Saturday, November 30, 2019

Preparing for Yankees Baseball in December...

Biggest month of the off-season begins in 3, 2, 1…

From a baseball off-season perspective, it’s always good to put the Thanksgiving weekend in the rear view mirror. Generally, there are not too many transactions in November and while there were a few free agent signings and trades this year, the heart of the off-season begins as the calendar page rolls into December.

Like many fans, I continue to hold out hope the Yankees sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Realistically, I do not feel the Yankees will be the highest bidder for either pitcher. There’s probably a better chance they go for a guy like Madison Bumgarner if they dip into the free agent pool at all or better yet, make a trade for a young starter with strong upside. My only concern is that Cole and Strasburg can be had for money (something which the Yankees have even if they are bumping up against the highest luxury tax tier) whereas a trade would cost young, talented prospects. I am not trying to “prospect hug”, but if you don’t have to trade Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Albert Abreu or another top pitching prospect, why do it? I’d rather the Yankees part with cash than young players who could one day help the Yankees. Ultimately, I do feel GM Brian Cashman will do the right thing for the organization or at least I can hope. I am sure new pitching coach Matt Blake is helping the analytics team scour organizational pitching in search of the next Shane Bieber. 

Matt Blake, Yankees Pitching Coach

The Yankees over the last few years have shown us they operate within a certain budget and when given the choice, they’ll make financially conservative decisions over spending “stupid money”. As much as I like Cole and Strasburg, I cannot see the Yankees handing out $200 million plus contracts for either pitcher.  It kind of reminds me of back when the Yankees were negotiating with Ron Guidry one year and held him to $900,000 because George Steinbrenner didn’t think pitchers were worth a million dollars per year. I am sure Hal Steinbrenner knows how much he wants to pay for a pitcher and there is a line he is unwilling to cross. My guess is Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels and given that he has not yet returned to Washington, Strasburg goes home to San Diego. Money outweighs playing at home, sure, but for both, I think their home town teams will be the victors with the most green. 

Max Goldstein took a lot of heat for writing on article on Elite Sports NY yesterday entitled “New York Yankees should pursue Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood”. He provides very compelling reasons for why it’s the more likely outcome for the Yankees given their recent history. Whether or not I’d like that result is irrelevant. It simply stands as a strong possibility. If Wheeler and Wood were to become Yankees, I’d certainly support them. I want Gerrit Cole as much as anybody but the realist in me knows that we need to keep a very open mind regarding the potential actualities for the starting rotation. We are most likely not going to get the big ticket purchases and have to be prepared for players of value and potential. 

I am also prepared to lose Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine. There’s been talk lately that both Didi and Dellin, and possibly even Romine, could join Joe Girardi in Philadelphia. I hate to be petty, but I’d hate to see that happen. If Didi leaves, I’d prefer to see him go back to Cincinnati. As for Dellin, I’d rather see him join the Los Angeles Dodgers than the New York Mets. I continue to believe that Romine goes to the Los Angeles Angels, like Gerrit Cole. Of the three, I think the loss of Betances will hurt the most. The recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in Kansas City’s Tim Hill or Oakland’s Blake Treinen seem to indicate the Yankees are looking for Dellin’s replacement rather than simply looking to bolster the pen. Didi Gregorius has been one of my favorite Yankees. He was the perfect guy to replace Derek Jeter, and his personality is so enjoyable. I strongly believe 2020 will be a bounce back year for him and I hope it is in Pinstripes. While I know Gleyber Torres is a more than capable shortstop, my preference would be to keep him at second and bring Didi back. If Didi leaves, D.J. LeMahieu can be a free agent next year and we could be back searching for a second baseman next off-season like we were when Robinson Cano left. The Yankees could potentially swing a rumored trade for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber that would solve the shortstop/second base debate while addressing the starting rotation. No doubt I’d take Lindor over Sir Didi any day of the week regardless of how much I like the latter. However, I don’t think the Lindor/Kluber trade will happen, at least not with the Yankees.   

I am not against the Yankees re-signing Austin Romine. I think he’s been a very good backup for the Yankees and the pitching staff loves him. In my opinion, another team will pay him more than the Yankees are offering and they’ll give him a better line for a starting job.  While Gary Sanchez is the undisputed starter for the Yankees, the need for two quality catchers in today’s game is very important. We’ve seen the Atlanta Braves spend to bring in Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, to pair with Tyler Flowers following the retirement of Brian McCann. The Washington Nationals brought back Yan Gomes to pair with Kurt Suzuki.  While I think Kyle Higashioka can be that guy, we don’t really know until he proves he can be. I can see the Yankees bringing in catching competition for training camp to see where the chips fall. The depth behind Higgy is not good. The organization’s best catching prospects, Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are a couple of years away.

In a perfect world, I’d love to see Gregorius, Betances, and Romine all return to the Yankees next season, while bringing in Cole and Strasburg. Sadly it will not happen and we need to be prepared for none of them to be Yankees.

A controversial topic lately, at least among the Yankees fan base, is if the team should introduce alternative road uniforms. I think the majority, based on what I’ve seen, prefer to remain with the traditional uniforms without exception. While some like the all black uniforms the Yankees wore last year in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, there’s probably no chance the topic is even under discussion or consideration with the Steinbrenner family. For me, I have always loved these road uniforms worn by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. 

