Saturday, November 18, 2023

Yankees Clearing Roster Space...


Jake Bauers (Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/NY Post)

Wanted: Quality Major League Players…

The Yankees made a trade on Friday even if it was not the one everyone had been waiting for.

First baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers, who was not expected to be part of next year’s club (at least not by the fans), was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for two prospects.  Something is better than nothing. The two prospects are minor league outfielders Jace Avina and Brian Sánchez. Avina, 20, is the higher-rated prospect (appearing twenty-ninth on the Brewers’ top 30 prospects according to He was drafted by the Brewers in the 14th round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft. 

Jace Avina (Photo Credit: Carolina Mudcats)

A left-fielder, Avina is 5’11” and 180 lbs. The Nevada native is right-handed and spent 2023 in Single-A.  He had 22 doubles, 14 home runs, 50 runs batted in, 56 walks, and 10 stolen bases but he also had 118 strikeouts in 326 at-bats (399 plate appearances).  He hit .233/.373/.442, with .815 OPS.  Despite his slow start in Single-A, he was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Month in August. If he is unable to cut down the strikeouts, he will not advance far in the Yankees organization, but if he can, he might be a diamond in the rough. I am okay with lottery tickets for players like Bauers. 

The nineteen-year-old Sánchez, also a left-fielder, signed with the Brewers as an undrafted free agent in February 2023.  The Venezuelan native is 6’3”, 170 lbs. He is a lefty bat and throws right-handed. Playing 33 games for the DSL Brewers 1 (Rookie League), Sánchez batted .297/.414/.446 (.860 OPS). He was 30-for-101, with 7 doubles, 19 RBIs, and 20 walks. He stole 8 bags. 

Bauers had some nice moments as a Yankee, but he is who he is…replaceable.  I had expected the Yankees to release him at some point, so getting a couple of lower-level prospects was a better-than-expected outcome. I wish Bauers the best in Milwaukee. He will get to play for a respected veteran professional/collegiate manager with the new Brewers’ manager Pat Murphy. The team and city are adjusting to being jilted by former manager Craig Counsell, who departed for the “greener” pastures with the Chicago Cubs, and a chunk out of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ wallet.   

With the Bauers trade, the Yankees’ 40-man roster was reduced to 39 players. On Friday, the Yankees made several other moves that further reduced the roster to 36 players when they non-tendered RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Lou Trivino, and LHP Anthony Misiewicz. No surprises here. For Abreu, his departure has been overdue. Abreu, Trivino, and Misiewicz are now free agents. Goodbye, and please do not let the door hit you on the way out.

The players who were tendered contracts are 2B Gleyber Torres, RHP Clay Holmes, RHP Jonathan Loáisiga, RHP Michael King, RHP Clarke Schmidt, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr, C Jose Trevino, and C Kyle Higashioka. If there is one of these players that I thought could be non-tendered, it is Higgy. With six catchers currently on the 40-man roster, it seems a given that a few catchers will be moved. I expect Higgy to be one. The early forecast shows Trevino and Austin Wells as the catching tandem for the upcoming season. The Yankees will need to choose who will represent the minor league depth. The other catchers on the 40-man roster, besides Higgy, are Carlos Narvaez, Agustin Ramirez, and Ben Rortvedt. It seems like at least two of these four catchers will find themselves in new homes by next season. 

Other Moves

I was surprised to see the Milwaukee Brewers non-tendered RHP Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff is expected to miss the 2024 season after shoulder surgery. Woodruff only made two starts in 2023 before he was shut down with shoulder tightness. He ended up missing the rest of the season and had surgery last month to repair a sub-scapular strain in his throwing shoulder. I get Milwaukee’s financial constraints and if he had been healthy, Woodruff was expected to make $11.6 million in salary arbitration. Woodruff made $10.8 million this past season. As much as I would like to see the Yankees offer him a two-year contract with an eye toward his return in 2025, there will be competition. Honestly, it would not surprise me if the Chicago Cubs and Woodruff’s former manager were successful in snagging him. Woodruff will be 32 when the 2025 season opens. He is a chance worth taking even if there are durability concerns. Signing Woodruff seems like a better option (higher potential reward) than re-signing Frankie Montas even if the latter will be ready to pitch in 2024.

Brandon Woodruff (Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Colorado Rockies were the successful team in acquiring RHP Cal Quantrill from the Cleveland Guardians (who had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week). A talented but struggling pitcher going to the Mile High City…what could go wrong? I did think the Yankees might try to make a play for Quantrill. It would have been interesting to see if Matt Blake and Sam Briend could help Quantrill recapture his potential. Given the Rockies were able to grab Quantrill for a low-level minor-league catcher, it seems like the Yankees could have done better without much effort.

Among former Yankees, Mike Ford was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners. His departure from Seattle was expected when he was designated for assignment earlier this week, but the non-tender cuts the veteran first baseman free.  Best of luck to him with his next opportunity. He keeps bouncing to and from the Mariners so it would not surprise me to see him sign a minor league contract with Seattle. 

