Saturday, December 31, 2022

Another Year of Yankees Baseball...


Aaron Judge's 62nd Home Run (Photo Credit: Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Closing the book on 2022…

My final post of the year.

As the year ends, I am grateful Aaron Judge is a Yankee. I think my biggest fear as a Yankee fan in 2022 was the potential loss of Aaron Judge in free agency after Judge and the team were unsuccessful in reaching an extension prior to the season. Plus, there was the drama of player dissatisfaction when GM Brian Cashman went public with the failed numbers. Alas, Judge proved to be a Yankee at heart just as we all thought and had hoped. I would just never want to play poker against him. 

Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Yesterday, AP named Judge the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. Like he did in winning the AL Most Valuable Player, Judge beat out second-place finisher, Shohei Ohtani, a worthy challenger for either award. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who tried unsuccessfully to recruit Judge to San Francisco, was third. 

As the calendar prepares to flip to a new year, we are less than two months away from Spring Training when the latest Yankees Captain and his buddies will reunite at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Spring is in the air. Well, maybe not but soon. 

Thanks for everything, Lucas.

It was a surprise, at least for me, when the Yankees designated Lucas Luetge for assignment on December 21st when a spot on the 40-man roster was needed for newly signed reliever Tommy Kahnle. Although he was never a high-leverage guy, he consistently got the outs when he was called upon. It was telling when the Yankees left him off the ALCS roster last October, perhaps a sign of things to come. Nevertheless, I appreciated Luetge. I was surprised when he made the Yankees a couple of years ago out of Spring Training. He may never have been a “great” reliever, but he was consistent and that is all we can ask.

When Luetge was DFA’d, I did not really expect the Yankees to get much if anything. Maybe a low-level prospect at best. So, I was pleasantly surprised when the Yankees acquired two prospects from the Atlanta Braves for him, including one of their Top 30 prospects. Now, Luetge gets an opportunity to potentially play for another World Series contender. Good for him. 

RHP Indigo Diaz was Atlanta’s 23rd best prospect according to Diaz, 24, pitched for the Braves’ AA-affiliate Mississippi in 2022. A reliever, he was 3-4 with a 3.08 ERA and four saves. If Yankees coaches can do for Diaz what they have done for Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta, I will be very pleased with the outcome of the trade without even considering the second prospect received in the Luetge trade. I guess it is a testament to the strength of the Yankees’ farm system compared to the Braves that Diaz in unable to crack MLB’s Top 30 Prospect list for the Yankees. 

Indigo Diaz (Photo Credit: @indigo_diaz via Twitter)

The second guy is infielder Caleb Durbin, 22, who spent 2022 with Single-A Augusta and High-A Rome. He has been described as “the scrappiest, grittiest guy you’ll ever meet in your life”.  Durbin is only 5’8” but the description of him leads me to believe that he can play bigger than he really is (kind of like former Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia). Durbin hit .241 in 2022 with 8 home runs and 62 RBIs.

Caleb Durbin (Photo Credit: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

It is possible that neither Diaz nor Durbin make an impact for the Yankees, yet I am glad they are part of the organization. I look forward to watching them reach for their dreams in Pinstripes.

Trevor Bauer, free agent-to-be?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have until January 6th to make their decision on reinstated pitcher Trevor Bauer. Many Yankee fans are salivating over the possibility of signing Bauer if the Dodgers, as expected, release him. Count me out. While I recognize the talent of Bauer’s arm, I feel the personality and the controversy he brings to a clubhouse outweighs any good he can do on the field.

Trevor Bauer (Photo Credit: @BauerOutage via Twitter)

Sure, winning cures everything but if the Dodgers believed so strongly in Bauer’s talent, there would be no discussion of his possible release. They know the entire package. I realize that Bauer was not actually convicted of a crime, but something happened, and Bauer has stirred enough controversy over the years to show that he is not a clubhouse guy.  I believe in team chemistry. I never want to relive the chaos of the Bronx Zoo so many years ago. 

If the Yankees did sign Bauer, it would probably make Frankie Montas the odd man out. I would prefer to see a healthy Montas in 2023 and find out if he can be the pitcher he was in Oakland. I know, it could be like hoping Sonny Gray would find success in Pinstripes and there are always health concerns surrounding Luis Severino.  Yet, Montas is my guy for 2023 until he is not.  So, it is a hard pass on Bauer for me. I really want to see what a healthy Montas can provide.  I think Carlos Rodón, once a teammate when both guys were in the White Sox organization, will have a positive impact on Montas.

Ex-Red Sock in the house

While it seems like the Boston Red Sox are always stashing former Yankees in their organization, the Yankees took a flyer on former Red Sox reliever Tyler Danish this week. Danish, 28, had been outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster in late October. He cleared waivers and elected free agency over minor league assignment. The right-hander has signed a minor league contract with the Yankees which includes a Major League invite to Spring Training.

Tyler Danish

The former White Sox prospect, who has also spent time the Mariners and Angels organizations, had signed a minor league agreement with the Red Sox last February.  He posted a 5.13 ERA for the Red Sox this season, with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over 32 relief appearances. He did miss time due to a right forearm strain from early July to late August.

Not expecting much here but then again that is what I thought when Lucas Luetge signed a minor league deal with the Yankees a few years ago.

Marwin Gonzalez heads Overseas

After spending the 2022 season as a utility player with the Yankees, Marwin Gonzalez has found a new team. He heads to Japan to join the Orix Buffaloes. He will be tasked with helping to replace former Buffaloes outfielder Masataka Yoshida who signed this offseason with the Boston Red Sox. 

I never expected the Yankees to re-sign Gonzalez. Unless Oswaldo Cabrera is tasked with starting left field (which I still doubt), Oswaldo is the clear utility player for 2023. If all goes well, Isiah Kiner-Falefa will also be an infield backup (behind my favorite starting shortstop candidate Oswald Peraza). Plus, both DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres remain on the roster so there is no room for Gonzalez. I appreciate his contributions in 2022. It is never easy embracing a former 2017 Houston Astro, but Gonzalez quietly fit in and did his job when asked. Nothing spectacular but his role never really demanded it. Not everybody can be Matt Carpenter. I have no complaints with the guy and wish him the best in Japan.

