Saturday, January 15, 2022

MLB Fandom Lockout Continues...

  


MLB Owners & MLBPA continue to show disregard for its fans…

The MLB Owners and Players Association finally met this week in a ‘why bother?’ one-hour session. The fool in me had been hopeful the first meeting regarding core economics in over a month would yield some momentum for further talks. Silly me. Now the wait for the Players Association to counter which most likely will be as aggressive as the MLB Owners were conservative…meaning the two sides remain miles apart. No time frame has been given for the Players Association’s response. There is a threat Spring Training may not start on time, but a shortened Spring Training is probably very appealing to both the owners and players. Now, it feels like this labor dispute could drag into March and delay the start of the regular season.

I think both sides are damaging the reputation of the sport. Much has been discussed about appealing to younger fans to help continue to grow the fanbase. Yet, the current state of Major League Baseball shows young sports fans that football, basketball, and hockey are tremendous alternatives. If MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to create a lasting legacy, he is on the wrong path. Hopefully, egos can be set aside, and cooler heads will prevail to bring meaningful negotiations soon. Maybe that is an overly optimistic view, but I cannot imagine the owners walking away from regular season gate receipts, especially after the trauma of the 2020 season. I do not understand the wait until the last minute. I understand each side wants to be the big winner but compromise for the sake of the game is more important. They can and will find common ground, but the question is when and at what cost to the fans.

We get this is a fight over our money. MLB Owners and Players, please remember this is not all about you. Get in a room, lock the door, and settle this…now.

Congratulations to Rachel Balkovec, the new manager for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons! This is a well-deserved promotion for Balkovec, who joined the Yankees in November 2019 as a minor league hitting instructor. I honestly wanted the Yankees to hire her as an assistant hitting coach for the big-league club, but this new role certainly befits the talented and industrious coach who is on her way to a bigger and brighter future in the Yankees organization.

Rachel Balkovec / Photo Credit: Yankees

Balkovec’s expressed goal is to be a general manager one day. I could easily see the Yankees eventually elevating her to assistant general manager. Jean Afterman is sixty-four and relocated a couple of years ago from New York to Sonoma, California. Balkovec is a possible replacement for the much-respected Afterman, when/if she decides it is time to enjoy the wonderful Napa Valley vineyards. Such an appointment could place Balkovec in line to eventually replace Brian Cashman. If not, it is a certainty in my mind that Rachel Balkovec will accomplish her goals through determination, perseverance, knowledge, and competitiveness. She wants to be a MLB general manager which means she will be a MLB general manager. For now, low level Yankee prospects will benefit greatly from an excellent teacher. I am glad she is on our side.

No word on a replacement for short-term Yankees assistant hitting coach Eric Chavez. The latest name mentioned is Eric Hinske, a brief one-time Yankee. His name excites me about as much as Mark Trumbo. In other words, not very much. Hinske served as assistant hitting instructor for several seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks until he was relieved of his duties in June 2021. I understand the need for a coach with Major League experience, a weakness in the current configuration of the Yankees coaching staff, but the Yankees can do better than Trumbo or Hinske. I like the idea of someone who has past ties to the organization but that is not a prerequisite. I want a coach who can team with hitting coach Dillon Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes to provide a strong collaborative and synergetic trio to help make Yankee hitters better. I keep thinking Brett Gardner would be a formidable choice if the Yankees could convince him his playing days are over.

International Signing Day. For the Yankees, they are expected to sign top international prospect Roderick Arias. MLB’s Jesse Sanchez is reporting the Yankees have signed the young shortstop to a $4.0 million deal. The Yankees have not confirmed the signing. Per Sanchez, Arias has above-average bat-to-ball skills and strike zone awareness. He shows power from both sides of the plate with emphasis on the right side. Good opposite field power from the left side. Sanchez goes on to say the overall package could develop into a plus-plus hitter. Once the signing is confirmed, Arias will immediately be inserted into the Yankees’ current list of top ten prospects.

Roderick Arias

The presence of Arias and last year’s number one pick Trey Sweeney make it easier if the Yankees decide to include Oswald Peraza in a trade with the Oakland A’s to acquire first baseman Matt Olson. The Yankee still need more than a stopgap at short, but outside of Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez, there is not much I would not give up to get Olson (although the argument can be easily made to simply part with money to sign Freddie Freeman). I remain on the bandwagon to sign either Carlos Correa or Trevor Story although their signings range from highly unlikely to mostly improbable. With no disrespect to the futures of Anthony Volpe or Peraza (if he is not traded), it will sicken me if the 2022 New York Yankees shortstop is Andrelton Simmons. If that is the case, I would rather have that Falafel dude from Texas. It does bother me that the Rangers thought so highly of Isiah Kiner-Falefa that they signed not one but two of the top free agent shortstops this off-season. I would prefer him over Simmons, but I do not think either guy would move the needle for improving the team.

More minor league free agent signings. I was a little surprised to see the Yankees have signed former top prospect LHP Manny Banuelos to a minor league deal (I know, Daniel, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal). Manny has bounced around a few organizations since the Yankees traded him to Atlanta in 2015 (in the deal that brought Chasen Shreve to New York). In 2019, while a member of the Chicago White Sox, Banuelos gave up nine earned runs in one inning to the Boston Red Sox. After some time in China, he spent last season in the Mexican League. I would love to see Banuelos, now 30 years old, finally achieve success in the Major Leagues, even as a reliever, but let us just say that I am not optimistic.

Manuel Banuelos

The Yankees also signed former Red Sock Ryan Weber, 31-year-old RHP, to a minor league contract. In Weber’s last MLB appearance for the Red Sox on June 13, 2021, he gave up eleven runs in 5 2/3 innings. I see a common theme with both Banuelos and Weber. They have both been horrible for and against the Boston Red Sox.

Can Matt Blake and the Yankees minor league pitching instructors unlock potential in either arm? Doubtful but we will see. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I miss baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Story of the Week...

Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu

Linking Trevor to the Yankees…

A new year, the same old toxic relationship between MLB Owners and MLB Players Association as the MLB Lockout continues with no resolution in sight. The longer this goes on, you really must wonder how much time the Yankees will have to improve their roster before the season starts…correction, if the season starts.

The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff released his updated free agent predications this week and has the following players signing with the Yankees after the Lockout ends.

Shortstop Trevor Story

Davidoff originally had Story signing with the Houston Astros to replace Carlos Correa for five years and $110 million. He now sees the Yankees for less money. I entered the off-season under the belief that Corey Seager made the most sense with his strong left-handed bat, and pivoted to Correa, after Seager took big money in Texas, because a great young all-around elite shortstop is a valuable commodity regardless of his past misdeeds. It seems weird to see that we may have to ‘settle’ for Story (some have even referred to him as a stopgap) when, in reality, the guy is really good. I took the position after the season ended that I would be happy with any of the three top free agent shortstops so if the Yankees sign Story, I certainly will not be disappointed. During my years living in Denver, Colorado, Story was a joy to watch at Coors Field. He routinely received huge applause from the home crowd.

First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

Davidoff continues to believe Rizzo will be back in the Bronx on a two-year, $32 million deal. No doubt most of us would prefer Oakland’s Matt Olson via trade, but if the Yankees do not grab a “big fish” (i.e., Olson or free agent Freddie Freeman), Rizzo is better than nothing or in this case, Luke Voit. I do like Voit and his football mentality, but he is more of a DH. Rizzo showed us last season how much great defense at first base can be, and that’s just not Luke’s game. I will truly be disappointed if the Yankee first baseman next season is not Olson, Freeman or Rizzo.

Outfielder Seiya Suzuki

Davidoff originally had Suzuki joining Team Derek Jeter for three years and $21 million. He has pivoted to Suzuki becoming the second Suzuki to play outfield for the Yankees. Ironically, he has Brett Gardner going to the Miami Marlins to rejoin Jeter. Recent speculation elsewhere has Suzuki signing with the arch-rival Boston Red Sox when the Lockout ends. Despite Boston’s re-acquisition of CF Jackie Bradley Jr, they could certainly use some help in the outfield. I would not mind seeing the Yankees sign Suzuki, but I do feel it is more likely he goes to Boston. As for Brett, thanks for the memories. You were a great Yankee.

If this is the Yankees’ 2021-22 off-season, it would be slightly underwhelming if they do nothing else. The Yankees need to improve center field and catching and could use another topflight starter. I like Aaron Hicks when he is healthy, but the reality is that is not very often. Keeping Hicks as the fourth outfielder would make more sense. Although Brett Gardner routinely started as the team’s fourth outfielder because of the injury-prone Hicks, a healthier starting option might help to keep Hicks fresh and less susceptible to injury.

While I keep wanting to support Gary Sanchez, I am slowly realizing that his time as a Yankee has run its course. I wish the Yankees had done something before the Lockout to improve the position, but there is still hope for action once the Lockout is lifted. It seems like Willson Contreras is the most obvious option in a potential trade with the Chicago Cubs, but there are other catchers that would be an improvement over Gary (Austin Nola and Mitch Garver to name a few). Gary, right now, is my top ‘guy in need of a change of scenery.’ If the season starts and Sanchez remains the Yankees catcher, I will support him but if he continues to struggle, the toxic situation is only going to get worse. It is best to clear the slate and start anew.

I like Anthony Rizzo. I know he is not on the same level as Olson and Freeman, but it is not like he is a shlep. I admire his baseball acumen, the defense he provides at first base, and the team-first mentality he brings every day. A great clubhouse leader, he helps bond team chemistry. I still want Olson, but I will not be disappointed if Rizzo returns.

Reports about Jameson Taillon’s recovery and Clarke Schmidt’s health have been positive, but the Yankees must improve the starting rotation. Just as I would not bet the future on shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza by only signing a true stopgap shortstop (an Andrelton Simmons type), I am reluctant to hedge the future on the emergence of Schmidt, Luis Gil, Luis Medina and/or the disappointing Deivi Garcia. When they are ready, the Yankees will make room. Until then, decisions should not be based on the hope they emerge. I want the young guys to succeed but meanwhile we are wasting the best years of Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge if we continue to wait for the youngsters to develop. Win now means we need players ready to contribute to a championship today, not tomorrow.

If only MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA could set aside their differences and come to an agreement for the good of the game. I am ready for some actual baseball activity to take place and end the incessant speculation about how to improve the 2022 New York Yankees.

It was disappointing to hear this week that brief Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach Eric Chavez has chosen to join Buck Showalter and the New York Mets as their hitting coach. I had really been excited to have Chavez on the Yankees staff and could have seen him as a viable option if the Yankees ever decide to part ways with fan-not-so-favorite Aaron Boone. But I do not begrudge Chavez for taking a promotion to join the Mets. As excited as I was when I heard he was joining the Yankees as an assistant hitting coach, I was little surprised that he would take an “assistant” role in any capacity. His name had been mentioned in a few managerial rumors for other teams recently. Boone’s analogy that he would be a “Swiss Army knife” made sense but in retrospect, they should have created a title that better fit the position or expectations. I knew once the Mets hired Billy Eppler as their GM, they would be a desirable spot for Chavez given his lengthy association with Eppler. He left the Yankees before to join Eppler in Anaheim, so the precedent was there. For a guy with managerial aspirations, collaborating with Buck Showalter seems to be the better play so I wish Chavez the best and we move on.

One of the names mentioned to replace Chavez as Yankees assistant hitting coach is former Baltimore Oriole Mark Trumbo. I cannot say his name excites me. Right or wrong, I cannot shake the ‘swing and miss’ association I have with Trumbo’s name. The Yankees are apparently looking for someone with strong Major League experience so it seems unlikely the Yankees will do the sensible thing like promoting the deserving Rachel Balkovec. Someone such as Carlos Beltran would be fantastic but there is absolutely no way in hell he would take an assistant role. This is where it might make sense to bring Brett Gardner back unless he is determined to continue playing. Jorge Posada has always seemed like a desirable choice although he might be too joined at the hip with Derek Jeter in Miami, and I am a little uncertain how his intensity would play at a coaching level. I have always liked Tino Martinez, but his partial season run as hitting coach with the Miami Marlins ended in July 2013 when he resigned amidst allegations of physical and verbal abuse of players.

