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!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)