Marwin Gonzalez (Photo Credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Left Field Mystery

The Yankees have been very quiet this week. Granted, it is the holiday season and the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are generally quiet.

I do not expect the Yankees to acquire Pirates outfielder Brian Reynolds. The cost seems prohibitive, and Reynolds is not worth a Juan Soto-like return for the Pirates.  I feel the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a very clear need for a centerfielder and a strong farm system, are the more likely destination for Reynolds if the Pirates decide to trade him. 

I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Andrew Benintendi, but I will not criticize the team for choosing not to match the offer he received from the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees know more about Benny than any of us, and if they felt he was not worthy of a five-year contract, so be it. I trust their evaluation. I would have liked his defense in left and his ability to make contact at the plate, but if the risk outweighs the return, I am fine with the decision to move on.

Fans seem to hate the idea of a potential trade with the Minnesota Twins for Max Kepler. The thought of even suggesting Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich brings even more hate. I cannot say I have formed an opinion about Kepler. I would not be excited about him like I was with Benny, but I would not scream if he was on the team. The Yankees have some strong outfielders coming up in the minor leagues. They may not be ready in 2023 so an outfielder to fit the short-term gap is fine with me. I preface that by saying I have an extreme dislike for the term “stopgap” after experiencing life with Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the starting shortstop in 2022 after passing on elite free agent shortstops, but a guy like Trent Grisham, if San Diego chooses to trade him, can adequately fill left field until, eventually, Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira and Spencer Jones are ready to ascend to the Bronx.  Although he has done nothing to prove his worth in the Majors, Estevan Florial deserves a chance in Spring Training to see if he can be the guy. It will be his final ‘make it-or-break it’ opportunity with the Yankees since he is out of options.

I was hoping for better in left, no doubt. Yet, the team is better with Carlos Rodón. Of course, he is unable to help the team hit in October, so more is expected from the team’s offense. A healthy DJ LeMahieu certainly helps as does the elimination of the shift for a hitter like Anthony Rizzo. 

It seems we will have no answers for left field in 2022 so this vacancy (God, please no more Aaron Hicks in a starting role!) will be continued next year. I hold out hope Brian Cashman makes the right move for the position and does not lessen the value of the highly versatile Oswaldo Cabrera by plugging him into one role. 

Oswaldo Cabrera (Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, prosperous, and successful 2023! May it be the year we achieve the twenty-eighth Yankees World Series championship!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Yanks Question: Who's Left? ...


Oswaldo Cabrera

Search for Leftfielder continues…

It would have been so much easier if the Yankees could have just reached an agreement with outfielder Andrew Benintendi after giving up good prospects for him last summer. I know, there were reports that the St Louis, MO resident preferred the Midwest, but as we have often seen, money talks.  Five years at $75 million does not sound that unreasonable for the 28-year-old, a gifted defender, who may not hit with power but can make contact and deliver extra base hits when they matter.  It seems the Yankees could have matched or beaten the White Sox offer (surprisingly a record contract for the Pale Hose). 

Friday saw two more options fly off the board. The San Francisco Giants, trying to recover from what has been the most disastrous offseason in franchise history, signed free agent Michael Conforto to a two-year contract worth $36 million.  I thought Conforto was a chance worth taking, but honestly, it never seemed the Yankees were in on the player. If Conforto has a great year in San Francisco, the Yankees may wish they had gone down this road.

Much talk has been made of the surplus outfielders in Arizona. The Toronto Blue Jays finally grabbed one when they sent potentially elite catcher Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. to the Diamondbacks for Daulton Varsho. Varsho’s lefty bat would have played very nicely at Yankee Stadium. Well, it still will but for the wrong team. I liked Varsho the best among the available Arizona outfielders. Great outfield defender, above-average hitter (27 home runs in 2022), and the ability to play catcher in a pinch.

Where do the Yankees go from here?

Many fans say just plug Oswald Cabrera in left and call it a day. This does not make sense to me. Cabrera’s greatest asset is his versatility, but he was not trained as an outfielder. He did a fine job when asked to play the position with his tremendous athleticism, but the Yankees are better when Cabrera can be moved around to give guys a breather at other positions. He will play nearly every day in that type of role. When Andrew Benintendi was starting to get comfortable and before the hamate bone injury that ended his season, he was clearly the superior player based on the eye test.

The most popular trade acquisition among fans is Brian Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are reports the Yankees have talked to the Pirates, but I am sure that other teams, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, have GM Ben Cherington on speed dial.  Brian Reynolds, not to be confused with Ryan Reynolds, is a good player but I am not sure he is worth the Yankees’ top prospects plus Nestor Cortes, Jr. If the Pirates are seeking high-end pitching talent, the Dodgers can easily put together a package superior to the Yankees.  Maybe a three-team trade works, but there is no reason for optimism with Reynolds. This situation feels like it did all those years the Yankees salivated over Gerrit Cole when he was a Pirate. They were connected to him season after season, only to watch him go to a bitter rival (the Houston Astros) when the Pirates finally traded him.  Reynolds seems likely to follow the same route. For the record, I would love to be wrong on this one.

Brian Reynolds (Photo Credit: Matt Sunday/DKPS)

This week, Joel Sherman of The New York Post suggested a trade (not based on any facts or rumors) with the Minnesota Twins which would bring Max Kepler and Nick Gordon to the Bronx for Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Kepler runs hot and cold, more emphasis on the latter, with the Yankees fanbase. To his defense, Kepler would be a better option than simply rolling Aaron Hicks out there again.  Keeping DJ LeMahieu at one position to help preserve his health is appealing so this is probably a trade I would make as it seems, for whatever reasons, Torres will be traded this offseason. I saw a few Twins fans reacting favorably to Sherman’s suggested trade. Maybe it is an overpay, but I do know that Kepler would have greater value as the designated left fielder than Torres among what is now a glut of middle infielders with Oswald Peraza seemingly prepared to take over as the starting shortstop and the expected arrival of top prospect Anthony Volpe sometime during the 2023 Season. 