The other big news this week involved Yankees broadcasters David Cone and Michael Kay. David Cone will be joining ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, along with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez. They replace Matt Vasgersian, who has left ESPN, and Alex Rodriguez, who has been reassigned. Cone will reportedly maintain his role with YES Network albeit a reduced schedule. This is one of those happy/sad moments. I am happy Cone will gain a broader national audience, but sad for us as we lose the exclusivity of Cone breaking down Yankee games for us. This was a great move by ESPN.

Michael Kay will be joining Alex Rodriguez on ESPN2 for eight of the Sunday Night baseball games. Their format will be like football’s Manningcast which features Peyton and Eli Manning in a sports bar style setting for a less formal discussion of the game, with frequent special guests. While Kay will retain his role on YES Network, I am in favor of any move that can get Ryan Ruocco into the YES Network booth more often. With Ken Singleton’s retirement and Cone’s reduced schedule, it will be interesting to see who joins the YES Network lineup. I would love to see David Wells in an expanded role although I have no idea his level of interest.

Rob Manfred, please get off your ass and kickstart the negotiations. This ‘wait until the last minute’ shit sucks.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year to the Yankees Universe! ...

  


Will the New Year bring Labor Peace?...

Now that we are nearly through the holidays, here is to the cautiously optimistic hope that MLB Owners and the MLB Players Association can sit down in earnest and begin tackling the core issues that divide the parties. Hopefully, they will find the motivation to aggressively seek resolution of their differing opinions and reach an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement that will be mutually beneficial for all concerned. The owners and the players owe it to the fans to find common ground and bring Major League Baseball activity back into our lives.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens always start strong in the Hall of Fame balloting before losing their hold on candidacy as the later and final votes trickle in. This year is no different. Through 103 public and seven anonymous ballots as of 12/31/21, as reported by Ryan Thibodeaux’s 2022 BBHOF Tracker, Bonds has eighty-nine votes (80.9%), and Clemens has eighty-eight votes (80.00%). The leader is David Ortiz with ninety-one votes (82.7%). Former Yankee Alex Rodriguez only has fifty-one votes (46.4%).

Ortiz has a particularly good chance for success. Suspected of PED use, it was never proven or confirmed despite the allegations, and Ortiz has denied it. Yet, if Ortiz makes the Hall, I do feel it is time to consider the known PED users. Both Bonds and Clemens were talented players, with or without the aid of the performance enhancing drugs at various points of their respective careers. If the Hall of Fame has a high standard for its code of ethics, there are probably more than a few Hall of Famers who should be removed. I have softened on my stance with Bonds and Clemens as I once felt they did not deserve the honor. Time heals all wounds. Before other known (or suspected) PED users make the Hall of Fame, I feel Bonds and Clemens should be the first entrants. I will never forgive Bonds and Clemens for their indiscretions, but you do not have to like someone personally to respect them professionally.


Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens / Photo Credit: AP and Getty Images

Although I think he should eventually get in, I do not feel that Alex Rodriguez should be a first year HOF entrant. The early voters apparently feel the same way. Andy Pettitte, in his fourth year of eligibility, currently has only thirteen votes (11.8%) and is unlikely to ever make the Hall. He will always be a great Yankee in my mind, but I recognize he will never have a date to visit Cooperstown unless he buys a ticket to see a friend’s induction.

If the Yankees want to trade for Oakland’s Matt Chapman to play third base, it is fine by me, but I did not like Buster Olney’s report on the Michael Kay Show this week that the Yankees have had some internal discussions about acquiring Chapman to play shortstop. Chapman is an elite third baseman, and while I am sure he has the athleticism to make a position switch, the question is why? He is better than Gio Urshela and last year’s move of Gleyber Torres to shortstop did not work out. It does not mean Chapman would not be successful but clearly, Chapman is a terrific third baseman who should stay there. I personally think the Los Angeles Dodgers should consider trading for Chapman. Justin Turner is on the downside of a distinguished career and might be better suited for DH if the position is adopted for the National League. Matt Olson remains the Athletic that I most want to see in Pinstripes although I do want the Yankees to pivot quickly to Anthony Rizzo before he signs elsewhere if there are any snags in a potential deal with Oakland.

I remain fearful that Andrelton Simmons will be the shortstop answer (he is not). I love the potential of Anthony Volpe as much as anybody but until he proves it at the Major League level, it is just potential. Plus, the rise to elite status is not generally an overnight proposition. It literally takes years. The Yankees have championship aspirations if they make the right moves once the MLB lockout ends. If they settle for trying to fill the areas of need with stopgap solutions, they will spend the summer chasing the Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox. I do not really expect Boston to over-achieve again next year but, so far, the Yankees have done nothing to close the gap with the team that sent them packing last October.

I do not want to lose Volpe in any trades. When he is ready the Show, opportunity will open for him. Let him force the day the Yankees must make the tough decisions rather than trying to make the decisions now with the hope the player fulfills his destiny. We have the best years of Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton at stake.

Although he is not a starting shortstop solution, I am anxious to see what Oswaldo Cabrera can do this year as the new and improved Tyler Wade. I guess we will see if he is an active and viable bench solution with his versatility and speed or if he is a regular rider on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Shuttle, but it is fun to see a young prospect on the cusp of making the Major League team. Primarily a second baseman, Cabrera, 23, has played third base and shortstop.