Miguel Andujar signed a one-year deal with the Oakland/Las Vegas A’s. The A’s had claimed Andujar on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month. Good for Miggy. He gets $1.7 million for 2024 and will head to the Arizona desert for Spring Training for the first time in his career. Hopefully, Miggy has better luck with the A’s than the City of Oakland has in recent years. 

The Cincinnati Reds have non-tendered reliever Reiver Sanmartin. The 27-year-old lefty appeared in only 14 games for the Reds this season, pitching to an unsightly 7.07 ERA by giving up 11 earned runs in 14 innings of work (13 runs overall). Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers, Sanmartin was in the Yankees organization from November 2017 to January 2019. The only reason I mention his name is he was the other player sent to the Reds in the Sonny Gray trade. I guess his post-Yankees career has not gone as successful as Sonny, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award this season.   

For moves NOT made, I have no interest in Boston’s Alex Verdugo or Tampa’s Manuel Margot, the most recent rumored trade targets. Even if Verdugo could help the Yankees, it is not worth helping the Red Sox improve. Sending Gleyber Torres to Boston for Verdugo makes no sense to me as Gleyber is the better player. Margot may be talented, but he seems to be a regular on his team’s Injured List and the Yankees have had too many of those kinds of guys in recent years. I am not sure where these rumors come from. The Yankees tend to be a tight-lipped organization, and there is no benefit to the team by spreading those rumors. For a team looking to reinvigorate the fan base and restore their confidence in the team’s direction, leaking the potential for unpopular trades is not exactly a recipe for success.

MLB insider Hector Gómez is reporting the Los Angeles Dodgers will not only be very aggressive in their pursuit of 2023 AL Most Valuable Player, free agent Shohei Ohtani, but they will also be pursuing a trade for Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout scares me a little with his recent injury history, but when healthy, he remains one of the best in the game. No doubt the Dodgers would have more success with Ohtani and Trout in their lineup than the Angels did with their ability to surround the duo with much better players.  I am old enough to remember when the Yankees were the most aggressive big-market team. They have been supplanted by the Dodgers and the New York Mets.  Whatever it takes to distract the Dodgers from signing Japanese RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Speaking of Yamamoto, he is expected to be posted on Monday, and his 45-day negotiating period will begin on Tuesday. With so many teams interested in Yamamoto, it will be interesting to see how aggressive the Yankees will be in their pursuit. I guess we will soon find out if Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is ‘in it to win it’. Signing Yamamoto and acquiring Juan Soto in the same offseason would be huge for the Yankees. The additions would go a long way toward protecting the best years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge and reopening the team’s championship window.   

American League Cy Young Award Winner

Congratulations to Gerrit Cole for his unanimous selection as the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner. Not sure why Sonny Gray’s name kept popping up as a potential surprise winner given Cole had the more dominant season, but in the end, it was Cole as it should have been. 

Gerrit Cole (Photo/Text Credit: NY Post)

Cole becomes the sixth Yankees pitcher to win the award and the first Yankee since Roger Clemens in 2001. The other winners are Bob Turley (1958), Whitey “The Chairman of the Board” Ford (1961), Sparky Lyle (1977), and Ron “Gator” Guidry (1978).

Cole, 32, was 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA. In 209 innings pitched, he struck out 222 batters while walking only 48 batters. After giving up 33 home runs in 2022, Cole reduced the total to 20 homers this season. Admittedly, it is hard to get excited about individual awards in a team-oriented sport, but I am happy for Cole. He met fans’ expectations this season and proved Hal Steinbrenner was right in his decision to sign Cole. Hopefully, the next award Cole wins is a World Series trophy.    

He Said, She Said

There was too much drama with General Manager Brian Cashman and Giancarlo Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe this week.

Cashman recently said that injuries seem to be part of Stanton’s game. He is 100% correct, but the words triggered a response from Stanton’s agent.  In a released statement, Wolfe said: “I read the context of the entire interview. I think it’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically because you can never let your guard down even in the offseason.” The words had implied ramifications since Wolfe also represents impending Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto. 

Wolfe has not retracted his statement, but Cashman subsequently stated that he and Wolfe have spoken to clear the air. Anyone who believes it will adversely affect the Yankees’ ability to sign Wolfe clients is mistaken. Wolfe needs Cashman as much as Cashman needs Wolfe. In the end, Wolfe clients will sign for the most money wherever that may be. 

I like Giancarlo Stanton, and I am impressed at how he has handled playing in baseball’s largest market after spending years in low-pressure Miami. Yet, if the Yankees could convince Stanton to waive his no-trade clause, I would be in favor of moving the player to another team. If he remains a Yankee, I am hopeful that new hitting coach James Rowson can help G rebound from his disastrous 2023 season. 

Is Juan Soto a Yankee yet?

As always, Go Yankees!