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth

There’s no way I’d ever want the Yankees to mess with the home uniform but for the road, who cares?  The most important representation is the interlocking N-Y on the baseball cap. I hate the traditionalist mindset that says, ‘we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Change is good. I don’t want names on the uniforms so maybe that part of me is a traditionalist, but I have no objection to change for the better. 

Following the release of Greg Bird by the Yankees, it seems that his best course to get back to the Major Leagues is to sign a minor league deal with a training camp invitation. Perhaps some team will offer him a major league contract but I doubt it.  Every MLB team had a chance to claim him on waivers and chose not to. Granted, as a free agent, he’ll come more cheaply than he would have if claimed off waivers, but Bird has much to prove. He needs to find a team that is willing to be patient with him. I wish him the best, and while I will miss his swing, I won’t miss his injury reports. I truly hope he has better luck staying healthy with his next destination. I think my biggest fear is that he goes to the Boston Red Sox and becomes the player we always thought he would be.    

Monday is a big day with the 8 pm Eastern deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. A couple of former Yankees are among the list of potential non-tender candidates…Brandon Drury and John Ryan Murphy.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a reunion with either player. I know both have underperformed since leaving the Yankees but I liked both when they were here and I continue to hold the optimism they could succeed in the right environment. I’d like to see what new catching coordinator Tanner Swanson could do with Murphy.   

A week from Sunday is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.  No doubt San Diego would love to dominate the local headlines with a Strasburg signing during the Meetings. It feels like this year’s meetings should be more active than last year. The off-season so far has been more active even if the Yankees have been relatively quiet. I guess we’ll soon find out. Time will tell if Hal Steinbrenner intends to deliver us a few Christmas presents early. 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving! It’s a beautiful time to spend with friends and family.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Where Do We Go From Here?...

A Week of Surprises for the Yankees…

The biggest news of the week was the release of Jacoby Ellsbury which was met with celebration by most Yankee fans. It’s probably the most united I’ve seen the Yankees fan base on Social Media for a very long time. I know that I’ve been anti-Ellsbury for quite some time, but I’ll admit that I do feel badly for Ellsbury the man even if I wasn’t fond of the player. I do wish him much success going forward even if I am excited about the Yankees’ decision to move on and allow the roster spot to go to a talented young prospect who might actually help the team one day.   

When the Yankees signed Ellsbury to the seven-year deal for $153,000,000 in the 2013-14 off-season after losing free agent Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, it felt wrong. It seemed like every year, Jacoby Ellsbury, while a member of the Boston Red Sox, was missing time with injuries. Sure, he had the one great year in 2011 but he was never able to replicate it. When he became a free agent, the Red Sox made no public attempt to retain the player. I liked Ellsbury when he was on the field, but sadly, that was the challenge. He was a huge risk from the moment he signed that mega-deal.  

It’s been two years since Ellsbury put on a Yankees uniform and I figured it was only a matter of time until the Yankees made the decision to cut their biggest mistake in recent memory. On Wednesday, before the 8 pm deadline to finalize the 40-man roster, I read Ellsbury’s contract was not covered by insurance for 2020. As soon as I read that, I knew the Yankees would be releasing Ellsbury so I wasn’t surprised when it happened. I had reached the point where I didn’t really care if Ellsbury was healthy for 2020 and capable of providing at least what he gave the Yankees in 2014, I knew I didn’t want him on my team. The Yankees need a center fielder with Aaron Hicks sidelined after Tommy John surgery, but there’s no way I wanted Ellsbury competing for playing time (not that I actually believe he’ll be ready).  

Frankly, missing two years of Major League Baseball is a long time. Last Spring, we saw an unsuccessful attempt by Troy Tulowitzki to make a comeback after missing so much time. Tulo had heart and wanted to be a Yankee, yet he couldn’t make it. If Ellsbury does try to sign with a team, I think he’ll stay close to his Scottsdale, AZ home. The San Francisco Giants, seemingly forever in search of outfielders, train in Scottsdale and appear to be a logical destination. But I could see any one of the teams who train in Arizona as possibilities if they are willing to take a chance.  From my perspective, Ellsbury should retire. But ultimately, he’s not a Yankee and I am happy regardless of Ellsbury’s next job in or out of baseball.

After releasing Ellsbury, the Yankees have taken severe public relations heat when word spread they do not intend to pay Ellsbury his salary for 2020 due to the use of non-approved doctors for his rehabilitation. Including the 2021 buyout, the Yankees owe Ellsbury a total of $26,142,857. There’s a fight with the MLB Players’ Union looming as Ellsbury is expected to file a grievance, but the Yankees must feel they have a legally defensible argument to make this decision. I am not sure how this will play out. I am certainly not making assumptions that the Yankees will not be paying any of the monies owed to Ellsbury or that his 2020 salary will not count for luxury tax purposes. Either he’ll win his grievance or the Yankees will fold to public pressure. I am not sure the cost of victory is worth it in the long run even if $26 million is a helluva lot of money for any team including the Yankees. The top available free agent, Gerrit Cole, shares the same agent (Scott Boras) as Ellsbury. I don’t think Boras would let the contentious situation with Ellsbury affect his negotiations to get Cole the most money even if the highest offer was from the Yankees. However, I’d prefer the Yankees not engage in a battle with the game’s best and most feared agent.

