigned to show his status on the business side of Operations. Actually, he wouldn’t have a job if I owned the team, but I guess that’s another matter. With Cashman’s promotion, I would appoint Tim Naehring as Executive Vice President, General Manager. Naehring would get the job since he is currently viewed as Cashman’s right-hand man although an argument could certainly be made for either Jean Afterman or Damon Oppenheimer.  

I hate seeing good people like Billy Eppler and Gary Denbo leave the organization for “better” opportunities and feel that there are ways to reward current Cashman underlings.  

2017 Pinstripe Bowl Champions…

Congratulations to the Iowa Hawkeyes for their 27-20 victory over Boston College in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium yesterday. I have been a lifelong fan of the University of Iowa (perhaps even longer than I’ve been a Yankees fan which dates back to my childhood). It was weird seeing a football field placed in the middle of Yankee Stadium, but for my Hawkeyes, it was their first bowl win since 2010. The Hawkeyes finished 8-5 this year, however, it did include a victory over Ohio State which was the highlight of the season for me.  

I can’t really think of a better way to end the year than for one of my favorite teams to win within the confines of the home of my favorite MLB team. Beating Boston was a bonus. Nice job, Hawkeyes!

Credit:  Bryon Houlgrave, The Register
Now that the Hawkeyes have won their bowl game on hallowed grounds, it is time to bring back the baseball diamond to Yankee Stadium. 
I can’t believe the calendar page is getting ready to turn to 2018 but the new year brings great hope and optimism for Yankees fans.  I am ready for training camp. We’re only about a month and a half away before pitchers and catchers report. Tampa will soon be rocking with excitement! Now  batting, Number 27 (sorry, this never gets old)...

Credit:  CBS2
Go Yankees!