There are still two outfield targets in Arizona with Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy, although I am not sure how motivated the D-Backs are with the elimination of Daulton Varsho. 

Is this the year the Yankees finally give Estevan Florial an extended look? They might have no choice. Since Florial is out of options, the team must keep him on the MLB roster or trade him. If he hits the waiver wire, another team will take a chance on him. Florial has done nothing in his limited Major League appearances to suggest success even if he has put up decent numbers in the minors. It would be a letdown if he is the starting left fielder, but I would probably still prefer him over Aaron Hicks, a player I would like to see eliminated from next year’s roster.  So, I will not even propose Hicks in left field.  Hicks has simply overstayed his welcome in my eyes.

Free agent David Peralta is an option. The long-time Diamondback was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at last year’s trade deadline. Sadly, age (35) is not his friend. Much like IKF was the designated “stopgap” last season, Peralta would be this year’s version. 

Regardless of who fills the void in left, the Yankees either have a chance to field a dynamic outfield in combo with Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge or settle for the cheapest options. We may not have any answers until next month. Meanwhile, hoping for the best.

No Such Thing as a Bad Minor League Deal®

Infielder Wilmer Difo is the latest Minor League add with presumed Spring invite. Difo, 30, is a light hitting switch-hitter who spent the majority of 2022 in Triple A. He did manage to get into three games with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.  With experience at second base, shortstop, third base, and the outfield, he is presumed depth for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Who knows how long Anthony Volpe will be their starting shortstop? I hear he may be moving on (up) soon. 

Wilmer Difo (Photo Credit: David Calvert/Calvert Photography)

Difo can opt out of his contract on July 1st which it is presumed he will do unless the Yankees call him up at some point. One of those “things must have gone horribly bad if that player is starting” situations.

Maybe he becomes the latest Luis Sojo. Who knows…he has earned a chance to try.

Trevor Bauer is reinstated

An independent arbitrator reduced Trevor Bauer’s record 324-game suspension for violating MLB’s sexual assault and domestic abuse policy to time served or 194 games. Although Bauer continues to deny the allegations and has filed a lawsuit against the woman and her lawyer, I will take the ‘where there is smoke, there is fire’ approach. The arbitrator agreed with the offense, albeit with a reduction, and not elimination, of the sentence. In fairness to Bauer, he has never been charged with any crime.

The Dodgers were given fourteen days to reinstate or release Bauer. Had the original 324-game suspension held, it would have covered the duration of Bauer’s contract with the Dodgers. But with the reduction and considering the 50-games of docked pay, Bauer is owed $22.5 million for the 2023 season.

Trevor Bauer (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

If the Dodgers release Bauer, they will be responsible for the bulk of his contract. His new team would be responsible for the MLB minimum.  For the Dodgers, it is a no-win situation. They were trying to get under the luxury tax threshold this year in anticipation of Shohei Ohtani’s free agency next offseason. The addition of Bauer’s reduced salary brings the Dodgers payroll to $233 million, and they still need to make a few other moves to replace the guys they have lost this offseason. 

Although it is unclear if the Dodgers will release Bauer, I do not want him on the Yankees. I know the assault/abuse allegations have not been proven, but Bauer carries too much baggage. He had a rocky relationship with Gerrit Cole at UCLA although competitiveness may have been the root of their issues. Bauer brings controversy, I think he thrives in it. The Yankees have achieved strong clubhouse chemistry under the leadership of Cole, Anthony Rizzo, and newly anointed Captain Aaron Judge. I really would not want a potentially divisive influence to disrupt the harmony regardless of how talented Bauer may be. I lived through the days of the Bronx Zoo, and it was not fun.

Bauer has not pitched since mid-2021. He had signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers worth $105 million prior to the 2021 season. He will certainly improve the Dodgers’ rotation if they decide to retain him for the final year of his contract. Walker Buehler is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Julio Urias, Tony “The Cat Man” Gonsolin, and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw are returning. The Dodgers signed Noah Syndergaard this offseason. The tall Clint (Jackson) Frazier-looking Dustin May is expected to be knocking on the door for the rotation now that he has successfully returned from Tommy John surgery.  So, Bauer may be the odd man out even if he would be an upgrade for the Dodgers rotation. The Dodgers once reneged on a trade for Aroldis Chapman, then an elite closer, over domestic violence. I would be surprised if they do not follow the same path with Bauer.

Are the Yankees a better team with Nestor (and top prospects) in Pittsburgh and Bauer and Brian Reynolds in Pinstripes. Sure, in 2023, but be careful about what you ask for. 

Back-to-back Press Conferences

It is GREAT to see Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodón officially added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Even better to have press conferences on back-to-back days at Yankee Stadium. It was funny to see Judge put on the jersey over his street clothes given how many tremendous, amazing games he has delivered wearing the famed Pinstripes.

Listening to Judge, it was clear his heart was in New York which was music to my ears. I loved his ‘whole loaf’ comment when asked by Michael Kay about the breadcrumbs he left during last season to express his desire to remain a Yankee. 

I had thought prior to Judge’s presser that it would be cool if Yankees Legend Derek Jeter was there to pass the Captaincy to Judge. Sure enough, DJ had a seat at the table with Judge and his wife. It was a perfect setting for Hal Steinbrenner to deliver the news we all had expected…Aaron Judge will be the sixteenth Captain of your New York Yankees. An honor well-earned and well-deserved.

