Saturday, February 27, 2021

And We Have Yankees Baseball...

  

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Spring Training Games set to begin tomorrow…

The long wait for baseball ends tomorrow with the first televised Yankees game since last October. Granted, it is just a seven-inning game but for spring games, most of the players who will see the Opening Day roster would have already hit the showers by the 7th inning anyway. The latter innings belong to guys like Trey Amburgey and Asher Wojciechowski so I think we can survive the deprivation of two innings. Nothing against Trey or Asher but it is not like you’ll see Aaron Judge making a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to secure a win.  

I am glad that we will hear the familiar sound of the YES Network for the Yankees spring opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team likely to be their biggest challenger in the AL East this year. I know the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series last year, but Blake Snell now resides in San Diego and Charlie Morton moved up the Eastern Seaboard to Atlanta. The up-and-coming Blue Jays, an overly aggressive player in the free agent market to mix with their plethora of young talent, figure to start making some noise even if this is not quite their year yet.  

The Greedy Pinstripes’ Bryan Van Dusen made a good observation on Twitter yesterday (@Bryan_TGP). Bryan’s words: “Cashman turned Ottavino into Gardner, O’Day, Wilson, and still has $1.425 million left over. Yeah, that’s pretty damn good work. But go ahead and bash the guy.” I know the point was directed to those bashing GM Brian Cashman on Twitter, but seriously, Cashman did convert Ottavino, an at-times frustrating pitcher to watch, into a clubhouse leader/outfield insurance and two good relievers with money to spare. The Yankees did pay the Red Sox $850,000 in addition to the prospect given up (RHP Frank German) to get Boston to take Ottavino, a free agent after the 2021 season. But, in retrospect, if someone asked me if I would trade Adam Ottavino and Frank German for Brett Gardner, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson, my answer is easy. All day, every day. The ability to shed payroll while getting better is clearly underrated…at least among Yankee fans.  

I liked Ottavino. I am not trying to bash him. When he was right, he was unhittable, but the games when he lacked control were very painful to watch. I think we will get better consistency with O’Day and Wilson.  I went through the winter saying the Yankees should move on from Brett Gardner but here we are. I am certainly not mad he is back. I just hope the Yankees stand behind their words left field belongs to Clint Frazier. It is his time. It does not mean Gardy will not get an opportunity to play. Hopefully, everyone can stay healthy this year so that Gardy can be used in short stints to keep him fresh. I really hope Frazier takes the ball and runs with it. He needs to make the case the Yankees were right in saying he is the starting left fielder.  After the season, I will resume my “it’s time for Gardy to go” campaign.  Let him have his final season in Pinstripes with hopefully packed Yankee Stadium crowds by the end of the season (vaccine distribution permitting). He has certainly earned the right to say goodbye on his terms and in front of the greatest fans in the World.  



It was not great news to hear pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt was shut down due to a common extensor strain in his right elbow.  Upon hearing the news, many started to wonder if it was the start of an inevitable delayed path which leads to Tommy John surgery anyway. Subsequent reports do seem to indicate this is just a muscle injury that simply needs rest (three to four weeks) and not something more serious that will require more drastic measures (i.e., surgery). It is a great opportunity for Deivi Garcia to grab the fifth starter’s spot considering Schmidt was his top competitor for the job. Hopefully, the rest does Schmidt good and we see him later this season. No doubt the Yankees will need both Garcia and Schmidt this year to be successful.  

I am getting tired of hearing the years of Mike Tauchman’s control as a reason to keep him. If you can do better, you do. Tauchman was originally one of my reasons for why the Yankees should have moved on from Gardy but now that Gardy’s back, Tauchman is not necessary despite his ability to play all three outfield spots.  I would like to see Derek Dietrich make the team over Tauchman.  I know he has not been the player he once was in Miami, but he is young enough (32 in July) to rebound. I like his versatility to play both infield and outfield positions. I would love to watch Jay Bruce hit bombs in Yankee Stadium but sadly I just do not see how he fits this roster. He is too one-dimensional in my opinion. Today’s game requires versatility, even with a 26-man roster. There is no room for multiple DH-types. 