Photo Credit: John Minchillo, AP

In the flurry of moves to finalize the 40-man roster, the Yankees also announced they had designated Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes, Jr for assignment. Bird was a bit of a surprise given the long leash the Yankees have given him over the course of his Yankees career. I was frustrated with Bird’s inability to stay healthy but I thought the Yankees would give him another shot next Spring. There’s a chance he clears waivers and the Yankees re-sign him to a minor league deal so it’s not necessarily the end of his time in Pinstripes until it is. Cortes, Jr was a nice guy to have last season with his variety of arm angles and overall effectiveness as the long man for Chad Green’s opening assignments. But, unfortunately for him, he is disposable and not as valuable as the pitchers the Yankees needed to protect (Deivi Garcia, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske, and Luis Gil). I think there’s a greater chance, if they are not dealt away in trades, that Bird clears waivers than Cortes, Jr. Somebody will take a chance on him. A rebuilding team in need of a fifth starter could view him as a good option.  

In retrospect, it appears the Yankees should have let former pitching coach Larry Rothschild go after the 2017 season when Joe Girardi was fired. While Rothschild has a solid reputation in baseball as a good pitching coach and baseball man, there are indications modern analytics may have passed him by. While he was seemingly receptive toward analytics, it appears that he didn’t fully understand how to apply them to certain pitchers. Word was leaked the Yankees had to go around Larry last season to work with James Paxton which led to the pitcher’s turnaround after a disappointing start. You can’t help but wonder what Sonny Gray could have done with a pitching coach like new coach Matt Blake. There’s part of me that believes Gray lacks the mental toughness necessary to succeed in New York, but on the other hand, he is a pitcher with talent as he showed last year in Cincinnati. I guess we’ll never know but I am optimistic about what Blake can do with current Yankee pitchers. The poster child for me is Michael King. We know King has the talent and by all accounts, he is one of the most prepared pitchers in the organization and he has history with Blake. He might not be the most talented pitcher but he might be the smartest (somewhat like David Cone in my mind). Not that I am expecting King to win a rotation spot next Spring, but I think he’ll be one the first names called when the Yankees need rotation help. He has a chance to be Blake’s first major success story with the Yankees.

Speaking of coaches, CONGRATULATIONS! to the Yankees for their hire of Rachel Balkovec as a minor-league hitting coach. Earlier in the day, the Chicago Cubs made news with the announcement of their hire of Rachel Folden as a hitting instructor for one of their minor league affiliates. Then came word about the Yankees and Balkovec. Balkovec, only 32, has two master degrees in human movement, and she served as the Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator for the St Louis Cardinals in 2014-15. She also served time in minor league strength and conditioning roles with the Houston Astros.  

Regardless of whether Balkovec or Folden was the first female hired for minor league coaching positions (Balkovec apparently signed her contract on November 8th which allegedly would make her the first), I think it is great for Baseball. Dillon Lawson, the Yankees’ organizational hitting coordinator is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “It’s an easy answer to why we chose Rachel for this role. She’s a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.”  It seems like we are in the midst of a change in organizational philosophy with the release of so many organizational coaches and the hiring of new age instructors like Balkovec, Blake and catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. I am happy the Yankees are on the cutting edge of change. Welcome to the Yankees family, Rachel!

Back to players, many are surprised that Brett Gardner has not re-signed with the Yankees yet, particularly since he signed so quickly last off-season. I am not reading anything into it. I think it is only a matter of time until the two sides come to an agreement. I don’t really envision Gardy wearing any uniform other than the one he has always worn.

As for the other free agents, there seems to be increasing talk about Didi Gregorius going to Philadelphia Phillies to join up with Joe Girardi. It would allow the Phillies to move Jean Segura out of the shortstop position which would improve their team.  I’d hate to see it, but I do view this as a very strong possibility for Sir Didi. I personally hope the the Yankees can at least sign Didi on a short-term deal to allow him to rebuild his value as I truly believe he’ll be closer to his pre-Tommy John surgery version next season than the post-surgery version who struggled after his return to the field. Like Gregorius, I am also hopeful the Yankees can retain Bronx native Dellin Betances. I am not ready for either player to leave yet, even if it means the Yankees cannot grab the biggest fish on the free agent market.

As for the big fish, there’s no doubt I’d love to have Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg on the Yankees.  But redistributing the money to cover other roles, I’d be okay if the Yankees were to acquire someone like Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians. My primary goal this off-season is to improve J.A. Happ’s spot in the rotation. Of course that means dealing Happ (and including a good prospect or two to make it happen), but I feel it’s critical to get better. I’d love a pitcher that is capable of being the team’s ace to take pressure off James Paxton and Luis Severino, but they need another pitcher that is capable of standing in the same room with Paxton, Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka. We’re not getting Lucas Giolito (the Chicago White Sox have shown they are ready to take it to the next level with the serious cash they’ve thrown at Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal). Similarly, I don’t feel the Yankees will be able to pry Luis Castillo away from the Cincinnati Reds. Yet, I am sure there is a pitcher out there destined for Pinstriped success and I am sure Brian Cashman will find him, whoever he may be.