Aaron Judge Press Conference (Photo Credit: Dustin Satliff/Getty Images)

As for Carlos Rodón, it is going to take a minute to get used to his freshly clean-shaven face. He looks more like a corporate lawyer or securities trader from Manhattan than an elite Major League pitcher.  I liked the menacing look of his beard. Of course, I have long been in the camp that the Yankees should relax their facial hair policy to at least allow neatly groomed beards.  Nevertheless, the beard (or lack thereof) will have no adverse effect on Rodón’s ability to frustrate hitters. 

Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

I am excited to see Rodón pitch for the Yankees, and it is even better his first game will be at Yankee Stadium against the San Francisco Giants, the team he played for last year. He has a chance to beat both of his former teams (the Giants and the Chicago White Sox) in his first season. 

I was glad to see the Yankees give number 55 to Rodón. It was his number in Chicago. The Yankees website continues to show both Rodón and Domingo German with the number so German either must change or better yet, leave via trade. There are some good numbers available. 18, 24, 30 and 54 are a few that immediately come to mind. I have been curious if Oswaldo Cabrera (95) and Oswald Cabrera (91) stay with the high numbers or if they drop down. Cabrera seems to fit his current number. It says, ‘Go ahead, underestimate me…I dare you’. I hope Anthony Volpe gets assigned a good number since he will be wearing it for a very long time.

Return of the Pitching Coach

Not that we expected Pitching Coach Matt Blake to go anywhere, but his contract had expired after the season and there had been no announcement of an extension. Finally, this week it was reported that Blake has signed a three-year contract to return. I am glad to see it. Even though it never felt like he was leaving, it is much better to have him under contract rather than his continuation as an at-will employee who could depart at any time.  

Blake continues to be a refreshing choice as pitching coach. I do not miss the days of Larry Rothschild. Larry may be a wonderful guy who knows baseball, but he obviously was not the right guy for the Yankees despite his years as a pitching coach in the Major Leagues.  I was tired about the constant complaints about Larry when he was Yankees pitching coach (even if I agreed with them). It is nice to never hear complaints about Blake. The fans seem to have re-directed their ire towards Manager Aaron Boone. 

It remains to be seen if the Yankees replace assistant hitting coach Hensley Meulens who left to become the hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies. I think they will bring in another veteran (old school) hitting coach to pair with the analytics-driven assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes. I wish Jorge Posada would decide to get back into the game.

Happy Holidays to the Yankees Universe!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Charge On! With Carlos Rodón…


Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Yankees sign FA Top Lefty Starter…

The man was destined for Pinstripes. Although Gerrit Cole remains the staff ace, the Carlos Rodón signing has greater impact than Cole because of how much it helps the rest of the rotation, Cole included. Cole no longer must carry the weight of the World, and the other starters move down to the lesser pressurized three through five spots. You can argue that Nestor Cortes, Jr was the Yankees’ best starter last season, but there is a chance for regression. Nasty Nestor is exactly the guy I want as the third starter. Placing high expectations on him come Spring may have had an adverse effect. Now he can just be who he is, and I think he will excel.

No doubt the greatest beneficiary is Frankie Montas. He was unfairly labeled as a disappointment by the fan base, but we truly never saw the pitcher he was in Oakland and who he can be for health reasons. As the fifth starter, he is afforded the opportunity to reset expectations and I feel he will be better for it.  Signing Gerrit Cole was a must, and he filled a huge void, but Rodón helps everybody else and that is the difference maker. Plus, he is a damn good pitcher (much better than James Taillon or Jordan Montgomery, and, sorry, Masahiro Tanaka). 

I was fearful the Los Angeles Dodgers would lie in the weeds and swoop up to grab Rodón at the last minute, but they have been quiet this offseason (despite the acquisition of Noah Syndergaard). Whether it is the unknown for how much Trevor Bauer will cost them pending a Judge’s ruling or a payroll reset as the Dodgers prepare for a huge run at free agent-to-be Shohei Ohtani next offseason, it is good the Dodgers sat this one (Rodón signing) out. I am glad Uncle Steve was able to get Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, and Kodai Senga since it took the Mets out of play. Competition between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins for Rodón?  Yeah right, if the Yankees wanted their man (and they did), they were going to get him.

I am curious what number Rodón will wear with the Yankees. He wore 55 with the Chicago White Sox. When he signed with the San Francisco Giants last year, the Giants have not retired 55 but it has been held out of circulation since two-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum last wore it in 2015. So, Rodon chose 16. He will not get 16 with the Yankees since it is retired for the Chairman of the Board, the late Whitey Ford.  He has the money so he can certainly attempt to buy 55 from Domingo German or the Yankees can generously trade German, who has been bumped from the rotation, to free up the number. Granted, Rodón can just approve another number, but my preference is 55 because the number was so prominent on his back when he first made us notice how good he is.

Clarke Schmidt’s name comes up frequently as a potential trade candidate given the surplus starters, but I would prefer to see the exit of German who has not been one of my favorites. I like the thought of Schmidt as the long man in the bullpen, capable of spot starts if necessary. I think we may see Will Warren sometime in 2023. I get the idea that you can never have too many starters, but I do not think it is necessary to have both Schmidt and German on the roster.  There are other options available. 

Back to Rodón, I am happy he is a Yankee. He is the starter I wanted and felt the Yankees desperately needed. I watched his last 2022 start yesterday. It was on September 29th when he faced the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park in San Francisco. He was so efficient in that game, attacking the hitters. Nothing cute. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs over six innings. He struck out ten batters, or 50% of the guys he faced in the game. The Giants bullpen almost blew the game in the ninth, but they held on to win which improved Rodón’s record to 14-8. He finished the season with a 2.88 ERA. As an aside, the San Francisco TV announcers are so dang boring. It really makes me appreciate Michael Kay, Ryan Ruocco, David Cone, and the others at the YES Network plus John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. When the Giants announcers used the typical “Outta here!” call for a Giants home run, I could not help but think how boring Aaron Judge home runs would have been at Oracle Park if he had joined them (compared to the dramatic Yankee calls).  