Oswaldo Cabrera / Photo Credit: Michael Reaves, Getty Images

It was a tough week with the loss of legendary NFL coach and TV analyst John Madden. I remember how disappointed I was during the 1977 Super Bowl when Madden and the Oakland Raiders crushed the Minnesota Vikings with total domination from start to finish. The image of Vikings running back Chuck Foreman sitting on his helmet at the end of the game in sadness is burned into my memory. I so disliked Madden back then, but he won me over with his success and the brilliance he brought to the broadcast booth after his premature retirement as a coach. My wife once met Madden in a Livermore Valley, California winery, and her recollection is “Big guy!” He was big…not only in physical stature, but with the impact and imprint he made on professional football. I am very saddened to see his departure. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Coach!


John Madden / Photo Credit: Chris Zuppa, AP

As always, Go Yankees!

Friday, December 24, 2021

New Coaches Behind the Locked Door...

Aaron Boone / Credit: ESPN

 Yankees officially announce 2022 coaching staff…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the MLB house, not a creature was stirring, not even a louse (also known as Rob Manfred and Tony Clark).

Per a tweet yesterday by MLB Insider Jeff Passan, “No, there has been no progress on the labor front. Don’t anticipate there will be for a while. Talks will restart in early January. Not much else there.” Not exactly the words we wanted to hear but obviously expected with no meaningful progress this month between the owners and the players union. We can only hope the two sides feel some pressure to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement to ensure Spring Training starts as planned.

The Yankees finally announced their coaching staff for the 2022 season. While I was excited to see the return of Eric Chavez, I was disappointed Carlos Mendoza was retained as the bench coach. I should preface it by saying I do not know Mendy, but he seems too much like Boone to me. He should have been moved to first base and a stronger voice added to occupy the seat next to Boone.

Chavez’s name has been mentioned for possible managerial jobs in recent years, so I was a little surprised that he accepted a role as assistant hitting coach. Then again, you must start somewhere, and Aaron Boone did convey Chavez will be used like a Swiss Army knife so the title may not befit the duties and responsibilities he will be assigned. With more coaching experience, Chavez is the first Yankees coach that I could see as an eventual replacement for Aaron Boone. No disrespect to Luis Rojas who probably deserves another shot at managing at some point down the road. Either way, I am glad Chavez is back in the organization after spending the last five years in Anaheim, California. Since he was a Billy Eppler hire for the Angels, I am probably a little surprised he did not join the Mets in some capacity if he was coming back to New York. Although he is better known as an Oakland Athletic, I am glad the former Yankees third baseman found his way back to the Bronx.


Eric Chavez

The 2022 Yankees Coaching Staff:

Manager

Aaron Boone

Bench Coach

Carlos Mendoza

Pitching Coach

Matt Blake

Bullpen Coach

Mike Harkey

Assistant Pitching Coach

Desi Druschel

Hitting Coach

Dillon Lawson

Assistant Hitting Coaches

Eric Chavez

Casey Dykes

Third Base/Outfield Coach

Luis Rojas

First Base/Infield Coach

Travis Chapman

Quality Control/Catching Coach

Tanner Swanson

Brett Weber is also part of the staff as Coaching Assistant/Instant Replay Coordinator.

It did not take long for the ousted Yankees coaches to find new jobs. Phil Nevin, former third base coach, is set to hand off fake footballs to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani as the new third base coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (although the hire has not yet been formally announced). Marcus Thames, former hitting coach, is now Hitting Coach for Donnie Baseball’s staff in Miami, and P.J. Pilittere, former assistant hitting coach, found the same gig on Bud Black’s staff in the Mile High City. Reggie Willits, former first base coach, left on his own to become a volunteer assistant coach for the University of Oklahoma baseball team. Radley Haddad, former coaching assistant, and bullpen catcher is set to become the Game Planning and Strategies Coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

To all the new additions on Aaron Boone’s staff, welcome and we cannot wait for you to get to work. We are tired of chasing World Championship #28 and would like to be prepared to go after #29 when the dust settles in October. Bring a championship back to New York and more specifically, to the Bronx!

GM Brian Cashman, through his usual dumpster diving, continues to collect catchers.

After bringing back Rob Brantly on a minor league deal, he has added David Freitas, a 32-year-old journeyman catcher with limited Major League experience. Freitas ended last season as a member of the Durham Bulls, the top farm team for the dreaded Tampa Bay Rays. Originally selected in the 2020 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals, he has appeared in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers. He also played for the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO League (Korea).


David Freitas


Rodolfo Duran was also signed to a minor league contract. Duran, a defensive specialist, is only twenty-three and played for the Phillies Triple A club last season. He was originally signed by the Phillies in 2014 as an international free agent. Duran is the more intriguing catcher to me but none of the catchers added have the potential to unseat Gary Sanchez.


Rodolfo Duran / Credit: Mark Wylie

The Yankees also signed for Blue Jays and White Sox reliever Jimmy Cordero to a minor league deal. Cordero, a 30-year-old right-hander, had Tommy John surgery last March, so we may not see him in 2022 but he has the potential to be a part of the Yankees bullpen in 2023. Time will tell if he can turn out to be another Clay Holmes or Wandy Peralta. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I like the signing. The Yankees will be looking to rebuild their bullpen in 2023 when Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton are gone.


Jimmy Cordero / Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

Congratulations to Buck Showalter in his new role as manager for the New York Mets. Buck knows a thing or two about working for a rich, egotistic owner who wants to win. I thought new Mets GM Billy Eppler would have gone for a younger, more analytic manager, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the hire of Showalter. I enjoyed having him back in the Yankees organization, sort of, in his role with the YES Network. For as much as some of us would have liked to have Showalter replace Aaron Boone, it was never going to happen. Even if Boone is ultimately ousted, I highly doubted the Yankees would ever bring Buck back for Round Two. So, I am happy for him and his new opportunity. Pretty nice to show up for work and be handed Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, and Starling Marte.


Angela & Buck Showalter

We would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season! Please stay safe, healthy, and happy.


Santa Claus

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Lukewarm Stove League...