Even if the Yankees make a competitive offer for Cole, I can’t really see them waiting until late January or early February to see if they are successful in landing the prized pitcher. I think they’ll make the move for the best available option sooner rather than later. I’ll be a bit disappointed if Robbie Ray is the best we can do, but I am more than willing to see how this plays out. There’s always the chance that Cash shocks us all with a surprise acquisition.

I am not really expecting much baseball news for the next week or so with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us. While this off-season has seemingly been more active than last year (at least for the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox), there probably won’t be much happening until the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA next month (December 8-12). On a side note, as much as I love California, I prefer for the Winter Meetings to be in the Eastern time zone.  

Although we probably won’t see it until next off-season but I’d like to see the Yankees extend Aaron Boone. When Boonie was named the Yankees manager, it was reported that his contract was for three years with an option for a fourth. Next season will be Year 3, and while there’s no doubt in my mind the Yankees will pick up the option for 2021, I’d rather see Boone given certainty and financial security for the years ahead. The first manager to win 100 games in his first two seasons and a guy who has shown continual improvement, there’s not really anybody I’d rather see at the helm than Aaron Boone. His playoff exit last year was at the hands of the cheating, lying, trashy organization known as the Houston Asterisks. With bench coach Josh Bard apparently out, we’ll see how Boone meshes with new bench coach Carlos Mendoza although I am excited about the pairing. I do believe we’ll see World Series success with Boone in charge.

I get that Derek Jeter should be unanimously selected to the MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2020, I am not going to get worked up if he is not. I have no doubt he’ll gain entry with greater than 98% of the vote and it’s a certainty we’ll be celebrating the induction of the former Yankees shortstop into Cooperstown next summer. So, despite whatever the final vote may be, I’ll be happy to see Jeter’s placement among the greatest ever to play the game. I am hopeful the Veterans Committee selects Thurman Munson to go into the Hall with Jeter.  

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Brett Gardner WILL Get a Plaque in Monument Park (Opinion)

When I made the above tweet, I had no idea how much discussion and general uproar that it would start among Yankees Twitter. On a lazy Monday night in mid-November when there was no Yankees-related news to really be found, I found myself defending the fact that the New York Yankees will likely give Brett Gardner a plaque inside Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park before it is all said and done. Do I believe that he deserves one? That is up for debate, and something I will try to determine over the course of this post, but whether I believe he deserves one is irrelevant. If history is any indicator of the future, Gardner’s bald head, goofy smile, and #11 uniform number will all be on a plaque inside Yankee Stadium during my lifetime.

Now before the outrage starts and before we start unfollowing me on Twitter, @GreedyStripes for the shameless plug, let me explain my thought process behind this. At one point and time, Monument Park and the subsequent retired numbers that generally came with being a legendary New York Yankee was an exclusive club. Names like Miller Huggins (the first ever inducted into Monument Park, trivia time), Lou Gehrig, Jacob Ruppert, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Bill Dickey, and Yogi Berra, to name a few, were scattered throughout the center field area of Yankee Stadium, rivaling the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

And then George Steinbrenner and crew came along and kind of watered it down a bit.

When the Boss took over as the owner of the New York Yankees the dilution of the retired uniform numbers, the plaques or monuments inside Monument Park, and the Yankees captaincy, among other things, slowly began to mean less and less. At least in my opinion. Monument Park went from being a shrine to not only the greatest Yankees to ever play or touch the game, but some of the best in the sport to ever leave their mark on the game that we all love. Sure, under George’s tenure the Yankees added plaques or monuments for the likes of Ron Guidry, Allie Reynolds, Bob Sheppard, Red Ruffing, Jackie Robinson, and others… but there were also a few questionable decisions in there as well along the way.

Reggie Jackson played a whopping five years for the New York Yankees, 1977 – 1981. Sure, Reggie won a couple World Series championships with the New York Yankees, and yes, I am well aware that he hit three home runs in three at-bats while doing so, but still. There is no way that Reggie deserves a plaque in Monument Park, let alone his number retired by the club. Not after the “Bronx is Burning” years of feuds with then manager Billy Martin, and not after he dipped town after just one contract with the Yankees. Sure, Reggie had five great seasons in the Bronx averaging a .281/.371/.526/.897 quad slash while averaging around 30 home runs and over 100 RBI per season with a cumulative 17.2 WAR, but is that deserving of having his number retired and having a plaque inside Monument Park? Well, that’s debatable. In my opinion, the answer is no, but I respect if anyone else wants to say yes. I am well aware of the Yankees World Series drought before Reggie arrived on the scene, and if that weighs into the decision more than it should, fine… but what about Phil Rizzuto?

Now while the comparison may not be exactly fair, Rizzuto lost the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons to World War II and his service with the US Navy, this may be the closest comparison that we can come up with. Gardner has played in 12 seasons with the Yankees while Rizzuto played in 13 and the stats are pretty similar. Again, not comparing the players... but I am comparing the stats. Gardner never won an MVP like Rizzuto did in 1950, and Gardner never finished second like Scooter did in 1949. I am comparing THE STATS while keeping in mind, again in my opinion, that the requirements for Monument Park have been watered down a bit over the years. 

Gardner career: .260/.342/.401/.743 with 124 HR, 524 RBI, 41.6 WAR, 12.5 dWAR.
Rizzuto career: .273/.351/.355/.706 with 38 HR, 563 RBI, 40.8 WAR, 22.9 dWAR. 

