Saturday, January 7, 2023

Have Rings, Will Travel...


Brian Sabean (Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees hire former Giants GM Brian Sabean as executive advisor…

With the big front office additions of Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya, my first thought was ‘where is the senior advisor for Manager Aaron Boone?’ Oh well, I guess we cannot have everything in life.

When the news broke the Yankees had hired former San Francisco Giants executive Brian Sabean, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. I remember when he worked for the Yankees and was disappointed when he left the team in 1993 to join the San Francisco Giants. The feeling was not much unlike how I felt when former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin left my favorite NFL team to join the Pittsburgh Steelers as their head coach. It was clear when these guys were leaving, an excessive abundance of talent was walking out of the door.  It shows we can become attached to front office executives and coaches the same way as we do our teams’ players. Especially when they are good, extremely good, at their jobs.

Sabean, 66, becomes executive advisor to GM Brian Cashman. Sabean originally joined the Yankees in 1985, working in pro scouting. His rise to director of scouting and later vice president of player development was successful in helping to build the groundwork for the late 1990s Yankees dynasty through the drafting of Bernie Williams and the Core Four (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte).

Sabean left the Yankees in 1993 to join the Giants as assistant to the GM and vice president of scouting/player personnel. He became senior vice president of player personnel in 1995. In 1996, Sabean was promoted to general manager, a position he held for nineteen years. Under his watch, the Giants won World Series championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. After 2015, Sabean moved up to executive vice president of baseball operations. The Giants hired former Athletics/Dodgers executive Farhan Zaidi in 2018 as president of baseball operations and Sabean was moved an executive vice president position, focusing on strategic initiatives and evaluation. 

Sabean’s role became less significant as the years went by, and seeking a job with greater importance, he let his contract with the Giants expire on October 31st. I was pleased that Sabean reached out to the Yankees, even if the East Coast was as much of an influence as the Yankees, to motivate the call. For personal reasons, Sabean wanted to be closer to family and will work from the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa, Florida. Regardless of the reasons, I am glad he is back in the organization. It will be fun to watch how his role evolves as he gains greater influence in the front office. For the naysayers of Brian Cashman, Brian Sabean is a brilliant hire, which, in my opinion, helps Cashman immensely. 

Gene Michael may be deceased, but his influence over Sabean lives on. Stick was a good, sorry, great teacher, and as they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. 

In October, if you had told me that Aaron Judge would be playing for a team in 2023 that employs Brian Sabean, I would have been quite disappointed. Three months later, it is a beautiful thing. 

Yanks Add Omar Minaya

My excitement about Omar Minaya may not be on the same level as it is for Brian Sabean, but I think the addition is just as significant. Minaya was not successful as general manager for the New York Mets (at least in my opinion), but let’s get real, his bosses were the Wilpons. I am not going to crucify Minaya, who grew up in Queens, for working with one of the worst ownership groups in recent memory. 

The Yankees hired Minaya, 64, as senior advisor to baseball operations. Like Sabean, Minaya will report directly to Brian Cashman. The former Montreal Expos and New York Mets general manager most recently served Major League Baseball as a consultant for amateur scouting initiatives, a position he had held since last February. When he was named Montreal’s GM in 2002, he became the first Hispanic to hold the general manager position in Major League Baseball.

It was interesting that Minaya mentioned a failed trade in 2018 that would have sent then Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Bronx and his role in nixing the trade. Too bad they were not able to work that one out. I have always liked Wheeler and he has only gotten better with the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Minaya has over thirty years’ experience in scouting and baseball operations. In addition to his time with the Expos and Mets, he has worked for the Texas Rangers and the San Diego Padres plus several stints with MLB.

Willie Randolph has been around the Yankees more frequently the last couple of years, including an appearance at Aaron Judge’s recent press conference. Minaya was the Mets GM who fired Randolph as the team’s manager in 2008, a move that has been heavily criticized for how it was handled. Hopefully the years have mended any potential rifts between the two men. I am hopeful Minaya’s presence does not keep Willie away. 

Omar Minaya & Willie Randolph (Photo Credit: Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Presumably, Minaya will be New York-based. He worked remotely from his home in New Jersey for the Mets. Hopefully there will be no Jason Bay-like acquisitions in our future.

I like the blend of old school baseball knowledge with modern analytics. The Yankees continue to improve in every area of the organization, and it can only help to enhance the product on the field. Now, if we could only find a quality left fielder.

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

No player news for the Yankees this week despite the endless search for a new left fielder by the Yankees’ fanbase.