I am quietly hoping for a strong year by Jordan Montgomery now that he has put some distance from his Tommy John surgery. He should have a good time this year following Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. If Gumby and Garcia can be consistent, you really must like the Yankees’ chances with this starting rotation. Barring injuries, it will be fun to watch every starter take his turn. If they can find their groove, extended losing streaks should be rare. The Yankees may not win 100 games this year, but it is fun to know they have the talent to do it.

This year will put pressure on both Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman to produce. Not that I expect either man to get fired if the Yankees depart October early, but there will eventually be a time when Hal Steinbrenner must make the difficult choices if the team is unable to deliver. It is tough. Winning in October is more often about who is hot at the moment than being the best team on the field. Cashman’s roster-tweaking must find the right blend of talent, chemistry, and timing. 


I am not always Cashman’s biggest fan, but I have to give him an A for his off-season. He was able to reduce payroll while improving the roster. Poor guy must please Steinbrenner and Yankee fans. Now that’s a master juggling act. No Cash bashing from me this year…not yet anyway. Let us see how the season plays out. This could be a championship year. Or not. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

New York Yankees 2021 Payroll Tracker

 I can't promise to keep it updated daily, but I will try and keep it updated as often as I can. This information all came via Spotrac, so send them their hate mail if your favorite site has a salary or option number different than what is show here. Thank you for reading. 



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Opening Soon: Steinbrenner Field...

  


Ladies & Gentlemen, I’d like to present…Major League Baseball…

Finally, it is the return of America’s favorite pastime. In a matter of days…and…between now and a number of COVID-19 tests, Major League Baseball will make its triumphant return for the 2021 season. Soon, our favorite players will be together again, working out on the fields in and around Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. It’s been a weird off-season…following an even weirder 2020 baseball season…but hopefully some sense of normalcy is waiting for us sometime later this summer as the vaccinations reach out to the mass populations. I am truly looking forward to watching a Major League game while sitting inside a Major League stadium.



Today’s big news if you want to call it that was Jay Bruce’s decision to sign a minor league contract with camp invitation for the only New York pro baseball team he has never played for. 


Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I think immediately, me included, everyone thought the move might spell the end for Brett Gardner. From a skillset standpoint, Bruce hardly qualifies as a defensive outfielder and he certainly has no ability to play center field so he is not a replacement for Gardy. From my perspective, it is more about money. Bruce stands to make $1.35 million if he makes the team which, barring a complete flop in Tampa, he most likely will. Based on plate appearances, he can pick up an additional $500,000 if he reaches 500 plate appearances. Although it seems like he should be older, Bruce is only 34 (or will be on April 3rd) and can still do some major damage to a baseball. Given the Yankees remain in the market for another reliever and assuming they are roughly $7 million, give or take, under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, it becomes a question of how much can the Yankees offer Gardner to return coupled with how much is he willing to give up to stay?  I suppose that’s a question to be answered over the course of the next few days.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am ready to move on Brett Gardner. He has been a great Yankee and a great leader in recent years.  But there is a time when everything must end. I subscribe heavily to the belief I’d rather give up a player a year too soon than a year too late.  I had really hoped Estevan Florial would have been ready by now, but he’ll just be reaching Triple A this year (despite playing one game for the Yankees last year). A talented younger player (i.e., cheaper) with upside is more appealing to me as a backup when you are talking about the fifth outfielder. Not that I think Mike Tauchman is all that and a bag chips, but he’s younger and can do everything Gardy can (he’s 30 compared to Gardy’s 37…38 in August). So, Tauchman makes more sense as the fourth outfielder unless the Yankees can upgrade the position. I don’t think Gardy would come back for $3 million (could be wrong…stranger things have happened) and it makes no sense at all for the Yankees to spend $7 million to get him to come back.

The man who clearly should be worried about the presence of Jay Bruce is first baseman Mike Ford. 

When I hear the name Montero, I always shudder with disappointment thinking about failed former Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero. I guess I will need to find a cure as the Yankees have signed two unrelated Monteros, both international free agents. According to Baseball America, here are the international players signed by the Yankees (the July 2nd signing date last year had been pushed to January 15th due to the pandemic).

Hans Montero, shortstop, Dominican Republic

Fidel Montero, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Ramiro Altagracia, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Kleiner Delgado, shortstop, Venezuela

Johan Ferreira, third baseman, Dominican Republic

Hans Montero, 17, is 5’10”, 160 lbs. He reportedly signed for $1.6-$1.7 million. In their scouting report, Baseball America indicates Montero is likely to stick at shortstop, “with soft hands, a strong arm, and above-average speed”.

