Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Sights and Sounds of Spring Training...

Nearing the End of the Off-Season…

Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.

I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.

But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins.  I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York. 

Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker

It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.

Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022. 

Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.

I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position. 

I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.  

Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the three batter minimum rule. 

The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens.  I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.

The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year.  You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.

It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees. 

Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of's Bryan Hoch:

Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend. 

When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee. 

As always, Go Yankees! 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Help Wanted: Managers for Houston, Boston, and Queens...

Managerial Dismissals in Triplicate…

This has been quite the week in the Major League Baseball. I thought Januarys were for the ‘quiet calm’ before players begin heading to their respective Spring Training homes in Florida and Arizona next month. 

In the span of four days this week, three Major League managers had lost their jobs. 

Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow almost immediately after MLB announced the penalties on Monday against the Astros for their involvement with the electronic sign stealing cheating scandal. Like New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who sat out the 2012 NFL Season as punishment for his role in the infamous bounty scandal, I thought Hinch would have a one-year vacation and return to the dugout in 2021. Fortunately, Crane stepped up to do the right thing. Sever ties. I have no doubt Hinch is a good manager, but he allowed cheating on his watch and that’s inexcusable. Perhaps he’ll get another shot to manage one day but for now, it’s time to pay the piper. 

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

On Tuesday, before MLB has completed their investigation of the Boston Red Sox for cheating allegations, the team announced they had mutually agreed to part ways with manager Alex Cora. Credit to the Red Sox for getting in front of this. Based on the MLB report, Cora was a ringleader for the electronic cheating conspiracy. Unlike Hinch, who simply knew about it and did nothing, Cora’s fingerprints were all over the ideas and actions that led to the cheating schemes. I will be very disappointed if Cora’s suspension does not exceed the one year suspension given to Hinch. Many are calling for a lifetime ban. I might not go that far but it should be for multiple years.  We do not yet know the details of how he implemented his dishonest policies with the Red Sox during their championship run in 2018 but clearly Cora has brought great shame to the game of Baseball. Say what you will about Red Sox owner John Henry but like Crane, I am glad he took action against a guy who was very popular with the Boston players and fans. Singling Cora out, his actions are worse than anything Pete Rose ever did and we know that Pete received a lifetime ban. I think Rose is a miserable human being but I guess if Cora does not receive a lifetime ban, MLB should perhaps reconsider their ban on Rose. Personally, I am okay if Rose, one of the best players I’ve seen play, does not make the Hall of Fame until the year after his death, but maybe this whole electronic cheating scandal is causing me to soften on my hardline stance against Rose. Cora is clearly the worst of the two.

Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

For a couple of days, there was speculation about whether or not New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran would retain his job. Holding the position for only two months, I am sure Beltran had been so excited to go to Spring Training with the Mets as their new manager, achieving a huge professional goal for his post-playing career. By Thursday, it was over. In another “mutual” decision, the Mets and Beltran parted ways. Some believe that Beltran could have kept his job if he had come out publicly to explain his role in the cheating scandal and to plead for contrition and absolution. As much as I had admired Beltran, the player, I felt it was impossible for Beltran to continue in a leadership role. As the only player identified in the MLB report, he was heavily involved with Cora in developing the schemes that have compromised the integrity of the game. If a manager cannot uphold trust and integrity, there’s no place in the game for him. As such, I felt Beltran had to go. I am glad the Mets reached the same conclusion even if they somewhat bungled their telephone press conference in making the announcement.The Mets will be the Mets. On one hand, you do feel bad for Beltran who was stripped of a dream of a lifetime, but on the other hand, he is responsible for his own actions.

Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

The biggest losers of this mess might be the Mets. The Mets organization was not an active participant in the cheating scandal like the Astros and Red Sox. During the off-season, they had a chance to get a good manager in former Yankees manager Joe Girardi who preferred to stay in New York. But for whatever reason, they opted to take a chance on the inexperienced Beltran and now they’ve paid dearly for it. I’d like to see Mets bench coach Hensley Meulens finally get his managerial opportunity but Buck Showalter would be a great choice too. While I am 100% on Team Aaron Boone now, Meulens was the guy I had wanted for Yankees manager when it was announced after the 2017 season that Girardi and the Yankees would be parting ways. In retrospect, particularly with how this off-season has played out, I am so very glad that Aaron Boone is manager of the New York Yankees. But I digress. Meulens is a great baseball man and deserves an opportunity. I think he would be very good for the Mets or any other MLB team as their leader.