 

Owners & Players’ remake of The Big Chill…

I miss Major League Baseball…

As a fan, it is frustrating there is no sense of urgency with MLB owners and players to settle their differences in an expedient manner. The Lockout, in December, applies no pressure on either side since the days leading up to Christmas and the New Year tend to be quiet. The sides are expected to accelerate their talks next month and tackle the core economic issues, but for me, January is perilously close to February which means any extended delays or snags in negotiations could threaten the start of Spring Training.

For once, I wish the MLB owners could put greed aside and do what is right for the good of the game. If MLB owners cannot afford paying higher salaries or do not want to, sell. I do not care if it is a small market team or a large one. There never seems to be shortage of billionaires who want a chance to own a Major League baseball team. It is too bad the fans do not have a seat at the table for these talks because it is our money they are arguing about. If the owners really cared about us, they would be working tirelessly to end this labor dispute.



If February 1st is a soft deadline for resolution, I hope all parties collaborate, compromise, and hammer out mutually beneficial terms for the new collective bargaining agreement before next month ends. Not sure what it will take to motivate the sides to talk other than the loss of revenue, which, if it gets to that point, hurts all of us.

Well, at least for now we have minor league signings. So far this off-season, GM Brian Cashman’s dumpster diving has yielded:

 SS Jose Peraza

SS Wilkerman Garcia

CF Ender Inciarte

CF Blake Perkins

RHP Vinny Nittoli

Of the names, I liked the signing of Inciarte. A few years ago, I would have been thrilled with the move. He has not played at a prominent level since 2018 but he is still only 31 and could play an important depth role if he is able to rebound from his recent history of injuries. He is not going to replace Aaron Hicks, a guy who probably needs to be replaced, but he could support Hicks if the Yankees go out and acquire a starting centerfielder, pushing Hicks to the fourth outfielder role. Unless he really shows something in Spring Training, I cannot see Inciarte making the Opening Day roster.


Ender Inciarte / Credit: Jennifer Stewart, Getty Images

Jose Peraza, once a touted prospect, has bounced around in recent years. Yet, he is still only 27. I do not expect the Yankees to unlock his unfulfilled potential, but as TGP’s Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal®. He only played 36 games for the New York Mets last season and played primarily at second base. Steamer projects Peraza to 31 games for 2022 with 3 homers and .251/.299/.372 batting line including .292 wOBA. Seems like a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle candidate who would only play in New York if the health of the active roster demanded it.


Jose Peraza / Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports

Wilkerman Garcia is just a sad reminder, to me, of the disappointment from the Yankees’ explosive spending for international talent in 2014 when they signed Dermis Garcia ($3.2 million); Nelson Gomez ($2.25 million); Juan De Leon ($2 million); Jonathan Amundaray ($1.5 million); Miguel Flames ($1.1 million); and Hyo-Joon Park ($1.1 million). Wilkerman received $1.35 million. I had expected the Yankees to hit on at least one of these players. Park did play one game for the Yankees last year, but his biggest contribution was being part of the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates which netted reliever Clay Holmes. The other Garcia, Dermis, is the one I had really wanted to rise through the organization, but he was unable to progress and left the organization this off-season signing a free agent minor league deal with the Oakland/Possibly Future Las Vegas A’s. Wilkerman, who has not played in two years due to the pandemic and injury, looks to rebound with the Rail Riders next season.

The signing of Blake Perkins is interesting. Not really expecting anything here, but he was once a second-round pick (69th overall) in the 2015 June Amateur Draft by the Washington Nationals. He most recently served in the Kansas City Royals organization and is only 25. He does not seem to be anything more than a no-hit, speedy outfielder but the Yankees have liked those guys in recent years.

Vinny Nittoli is a 30-year-old career minor leaguer who had a very brief cup of coffee with the Seattle Mariners last season. An analytics team reclamation project.

All these signings seem more likely to help Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if anything. If they are playing at the Major League level, they have either sold their souls to the Devil or things have gone horribly wrong in the Bronx. If Inciarte could turn back time and become the player he once was, it would be cool.

 I guess if anything, these guys gave me something to write about. As I said, I miss baseball.

To go off topic, Noah Syndergaard will wear #34 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim next season. While it was his number in Queens, the number has not been worn in Anaheim since the death of former Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart. Syndergaard reportedly was going to seek another number out of respect for Adenhart but was talked into wearing the number by Angels management and more importantly, the Adenhart family. I thought that was very cool and it provides a way for the memory of Adenhart to live on. A classy move by Thor and the Angels, considering they ensured the Adenhart family was part of the decision.


Noah Syndergaard / Credit: Rich Schultz & Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

I saw that former Yankees shortstop prospect Kyle Holder signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies. Good for him. It is too bad his hit tool could never match his superior fielding skills. When you cannot hit, go to Colorado. Makes sense. The other Holder, Jonathan, re-signed with the Chicago Cubs organization.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post has been on a roll with his trade ideas lately:

Jasson Dominguez, Luis Gil and Chad Green for Elvis Andrus and Matt Olson.

 While I do not really endorse trading Dominguez at the risk of sounding like a prospect-hugger, Olson is probably one of the few guys it would be worth it. But honestly, I would rather see the Yankees spend the money to sign Freddie Freeman and keep Dominguez. Andrus is a shortstop solution to keep the position warm for either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe, but it does not excite me. I want to see the Yankees get better to face the increased competition in the American League. Olson certainly is part of that equation, but Andrus is just a position-filler who does not move this team higher. 

Luis Gil and Oswald Peraza for Ketel Marte.

 I would hate to lose Peraza but if the Yankees sign, say, Trevor Story, Marte would be a nice addition. He can play center field even if he is a stronger second baseman, but versatility is good. It does seem like the Yankee would need to trade either Gleyber Torres or DJ LeMahieu if Marte is added, so I would probably not want to see this trade. 

Joey Gallo, Luis Gil, Chad Green, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit for Trent Grisham, Austin Nola, and Jurickson Profar.

