Friday, December 1, 2023

Looking for Mister Good Bat...


Juan Soto (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Juan Soto Rumors grip the Yankees Universe…

I get it. Juan Soto is a generational left-handed talent and any team that acquires him will be a better team (well, better in all aspects except liquid assets if they intend to sign Soto to a long-term contract after he hits free agency next offseason). For a team that failed miserably in 2023 despite higher expectations, the New York Yankees need a true superstar to pair with Aaron Judge, particularly given the downward trend of the team’s older veteran players. Giancarlo Stanton has the potential for a rebound, but he will never be 2016 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton again. Soto would help protect Aaron Judge who is the team’s ‘ride or die’ player. To win a championship, the Yankees must put quality pieces around the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole and 2022 AL MVP Judge. Soto would give them a player who can turn the awesome duo into an outstanding trio to build around. 

I have never been one to propose potential trades because General Manager Brian Cashman and his team have a far better understanding of what it would take to acquire a player like Soto. Throwing names around serves no purpose, at least not to me, since we, as fans, are not experts or key decision-makers in MLB organizations. However, I can say I believe the Yankees should pay the cost for Soto if they feel they can sign him to an extension. The latter point may be an unknown until the 2024-25 offseason, but the Yankees should have an idea if they intend to be one of the last teams standing when Soto decides where to sign his next behemoth contract. 

Michael King and/or Drew Thorpe should not be dealbreakers. I like both of those pitchers. King’s audition as a starter was much stronger than I had anticipated even though I already knew he had the right mental approach as a starter. He left us wanting more, and I hope he stays with the Yankees. But if King is the cost to get Soto, so be it. San Diego is a lovely city for King to call home. I would wish him well before running out to buy my Juan Soto jersey. Thorpe might be as excited as I have been for a Yankees pitching prospect in a long time.  Yet, Thorpe should not be the reason to lose out on Soto. The Yankees have gotten so much better at developing strong pitching within the organization. 

I believe today’s events with reports stating the Yankees and San Diego Padres are far apart, and other teams like the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have entered trade discussions, are all part of the larger Yankees-Padres negotiation. They are trying to see who will blink first. Maybe the Red Sox or Blue Jays put together a package that the Padres bite on. The Yankees must ensure they are competitive until the end, regardless of where Soto ultimately ends up. As much as I want Soto, the Yankees should not roll over and give the Padres whatever they want. Soto may be a young elite player, but he has only one year of control and that fact does need to factor into the equation. Yet, it is understood the Yankees will need to give up quality to get quality. This is clearly a double-edged sword. 

If the Yankees ultimately fail to land Soto, I will be disappointed like most of the Yankees Universe. If Brian Cashman and his team of nerds and lieutenants show us that they did everything possible, it will be hard to fault the Front Office despite our frustrations with them over the past few years. If they refuse to trade this player or that player without justification or give other lame excuses, then they will deserve the full wrath of the fans’ fury. In other words, there is a limit to how far the Yankees should go in terms of players and prospects, but they need to go as far as they can to acquire a game-changer. Only the Yankees truly know how far they can go without causing irreparable harm to other areas. 

It is amazing to think that when the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres, 3-0, in Game 4 of the 1998 World Series behind the pitching of Andy Pettitte, Jeff Nelson, and Mariano Rivera, winning the World Series championship with 114 regular season wins and 125 wins overall on October 21, 1998, Juan Soto’s mother, Belkis, was four days away from giving birth to Juan José Soto Pacheco. Hard to believe it has been 25 years since the greatest Yankees championship in our lifetime. Seems appropriate that Soto should spend his twenty-fifth year in Pinstripes. 

1998 World Series Champions (Photo Credit: AP)

Juan Soto will get paid. There is no doubt. The Yankees can afford it, but the question is will they? In 2023, Soto played 162 games. He hit 35 home runs, 32 doubles, and had 109 RBIs.  His batting line was .275/.410/.519 (.930 OPS), which was better than any Yankee. He walked 132 times which led Major League Baseball. Soto, by himself, does not convert the Yankees to a legitimate World Series threat, however, he is clearly a cornerstone player who would help set the table.    