I look forward to Spring Training in two months when Carlos Rodón takes the mound at the Yankees’ training facilities in Tampa. Even better when he makes his start against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium next April.  

Welcome to the New York Yankees, Carlos! We have been waiting for you.

Former Yankees in the news

I was disappointed yesterday when I heard the news that brief Yankee Andrew Benintendi had signed a five-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. I liked Benny, and I wanted him to return. If the fifth year was the deal-breaker for the Yankees, I have no problem with their decision to pass. There is some concern about how long it will take Benny to recover from the hamate bone removal. It was a risk I certainly would have taken, but there are other options. If the grumblings are true that Benny wanted to return to the Midwest (his home is in St Louis), then I get it. I personally would prefer playing for the Yankees over the White Sox but of course I am biased. 

Not sure where the Yankees go from here. Brian Reynolds is everybody’s favorite choice but despite his trade demand, there is no indication the Pittsburgh Pirates are motivated to trade him. If the only way to get Reynolds is to include Anthony Volpe in the deal, I would not want to see it. Not trying to prospect-hug, but Volpe is on the verge of becoming the best homegrown Yankee to debut since Aaron Judge. He is the future of the infield, whether it is shortstop or second base (where most expect him to move).  I like Jasson Dominguez, but he is a prospect I would consider in a deal for Reynolds, or any other Yankee prospect not named Volpe. 

Brian Reynolds (Photo Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

I am with the Yankees crowd that does not want Max Kepler in Pinstripes. A trade that would send, say, Domingo German and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to Minnesota is appealing, but I would prefer other left field options. Kepler is a right fielder so it would be a position switch, but the biggest issue is that he is just not a good hitter. The Yankees need a good contact hitter for the position. One of the Arizona outfielders (Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy) might make sense. I cannot say that I am excited about a guy like Michael Brantley (seems like it is a few years too late) but he could hold the position until one of the younger prospects is ready to take the role (I hate stopgaps!). Too bad the Red Sox overbid for Masataka Yoshida. He might have been a good option. Michael Conforto would be a good fit on a short-term deal. 

It is possible that GM Brian Cashman is working on a left fielder no one is talking about since that is what he likes to do. Until then, we can only speculate until Cashman surprises us. Hoping for a pleasant surprise before Spring Training opens.

Former Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo has found a new home. He is the latest ex-Yankee to join the Minnesota Twins. Gio Urshela (Angels), Jake Cave (Phillies) and Gary Sanchez (free agent, will not be re-signed due to Twins’ signing of Christian Vazquez) are no longer there, but I suspect Gallo will rebound at Target Field. The elimination of the shift should allow him to at least get back to being the .200 hitter he was in Texas. I wish him the best. We may not have enjoyed his production, or lack thereof, in New York, but there is no question the guy has an exemplary personality. I hope he is successful in Minneapolis. Well, except for their games against the Yankees. 

Former Yankees infielder Hoy Park, acquired this offseason by the Red Sox from the Pirates, is on the move again. After being designated for assignment by the Sox, Park has been traded to the Atlanta Braves where I am sure he will flourish enroute to Cooperstown (kidding, of course). Speaking of the Red Sox, they have designated both Jeter Downs and Eric Hosmer for assignment in the past week. With Jeter Downs, the Mookie Betts trade looks worse and worse by the day. I am glad to see the Jeter namesake will no longer be in Boston. His prospect shine has certainly dulled. Maybe he can recapture some of his promise elsewhere. Hosmer was basically free for Boston since the San Diego Padres pay his salary above minimum wage, but he was considered expendable to help clear the first base lane for Triston Casas. Hosmer has time to find a new home before Spring Training. Maybe he should go back to Kansas City since the Padres are paying. 

Minor League Contracts

As TGP’s Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal. The Yankees have certainly been active in this market.

Here are some of the signings according to the Yankees website (a few names I have never heard before).

RF Michael Hermosillo

RHP Mariano Salomon

3B Adrian Gonzalez

Niurby Asigen

RHP Michell Chirinos

RHP Dari Brito

SS Ovandy Frias

RHP Ryan Weber

LHP Tanner Tully

LHP Nick Ramirez

RHP James Norwood

DH Jake Bauers

RHP Zac Houston

RHP Demarcus Evans

C Rodolfo Durán

RHP Art Warren

LHP Lisandro Santos

2B Jamie Westbrook

I saw that minor league catcher Max McDowell left to join the Phillies, so I am glad to see Durán stayed to provide catching depth in the farm system. Always need those extra catchers in Spring Training.

Art Warren, the former Reds reliever, had elbow surgery last month so he will spend 2023 in rehab and preparation for the 2024 season. 

Norwood, a native New Yorker, is intriguing. 

James Norwood (Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

He is 28 and has not been successful in five seasons with the Cubs, Padres, and Phillies (he finished last season in the Red Sox organization). He fastball averages 97 mph and he is in the 90th percentile in the entire league according to Baseball Savant. If the Yankees can help him learn control and figure a few things out, he might be able to help. He is in the right organization if he is looking to become the best he can be. Same can be said for Zac Houston.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Aaron Judge is a Yankee...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Team’s best player chooses to remain in Pinstripes…

Yankees to Sign Aaron Judge

As totally and completely expected, Aaron Judge signed a new contract to play for America’s greatest baseball team. Yeah right. Although I believe there are those of you who never wavered in your confidence he would re-sign, I suspect more people were like me who had our moments of doubt.

Credit Judge for playing his free agency as great as a man who hit the American League single season home run record.  Clearly, at his age (nearly 31), Judge was at a disadvantage compared to guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado who cashed in while still in their late 20s. I remember reading an article a few years ago that said Judge would never get the ‘big money’ because of his age. Nine years and $360 million later, I say Judge is doing alright. He has the highest annual average value ($40 million) for a position player, helping to set a precedent for future players to achieve and exceed. No doubt the New York Department of Taxation and Finance loves that Judge, AAV leaders Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, plus Gerrit Cole, work in New York State. 