I am in no way saying Gardner is Phil Rizzuto, or even better than the Yankees he is likely to pass in 2020 assuming he comes back and has a productive season (a 1.6 WAR in 2020 would put him past Don Mattingly and Jorge Posada, and within striking distance of Thurman Munson… all who have plaques inside Monument Park), but what I am saying is that I can see the Yankees giving Gardner his spot inside Monument Park before it is all said and done. If you can make a case for Rizzuto being in there, and Reggie Jackson being there, Jorge Posada being there (check the stats… Gardner is right there with Jorgie statistically and in five less seasons), etc., then you can at least make the argument that Gardner will be there as well.

And while we are on the subject, where is Roy White Day and his plaque inside Monument Park? Talk about a travesty.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Missing the New York Yankees...

Off-Season Prep for 2020 is Underway…

I think I can speak for the entire Yankees fanbase when I say that we miss Yankees Baseball. We are in the part of the off-season where there is talk and speculation but not much action. Things should start warming up next week. Not that there will be signings and trades, but the General Manager meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. The groundwork for the future trades could be laid and of course there could be finalization of the new deal for Brett Gardner. When you get all the GM’s together in one place, anything can happen.  Let the alcohol flow! After a couple of shots, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury would look attractive to somebody. I’d love for a rival GM to wake up from a drunken stupor one morning, screaming “WTF! How did we end up with Ellsbury???!!!” Sadly, it won’t be that easy to get rid of Jacoby but I’ll always hold out hope. Fortunately, we are only one season away from the $5 million buyout and the end of Ellsbury’s time in New York. 

The biggest news for the Yankees this week was the appointment of Matt Blake as the new pitching coach, replacing the fired Larry Rothschild. Blake, 33, had been promoted last Tuesday to Director of Pitching Development for the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he was the newest member of Aaron Boone’s staff.  Blake has been with the Indians for four seasons and was, prior to his promotion, the Assistant Director of Player Development. Before joining the Indians in late 2015, Blake was a pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA.  He began his career as a pitching coach for a Boston area high school (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, MA) in 2009. In 2010, he served as an area scout for the Yankees before moving on to Cressey. He served as the pitching coach in 2015 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  

Blake is a native of Concord, New Hampshire and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and philosophy. He was on the Holy Cross baseball team for all four years.

While I think we have to recognize that most of us are not qualified to assess who is or is not a good pitching coach, I like the hire. I know everybody wanted the sexy pick of David Cone. Me too. I thought Cone or Andy Pettitte would be good choices, but conversely, I know that just because Cone was a very good pitcher and a great broadcaster does not mean that he would have been a terrific pitching coach. Also, the pitching coach job would have required Cone to take a pay cut. Frankly, I am glad that we’ll continue to hear Coney on YES Network broadcasts with Michael Key. I suppose he could always pursue coaching jobs elsewhere if he is so inclined but for now, I like his presence on my TV screen for games.  

The Yankees have evolved into one of Baseball’s most advanced analytic teams. They’ve sunk huge costs into acquiring some of the best  available analytic minds to support VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his team of analysts. The word is Blake is very good at taking analytics and breaking it down into laymen’s terms for pitchers to understand and how to apply them. I know the Yankees didn’t wake up one morning and say ‘hey, let’s steal Blake from the Indians!’. They did their research, and multiple members within the Yankees organization had the opportunity to meet with Blake. The consensus of the greatest minds in the organization was the hiring of Blake as the next pitching coach. That’s good enough for me.  

I do think the Yankees should join the recent trend in MLB to hire an assistant pitching coach. The unknown about Blake is that he has never played or coached at the Major League level. I am not saying he can’t do it, but I think two voices on the coaching staff for the pitchers is smart. I personally like RailRiders pitching coach Tommy Phelps. He has good knowledge and experience with many of the high level prospects and we know that he has done good work with the Major League pitchers sent down for additional instruction, with Chad Green representing the most recent example. Who knows if Green’s rebound was because of Phelps or was based on a plan developed by Larry Rothschild, but I do know that Phelps is highly respected and would make a good partner for Blake.  

Speaking of Larry Rothschild, it didn’t take him long to find new employment. One day after the Yankees hired Blake, the San Diego Padres announced their had re-assigned their pitching coach of 17 years, Darren Balsey, to other duties within the organization and had hired Rothschild to be their next pitching coach. I think everyone expected Larry to follow Joe Girardi to Philadelphia, but all things considered, I think landing in San Diego is an ideal opportunity for him. I was a little surprised when Girardi went with Bryan Price as his pitching coach. Not that I think Price is a bad coach, but as a recent manager, I am sure he has aspirations to manage again, and I can’t help but think there could be potential for conflict with Girardi who we know can be hard-headed at times. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but at this state of his career, Rothschild is content with serving as a pitching coach until retirement calls his name. He’ll now get his opportunity to help break in another rookie manager (Jayce Tingler) and will be charged to help develop one of the best pitching prospects in the game in MacKenzie Gore. I don’t get the hate directed at Rothschild by Yankee fans. While I think it was time for the Yankees and Rothschild to part ways, I realize that Larry did many things right and there was much we were unable to see from the outside looking in. I am appreciative for the years he gave the Yankees. The Padres are a young, analytics-driven team, and they chose to go with experience. Good for Larry. I wish him the best for his new opportunity.  

