Monday, January 1, 2018

Bold Predictions Leading To Opening Day

If you'd told me a year ago that the Yankees would go all the way to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series I would have said something like "aw, that's cute" followed by a giggle and sarcastic smile. But not only did that happen, here we are looking at a team that may be the odd's on favorite to win the 2018 World Series.

Even after trading for Giancarlo Stanton (just in case you don't remember, or because I want to write it out again, Stanton's the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, who also led Major League Baseball in Home Runs and Runs Batted In) the Yankees clearly plan on making a few more moves to improve the team.

So what might those plans be? I don't know, but that's not going to stop me from making a few predictions...

For starters, Gerrit Cole will not be a Yankee.

We've seen it time and time again... there is nothing happening involving any sort of move by the Yankees then, all of a sudden, Twitter lights up with stuff about an impending trade, and a couple of hours later it's all but official. Brian Cashman didn't get the nickname "ninja" for nothing.

The Cole thing has been talked about for months. I suppose it could still be worked out, especially when Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are signed, but if anything happens for a starter it will likely come out of left field. Cashman will deal for somebody that we didn't even know was available. And then some Yankees fans will be upset and call the deal "garbage". Why? Because there are always a few Yankees fans that like to crap on everything.

That's not to say the Yankees rotation is set. Sure, they could go with what they have and be just fine. But nobody in Yankees Universe, whether they work for the organization or cheer for it, is going to settle. But this prediction is going to be very difficult, because like I said earlier... "Ninja" Cashman.

I'm going to predict that the Yankees trade for Michael Fulmer.

On August 31st the Tigers traded Justin Upton, their regular left fielder, to the Angels. And I'm about 99.99% sure their regular right fielder last season, JD Martinez, is not going to re-sign with Detroit. That means the Tigers have lost both of their corner outfielders and their only clear starting outfielder for 2018 is "meh" (Mikie Mahtook). I took a peak at their prospect list on, and they don't have a single outfield prospect that's played above AA in their top 30.

So I think Clint Frazier would be a very nice fit for Detroit. Add Chance Adams, and another solid prospect or two, and I think a deal will get made.

With that said here are a few more predictions...

1. Jacoby Ellsbury will not be a Yankee on Opening Day. There may not be anything in the works right now, but once a few free agent center fielders start getting signed, some team will step up and be willing to pay Ellsbury between $8 and $10 million a season. Yankees people tend to overvalue their players, but in this case I think Jacoby is undervalued. Just look at Ellsbury's Fangraphs page, where he was worth $12.6 million last year and $16 million the year before. Some team will be happy to pay him upwards of $30 million for the next three years. And I predict that team will be the San Francisco Giants.

Jacoby to the Giants is not exactly a bold prediction, as it's been said there is interest from both San Francisco and Ellsbury, but the fact that Jordan Montgomery (the odd man out of the rotation after the Yanks trade for Fulmer) will be involved is something.

The Giants need pitching, particularly young pitching, so including Montgomery in the deal with Ellsbury is what makes it happen.

I know that trading for Fulmer while trading away Montgomery is kind of strange. I mean, Michael and Jordan are very close in age. However with one more year in MLB, including a better rookie season (Fulmer had an ERA+ of 139 his rookie year, while Jordan's was 116), I think Michael is the better bet. Also, the Giants would be better swayed to deal for Ellsbury if a pitcher with MLB experience like Jordan was involved... rather than somebody like Domingo Acevedo who has yet to make his MLB debut.

2. I've been thinking that the Yankees would forego bringing in somebody to play second or third base, as their internal candidates would be better than any free agent that would take a one year contract for like $10 million, but once I saw Ellsbury getting moved I think there will be money to use at one of the two spots.

I think the Yankees are willing to start Ronald Torreyes at second base until Gleyber Torres is ready (I say by June). However, while Miguel Andujar is a really good prospect, I don't think the Yankees are willing to go into 2018 leaning on Miguel at third. Therefore, using the money saved trading Jacoby Ellsbury (3 years and about $30 million), the Yankees will bring in Todd Frazier to start at third base on Opening Day.

3. New manager Aaron Boone will decide that it's best to swap Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in right field and at designated hitter. Brett Gardner's defense, and solid hitting, means Boone will want to start Gardner in left field regularly. Which means we see one of two lineups regularly... Gardner-Hicks-Judge with Stanton at DH, or Gardner-Hicks-Stanton with Judge at DH.

4. The Yankees, along with most teams, will go with a regular bench of three players. Two of those spots will be filled by guys named Tyler. Tyler Austin will be there to backup first base, third base, and either corner outfield position. And Tyler Wade will be there to backup second base, shortstop, and the entire outfield. Which gives Boone a very versatile bench.

5. That leaves the bench needing a backup catcher. Austin Romine is projected to get a little over a million dollars in arbitration (thanks MLB Trade Rumors!), which may save his job. If he were to make any more money then I could see the Yankees releasing him and giving the backup job to Kyle Higashioka... who is already on the 40-man roster, and would make well under a million dollars as a pre-arbitration player.

I can see the team deciding to save about half a million dollars by going with Higashioka instead or Romine, but something tells me they'll just go with Austin instead.

With that all said, here's my projected Opening Day Active Roster...