 I like the idea of Grisham in center field and Nola would provide a solution for those who would prefer to see Gary Sanchez wearing a different uniform next season. The Yankees would need to ensure they find their new first baseman (Olson, Freeman or Anthony Rizzo) but I am not opposed to moving Torres in a deal that improves the team. It would free second base for LeMahieu and Profar could be the super sub.


Austin Nola and Trent Grisham / Credit: Associated Press


I do not think any of these trade ideas will come to fruition, but they are fun to talk about. In a separate article, Joel Sherman pitched Carlos Rodon or Sean Manaea as possible fits for the Yankees starting rotation. I like either of these ideas as both carry strong upside potential. For as much fun as Nestor Cortes was last season, I would prefer to see him fill the role of spot starter/long man rather than one of the five cogs in the primary rotation. Luis Severino is a question mark until he proves he can be a top starter again. I am confident he will but until he does, there is doubt. Taillon will be delayed due to off-season surgery so the Yankees need another starter who can provide consistency as well as Jordan Montgomery or better. Rodon, on a short-term deal, or Manaea as part of a Matt Olson trade would be great. It is more likely Brian Cashman trades for a pitcher none of us are talking about and who their analytics team has fallen in love with.

For the record, I do want to see Aaron Hicks stay healthy and if healthy, he is a particularly skillful player for the Yankees. I wish I were more confident in his ability to stay healthy which is the only reason I am open to center field improvements.

I am reluctant to part with Gary Sanchez even if I feel he has worn out his welcome in the Bronx for no other reason than there are no in-house options to replace him. The best prospects, like Austin Wells, remain a couple of years away. Kyle Higashioka is not a Major League starter and never will be. A reunion with Austin Romine would not be the answer. Unless the Yankees can acquire a legitimate Major League starting catcher, we have no chance but to support Sanchez.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

All I Want For Christmas Is Baseball...

  

MLB Lockout with no end in sight…

If life were fair, we would have been analyzing the free agent signings and trades of the last week during Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. But alas, no meetings this year thanks to the greedy MLB owners. They live up to the name of The Greedy Pinstripes blog but for all the wrong reasons.

I think if there is one singular topic, I would like to see resolved is the pay inequity between the superstars (the clear minority of professional baseball players), who get their money and then some, and the minor leaguers and others trying to find their way while living on peanuts. The superstars will always get paid, but Major League teams should be more financially responsible for the care of the younger players in their organization. Obviously, there are multiple other prominent issues that require resolution, and I am not trying to marginalize any of them. It just stands out to me that while owners pocket billions, there is room to help everyone in the game, especially those who struggle to live the dream.

Nearly two weeks into the MLB Lockout, it feels like there has been no progress. It is unfortunate to me that we are heading into 2022 without resolution which most likely means the standoff will be present in February when it is normally time for pitchers and catchers to report for Spring Training. Why cannot grown men lock themselves into a room and settle their differences? For the good the game, they need to work harder to find compromise, and re-open the sport for its fans. The best Christmas present would be a surprise announcement the two sides have been secretly meeting and have come to a fair and mutually beneficial agreement to present to the owners and players for final approval. Yeah, that is not happening.

MLB, please get your shit together. Love, the Fans.

December and the biggest Yankees news is the free-agent minor league re-signing of catcher Rob Brantly. With teams actively signing minor league contracts, maybe the Yankees should sign Carlos Correa to a $350 million minor league deal. Okay, I jest but I am concerned about how much time the Yankees will have to improve their roster once the Lockout ends. Also, on a side note, I have cooled to the idea of handing out $350 million to Correa, an incredibly talented player, when you can sign a gifted Trevor Story and improve other areas of the rosters for less money. I think a stopgap shortstop would be a mistake since it does nothing to improve the roster, but Story would be a good enhancement. Corey Seager would have been a better fit, but Story plus a potential trade for first baseman Matt Olson or re-signing Anthony Rizzo makes more sense at this point. I try not to think about Freddie Freeman as I still think he will go back to Atlanta or at least he should for how much he means to that organization. Would I take Freeman if I had the opportunity? Yes, in a New York minute.


Freddie Freeman, Photo Credit: Carmen Mandato, Getty Images

I respect both CC Sabathia and Jeff Nelson, two former great Yankees, for speaking out this week against the immature comments made by former Yankee Clint Frazier. Nellie’s tweet (@NYnellie43) on December 9th read: “Here is something for you. You can talk the talk but, you have not walked the walk. Love the confidence but, you have to do something on the field.” My feeling about Frazier is simply that he needs to turn the page. I wish him no ill will and hope he finds the success that has eluded him in Chicago. He needs to focus on his new team and opportunity and take the high road when he looks back on his failed time with the Yankees. I am tired of the infamous attention Frazier has received and feel it is time everyone moves on.

For as mad as Yankee fans were when the Yankees traded outfielder Mike Tauchman, it is funny the guy the Yankees acquired, Wandy Peralta, is the only current Major Leaguer involved in the April 2021 trade. Tauchman started his Giants career with a bang (a homer and four RBIs in his fourth game with San Francisco), but it was all downhill from there as he eventually found himself off the 40-man roster by the end of July. Tauchman has signed a $1 million contract ($300K bonus and $700 salary) with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization. For his sake, I hope it is a path that will lead Tauchman back to the Major Leagues although I do not pine for his return to the Yankees.

Welcome to the new newest members of the Yankees organization. During last week’s Minor League Rule 5 Draft, they selected 49-year-old outfielder…checks notes…sorry…22-year-old RHP Manny Ramirez from the Astros organization and 22-year-old RHP Steven Jennings from the Pirates organization. The only loss was 27-year-old RHP Brian Keller. He was chosen by the Boston Red Sox as they attempt to find gold in the Yankees organization like they did last year with Garrett Whitlock. Even though Keller is not the prospect Whitlock was, I hate the continued poaching by the Red Sox.

Congratulations to the former players who were elected to the MLB Hall of Fame by the Early Baseball Era Committee. All the names were HOF-worthy…Gil Hodges, Minnie MiƱoso, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil. Kaat, a one-time Yank, was nice but I am most excited for the late John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, Jr.




