Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Return of the Yankees...


Gerrit Cole (Photo Credit: David J Phillip/AP)

Spring Training is underway…

Pitchers and catchers have reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, and the baseball fields at the facility have been buzzing with activity…unlike the Yankees’ Front Office. It is good to see old faces, not literally, like Gerrit Cole, and the new ones (with mustaches) like Carlos Rodón.

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

The talk of the first week centered on Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas. Manager Aaron Boone announced that Montas will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder next week (February 21) and is expected to miss much of the 2023 season.

Montas has proven to be GM Brian Cashman’s latest trade folly with the Oakland A’s. Last summer, most Yankees fans wanted Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo but the price tag proved too high for the talented pitcher who was subsequently dealt to Seattle. The next best pitcher on the market was Montas, but there were known concerns about the shoulder which had caused Montas to miss a start in the month preceding his trade to the Yankees last summer. 

This is not a case of ‘I told you so’. Despite the high cost (prospects Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina, and Cooper Bowman), I openly embraced the Montas trade. Many Yankees fans were excited at the time. Unfortunately, the shoulder concerns proved more substantive, and we never saw the best of Montas; now, he may never don the pinstripes again if he cannot make it back this season. Montas is a free agent at the end of the year.

There should be a “Lemon Law” when it comes to trades with Oakland’s Billy Beane. Or maybe the next time Brian Cashman sees Beane calling, he should just hit the decline button.  As it stands today, I would prefer to have Waldichuk over Montas but c’est la vie.

With the fifth starter role up for grabs, Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt are the two obvious favorites. German is the likely choice if for no other reason than Schmidt can be optioned to Triple-A. Now 27 years of age, the time is now for Schmidt’s breakout season. He has the talent, and the stars are aligned in his favor if he can show he is more deserving to start than German.  A strong Spring may not be enough to land a spot in the rotation, but Schmidt will have opportunities. Hopefully, he makes the most of them. 

At the start of the week, former Boston pitcher Michael Wacha was the best available free agent. He has since signed with the San Diego Padres. The Yankees were never connected to him, but he would have been a nice pickup for the back of the rotation.

The Padres also made a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing of Cole Hamels this week. Who knows what Hamels has left yet it would have been a nice option to try. The albatross of Josh Donaldson’s contract seemingly prevents the Yankees from making the little moves to better the team. Is German so good that all other options should be ignored? Um, not really. If Ryan Weber is starting games in-season, the Yankees’ lack of planning will be on full display.     

On the bright side, Nestor Cortes Jr is recovering nicely from his Grade 2 hamstring strain. There is optimism that he will be on the Opening Day roster. 

Nestor Cortes Jr (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

The Yankees will be making moves at some point in the coming days. With Montas sidelined for much of the season, the Yankees have three guys eligible for the 60-day Injured List. Montas, Scott Effross, and Luis Gil. Those are three valuable roster spots that could go for upgrades. If Cashman is penny-pinching, the three spots will create opportunities for a few of the non-roster invitees (none of whom move the needle in the ongoing attempt to catch the Houston Astros). Or he can make moves to improve the team. Hoping for the best (a trade or two to enhance the current roster) but prepared for the worst (the status quo with guys in camp).

Position players report on Monday so next week will bring more activity. The first Spring game is one week from today against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida. 

Woohoo! Yankees Baseball is back, baby!

The Manny Machado Sweepstakes

Here we go again…

Manny Machado has announced that he will opt out of his contract with the San Diego Padres after the season (he has five years and $150 million left).  A couple of months younger than Aaron Judge, Machado has a chance to sign his second $300+ million contract.

I wanted Machado last time he was a free agent, and I am sure I will want him again. Eventually, the Yankees will move on from Josh Donaldson (sooner if I had my way) and DJ LeMahieu is not getting any younger. The Yankees will need a third baseman. The Yankees will probably pass on Machado as they did with the elite free agent shortstops the past two off-seasons. The more likely scenario seems to be the development of prospect Trey Sweeney or maybe one of Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe moves there if the Yankees retain Gleyber Torres.