Fidel Montero is viewed as an athletic outfielder “with impressive raw tools who shows up-and-down game performance”. It does make you wonder if the Yankees hit the jackpot if they can iron out the wrinkles in his game. Fidel signed for only $500,000 but appears to carry strong potential. He is also 17 and stands 6’1” and weights 175-180 lbs.  Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com wrote the following quote today by ESPN’s MLB prospect insider Kiley McDaniel, “Some other teams tried to steal him. Some teams thought he was a $2 million talent. He’s just one of those dynamic centerfielders. Above average power potential. He can run. He can kind of do everything.”


Photo Credit: @benbadler (Twitter), Baseball America

I guess there’s hope on the way to remove my negative connotation associated with the name Montero. Sorry, if your name is Montero. It’s not personal. I just expected a little bit more from Jesus or rather I bought into the false hype…or to be nicer…inflated perception of potential. 

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Hans, Fidel, Ramiro, Kleiner & Johan!

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Yankees were one of the teams talking to former Yankees reliever Justin Wilson, a lefty. I’ve seen a number of people call for the return of Trevor Rosenthal. I think either would be fine although Rosenthal, after a successful 2020 season with the Royals and Padres, figures to command the larger contract. MLB Trade Rumors projected 2 years and $14 million for Rosenthal which would seem to be a bit high for the Yankees. Did I really just say that? I know, it makes no sense. Taxes and penalties do not seem to be impacting the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. But to the Dodgers’ defense, they would be “first-time” offenders above the threshold since they reset penalties in 2018 when the Yankees did but unlike the Yankees, did not go over the threshold last year. 

I have seen a few fans wanting the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson. As much as I liked D-Rob during his two stints with the Yankees, the way things ended when he left last time was unsettling. I am not sure if he is the one who denied playoff shares to Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach P.J. Pilittere and others since it would have been a team decision, but Robertson’s voice was instrumental as a players representative. It is unfortunate and maybe a little sad, but I’d rather not see Robertson return. I did see the Mets are shopping Dellin Betances. Sorry, that’s another one I’ll take a pass on. I don’t think he’ll ever be the elite reliever he once was and in recent years, the injury history is just too much. So, for ex-Yankees, give me Wilson or Rosenthal. 

February 17thsoon.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Sound of Baseball in Tampa...

  


…is being drowned out by NFL Football…

Lots of activity near Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, this evening but unfortunately, it is of the football variety. Oh well, soon, Steinbrenner Field will be humming with the return of all players, new and old. Many of the team’s players are already in Tampa and it will be exciting when we can see player interviews as they arrive for Spring Training 2021. 


Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

It was a pipe dream the Yankees would sign Trevor Bauer, I know, but there was a part of me that wanted Hal Steinbrenner to bust the budget to ensure a formidable rotation from top to bottom. Alas, he let President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodger, Andrew Friedman, spend the money of Mark Warner, Chairman & CEO, and his partners, for their title defense. Given how active the San Diego Padres have been this off-season, it was time for the Dodgers to do something. They’ve lost a few of their contributors over the past few years. Joc Pederson signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs, and Enrique “Kik√©” Hernandez now calls the AL East home after inking a deal with the Boston Red Sox. 

With the Yankees obviously trying to stay under the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, the Dodgers blasted through it. Their payroll is nearly $240 million, and they still need to decide whether they want to spend more to bring back free agent third baseman Justin Turner. Granted, if the Dodgers win the World Series again, I doubt there’s anyone in the organization that would say it wasn’t worth it so it’s hard to criticize them until/unless they fall short of their goal. 

I guess it boils down to whether the Yankees needed to spend more to compete with the Dodgers or the Padres or in-division against the Toronto Blue Jays, the clear up-and comer to replace the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yankees’ chief rival this year. Honestly, as structured, the Yankees stand as much of a chance to win in October as any other team. The Chicago White Sox are vastly improved, with a young core talent base, yet no team has a distinct advantage in the American League this season. Baseball is not always about the best but rather who is playing the best at the end. The Dodgers can pay Bauer $105 million over three years, but it doesn’t really guarantee they’ll be successful. The Yankees, led by Gerrit Cole, will have a top rotation if Corey Kluber can turn the calendar back a couple of years and if Jameson Taillon, with a fire lit under his butt thanks to the trade to a contender, can deliver healthy, productive innings. But setting them aside, Jordan Montgomery is a good option to have at the back end of a rotation, and I do believe we’ll see a breakout of one of the younger pitchers (the most probable, of course, being Clarke Schmidt). But if not Schmidt, I think another will take the opportunity. If we get into the season and Jhoulys Chacin is starting games, then we’ll know it all went horribly wrong. Until then, I will maintain the usual pre-season optimism the Yankees are entering a championship year. If not now, when? They have the team to do it this year.