I hope this turns out in the Yankees’ favor. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of potentially adding such a truly great young player. It would be heartbreaking to see him go to a key rival. While I continue to temper my expectations because there is no certainty until a deal is done, there is some hope for a positive resolution.  Santa, all I want for Christmas is Juan Soto calling Yankee Stadium home. Please, make it happen. 

Perhaps good news awaits us next week. If not, life goes on. I will still be a Yankee fan regardless of where Juan Soto plays next season. I would just be a happier one if he was a Yankee.

Baseball Winter Meetings next week...I cannot wait. My favorite time of the off-season.  

Farewell Luis Severino

When the season ended, I think it was apparent to all fans that Luis Severino had pitched his last game in Pinstripes. This is not how we wanted it to end, but as hard as it was to see Sevy leave, it was really the only viable outcome. The Yankees were not going to bring him back after the lost years to injury and the horrific ineffectiveness of the 2023 season. Sevy has been one of my favorite Yankees and I want to see him succeed. I still do. I dislike that he went to the Mets, but I respect his decision to stay in New York City for his family. I am a little surprised the Mets gave him $13 million on a one-year deal although they need help in their starting rotation. It seems like they would have used the money for safer bets. Yet, I am not going to worry about Uncle Stevie’s money.  He can afford many mistakes. If Sevy delivers a healthy, productive 2024 season, it will be great for the Mets and tremendous for Sevy when he hits the open market again next Fall. I hope the best-case scenario works out for him. I will never cheer for the Mets, but I will cheer for Luis Severino when he is not pitching against the Yankees. 

Sevy posted a strong, heartfelt goodbye message for the Yankees Universe on Instagram today. It is hard not to read this without wishing things with the Yankees could have been different. Yet, I have no regrets. It is what it is. When healthy, Sevy was an excellent pitcher.  Even hoping he rebounds in 2024, the Yankees were correct in moving on. Sevy had so many chances but simply could not stay on the field. He was no longer a chance the Yankees could afford to take.  

Here is Sevy's message to the Yankees Universe (via @severino40 on Instagram):

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your love and support over these last 12 unforgettable years. As a young boy growing up in the Dominican Republic as a Yankee fan, I could only dream of what it would be like to play the game that I love professionally at the MLB level and earn the opportunity to don the famous pinstripes In 2011, my dreams became a reality when the New York Yankees organization took a chance on me and gave me and my family the opportunity of a lifetime by signing me as an international free agent. From the time I put on that special uniform and completed the journey of making my MLB debut in 2015, the Yankees organization and the city of New York welcomed my family and me into their hearts, which we are forever grateful! Together, we have all shared amazing memories that I will always cherish and it has truly been an honor and a privilege to have played for one of the greatest organizations in the world.

To the Yankees organization, I want to take a moment to thank you all for giving my family and me the opportunity to become members of your family. A big thank you to the Steinbrenner family along with Brian Cashman for believing in me and affording me the opportunity to be a member of the Yankees organization for my entire career thus far. Also, thank you to every member of this first class organization whom will always hold a special place in my heart! And I want to personally thank the medical and training staff for always having my best interest at heart. Despite having to overcome unfortunate injuries, I always knew that I was in the best of hands due to their care.