While I look back at 2017 as water under the bridge at this point, I totally get the fans who feel the Houston Astros should be forced to vacate their World Series championship. At this point, there’s no way to say the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers should be anointed champions. It would be very hollow at this point. I feel bad for the guys who lost chances for a legitimate championship like CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw. Even Todd Frazier expressed regret this week for what could have been with the 2017 Yankees. But over two years later, there’s no way to settle a debate about who should have been the champions. At the very least, MLB should have taken the championship away from the Astros since it was dishonestly achieved. I know there is not a precedent in MLB for the removal of a championship, but this is a special circumstance that showed the Astros used an unfair advantage to claim the crown.  

I will be glad when MLB completes its investigation of the Red Sox and we can move on. I am hopeful MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred makes it clear that future violations will not be tolerated and will automatically result in lifetime bans. It is very important to bring the trust, confidence, and integrity back into the game. No man, no team is bigger than the sport. This has been the darkest chapter of Major League Baseball in my lifetime which is significant considering many of us lived through the era of PEDs and steroids. Baseball is better than this, and we shall overcome.

In other news, the report about the possible renaming of East 161st Street for the one block in front of Yankee Stadium to Jeter Street received some buzz this week before all hell broke loose about the cheating scandal.  I am not sure what I think about this. There have been so many great Yankees. I know Derek Jeter ranks among the greatest Yankee legends but he’s not bigger than a few of the names. I also see him as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I don’t really care to name a street after the CEO of another team regardless of what he did for us.  Jeter is going into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.  His number is retired by the Yankees and he has his place in Memorial Park. It should be enough, in my opinion.

I still have my doubts that Jeter will be an unanimous selection like Mariano Rivera last year. He may be leading the vote with 100% right now, but I think the final votes will bring at least one voter opting to exclude Jeter. Sure, I get the decision to re-name River Ave after Rivera. He was the greatest closer in MLB history and the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection. However, let’s face it, Jeter was not the greatest to ever play his position. We owe him very much for the great years he gave us and what he meant to so many Yankee teams and championships, but I don’t feel that it extends to naming the street by Yankee Stadium after him. I know, I was never Jeter’s biggest fan and most of you feel that he is a God, but I simply feel the Yankees are more important than any single player. Jeter was great but today we have Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge who both have chances to chisel their names alongside the great legends who have worn pinstripes. I appreciate what they mean today and can do for the Yankees going forward.  Are we going to name future streets after them when all is said and done? Where does it end? I already think the Yankees have retired too many numbers. 

Outside of signing Gerrit Cole and bringing back Brett Gardner, it’s been a very quiet off-season for the Yankees. LHP Stephen Tarpley is the latest ex-Yankee after he was designated for assignment when Gardy’s deal was officially announced and subsequently dealt to the Miami Marlins for third baseman James Nelson. Nelson has had a few disappointing years in minor league ball since opening some eyes in 2017. Last year, he hit .228/.279/.296 with four homers and 36 RBIs for the Marlins’ Class-A affiliate in Jupiter, FL. He may never amount to anything but the guy is only 22. I am interested to see if the Yankee instructors can help him tap into some of the potential he showed a few years ago. It’s not like the Yankee Farm System is overflowing with great third base prospects. I’d love for Nelson to achieve success with the Yankees. The organization has certainly been good for former Marlins prospect Michael King. I’d include Domingo German but for obvious reasons, I will abstain. 

Nelson was Miami’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year but hasn’t been the same since he suffered a meniscus injury prior to the 2018 season. Nelson has ties to a former Yankee. He is the nephew of Chris Nelson who played 10 games at third base for the Yankees in May 2013. 

The Yankees get credit for the first full-time woman coach when they brought in minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec, but the San Francisco Giants one-upped them they announced the hiring of Alyssa Nakken as the first full-time female coach at the Major League level. Nakken and Mark Hallberg, who also was promoted by the Giants to MLB assistant, will not be in the dugout during games, but they’ll assist the other coaches during pre-game and will help foster “a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team”, according to Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Congrats to Alyssa and I look forward to the day that she is in uniform during games as part of Kapler’s staff if she proves to be successful in her role. 

