Saturday, January 7, 2017

What About Kurt Suzuki?

Brian McCann has been traded away to the Houston Astros and is gone for good. Austin Romine is here but he’s less than inspiring and Gary Sanchez is currently slated to be the Yankees starting catcher. The Yankees could, and more than likely should, look to upgrade behind the dish in my opinion this winter which brings me to one man, Kurt Suzuki.

I am looking merely at a candidate to be the Yankees backup catcher and mentor in case the young Sanchez goes through the growing pains that almost every young rookie goes through at the Major League level. In no way do I believe that Suzuki should be a starting catcher for the Yankees but it would make me feel better about the situation in 2017 if he were sitting on the bench on Opening Day instead of Romine. Don’t get me wrong, I love Austin Romine as he is a product of the Yankees farm system but his career .222/.256/.329 triple slash simply leaves me less than enthused about the entire situation.

Kurt Suzuki was an All-Star for the Minnesota Twins just two years ago in 2014 and truth be told he may be considered to be average at best defensively as recently as 2016 but his veteran presence and right-handed bat should not be slept on. Suzuki would provide some pop off the bench that Romine does not, and truth be told Romine isn’t winning a Gold Glove Award anytime soon either, and would provide a veteran leadership and insurance policy that the Yankees currently lack with Romine.

It is little moves like this that can make or break a season. Look back at the 1996 season and dynasty when the Yankees had Joe Girardi and Jim Leyritz behind the dish. Neither were All-Stars but both played a role and played it well while both played huge and integral parts in the postseason and World Series. I’m thinking along those lines for Suzuki and Sanchez in 2017.

Make it happen Cashman. Get something for Romine in a trade if you have to, although why not try and pass him through waivers before just to be sure. He’s passed through before and he may pass through again. 

Imagining a Scenario Where Pineda & Severino Put it All Together in 2017

The offseason is a wonderful time of the year for baseball fans because everyone is in first place and the sky is the limit. There’s still plenty of hope to be had as there are still trades to be made, free agents to be signed and promising young guys to come up at Spring Training camps across the league making an impact. There’s plenty to be hopeful for right now so with that theme and trend in mind I am going to be a little hopeful and imagine a scenario where the New York Yankees finally see a year where both starting pitchers Michael Pineda and Luis Severino put it all together for an entire year. 

Pineda has some of the best stuff in the game and his swinging strike percentage and whiff rates on his slider are mind boggling when you look at how many home runs he gives up and what his bloated ERA looks like. One start Pineda will strike out 16 Baltimore Orioles on Mother’s Day and the next start he’ll give up five home runs and be chased from the game in the fourth inning. It defies the odds and it simply doesn’t make sense. Pineda has one thing going for him besides another healthy season under his belt in 2016, he has an impending free agency coming up after the 2017 season. Some may just think I’m being superstitious or overly hopeful here but it’s uncanny how players can struggle until their “contract year” only to turn it on before hitting a big pay day. Many, many others have done it before Pineda, so why couldn’t Big Mike? 

Severino is still somehow just 22-years old and entering just his second full season as a Major Leaguer in 2017 so it perplexes me why so many are ready to give up on him so quickly this early in his career. Severino was masterful in his first call up only to take a step back as a starter in 2016. After a couple demotions and an injury or two Severino found himself in the bullpen where he was absolutely dominant. Severino finding dominance in the bullpen should not damn him to the bullpen forever but should instead show the fans and the organization that he can not only get MLB caliber hitters out consistently but it should also show himself that he can. Confidence is key and Severino had to garner a little bit of that back this summer in the bullpen. Who is to say that won’t carry over to spring training this year and then into the 2017 regular season? I’m not a betting man by any means but I feel like I wouldn’t bet against it if I was.  

New York already has Masahiro Tanaka at the top of the rotation and CC Sabathia anchoring the bottom half of the rotation so if the team can slot in a successful and confident Michael Pineda and Luis Severino in between them… well the rest of the league better watch out. The Yankees wouldn’t have a starting rotation on paper that could compete with the Boston Red Sox but in my opinion, and all bias aside, the team would have one of the most underrated staffs and team as a whole in all of the American League. Add that with one of Luis Cessa or Chad Green or a midseason trade by Brian Cashman and the Yankees could really scare some folks in 2017. 

It’s all a dream right now but here in a few months it could all be a reality. Stay tuned. 