I still expect the Yankees to announce a deal to bring back outfielder Brett Gardner for at least one more year. I am not really in favor of it, as I’ve said before. I would prefer to keep the money open for other potential in-season deals. As great a Yankee and leader as Gardy has been, they do not need him. Clint Frazier will be the leftfielder and Mike Tauchman is still hanging around as the fourth outfielder.  Not that I am Tauchman’s biggest fan, but it’s time for the Gardy party to end. It’s a bummer Estevan Florial has developed like we once thought he would. This would be his time if he had continued on his path of potential. At this point, he’s starting to seem like the latest Mason Williams even if some still think of him as an up and comer. Last year seems like a lost year in Florial’s development and I can’t say I am optimistic about his chances. Place that one under the category of “I hope I’m wrong”. I’d love to see Florial flourish at the Major League level.

Given the Yankees have yet to announce reliever Darren O’Day, it does seem GM Brian Cashman is working on something to clear some roster space. It doesn’t mean I am expecting something big. Yet, it seems like it would have been too easy to just cut outfielder Greg Allen or reliever Ben Heller so something else must be in play. Or Cashman’s trying and not succeeding in making the moves he has in mind with Allen or Heller ending up on the chopping room floor anyway. 

With the recent flurry of free agent signings as we get closer to Spring Training, I am surprised the Yankees haven’t been more active. The $210 million must be a “hard salary cap” in their eyes. Reset the penalties and then go after it again next year. I only hope we do not miss out during this championship window as a result. I guess this is where I wish the Yankees weren’t saddled with Giancarlo Stanton’s contract. Regardless of who it is, there always seems to be one player contract on the team that is an albatross. Alex Rodriguez’s final years…Jacoby Ellsbury. Stanton is the latest but someone else will take his place one day (just don’t let it be you, Gerrit!).  I don’t usually like salary dumps because you have to include quality prospects to entice other teams, but Stanton is emerging as a strong candidate, in my mind, if the Yankees could only find a taker. Unfortunately, I think they’re stuck with that one.

I like Luke Voit, I really do, but if the Yankees could trade him and acquire Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, sign me up. I’ve never been a big proponent of moving DJ LeMahieu to first base (losing his valuable glove at second base as a result), but, IMO, Gleyber Torres is a better second baseman than he is a shortstop. He has time to fix it, but Story would, pardon the pun, build upon the Yankees’ status of the most storied franchise. I’ve long admired Story and now that Francisco Lindor is no longer an option, he is probably my favorite trade target at the moment…even if he doesn’t bat lefthanded. 



I’d love to have another stopper in the bullpen but hopefully one of the young guys can bust through. I am holding out hope it is Nick Nelson who proves he can be a difference maker. It feels like the Yankees will sign another reliever before training camp, but I am keeping expectations low. For all intents and purposes, the pitchers, catchers and position players showing up in Tampa are those on the roster or in camp on minor league deals with training camp invitations. No “OMG, he’s a Yankee??!!!” moments coming up soon. I guess this is to be continued in July.

I am glad we’ll have a full 162-game schedule. I had prepared myself for a shortened schedule and delayed start to the season, but I am happy we can soon watch some baseball. I am hopeful the health and safety protocols will be sufficient to ensure uninterrupted play this season. Watching the Super Bowl with a packed stadium is kind of scary but I look forward to packed baseball stadiums in the not-so-distant future. Once it is healthy and safe to do so, of course. I would hate to go through another entire season with cardboard cut-outs in the stands. I miss the real sound and energy of a crowd and the ability to attend a game in person. I am nearing a year living within walking distance of a Major League baseball stadium and I’ve not been to a game. That is so wrong and not what I expected when I moved to the area.

As always, Go Yankees!