It was reported the Yankees and Brett Gardner’s camp are talking and it should result in a new deal soon. I am in favor of bringing Gardy back, however, I do not feel the Yankees should spend more than $8-$10 million on a one-year contract.  Maybe throw in some incentives for a couple more million. But to expect Gardy to replicate his 2019 season (enhanced by the alleged juiced baseball) is asking too much. The Yankees need a starting center fielder next year and I hate seeing Gardner’s name automatically written in while Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery. The guy will be 37 in August. I think he is best served as the team’s fourth outfielder with random starts rather than every day. The Yankees need to field the best players in 2020, not swim in sentimental waters. I’ve seen some Yankee fans suggest Gardy’s number should be retired when his playing days are finished. Sorry, while he has been a good Yankee for a long-time, he is not a Hall of Fame level player and never has been. I value Gardy’s leadership but I believe he is overrated in the eyes of many fans. I am not sure if the center field should be Mike Tauchman or maybe someone who is not in the organization right now, but I think the Yankees will go with the best man for the job and not simply pay for past performance.  

I know the Yankees will be okay if Didi Gregorius leaves, but I’ll be sad. I like his left-handed bat and I think he’ll rebound for a stronger 2020 season as he gets further away from TJ surgery.  The Yankees are still a championship-level team with Gleyber Torres at short and D.J. LeMahieu at second, but I think Didi still has much left in the tank. I know, I am making these statements after saying the Yankees shouldn’t stay with Gardy for sentimental reasons. But unlike Gardy, I think the best years can still be ahead for Didi. There’s growing speculation that Didi’s original team, the Cincinnati Reds, are interested in bringing him back. I guess if Didi does leave, I’d rather see him go to the National League so the Reds would probably be best-case scenario. But minus his bat, the Yankees will need to find another left-handed hitter to sandwich between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.   I am not sure if lefties like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, or (gasp!) Greg Bird can be that guy or if Brian Cashman will have to go for outside help. Also, unless the Yankees sign LeMahieu to an extension, there could be an infield void after next season. I’d hate to go back to rolling out guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew  to fill in at second base like we did when Robinson Cano left. If you say Tyler Wade, then we obviously have differing opinions about the player.   

A much speculated target for shortstop has been Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Granted, he is not a left-handed bat but clearly he’s one of the best players in the game today. He is only 25 and would fit nicely into the Yankees lineup as a replacement for Gregorius. If the Indians move Lindor, it will only be for a huge haul so we’d have to expect to lose some very talented and promising players. Another suggestion is Corey Seager if the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Lindor. I’d be fine with either Lindor or Seager at shortstop (using Aaron Boone’s favorite word, “obviously”). But honestly, I wish the Yankees would just re-sign Gregorius and save the trade bullets for an ace. A package of Lindor and Corey Kluber would be awesome, but the price tag would be outrageous. Nevertheless, I am sure you’ll be able to see Cashman in conversation with Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, and/or Mike Chernoff, the Tribe’s GM, next week. You never know what can happen in Baseball.  

I am cautiously optimistic about Thurman Munson’s presence on the 2020 Modern Era Committee ballot for Hall of Fame consideration. The results will be announced on December 8th. I’ve always said that Jim “Catfish” Hunter is the reason I became a Yankee fan, but it didn’t take long for Thurman to become my favorite player.  The others on the ballot are Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, and former MLBPA head Marvin Miller. Mattingly was my favorite player after Munson. While I think both players are Hall of Fame-worthy, if I had to pick one, I’d say it is time for Thurman to get his deserved recognition as one of the game’s all-time greats. I loved the passion and intensity of that guy.  He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. Even though the Yankees were swept in the World Series that year, it was not because of Munson who hit .529 (9 for 17) in the series. He was the heart and soul of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Thurman’s death in 1979 remains one of those “I know exactly where I was when I heard the news” moments in my life. I was devastated and it’s sad that we didn’t get to see what Thurman could have done past age 32. I know there was speculation at the time about Thurman’s desire to get closer to home and perhaps sign with the Cleveland Indians, but it would have been hard to see him in anything other than Pinstripes. He was truly one of the Yankee Legends despite his premature departure and deserves his place among the other greats. I hope this is the year.  

As always, Go Yankees! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Offseason Predictions: Starting Pitching Edition

These are not the Yankees of old. They are not going to spend 300 million dollars this winter on
Cole, Strasburg,and Rendon. Though signing these three guys would probably put the Yankees “over the edge” and bring them their first world series in 11 years, it is not smart for the future. They would end up with obsolete players in their late thirties who don’t even play anymore (Ellsbury, end of a-rod, etc). The way to build a winning team has changed since George was in charge. Bringing up young breakout stars and trading for high ceiling, young, and controllable players from other teams is the new strategy. The Yankees have had a very seamless youth movement. The Baby Bombers have taken over, during the regular season at least. These Baby Bombers will eventually hit arbitration and free agency and the Yankees, even with their big wallet, won’t be able to retain them all. Keeping a balance of veterans and young controllable players is how teams have recently won the world series. This brings us back to this offseason. I already outlined who I would target on the offense trade market. So this brings us now to the pitching side of things.