Masahiro Tanaka & Pulling an “Aroldis Chapman”

The New York Yankees are in a transition phase as we inch closer towards the 2017 regular season and the next few months will forever shape the franchise as we know it. Brian Cashman, the team’s General Manager, can do one of two things as we enter the next calendar year. He can stick to the plan, continue pushing forward with the youth movement and build towards the 2018 season and beyond or he can trade away some of his newly found prospects and make a run at things in 2017. There can be no in between with this team with just one exception, Masahiro Tanaka. 

Before I delve too deep into this I want to coin the phrase “pulling an Aroldis Chapman” and explain that it means to trade a player the summer before he hits free agency only to sign him back immediately that winter essentially getting the player and the prospects for nothing but a little cash that you were presumably okay with giving to the player anyway. The Yankees did this with Aroldis Chapman this past trading deadline and winter and were at least having discussions with Carlos Beltran about doing something similar so why couldn’t the Yankees do it again this summer with Masahiro Tanaka? 

As we all know Tanaka has a big opt-out clause written into his contract and the deadline to opt-out or not has to be made after the 2017 World Series concludes later on this year. IF, and I preface this with an IF and will likely include a lot of IF’s in this post, the Yankees are out of contention once again in July I truly believe the Yankees should trade Tanaka with the hope (or backstage secret handshake that they can either confirm or deny publicly) that the Japanese-born right-hander opts out of the contract and returns to the Bronx on a new deal before the 2018 season.  

Now obviously this all hinges on the health of Tanaka. While I do not personally worry about his elbow or the strains, bumps and bruises along the way that seem to hamper his season each and every year there are many circles that are worried about his health and who am I to tell them not to be. If he can stay healthy once again in 2017 and prove all the doubters, who by the way are doubters and not doctors, wrong once again about the Yankees and an army of doctors decision to forego Tommy John surgery he may be in line for another huge payout if he were to opt out of the contract. He would also fetch a huge haul in terms of prospects as well before the July 31st trading deadline in 2017. 

If the Yankees are out of contention then it’s time to continue the youth movement by pillaging a farm system and trading away Masahiro Tanaka. I know the Japanese people are stereotypically and generally big on honor but they also know, and can be made to understand, that this is a business and this is for the best not only for the team but for himself as well. The Yankees should then take all the newly found Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia money they have coming off the books and throw it at Tanaka next winter, assuming he opts out. Call it pulling an Aroldis Chapman now but next year we may be calling it pulling a Masahiro Tanaka. 

Either way, stay tuned. 

Gary Sanchez Wins the Thurman Munson Award

A great way to start a snowy and cold Saturday morning but with a big of good news regarding one of the Yankees former top prospects and best players on the team, Gary Sanchez. As if his historic 2016 season which should have ended with a 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Award wasn’t historic enough he has now one more milestone and plaque to add to his rookie mantle, the 2016 Thurman Munson Award.

Sanchez finished the first month of his rookie campaign with a .389/.458/.832/1.290 quad slash with 11 home runs before cooling just a bit towards the end of the season. Sanchez was the quickest rookie ever to hit 20 home runs in a season and will now join New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores as the trio are all honored for their work and inspiration both on and off the field.

Congratulations to Sanchez, Flores and Cruz. The New York athletes will be acknowledged at the 37th annual Munson dinner on February 7th in New York. The benefit and event will raise funds to support the AHRC New York City Foundation which supports programs for children and adults who have intellectual and development disabilities in New York City.

This Day in New York Yankees History 1/7: Yankees Trade the Big Unit

On this day in 2007 Randy Johnson agreed to a two year deal worth $26 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks leaving only a physical and approval by MLB to finalize the trade with the Yankees. The Yankees will receive reliever Luis Vizcaino, minor league right handed pitching prospects Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and minor league infielder Alberto Gonzalez.

Also on this day in 2006 former Yankees GM Bob Watson received the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The honor was given to the first black general manager in baseball history during the Legacy Awards in Kansas City.

Finally on this day in 1920 Babe Ruth reacted to being called "the most selfish and inconsiderate man to ever put on a baseball uniform" by former owner Harry Frazee. Ruth was quoted by the Boston Evening Standard saying "Frazee is not good enough to own any ball club, especially one in Boston."

Oh and also on this day in 2015 the New York Yankees signed Stephen Drew to a one-year deal. There's always that.Stephen Drew Sucks though.