As for former Giants player Aubrey Huff who criticized the team for Nakken’s promotion, STFU. I think this is a great step forward for MLB and I am excited to see what groundbreakers Balkovec and Nakken can do and hopefully open doors for others through their achievements.    

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Importance of the Houston Astros Loss of Draft Picks

Imagine AJ Hinch having to make this walk...

I want to preface this post by saying, in all honesty, that no matter what the punishment was for the Houston Astros, many, including myself, were just not going to be happy. Anything short of stripping them of the 2017 World Series Championship, which is not realistic or logistically feasible, and parading all the players down the street a la Game of Thrones with Cersei’s walk of shame (Season 5, Episode 10) was simply not going to be good enough. That’s fandom in a nutshell. We’re all fanatical about our team and we are all equally as fanatical when we feel like our team got screwed over and/or cheated. Yankees fans are rightly upset about the whole situation, and the subsequent punishments set down by the league after the fact didn’t help matters much in my opinion.

Admittedly, when the announcement came down, I put out a tweet stating that I felt like the punishment was pretty light. Truth be told, I still kind of do think the punishment was a little on the lighter side, but once I saw a Tweet from my very good friend, and the co-owner and founder of the blog, Bryan Van Dusen, I started looking at things another way. Could the loss of their first and second round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 MLB First Year Players Draft have much more of an impact on the team than I am giving the league credit for? Maybe.

Now before we deep dive into this too much I will admit that many of these first round and second round picks that I am about to talk about came early on in the draft and came as a result of the Astros tanking for many, many years. These subsequent draft picks that the Astros are about to lose will likely come towards the later half of both drafts, Houston will lose the 30th overall pick and the 62nd overall pick in 2020, but that doesn’t make them any less important.

The Astros current core and roster was built via the draft. Star players like Carlos Correa (1st overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft), Alex Bregman (2nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft), George Springer (11th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft), Kyle Tucker (5th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft), and Lance McCullers Jr. (41st pick overall in 2012) make up just a few pieces of the core that Houston was able to draft, develop, and bring up to the Major Leagues with varying degrees of success. It is also worth mentioning, while not part of the core and not a star player as of the time of this writing, that Blake Taylor will likely win a spot in the Astros bullpen to start the 2020 season. Taylor was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was acquired by the Astros from the New York Mets, along with Kenedy Corona, for outfielder Jake Marisnick this winter. Taking away even one of these guys probably changes the dynamic of the team but imagine if potentially four of them got taken away. That would just be soul crushing to the team, in my opinion, and that could very well be happening in some capacity to the future of the Houston Astros with these punishments handed down from the league yesterday.

"I take back my congratulations post, because you're just a little cheater!"

My one gripe about the punishment, and my main reason for thinking the punishment was a little light, was that the Astros were not hit whatsoever on the international market. Some of my followers on Twitter quickly rebuffed this, stating that the Astros were not major players on the IFA market, but after researching a little I have to vehemently disagree. It only takes one player signing with the Astros off the IFA market to change the minds of the many, and the simple fact that the Astros plucked All-Star and 2017 MVP* Jose Altuve out of Maracay, Venezuela as a 16-year old in 2007 could potentially change a lot of minds in the market. On top of that, albeit in smaller roles, the additions of Yuli Gurriel (defected from Cuba in 2016), Yordan Alvarez (defected from Cuba in 2016 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers), Aledmys Diaz (defected from Cuba in 2012 and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014), Jose Urquidy who broke out during the 2019 postseason (signed out of Mazatlan, Mexico), and a pair of IFA-acquired arms in Framber Valdez and Francis Martes that may be vying for the 5th starter spot in spring training 2020, may also go a long way to putting Houston as a desirable destination for potential future international free agents. How many kids growing up in Venezuela want to be Jose Altuve right now? I bet that number is staggering, so to completely disregard the IFA market in the punishment is completely irresponsible, in my opinion.