Through a lot of thought and consideration, I have just about came to a conclusion for my predictions for the Yankees this winter on the pitching side. The Yankees have needed another ace for the last couple years and this would have supposedly made the difference. The Yankees missed on Verlander, Scherzer, Corbin, and trading for Cole, and this is why the Astros and Nationals have a world series win and the Yankees don’t. I don’t believe in saying the Yankees would’ve won the world series with one other guy because there are a lot of other variables that have to be factored in. If the best team on paper always won, then games wouldn’t be played. The Astros would’ve just been handed the world series title. There too much chance and other factors to really predict baseball and that's what's great about it. So all of you guys out there who think the Yankees will sign Cole, don’t get your hopes up. If the Yankees do wind up signing Cole, I would not be disappointed though. I would give it about a 25-30% chance of happening. Who knows, maybe "Ninja Cash" will swoop in last second and strike a deal with Gerrit. Anyways, here's my big predictions. "Expert prediction" if you insist.

This offseason I think the Yankees will sign Zack Wheeler and trade for Robbie Ray.

Zack Wheeler
Zack Wheeler hasn’t exactly had a great career so far, but he looks like a breakout candidate. A lot
of analysts have compared his stuff to Cole, though the naked eye doesn't really show that. He has good velocity, spin rate and low exit velocity. Hopefully the Yankees sign a pitching coach who can help him reach his full potential. Maybe a change of scenery is what he needs. He has the talent, maybe he just needs a change of mindset, maybe a winning mindset. Something he can’t get with the Mets. The Yankees had a lot of interest in him around the trade deadline, but trades between the Mets and Yankees never really come into fruition. He has been roughed up a bunch in his career so he won't be as expensive as a Cole but talent evaluators say he has a lot of talent so he will get a good amount of money. He isn't quite the true ace that the Yankees have supposedly been trying to get but he does bring a good amount of potential to the table.
Wheeler signs with the Yankees for 4 years and $76 Million

Robbie Ray

The Yankees have always been a big fan of Robbie Ray and so have I. He has good velo and good
offspeed pitches. He is another pitcher who hasn’t quite reached his potential yet. The Yankees have
had a lot of interest in him last offseason and near the trade deadline this past season. I think it has
been a matter of the Dbacks thinking they are in postseason contention but they really are not. Don't
let me get into a whole debate about the 2nd wild card messing up the balance of the league and
making for less trade deadline deals because no teams think they are sellers because they think
they can sneak into the second wild card spot. Anyways, Robbie Ray has high strikeouts and plus
stuff he just lacks control sometimes and if the Yankees new pitching coach can help him reach his
potential he could be one of the top starting pitchers in the game. These two moves are going to be
really impacted by whoever the Yankees decide to make their new pitching coach because these are
two potential really good pitchers if the right person is their coach. No pressure Yankees, but you better make the right decision.

Mock Trade:
Yankees Get:
Robbie Ray
Dbacks Get:
Michael King
Albert Abreu
Clarke Schmidt

If you have predictions for who you think the Yankees will get this offseason, let me know who in the comment section below. 

Tracking the Yankees 2020 Payroll

It is probably a good thing that I married an accountant, otherwise these posts would be pretty damn hard to keep up with. I admit it, math was never my favorite or my strongest subject, my only B’s ever in High School were in math, but something just seems to click for me when it comes to tracking the Yankees payroll. I can’t explain it, but it has always interested me, which is weird for a fan who grew up in the George Steinbrenner era of completely disregarding the payroll altogether. All salaries and information here are for informational purposes only, and all credit goes to Baseball Reference, MLB Trade Rumors and Spotrac. Big shout out to those guys and girls over there, thank you! I will try to keep this updated as much as I can throughout the offseason, but no promises.

2020 Guaranteed Contracts

As you can see, the New York Yankees have a huge chunk of money already ties up to these 10 key players going forward. If the Yankees are serious about making a run at a free agent starting pitcher like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, or even a Zack Wheeler, some of this salary is going to have to come off the books. Stanton has a no-trade clause and has shown zero indication that he wants to play anywhere else, sorry to some of the “fans” out there that want him traded, while New York is stuck with Ellsbury for at least one more season leaving very few options as far as trades go. The only name that pops out to me is a name I have already mentioned trading lately, Happ. New York may have to eat some of that salary to move him for lower level prospects, but the ends may justify the means if they can turn his saved $10 - $12 million into the ace that the team so desperately needs. It is also worth mentioning that New York is very likely to recoup most of the money owed to Hicks and probably all of the money owed to Ellsbury through insurance in 2020, but they will not factor that into their decision making or payroll spending if history is any indicator of the future.

Running Tally: $153,000,000

MLB Trade Rumors Arbitration Predictions

We as a fan base have been talking about this forever and the New York Yankees will get their first real dose of it here in 2020. The thing about building a young core of players it that eventually those players are all going to want to get paid. Now, the Yankees have worked out extensions with Severino and Hicks last offseason and could do the same with a few key names on the list above this offseason, but until that happens, we can only watch and wait. The Yankees won’t announce the real arbitration numbers for a couple months now, so for now we can only go by what MLB Trade Rumors predicts. MLB Trade Rumors has a great track record of getting pretty damn close on the vast majority of their predictions, so I take these numbers as a great indicator of what we will actually see later on in the offseason.