I was watching Twitter for news on Tuesday afternoon when MLB Insider Jon Heyman posted the now infamous “Arson Judge appears head to Giants” tweet.

My heart sunk. I literally saw life without Judge as a Yankee, and it was a gloomy thought. I think the release earlier in the day by Time Magazine naming Judge as the 2022 Athlete of the Year set us up for the harder fall. In the magazine article, Judge had predicted his future when he recalled a statement he had made in 2010, “I said, in 10 years, I’ll be married to Sam and playing for the San Francisco Giants.” Congrats to Judge for the recognition as Athlete of the Year, but the words in the magazine certainly detracted from the joy of the award.

Although Heyman’s tweet was retracted within minutes, Susan Slusser, the noted Giants beat reporter, continued to tweet that word on the street through insiders and team executives that Judge was, in fact, likely to sign with the Giants.

Later in the day, with reports that Judge was flying to San Diego, GM Brian Cashman claimed no knowledge of Judge’s trip during an interview on the YES Network. It struck me as odd at the time. In retrospect, Cash was telling the truth. Judge was traveling to Hawaii but had chosen to stop in San Diego to meet with the San Diego Padres for a few hours before resuming his flight to Hawaii to celebrate his first wedding anniversary with his lovely wife, Samantha.

Going to bed Tuesday night, I was very pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances to retain Judge. 

I never tried to look at Judge’s free agency as I would have in his shoes. A homegrown superstar with records as good or better than the legends of the organization, a fanbase that truly loves him, the chance to play his entire career for the most storied franchise in baseball history, the possible captaincy of the team, and so on. There are so many countless reasons to stay. But I do not know Judge personally. I do not know his personal ambitions and motivations. We know his professional ambitions…to be the best, a champion, and a tremendous supporter of his teammates. Yet personally, Judge holds everything close to the vest. We did not know how strong the pull to return home to California would be.

If you have ever been to San Francisco, it is a wonderful city with a beautiful ballpark. The city has a charm that few cities can match. The team has history with some of the greatest names to have ever played baseball. Hey, I love New York but I live in California. I get the attraction to the Golden State.  I believed it was possible that Judge could decide to play for his childhood team despite the overwhelming reasons to stay in New York.

When word had surfaced the Giants were offering nine years at $360 million while the Yankees were allegedly holding at eight years, there were rumors the Giants were prepared to go higher. The Giants were motivated to make Judge the centerpiece for their franchise, despite an earlier signing of former Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, another Northern Californian coming home.  True or not, the Padres were prepared to offer as much as $400 million over fourteen years.  There is some believability in what the Padres would offer given their pivot to lure free agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts from Boston for 11 years and $280 million. 

To Judge’s credit, and probably with a huge assist by Manager Aaron Boone who had called Judge on Tuesday night to let him know what he meant personally and professionally for Boone and the team, he called Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, who was vacationing in Italy. Not-so-shallow Hal asked Judge if he wanted to be a Yankee and what it would take. Judge conveyed his desire to remain in Pinstripes but needed the ninth year to match the Giants offer. Hal agreed, and Judge accepted. Despite being on the West Coast, I was awake early Wednesday morning when I saw Ken Rosenthal tweet that Judge had decided to stay with the Yankees. Huge relief!

Hold right there. At that point, Aaron Judge could have turned around and called the Giants and Padres and they would have sweetened their offers. He did not and this is where I have the most respect for Judge in how he handled these negotiations. People scream about the money but if the Yankees did not pay it, another team would have. Judge could have used the Yankees to leverage the other teams to commit to even greater dollars. I do not feel that Judge used the Giants or the Padres. I believe he and his wife legitimately listened to the conversations with the other organizations to gather as much information as they could in making the most critical financial decision/commitment of their lives. Once the Yankees met what he was seeking, Judge was satisfied and the decision to stay with the Yankees was made.

We routinely knock Hal Steinbrenner but without his personal involvement, I am not entirely sure we would have reached a favorable outcome. The Yankees cannot stop here, however, bringing back Judge was the biggest move the team had to make this year and they did it. I am confident the Yankees will find another starting pitcher, a left fielder and perhaps another bullpen arm. Today, I am happy and relieved Aaron Judge will be playing for the New York Yankees on Opening Day 2023 when they play the San Francisco Giants. I really did not want to see Judge trot out to right field in the bottom, rather than top, of the first inning. 

Welcome back, Aaron! All rise and celebrate!

Aaron Judge (Artwork by noted and brilliant American painter/illustrator Graig Kreindler)

Hot Stove continues to boil

It seemed like all the talking head insiders were touting Carlos Rodon to the Yankees this week. Nothing has materialized…yet…but I am hopeful the Yankees make this level of commitment. The years scare me (seven, if true). Rodon is only 30 so it is possible he can still be an effective pitcher at the end of his contract, health-permitting. As the best starting pitcher on the open market, he makes the most sense.

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Last offseason, the fan base was focused on Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. Granted, the Yankees got Montas at the trade deadline, but he was hurt and the drop-off from Castillo was huge. I really do not want to settle for the second, third or fourth options available. I want to see the Yankees sign the best free agent starting pitcher which is Rodon. The Miami Marlins are not trading NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, and their other pitchers are not as good as Rodon. The other free agent options, like Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Manaea are not as appealing either. I have even heard the names of Noah Syndergaard and Drew Smyly. No thank you.  Rodon or bust.