O’Neil was a special player and manager in the Negro Leagues. He was a first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs for 10 years and managed them for 8 years. He was a two-time Negro American League batting champ and won four Negro American League titles as manager from 1948 to 1955. He became the first black coach for the Chicago Cubs in 1962. He was later a scout for the Cubs and the Kansas City Royals. His career in baseball spanned 70 years. Famed Big Red Machine second baseman, the late Joe Morgan, once said “Buck was similar to Jackie Robinson. There was more to him than just baseball.” Morgan also said, “He was probably the greatest ambassador the Negro Leagues had ever had.”

O’Neil is credited for scouting former Yankee Oscar Gamble while working for the Chicago Cubs organization in 1968. I never had the opportunity to meet O’Neil, but I did meet Gamble earlier in my life, and it remains one of the greatest baseball memories of my lifetime (all made possible because O’Neil saw the talent in Gamble). Gamble remains one of the kindest and most genuine players I have ever met, and I can only imagine O’Neil was even more so. O’Neil is credited for scouting Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Lou Brock, Lee Smith, and Joe Carter.

For years, I have felt O’Neil deserved a place in the Hall of Fame. Like many, I became aware of O’Neil through Ken Burns’ baseball documentary in 1994. Honestly, it saddens me that it took that long to discover the legend the O’Neil. O’Neil passed away in 2006 at the age of ninety-four. It is unfortunate he did not live to see his induction into Cooperstown, but we will never forget his greatness and enormous impact on the game of baseball.


Buck O'Neil, Photo Credit: Associated Press

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Silent Days and Nights...

  

MLB Lockout begins but when will it end?...

November was so much fun with the flurry of free agent signings, even if the Yankees chose not to participate, but then, thud, it all ended with the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the subsequent lockout unanimously imposed by MLB owners.

As a fan, this really sucks. I know the fun of the free agent signings in November would not have happened without the impending lockout, however, my favorite time of the MLB off-season is the Baseball Winter Meetings which were cancelled this year. The Rule 5 Draft was also postponed so catcher Josh Breaux stays in the organization a little bit longer.

It sounds as though the labor dispute will extend into 2022 and perhaps even into time allotted for Spring Training. The gap between the greedy owners and the players seems so wide. To an outside observer, there have been no signs, at least to me, that the two sides are willing to compromise. After the lost revenues of 2020, it seems almost unconscionable the owners would risk harm to their game rather than negotiate in good faith with the players. Even though the fans pay for the sport, we are the least represented party in this dispute. Everybody wants our money and more of it, and we have no voice except not to pay.

I am hopeful there is progress before the end of the year, but time will tell.

Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reported yesterday the Yankees have promoted Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dillon Lawson to Hitting Coach on Manager Aaron Boone’s staff, replacing the fired Marcus Thames, now hitting coach for Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins. This is the move I had expected the Yankees to make with their commitment to analytics and the rebounding success of hitting in the Yankees’ farm system this past year. As time moved on, I thought maybe they were looking at guys like Tim Hyers, the former Red Sox hitting coach who joined the Texas Rangers last month, or Brian Snitker’s son, Troy, the Houston Astros hitting coach. With Eric Chavez’s name on the rumor mill, I thought he might be a possibility, but at the end of the day, Lawson makes the most sense to me. The Yankees, due to the MLB Lockout, have not confirmed the promotion but I trust Lindsey and fully expect the formal announcement when MLB business resumes.


Photo Credit: Quad City Times

There is no word about the two assistant hitting coaches the Yankees plan to add, but I remain convinced Rachel Balkovec would be a brilliant and inspired addition. Her connection to Lawson, who brought her into the organization, makes it a natural choice.


Photo Credit: New York Yankees

To assist Pitching Coach Matt Blake, the Yankees, per Adler, will promote Minor League Manager of Pitch Development Desi Druschel to assistant pitching coach. As a native Iowan, I like Druschel’s connection to the University of Iowa. He served the University for five years ending in 2019 as, first, director of baseball operations, and, later, as pitching coach. Go Hawkeyes!

Druschel, right / Photo Credit: Brian Ray, HawkeyeSports.com

Note: With today’s Big Ten Championship looming between the Michigan Wolverines and the Hawkeyes, I had to find a way for a shameless plug of my favorite college football team.

There is no word who will fill the first base coach vacancy, although I will be disappointed if current bench coach Carlos Mendoza is not moved to the position to allow for a more seasoned veteran bench coach to aid Aaron Boone. Some of the names are probably holding out to see who gets the Mets managerial gig. As much as I would hate to see it, Buck Showalter makes the most sense to me. Whomever gets the job is going to benefit from the billionaire owner’s passionate desire to raise his club to greatness. Gee, I wish we had one of those kind of owners…

I get there was no reason for the Yankees to make splashy moves in November, and there are plenty of reasons why the Yankees should not have paid the exorbitant sums of money to the players who were signed. Yet, I was hoping for at least one move that could give us good feelings during this lockout. Sorry, shortstop Jose Peraza is not that guy. Fortunately, there are still plenty of unsigned players who could make the 2022 Yankees better so not all is lost.

My personal feelings about a stopgap shortstop are that it would do nothing to improve the Yankees, currently looking like the fourth best team in the AL East. Carlos Correa is going to cost a lot of money, but he brings greatness to both sides of the ball and would clearly improve the Yankees. He is young with heavy championship experience (regardless of your thoughts about how he got it) and would not be intimidated by New York. He makes the most sense to me, although I remain of the opinion that I would be incredibly happy to see Trevor Story as a Yankee. Either way, the Yankees need one of them. The whole idea of keeping the position warm for the young prospects (Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe) seems ridiculous. They are probably five years from potentially becoming what Correa and Story are today. For a win-now team, we need the best possible players now.

If the Yankees make the long-rumored trade with the Oakland A’s to acquire first baseman Matt Olson, it is pretty much a given Oswald Peraza would be included as part of the package. Everybody is getting excited about the rumors possibly linking Freddie Freeman to the Yankees, but I am skeptical on that one for no other reason than I feel he should and probably will stay in Atlanta.