Running Tally: $189,800,000

2020 League Minimum Salaries ($555K?)

This one was a bit harder to calculate only because, as of the time of this writing anyway, we do not have concrete numbers on the league’s minimum salary for the 2020 season. For now, I have used the 2019 league minimum salary of $555,000, but except this number to go up. When it does, we will update our sheet and our post accordingly. For not, the verbiage in the collective bargaining agreement had the 2019 salary at $555,000 with “cost of living increases” for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Those are yet to be determined, so stay tuned for those.

By my unofficial count, the Yankees 40-man roster currently sits at 37… so three more salaries, even at league minimum, will be added to this list.

Running Tally: $198,675,000

2020 Deferred Salaries

Alex Rodriguez - $5,000,000

Why in the world are the Yankees STILL paying Alex Rodriguez $5 million a season? I just don’t have the answer to that. I mean, I do. That is what they agreed to do in order to make him go away, but it just seems foolish to still be paying the guy who hasn’t been on the field for the team in a number of seasons. Oh well, any excuse to put a picture of Jennifer Lopez on the site is a good thing in my opinion.

Running Tally: $203,675,000

2020 Competitive Balance Tax Totals

Competitive Balance Tax Threshold: $208,000,000
Yankees 2020 Total AAV/Payroll: 203,675,000
Estimated Player Benefits: $15,000,000
Estimated Minor League Contracts: $2,500,000
Current Projected Payroll: $221,175,000
Competitive Balance Tax Space: -$13,175,000

The New York Yankees are already an estimated $13.175 million over the luxury tax threshold before they even really open their doors to the offseason. The Yankees are $13.175 million over the luxury tax before they potentially bring back Brett Gardner to man center field while Aaron Hicks is out and they are $13.175 million over the cap before they potentially bring back some of their own like Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine or Dellin Betances. The Yankees are well above the cap before they even entertain the idea of inviting one of the top starting pitchers to the Bronx to tour the Stadium and all its glory. The Yankees are well above the cap before the GM Meetings or the Winter Meetings. If you are a fan of this team and you are expecting the Yankees to be major players in the offseason, you may want to temper your expectations. New York may make a move or a splash, they have a long way to go before hitting the highest tax bracket and penalty outlined by the CBA, but to the fans that are thinking that the Yankees may get both Cole and Strasburg, or one of them and third baseman Anthony Rendon… think again.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Offense Trade Targets

As the offseason begins, there is a feeling of opportunity for the Yankees to improve. We will all be refreshing twitter to see the next big deal unfold. Of course the most important thing to focus on for the Yankees is starting pitching. The Yankees should of course try to sign Cole, Strasburg or trade for a big name ace. That is a topic of discussion for a whole other day. On the offensive side the Yankees should look to acquire at least one of Lindor, Marte, or Bell, and ideally two of the three. All three of these guys are switch hitters which I absolutely love and they make a lot of contact. They also have good power potential but what player didn't in 2019 with the juiced ball. Here are some reasons why to acquire each of the three players stated above.

Francisco Lindor
I don't have to say too terribly much about Francisco Lindor. Signing him would obviously mean an end to Didi Gregorius's time in New York. Lindor is a switch hitting short stop with a lot of pop. He is a perennial MVP candidate and he just won another golden glove. He makes contact with the ball and would be very good for breaking up the big righties in the middle of the Yankees' lineup. 2020 will be his age 26 season as he approaches free agency. He will cost a lot to extend but he is a great player to build around for the future. His personality and smile would flourish in New York and he would be a absolute fan favorite.
Mock Trade:
Yankees Get:
Indians Get:

Ketel Marte
Marte had a breakout year for the Diamondbacks in 2019. He broke out with 32 homeruns, .329 batting average and .981 OPS. He is very versatile playing CF for the Dbacks right now while he played short stop previously. He could fill in for Aaron Hicks in centerfield while he is out and either shift to the infield or to left field when Hicks returns. He would be a good player to bat in the first three in the Yankees lineup to break up the righties. He had only 86 strikeouts last year while taking 53 walks. He puts the ball in play which is super important in the postseason.
Mock Trade:
Yankees Get:
Ketel Marte
Dbacks Get:

Josh Bell
Since Mark Teixeria retired the Yankees have not had a mainstay at first base. There has been a lot of injuries (Greg Bird) and no one has really taken the job and ran with it. To solve this problem the Yankees could get their big lefty bat in the middle of the lineup while getting their first basemen for the long haul. Josh Bell bring huge power and contact to the table and also another switch hitter. Another breakout player in 2019, he became an all star for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had 37 homeruns, walked 74 times, and struck out 118 times. He would finally bring stability and a big left bat to the middle of the Yankees lineup.
Mock Trade:
Yankees Get:
Josh Bell
Pirates Get:
Luke Voit
Luis Gil
Luis Medina

Potential Lineup
1. Lemaiheu 2B
2. Marte CF
3. Judge RF
4. Bell 1B
5. Stanton LF
6. Mike Ford DH
7. Torres SS
8. Sanchez C
9. Urshela 3B

This is a couple of moves the Yankees could potential look into and a few players I would love to see in pinstripes and who would really help. They are similar to Le Machine as they put the ball in play as well as having some home run potential. I'm not a GM so I don't know exactly how the players would work out, If you have any trade ideas, predictions, or trade targets, let us know in the comment section.