Yes, I realize that Gurriel and Alvarez were signed outside of the International market and would not have affected their IFA spending budget, but my overall point was to show that the Astros could, and now are, more attractive than ever on the international market. Oh, and by the way if you want to continue even deeper down this rabbit hole, the Astros traded RHP Josh Fields to the Dodgers for Alvarez. Fields bounced around a few times throughout his MiLB career, but that career started after the Seattle Mariners selected him 20th overall in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Another first round pick that never amounted to anything at the big-league level, but ultimately shaped the way the Houston Astros are currently constructed through the Draft.

"Let's bang one out and get that dub!"

To take this whole thing one step further, you have to mention the fact that the Astros best pitcher right now is the ageless Justin Verlander. Verlander was the 2nd overall pick of the Detroit Tigers way back in the 2004 MLB Draft, and it took RHP Franklin Perez (Astros #3 prospect at the time who was acquired on the IFA market out of Valencia, Venezuela), OF Daz Cameron (Astros #9 prospect at the time who was drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft), and C Jake Rogers (Astros #11 prospect at the time and former 3rd round pick from 2016) to acquire him back in 2017. So, in order for the Astros to acquire the pitcher that put them over the top during the 2017 postseason (and a former first round pick) it took them sending three of their top 11 best prospects, one of them being a former first round pick and the other being an IFA signing). You also have to remember that the Astros didn’t pay for the production that they received from Verlander; he was struggling mightily in Detroit before seemingly reinventing himself in Houston. Imagine if he had the same production in Detroit before the trade that he had while with the Astros, it may have taken three or four former first round picks to acquire him.

The Astros were not done there and were seemingly not content with their 2017 World Series Championship*. After the 2017 season the Astros acquired another former first round pick in Gerrit Cole (drafted 28th overall by the New York Yankees in 2008, and then again first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011) from the Pittsburgh Pirates. What did it cost Houston to acquire the talented right-hander from Pittsburgh before the 2018 season? Joe Musgrove (first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011), Michael Feliz (IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic), Colin Moran (first round pick 6th overall of the Miami Marlins in 2013), and Jason Martin (8th round pick of the Astros in 2013). To acquire yet another former first round pick, and another piece that the team thought would put them ahead of the pack in the American League, it cost the Astros two more first round picks, an IFA signing, and a “lottery ticket” in Martin.

"Bang, because Yankees fans were making fun of me!"

But the Astros were not done there either. In their never-ending effort to stay on top of the competition in the American League, Jeff Luhnow and company acquired former Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke at the trade deadline during the 2019 season. Greinke, a former first round pick (6th overall) of the Kansas City Royals in 2002, was acquired from Arizona for SP Corbin Martin (2nd round pick of the Astros in the 2017 MLB Draft), SP J.B. Bukauskas (1st round pick, 15th overall, by Houston in 2017), 1B Seth Beer (1st round pick, 28th overall, by Houston in 2018), and UTIL Josh Rojas. It is worth mentioning that while the Diamondbacks were willing to eat $24 million of the remaining dollars on Greinke’s contract, Houston is still on the hook for $53 million including his salary for the 2020 season. Did the money factor into the prospects haul for the Diamondbacks? You would have to think so, but even then, it still took two former first round picks, a second-round pick, and another lottery ticket in Rojas.

The Astros are clearly not against trading top prospects and former first and second round picks for that key piece they need at the big league level, which may mean that some of these Top 30 prospects (Fangraphs) may also be in the market for new real estate before July 31, 2020. Here is a look at the Astros Top 30 prospects and a quick look at how they got here.

      1.       Forrest Whitley – 1st round pick 17th overall 2016
2.       Jose Urquidy – IFA signing out of Mexico
3.       Abraham Toro – 5th round pick in 2016
4.       Freudis Nova – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
5.       Bryan Abreu – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
6.       Cristian Javier – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
7.       Brandon Bielak - 11th round pick in 2017
8.       Korey Lee – 1st round pick 32nd overall in 2019
9.       Hunter Brown – 5th round pick in 2019
10.   Jairo Solis – IFA signing out of Venezuela
11.   Jeremy Pena – 3rd round pick in 2018
12.   Jose Alberto Rivera – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
13.   Enoli Paredes – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
14.   Tyler Ivey – 3rd round pick in 2017
15.   Angel Macuare – IFA signing out of Venezuela
16.   Jordan Brewer – 3rd round pick in 2019
17.   Colin Barber – 4th round pick in 2019
18.   Grae Kessinger – 2nd round pick in 2019
19.   Luis Garcia – IFA signing out of Venezuela
20.   Luis Santana – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
21.   Jojanse Torres – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
22.   Carlos Sanabria – IFA signing out of Venezuela
23.   Cionel Perez – Defected from Cuba, signed as IFA in 2016
24.   Ronnie Dawson – 2nd round pick in 2016
25.   Dauri Lorenzo – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
26.   Manny Ramirez – IFA signing out of the Dominican Republic
27.   Rogelio Armenteros – Defected from Cuba, signed as IFA in 2014
28.   Nivaldo Rodriguez – IFA signing out of Venezuela
29.   Garrett Stubbs – 8th round pick in 2015
30.   Chas McCormick – 21st round pick in 2017