I do not blame Masahiro Tanaka for declining to exercise the opt-out in his two-year contract with the Rakuten Eagles considering the MLB Lockout, but there was a little sadness when I saw it. I will admit there was a part of me hoping for a reunion with the Yankees. I would love to see Tanaka win a championship with the Yankees. With so much uncertainty surrounding Major League Baseball, Tanaka would have been foolish to opt out of a sure thing. I wish him the best of luck in 2022. Kind of funny that former Yankees first baseman Chris Gittens, released last month to play in Japan, will be Tanaka’s Rakuten teammate.

All I want for Christmas is Major League Baseball. Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, please man up and make it happen. For once in your lives, please think of the fans.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Turkey Day, Yankee Fans...

  

Happy Thanksgiving to the Yankees and their fans everywhere…

Wishing you and your families a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

Another quiet week in the Yankees Universe aside from the trade of speedy Tyler Wade to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the releases of Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor. One week to a potential lockout in MLB baseball, and all’s quiet…too quiet…on the Bronx front.

It is kind of funny that there are no true shortstops on the Yankees roster with Major League experience (sorry Gio, you are a third baseman). Everybody expects the Yankees to solve the shortstop vacancy one way or another (of course), but for now, it is a need. The Angels, meanwhile, have collected both Wade and Andrew Velazquez. For Wade, it is a homecoming for the Southern California native who grew up in Murrieta, California, which is close to Orange County. Murrieta is next to Temecula, which has some great wineries. No more cross-country commutes for Wade to attend Spring Training.


Photo Credit: Rob Carr, Getty Images

The loss of Wade was the direct cost for signing lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez so quickly after he was released earlier in the month. I think the Yankees should have either waited to sign Rodriguez or simply went after someone else with comparable skills after the deadline to set the 40-man rosters to keep an open spot for Wade. I get Wade was out of options and as the last man on the bench, the Yankees like the flexibility of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Shuttle. Oh well, I wish him the best in Anaheim. I am sure it is exciting for him to play in front of family and friends, and have Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon and Noah Syndergaard as his teammates. I hear his manager, Joe Maddon, likes versatile players. I am hopeful and optimistic that Oswaldo Cabrera is ready to become the next Tyler Wade on the Yankees roster.


For Clint Frazier, I wish him a full return to good health and the ability to resume his Major League career. It did not work out in New York, but he has the power to rewrite the story elsewhere. This time last year I had genuinely thought Frazier’s time in the Bronx had finally arrived. It turned out to be the road to the end. It will always be disappointing that he was unable to fulfill his early promise in Yankee pinstripes. Even though I am hopeful he can achieve his MLB dreams, it was clear a change of scenery is needed.


As for Rougie, this makes it twice that Joey Gallo has lost his friend as a teammate through release. First, when the Texas Rangers cut Odor and now. I enjoyed Odor’s home runs and the energy he brought to the team but overall, he is just not a good player. But you must believe someone will take a shot on him since the Texas Rangers are paying the majority of his 2022 salary. I would drop to see Rougie drop the need for power and focus on the finer art of hitting.

With teams continuing to appoint new coaches, I wonder when the Yankees will announce the additions to Aaron Boone’s coaching staff. I keep seeing other teams name new hitting coaches, yet it is still a vacancy for us. If the Yankees have offers out, what is taking so long? I know the unsettled managerial vacancy in Queens might be part of the delay as potential candidates (like Eric Chavez) may be under consideration. So much to do, yet so little time with the looming lockout.

Speaking of the Mets, Steve Cohen’s overreaction to the last-minute overnight decision of former Mets starter Steven Matz to sign with the St Louis Cardinals was priceless. Is this what it was like for Mets fans to watch the irrational antics of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner? Matz owed the Mets nothing, and as a free agent, Matz had to make the decision he felt with in his best interests. Handshake agreements mean nothing. David Wells can attest to that. Nothing is official until the ink has dried on the contract. I have no issue with Matz deciding not to give his former club a chance to match the offer. I will not miss Matz in Toronto and I am glad he is back in the National League. The Yankees could further weaken Toronto’s starting rotation by signing Robbie Ray. Just sayin’…

Marcus Stroman seems like the perfect anti-hero to end up in Boston. I do not dispute his talent, but I have lost respect for the man personally. I would welcome his return to the AL East as a Yankees adversary. To be the best, you must beat the best, so Stroman does not scare me. Maybe the Angels will sign Stroman. They seem to be using the Mets pipeline to rebuild their pitching staff with the additions of Thor and reliver Aaron Loup.

Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes had this post yesterday about free agent starter Jon Gray. I have long admired Gray and I would like to see Matt Blake and the Yankees pitching instructors work with Gray at sea level. The 30-year-old Oklahoman was a Yankees draft pick in 2011 (10th round) but he did not sign, opting to attend the University of Oklahoma. Daniel is right, if the Yankees could get Gray on a four-year deal with the $11 million average annual value, they should do it.


Tuesday, November 30th, looms as a big day for MLB. The non-tender deadline was moved from December 2nd due to the impending lockout. I fully expect the Yankees to tender a new contract to Gary Sanchez regardless of how many fans are finished with him. There are no great catching options available, and Kyle Higashioka is a backup at best. Even if the Yankees have identified a strong potential alternative, Gary has trade value, which is greatly enhanced if the National League, as expected, adopts the designated hitter rule. I would be incredibly surprised if the Yankees non-tendered him, making him a free agent. It would simply be a bad business decision.

There could be a flurry of activity next week…then silence if a lockout happens. I am hopeful the Yankees can fill at least a need or two before any potential shutdown. Who knows how long a lockout may last? For as exciting as it was to see fans return to baseball stadiums this year, the labor dispute is such a downer for the sport. I wish the two sides were more proactive in settling their differences rather than forcing a lockout to provide the necessary pressure. Greed reigns supreme for all concerned.

As always, Go Yankees!