For some reason, the Carlos Correa rumors linking him to the Yankees have re-surfaced. I am not convinced the Yankees would add another $300+ million contract so Correa seems unlikely. I have not forgiven him for his role in the cheating scandal, but I would not be opposed to having him on the Yankees. He is a good player and I do believe everyone deserves a second chance. Correa has not committed any sins (that I am aware of) since the trash cans were drummed.  I think the major appeal of adding Correa or Dansby Swanson is to free up Oswald Peraza and/or Anthony Volpe for a trade to Pittsburgh as part of a deal to snag outfielder Brian Reynolds. Although I continue to believe Volpe needs more time in Triple A, he will be the Yankees’ second baseman by next summer if he is not traded. I am happy and content with the thought of Volpe at second and Peraza at shortstop if the Yankees can get the right guy for left field. Andrew Benintendi or Michael Conforto can be added without giving up prospects. They may not be as good as Reynolds, but they are better than your average outfielders. There is also an abundance of young outfielders in Arizona (the names of lefties Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy being the most frequently mentioned) available through trade.   

Brian Cashman must find a way to eliminate Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I think their departures are key to improving other areas of need. Not that they would bring anything in return, but the elimination of their contracts or at least most of the dollars involved would be huge.

It does seem like the longer rumors of the Carlos’s to the Yankees persist, the less likely they will happen.

If I had my preferences, sign Rodon and Benintendi, keep Volpe and Peraza, and eliminate Donaldson, Hicks, and IKF. There would still be room for other tweaks, but I would be content for Spring Training 2023 to open with the improved roster. Granted, this is probably not the outcome, but I am hopeful Team Cashman makes the right moves to take advantage of the best years of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole. 

Tommy Tightpants

I was pleased to see the free agent signing of former Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle has long been one of my favorite players. I liked him as a prospect, was saddened when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 draft, and excited when he was re-acquired in the 2017 trading deadline deal with the Chicago White Sox that brought him back to New York along with Todd Frazier and David Robertson. I understood it when the Yankees did not re-sign him after the 2020 season because of the Tommy John surgery. It was difficult to watch him pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season when he made his return from rehab. I did not think the Yankees would pursue him when he became a free agent after the season, but it was a delight when I saw that he had signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract with the team. 

Tommy Kahnle (Photo Credit:

I briefly thought it might be cool to also bring back David Robertson, but he signed with the crosstown Mets. Whatever happened between Robertson and the Yankees a few years ago with D-Rob’s role in cutting out certain guys from playoff shares, it seems like their differences are irreconcilable. Adam Ottavino anyone? I did not think so. 

It will be fun watching Tommy run around the bullpen again, in addition to his solid work on the mound, but I am hopeful the Yankees bring in at least one more solid reliever to match with the current crew. I am grateful Aroldis Chapman is no longer a Yankee. 

The Rule 5 Draft

Speaking of the Rule 5 Draft, it is always the worst moment of the Winter Meetings for me. The Yankees routinely get poached every year. Too much talent in the organization…a nice problem to have. The Red Sox seem to grab a Yankee every year. I guess they believe more in the Yankees farm system than their own.

In the Major League phase, the Yankees were not hit as hard as I thought they might be. The Cardinals selected 32-year-old RHP Wilking Rodriguez with the 25th selection in the first round, and the Mets took RHP Zack Greene. Both players, selected for $100,000, must stick on the Major League rosters for the entire season or be offered back to the Yankees for $50,000.

The Minor League phase is more painful. Players chosen are lost forever. The Minor League phase is anyone not protected on the big league or Triple A roster. The Yankees lost the following players:

  • Orioles (Rd 1): RHP Alfred Vega
  • Dodgers (Rd 1): RHP Yon Castro
  • D-Backs (Rd 2): RHP Denny Larrondo
  • Red Sox (Rd 2): RHP Ryan Miller
  • Rays (Rd 3): RHP Nelson Alvarez
  • Phillies (Rd 7): 2B Oliver Dunn

In Round 1 of the Minor League draft, the Yankees chose LHP Pablo Mujica from the Kansas City Royals. He was the Yankees’ only selection of the day. 

I do not know what their futures hold, but I was glad to see the Yankees retain C Josh Breaux, LHP Edgar Barclay, 3B Andres Chaparro, C Antonio Gomez, OF Ryder Green, RHP Matt Sauer, C Anthony Seigler, and SS Alexander Vargas. Who knows if any of these guys ever make it to the Majors, but I hope a few of them do.

As always, Go Yankees! 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Yankees and the MLB Winter Meetings...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill/Associated Press)

The Hot Stove is ready to boil over…

The Winter Meetings are upon us.

The 2022 MLB Meetings begin tomorrow, Sunday, December 4th, and run through Wednesday, December 7th. I guess it is a reminder to us that Winter is also here even if it technically does not start until December 21st. All eyes and ears will be on San Diego, California for the next few days. 

If last night’s announcement that the Texas Rangers had signed Jacob deGrom to an insane contract is any indication, it should be a furious and bumpy road ahead. As much as I respect deGrom, I am glad the Yankees did not invest five years and $185 million in a 34-year-old pitcher who has not pitched over 100 innings since the 2019 season. Sure, when deGrom is healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. It is the “healthy” part that concerns me. Pay a pitcher an average annual value of $37 million, only to see like a guy such as Domingo German make most of his starts. I hope deGrom stays healthy and has a productive five years in Texas. It is just not a bet that I would want to make, and I am glad the Yankees did not either. Justin Verlander would be nice but bring me Carlos Rodon and I will be quite happy. 

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Thearon W Henderson/Getty Images)

To the Mets’ credit, their reported offer of three years for $120 million was extremely fair. So was the unsuccessful $175 million the Yankees offered Robinson Cano nine years ago. Sometimes other teams are more desperate. Oh well, life goes on. The desperation of other teams is probably what concerns me most about the current state of negotiations between the Yankees and Aaron Judge. How desperate are the San Francisco Giants to bring one of the biggest names in baseball, a high-profile Northern California native to the Bay Area? I suppose we shall soon find out.