Starting Rotation:
1. Luis Severino
2. Masahiro Tanaka
3. Sonny Gray
4. Michael Fulmer
5. CC Sabathia*

Position Starters:
C - Gary Sanchez
1B - Greg Bird
2B - Ronald Torreyes
3B - Todd Frazier
SS - Didi Gregorius
LF - Brett Gardner
CF - Aaron Hicks
RF - Aaron Judge
DH - Giancarlo Stanton

Position Bench:
1B/3B/RF/LF - Tyler Austin
2B/SS/RF/LF/CF - Tyler Wade
C - Austin Romine

Aroldis Chapman*
David Robertson
Chad Green
Tommy Kahnle
Dellin Betances
Adam Warren
Chasen Shreve*
Jonathan Holder
* - denotes left-handed pitcher

The Year of Pinstripes & Champagne...

Welcome to the New Year, Yankees Family!

2017 and falling one game short of the World Series is a distant memory. We’ve turned the page, and it is time to look onward and upward. To each of you, I wish a most joyous and highly successful New Year, both personally and professionally, and it’s one, for all os us, that I hope consummates in the 28th World Championship for the New York Yankees.

Credit:  Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images
As we head into the New Year, I am not quite sure why the Yu Darvish rumors persist. I don’t have anything against Darvish. I’ve long liked the pitcher, but I don’t see how he fits. The Yankees may like Darvish but it doesn’t mean that they should sign him. Earlier in the off-season, MLB Trade Rumors projected the next Darvish contract at 6 years and $160 million. While prices will begin to drop for the stagnant free agent market, I’d be surprised if Darvish gets anything less than $20 million per year. That figure alone would take the Yankees past the $197 million luxury tax threshold.  

There’s speculation that the Yankees could move Jacoby Ellsbury to make some room, but you and I both know that the Yankees have to pay a huge chunk of that onerous contract to get any team to bite. And, oh yeah, there’s the little issue that you need Ellsbury’s consent too. Even if the Yankees could move Ellsbury and pick up, say, $10 million in annual salary relief, it wouldn’t make sense to sign Darvish as it would leave very little room for experienced quality infield help and potential trading deadline moves.  

So, let’s kill any talk of Yu Darvish. There’s no chance he’ll show up in Pinstripes.

Same for the Gerrit Cole rumors. The Pittsburgh Pirates know what the Yankees are willing to offer and there has been no deal. The Yankees are not going to sweeten the pot beyond the rumored names. Those talks appear to be dead and I do not see any chance of resuscitation.  

At this point, starting pitching is not really a need. Sure, there are questions about the rotation but name a team that doesn’t have questions with at least one starter. The odd man out if the Yankees were to acquire another starting pitcher would be Jordan Montgomery. To me, the only real reason that you’d make a trade is if you have the belief that this is the year the UCL tear in Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will finally require Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia surely won’t make all of his 2018 starts but with guys like Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu waiting in the wings, there is hope and promise on the horizon. While I’d hate to lose Chad Green out of the bullpen, the Yankees have told him to come to Spring Training as a starter. So, when in need of spot starts, Green and Adam Warren are more than capable of the challenge.  

The Yankees can reassess their starting pitching needs in July and make decisions accordingly.  No Cole. No Darvish. Let’s move on.

I remain very hopeful the Yankees can move Jacoby Ellsbury (please!). The real question is how much of the contract the Yankees have to absorb to make it happen and how much prospect talent they need to include. In reality, no team will make a trade for Ellsbury as long as the free agent market continues to offer guys like Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, and Austin Jackson. Ellsbury may be better than all except for Cain, but it will take an environment of desperation for teams in need of a quality centerfielder to act on a possible Ellsbury trade. 

If the Yankees believe strongly that Miguel Andujar can be the answer at third base, they should make a lower level free agent signing for someone like Eduardo Nunez to ease the transition. I’ve said that I wouldn’t want rookies on both sides of Didi Gregorius but the  Yankees have Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes to hold down second until Gleyber Torres is ready. Realistically, the Yankees will start Torres at Triple A for at least 20 service days to push his free agency back a year. That’s a move that they have to make for the long-term best interests of the organization. While Wade/Torreyes man second base, it would be helpful to have a veteran covering third or at least provide support for Andujar.

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Tampa by February 13th, there’s not really much left to be done for GM Brian Cashman. With the holiday season behind us, the coming weeks will be about finding value and bargains. I still expect the addition of a veteran third baseman but nothing major. I am resigned to the fact that we won’t see the return of the Toddfather nor will we be celebrating Moose Tacos in the Bronx. Nevertheless, I am confident that whomever runs out to third base at the start of the game at 3:37 pm EDT on Thursday, March 29th at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada will be the right decision.

Here is the MLB Network’s projected Yankees lineup:

Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Greg Bird, 1B
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Aaron Hicks, CF
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Ronald Torreyes, 2B

Personally, I kind of like putting Bird between Judge and Stanton to break up the righties, but that’s for Aaron Boone to decide, not me. The above lineup, with or without experienced help at third, is very solid…particularly once the Gleyber Show arrives.  

Credit:  Andrew Savulich, New York Daily News
It’s going to be a great New Year in the Bronx! I am excited and look forward to the upcoming season, and hold strong dreams of a victorious October.  Let’s stain those Pinstripes with the Bubbly!

Before I end this post, I’d like to say thank you to Daniel Burch and Bryan Van Dusen for their leadership and vision with The Greedy Pinstripes. Following the blog, you know 2017 was a tough year for Daniel yet he delivered from beginning to end. The man needs to make no apologies and he has shown that 2018 will be his best year yet.  

Go Yankees!