I would be excited to see Machado in pinstripes, but realistically, it will never happen. If he does not re-sign with the Padres, the more probable landing spot is a move to Queens.  Steve Cohen thought he had his third baseman of the future with Carlos Correa until he saw Correa’s ugly ankle. He will most assuredly be all-in for Manager Buck Showalter’s former star player with the Baltimore Orioles to fill the third base need, especially if the Mets underperform this season. 

Left Field Vacancy

Starting to see more articles written about Giancarlo Stanton playing the outfield. I am not buying it. Stanton is a full-time designated hitter. A fragile player like him is not going to be less of an injury risk as he ages. Maybe he starts a handful of games in the outfield, but nothing more. If he is routinely playing the field, the Yankees are playing Russian Roulette with him. 

Giancarlo Stanton (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP)

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers were two teams seeking left field help like the Yankees. The Dodgers signed free agent David Peralta, while the Rangers inked Robbie Grossman. The Yankees were not in on either player. Jurickson Profar remains a free agent, yet it seems unlikely the Yankees will commit any dollars to him unless they can offload some onerous contracts. 

Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial, Oswaldo Cabrera, Willie Calhoun, and Rafael Ortega. Sadly, they seem to be the pool that will compete for the starting gig. No needle movers in this group. Cabrera’s needle-moving ability is his versatility, not planted in left field.

All I wanted for left field entering the off-season was to re-sign Andrew Benintendi. There were better options, however, Benny was a nice fit.  I honestly believed the Yankees would do at least as well as someone like Benintendi for left field. I never dreamed that they would do nothing.  The Yankees had to bring back Aaron Judge and the Carlos Rodón signing was huge, but the inability to fix left field leaves me very underwhelmed about this past off-season. The Yankees have unsuccessfully tried Joey Gallo and Benintendi over the past two years, at the cost of multiple quality prospects, and here we are back at the starting point with a left fielder who clearly needs to be replaced. 

Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, and Spencer Jones offer hope for the future, yet they are still a few years away. Impatiently waiting for guys who are not ready. 

The clock is ticking. Brian Cashman has time to fix left field before Opening Day. The only question is will he?

Derek Jeter lands new job

It is bittersweet to see Derek Jeter hired as a new analyst for Fox’s MLB studio show lineup that features Alex Rodriguez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz. 

Curt Menefee, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Michael Strahan

I have enjoyed seeing Jeter in the public eye after his short stint as a minority owner of the Miami Marlins and its chief executive. It seemed he was doing more with the Yankees lately, and selfishly I wanted Jeter as part of the YES Network lineup.

No doubt Fox offers the bigger stage, and, as we know, Jeter performs best when the spotlight burns the brightest. I honestly did not think Jeter would take a job that paired him with Alex Rodriguez. Money talks and the “rivalry” between A-Rod and The Captain continues. 

Oh well, it will be fun to listen to Jeter during Fox telecasts, and it beats the playful bantering between Rodriguez and Ortiz. Hopefully one day Jeter can take a higher-profile role with the Yankees.

Don Mattingly, the Villain

As a long-time fan of Donald Arthur Mattingly, the first images of the new Toronto Blue Jays bench coach are a bit jarring.

I know…everybody needs a paycheck. I wish he was still in some National League city or out west rather than taking a key role with an American League East rival. I guess it would have been worse had he gone to Boston as if Toronto is not bad enough. 

He is wearing his famed #23 with the Blue Jays which adds salt to the wound. Mattingly wore 8 in Los Angeles and Miami as a tribute to Yogi Berra. It would have been my preference for his new job; however, Cavan Biggio wears 8 with the Blue Jays. 

I like Mattingly, but it is hard to not let his current role influence how I view him. He is just a coach on another team trying to beat the Yankees. I want him to lose. My desire is his eventual firing by the Blue Jays. Maybe I can re-embrace him as a favorite when his Blue Jays career is over. I certainly felt better about Derek Jeter after he left the Marlins. 

I am not going to wish Mattingly well in Toronto. There is nothing about the Toronto Blue Jays that I want to cheer for…except when they lose. 

Life will be good if the Yankees can stay a step ahead of the Blue Jays.

As always, Go Yankees!