My biggest frustration with the Judge situation is the Yankees could have avoided this. They had an opportunity to sign Judge to an extension prior to the season and chose to lowball him. Of course, that was before one of the most historic player seasons in Yankees history, but it seems that the two sides could have found common ground if they had tried. It has been reported that Hal Steinbrenner is willing to pursue Judge more aggressively than general manager Brian Cashman. If true, Steinbrenner should have gotten involved earlier to avoid Judge’s free agency. I find it hard to believe that Cashman would not be as aggressive as Steinbrenner wants him to be. If anything, the general manager should be more aggressive to push the owner’s comfort zone. 

While I respect Aaron Judge and his right to actively market his services to all teams, it is a complicated process for fans. One moment, the player is free to sign anywhere including the desired return to Pinstripes, but then the harsh, cold, and final words appear on MLB Trade Rumors…“Giants To Sign Aaron Judge”. I remain hopeful the Yankees bring back their brilliant right fielder. Honestly, it is hard to find solace in the experts who say that Judge will return to New York. No one knows what Aaron Judge is thinking or what his motivations may be for his next contract beyond the dollars. The truth is the Giants, or the Los Angeles Dodgers could win this lottery before it is over. We know one thing with absolute certainty, Aaron Judge will be a very rich man wherever he may go. 

Player Moves

The Yankees lost a bullpen member when free agent Miguel Castro signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a guaranteed $3.5 million. There is a $5 million vesting option for 2024 if Castro makes at least 60 appearances next season and passes a physical at the end of the year. Good for him. I did not really expect the Yankees to bring Castro back although I did appreciate his work when he was healthy. 

The guy the Yankees traded to acquire Castro last Spring, Joely Rodriguez, was recently signed by the Boston Red Sox. 

The Yankees need bullpen help and I would like to see a reunion with Zack Britton. Even if the Yankees were to sign Britton, he should not be the only answer. 

Zack Britton (Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams Jr/Newsday)

It will be interesting to see if the Yankees sign any ‘name’ relievers or if they go the ‘build your own’ route with signings or trades for under the radar guys like the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees trust their development team and feel they can help transform guys into better versions of themselves like they did with Clay Holmes. 

The price of proven relievers will not be cheap as evidenced by the two-year, $17.5 million contract signed by 37-year-old reliever, and ex-Yankee, Chris Martin with the Boston Red Sox.

The offseason rumor mill has been full of ‘Gleyber Torres to the Seattle Mariners’ talk, however, the Mariners are no longer in the market with their acquisition of second baseman Kolten Wong from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Jesse Winker (an oft rumored Yankee target) and infielder Abraham Toro.

I personally do not feel the Yankees should trade Torres. At least not yet. There is a chance, a strong one, that DJ LeMahieu may not be ready at the start of the season, and I firmly believe Anthony Volpe needs more time at Triple A before he is ready to ascend to the Majors. He will be a major star, but the Yankees need to handle him right (as they have to this point). I have already penciled in Oswald Peraza as the starting shortstop (hoping manager Aaron Boone feels the same). Oswaldo Cabrera’s greatest asset is his ability to play multiple positions so I would not want to lock him into one position. Gleyber Torres is the Yankees’ starting second baseman…until he is not. 

The three guys I want to see on the transaction wire are the obvious candidates. Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. If the Yankees could eliminate one, great; two, better; or all three, Yippee Ki-Yay M-Fers!

Despite teams making moves, the Yankees have been eerily quiet since November 18th when they signed Junior Fernandez. It seems they will be big participants this week, but then again, there have been years when I thought they would be active, and they were not. I know with certainty that the current roster cannot beat Jose Abreu and the Houston Astros and would have difficulty against their stronger AL East rivals. The Yankees need Judge and MORE…

Donnie Baseball behind Enemy Lines

As a longtime Don Mattingly fan, it was difficult to see him join the Toronto Blue Jays as their new bench coach. I know, for him it is a paycheck. It is his right to stay in a coaching position versus a role in a TV booth. I wanted him to join the YES Network and would have preferred that outcome as opposed to his upcoming stint north of the border, but I cannot fault him for his decision. 

I think as a fan, there is a preference that our heroes avoid going to our bitter rivals. Unfortunately, it did not stop David Wells or David Cone from pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Players and coaches view the game differently than we do. For them, it truly is a business.

It will be uneasy to watch Mattingly come into Yankee Stadium wearing a Blue Jays uniform, actively trying to help his players find ways to beat the Yankees while Monument Park holds his name and number.  I guess the solace is managers and coaches are hired to be fired. Until then, we must deal with Mattingly the Blue Jay. While I appreciate Mattingly, the player, Mattingly the coach is now just another coach I want to see fail. It was better when he was in the National League, and we rarely saw him in an opposing dugout.

I would have preferred the Yankees to hire Mattingly as their bench coach and reassign Carlos Mendoza to a different role. I suppose that would have been too uncomfortable for Aaron Boone. The hard truth, for as much as I have respected Mattingly, he has not really enjoyed great success in coaching. He was a better player than coach. He can be better (we all can), but I just hope it does not happen while he is in Toronto. 

Farewell to Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry passed away Thursday at age 84.

Most fans today do not remember when Perry was a Yankee. He pitched in the Major Leagues for eight teams from 1962 through 1983, compiling 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts. The five-time 20-game winner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. 

I probably remember Perry most as a Texas Ranger where he pitched in the mid-70s. My family made annual treks to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to visit relatives for summer vacations, and I distinctly remember buying Slurpee’s at 7-Eleven convenience stores in Arlington, Texas with Ranger player-themed cups and adding Gaylord Perry to my cup collection. No idea where those cups are today, but the point is the childhood memory. 

Perry’s time in Pinstripes was short. He was acquired for the stretch run in August 1980 from the Rangers before departing that winter through free agency. He pitched in ten games, making eight starts for the Yankees at age 41. He did not appear in the 1980 American League Championship Series when the 103-win Yankees were swept by the Kansas City Royals. Overall, his time as a Yankee was forgettable but it does not detract from the greatness of the player or the man over the span of his career and life.

(Photo Credit: Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Rest in peace, Gaylord. May some spit ease your way into Heaven. 

As always, Go Yankees!