The present makeup and construction of the Astros were largely built through the MLB First Year Players Draft, and it looks like the future of the organization (either through the system or via trade) could be largely made up through the Draft as well.

"Got out just in time, boys!"

So, in closing, are the loss of their first and second round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts important? Yes, absolutely. Would it have hurt Houston even more to lose some of their IFA money and spending capabilities? Also, absolutely, but you know what hurts the most? Well, besides when the Astros miss the playoffs entirely in 2020 and have to watch the Yankees finally bring that World Championship trophy home, is that the team had to watch their manager get fired, their GM (and probably the best GM in all of baseball) get fired, AND they had to watch arguably their best pitcher head to arguably their biggest rival via free agency. Unfortunately, though, the Astros WILL keep the compensation pick that they received, 72nd overall, from the Yankees signing of Cole. How sweet would it have been if they had lost that pick too?  

Now we wait on the punishment for the Boston Red Sox, and more importantly Alex Cora. More to come…

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Yankees Settle All Arbitration-Eligible Cases...

New deals for the 9 Arb-Eligible Yankees…

ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan set the stage for the chaotic day yesterday when he tweeted: “Your Twitter feeds are going to be deluged today. Between now and this afternoon, 155 arbitration-eligible players will either agree upon salaries for the 2020 season or exchange desired salary numbers with teams. It’s always an extraordinarily hectic day for players and teams.” He was right. When the dust settled, all but 20 players had agreed to salary deals. Fortunately, none of those guys were Yankees as all nine players settled with the team. 

With visions of Yankees Team President Randy Levine spiking a figurative football a few years ago when the Yankees beat Dellin Betances in arbitration, I am glad the team avoided the ugly confrontation with their players again this year. 

For the arb-eligible Yankees, here are the results. The figures in parentheses are the projections per MLB Trade Rumors:

·      James Paxton, $12.5 million ($12.9M)
·      Aaron Judge, $8.5 million ($6.4M)
·      Gary Sanchez, $5 million ($5.6M)
·      Tommy Kahnle, $2.65 million ($3.0M)
·      Gio Urshela, $2.475 million ($2.2M)
·      Chad Green, $1.275 million ($1.4M)
·      Luis Cessa, $895,000 ($1.1M)
·      Jordan Montgomery, $805,000 ($1.2M)
·      Jonathan Holder, $750,000 ($800K)

I’d say the Yankees did a very good job bringing resolution to these cases. The only player who made significantly more than his projection was Aaron Judge and there’s no doubt he is worth the money, if not more. No doubt he would have made much more on the agreement if he had not missed so much time last year. Not sure he would have matched Cody Bellinger’s record first-year arbitration salary of $11.5 million considering Cody’s MVP year, but he would have been close as arguably the Yankees’ best position player. 

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Jeff Passan also reported the following players did not settle and, barring agreements between now and then, are expected to go to arbitration hearings:

·      Jesus Aguilar
·      Nick Ahmed
·      Pedro Baez
·      Andrew Benintendi
·      Jose Berrios
·      Archie Bradley
·      Aledmys Diaz
·      Brian Goodwin
·      Shane Greene
·      Josh Hader
·      Max Muncy
·      Hector Neris
·      Joc Pederson
·      J.T. Realmuto
·      Eduardo Rodriguez
·      George Springer
·      Trevor Story
·      Brent Suter
·      Chris Taylor
·      Tony Wolters

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that historically settles with their arb-eligible players, really stick out on this list. So do the Boston Red Sox who did settle with much rumored trade candidate Mookie Betts for $27 million. It really makes me appreciate the Yankees for ensuring agreements with all of their players. Happy Yankees make for happy Yankee fans.  