Multiple teams have expressed interest in coveted outfielder Brian Reynolds. The Pirates continue to ask for a King’s Ransom for Reynolds. Although Reynolds has demanded a trade, baseball experts continue to speculate that the Pirates will not trade him before the season starts. Their lowball contract extension offers to Reynolds do not inspire confidence they will be able to retain him, so it seems like the best course of action for the Pirates is to trade him if they truly want to improve their club for the long-term. 

I have given up hope the Yankees will acquire him. I am tired of seeing the endless tweets about him. If it happens, it happens. If not, c’est la vie. 

My fear is the Yankees open the season with Aaron Hicks slotted for left field. Yet, I hold out hope something will change between now and Spring Training. The Yankees paid heavily for both Harrison Bader and Andrew Benintendi last year because of the lack of confidence in Hicks. Nothing has changed in my mind. Hicks does not inspire confidence anymore, and he continues a downward trend without hope for improvement. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Aaron Hicks to the Injured List. Best case scenario is his removal from the roster, one way or another.  I am not going to crucify the front office…yet. They know the team’s weaknesses better than any of us, and they just hired two high-powered executives who can get the job done. I will reserve judgment for the Yankees’ offseason success until the team prepares to depart Tampa for Yankee Stadium in late March.  Bottom line, there is still time to improve.

The Yankees did lose one player this week. Reliever Junior Fernández, who had been designated for assignment in December, was claimed by the division rival Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees had claimed Fernández in November from the Pirates, and he had appeared to be a potential reclamation project. Unfortunately, the Yankees needed roster space for Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodón, and Tommy Kahnle. Hopefully Fernández does not find success in Toronto, assuming he stays on their 40-man roster this offseason, at least not against the Yankees. 

When the Arizona Diamondbacks designated pitcher Taylor Widener, a former Yankees prospect, for assignment recently, I thought the Yankees might take a flyer to see if they can fix the once promising player. Widener cleared waivers and was sent outright to Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno, Nevada.

The Yankees did add a few outfielders on minor league deals last month. Former Dodgers/Rangers prospect Willie Calhoun gets an invitation to Spring Training. He spent last season in the Giants organization. No doubt Brian Sabean has an opinion about him. Former Yankees prospect Billy McKinney also returns to the organization although he seems more like Triple A depth. Former Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega also gets the spring invitation. Calhoun might be the biggest name; Ortega appears to be the most promising…at least as a fourth outfielder type. 

Rafael Ortega (Photo Credit: USA TODAY)

Trevor Bauer is free

The Los Angeles Dodgers released a statement yesterday that Bauer will no longer be part of their organization. The Bauer camp issued a conflicting statement that he had been told he was in the team’s plans which the club has refuted.

Any team can now sign Bauer for the Major League minimum of $720,000 and the Dodgers are on the hook for the balance of his 2023 contract. He is due approximately $22.5 million in the final year of his deal with the Dodgers.

My position is unchanged. I do not want Trevor Bauer on the New York Yankees. I do not care that you can get the pitcher for pennies on the dollar. He is not a good clubhouse fit, and I firmly believe in team chemistry. I am sure the Dodgers did not make their decision lightly. By cutting Bauer, they run the risk he takes his arm to San Diego to battle against them.

There are rumors he could end up with the Tampa Bay Rays. His price (minimum wage) is certainly within their budget.  So be it. Let him be their problem, not ours. 

I get that he was never convicted, but he did receive baseball’s longest suspension. Character matters, and Bauer is the wrong kind of character. 

Carlos Correa, anyone?

As negotiations continue between the Mets and Carlos Correa, his old team, the Minnesota Twins, have entered the fray, perhaps with the thought they can secure the return of their starting shortstop for another short term, high annual value contract. With two teams taking exception to giving Correa an extended contract after reviewing the medicals, I certainly would not want to see the Yankees throw a seven- or eight-year contract at him. 

Carlos Correa (Photo Credit: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

Yet, if you can get him for one or two years, why not? It is only money. I doubt the Yankees do it since it would inflate their already high payroll. It is frustrating that so much salary is dedicated to underperformers like Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. Six million dollars for Isiah Kiner-Falefa also seems unreasonable for a guy who should not be starting on our favorite team. I would love for the Yankees to clear salary space to bring in Correa on a short-term deal. If the Twins can do it, so can the Yankees. Last year, the Twins were able to add Correa because they were able to move Donaldson. Maybe Brian Cashman can find sucker for Donaldson like the Twins did last year. 

Damar Hamlin

Continued thoughts and prayers to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin for a full recovery. The World is a better place with you in it.

Damar Hamlin (Photo Credit: Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY Sports)

As always, Go Yankees!