To my teammates, you will always be family and there is no one else whom I would have rather competed with all these years. We will always have our memories and I will cherish the time we had together complete with the blood, sweat and tears we shared by working to make the city of New York proud of their Yankees. Despite not achieving our ultimate collective goal, I could not be more proud to have been your teammate and forever your brother! While there are no guarantees in the future, I will always be proud to compete with you 

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank the greatest fans in the world. From the time I arrived in New York, my family and I felt as if this was our home and we are so proud to have spent so much time here. You all played a huge part in my career as well as my family’s and I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making my experience unforgettable and for playing a huge role in having my dreams come true. It was truly an honor of a lifetime to compete every 5th day in front of a special fan base where I will forever be grateful to have been a proud member of your organization. This is not goodbye, it is simply I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon as I prepare for the next chapter of my career across town as a proud member of the New York Mets organization. I am thankful for this opportunity to remain a New Yorker and compete in the city I love!

Luis Severino (Photo Credit: @severino40 via Instagram)

Sevy, thanks for the memories. We wish you the best in Queens and hope you are among the Cy Young contenders in 2024. You wore the Pinstripes proudly and it will never be forgotten.

Oscar G. is a Yankee       

In a bit of a surprise, the Yankees announced today that they had claimed outfielder Oscar Gonzalez off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians today. Many were unaware that he had even been exposed to waivers. Perhaps the Guardians were trying to slip him through waivers to outright him to Triple-A if no one claimed him. Unfortunately for them and maybe fortunately for us, the Yankees made the claim.

The 25-year-old Gonzalez had a key hit for the Guardians in Game 3 of the 2022 American League Division Series against the Yankees when he hit a game-winning two-run single off at Progressive Field in Cleveland off Clarke Schmidt with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees, 6-5.

Oscar Gonzalez (Photo Credit: Phil Long/AP)

Gonzalez only played in 54 games for the Guardians in 2023, batting .214/.239/.312 (.551 OPS). He had 2 homers and 12 RBIs. For Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Gonzalez played 83 games, and hit .287/.323/.496 (.819 OPS), with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs. 

As a fourth/fifth outfielder, Gonzalez makes sense. Gonzalez is an improvement over the departed Franchy Cordero and Billy McKinney, and with Jake Bauers in Milwaukee, the Yankees need outfield help, especially if any outfield prospects like Everson Pereira are dealt this winter. At worst, Gonzalez is depth for Triple-A. According to Roster Resource, he has options remaining so, assuming he does not get cut this winter, he should have a chance to show the Yankees what he can do in Spring Training and will probably head for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when camp breaks unless he has a Greg Bird-like Spring Training. 

Gonzalez was popular among Guardians fans, and he gained some notoriety for using the “SpongeBob SquarePants” theme song as his walk-up music.  He is best remembered for his success in the 2022 post-season. In addition to his walk-off against Clarke Schmidt, he bounced the Tampa Bay Rays from the playoffs a series earlier with a 15th-inning homer off former Yankee Corey Kluber, He also had a tiebreaking single in the 10th inning of Game 2 of the 2022 ALDS against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, with Clay Holmes on the mound. Gonzalez subsequently scored on a double by Josh Naylor in the 4-2 win over New York. I remember thinking, who is this Oscar Gonzalez dude?

I have no issue with Brian Cashman’s latest dumpster dive. Teams always need good supporting players, either at the back end of the roster or with the top farm club. We certainly know the Yankees generally have more than their fair share of injuries throughout a long season. 

Welcome to the Yankees family, Oscar Gonzalez!

On a side note, “Oscar G” reminds me of the great Oscar Gamble. Totally unrelated to Oscar Gonzalez, but it is always nice to remember the late former Yankees outfielder. I met Oscar Gamble one time in early 1981 (before the season), and it remains one of the best interactions I have ever had with a professional athlete in my lifetime. He was so kind and considerate. I remember telling him how excited I was about the Yankees signing free agent Dave Winfield earlier that winter and Oscar was equally excited about it. In retrospect, I wish I had talked more about Oscar Gamble and not Dave Winfield with him. Oscar Gamble will forever be one of my all-time favorite Yankees. He may not have been a legendary player, but he was a legendary man.

The late Oscar Gamble (Photo Credit: Martin/New York Daily News)

As always, Go Yankees!