No big news for the Yankees so far in the new year, player-wise anyway. They did sign former Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta this week to a minor league deal with the presumed Spring Training invitation. Iannetta was released by the Rockies last August. He’s clearly a depth signing as I hold no expectation he’ll beat out Kyle Higashioka for backup catching duties but he does help to provide support if either Gary Sanchez or Higgy go down with injuries. I like the thought of Iannetta better than the recently re-signed Erik Kratz. 

Iannetta, who will be 37 shortly after the start of the season, has clearly seen his better days. Steamer projects him to play 60 games with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs, batting .218/.314/.402, .304 wOBA and 88 wRC+. In other words, pray for good health behind the plate.

There was a part of me hoping for a reunion with catcher John Ryan Murphy despite his underwhelming performance with the bat since he left the Yankees. He is no longer an option after signing a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. Hard to believe that Murphy is still only 28. Pittsburgh is probably a good place for him to land since the Pirates seem to have a way of resurrecting former Yankee backup catchers. 

The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Angels starter Nick Tropeano, a Long Island native, to a minor league deal. Tropeano, 29, a righty, is presumably depth for Triple A. While he showed promise for the Angels a few years ago, he’s never been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016. Last year, he gave up 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings at the Major League level for the Halos. He took his only loss last July in a dreadful start against the Baltimore Orioles when he was hammered for 7 runs in five innings. Here’s hoping for greater success with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He does carry an infamous stat. He’s the only pitcher to record a one-pitch strikeout.  He was pitching in Double A for the Houston Astros affiliate in August 2013. In the sixth inning of a game against the A’s affiliate, the batter, Vinnie Catricala, took a pitch he thought was outside. When the ump called strike, Catricala stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. The umpire, Ron Teague, invoking a little known rule, called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn’t step back into the box as instructed by Teague, the ump called him out by strikeout. Tropeano, with one pitch, observed the strikeout while standing on the pitching mound.  It’s something the game may never see again. For Catricala, the total of 9.4 seconds out of the batter’s box combined with his arguing, earned him an ejection from the game.    

While I still expect the Yankees to trade RHP J.A. Happ and most, if not all, of his contract, Happ who wore #33 in Toronto with the Blue Jays, dropped #34 this week to take Greg Bird’s vacated number. The Yankees still need to clear room on the 40-man roster once the Brett Gardner deal becomes official. Not sure what is taking so long. At first, I thought the holidays were the obstacle but at this point, it must be about clearing space on the roster. Who knows. I am sure it will be official before Gardy has to report to Tampa next month. If the Yankees had to drop someone right now, my vote would be for Stephen Tarpley. But for luxury tax purposes, the best case scenario is to move Happ’s money to open a spot for Gardy. I have full confidence in Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter.

I think the Yankees will continue to look for clever minor league signings (the low cost/high reward variety). Although they’ve been heavily criticized this off-season for their inactivity, I liked the Los Angeles Dodgers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Granted, Nelson may never be the pitcher he once was, but I thought it was a good risk to take. There was a time that Nelson represented the hope of the Brewers starting rotation until he was derailed by injuries. Nelson is only 30 and he’s someone that I’d take a chance on. I’d like to see the Yankees find that type of deal with a pitcher who could presumably offer more than say a guy like Tropeano. As for Nelson, he is probably better suited for the bullpen at this point of his career, but he always made me think of CC Sabathia for no other reason than he wore the same number with the Brewers as CC did (#52) and is the same heighth (6’6”). For the Sabathia Stans, I am not comparing their stats or implying any close relationship. 

I fully expect to hear reports of Yankees GM Brian Cashman rummaging through dumpsters between now and February 12th. There will be no Josh Hader or Nolan Arenado sightings in Tampa next month but there could be a few recognizable names ready to compete for roles with the team. 

For those of you arguing between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela, both players can co-exist on the Yankees roster. I am glad to have both and looking forward to their respective contributions. I have no desire to pick one over the other. Ultimately, Aaron Boone and his staff will make the right choices about who to play and where. I can easily see scenarios with both players in the lineup, producing and helping the Yankees in their drive to dominate the American League.

As always, Go Yankees!