Saturday, November 6, 2021

Time for Off-Season Improvements...


Photo Credit: Allen Beatty

Cashman’s Goal: Build a better, more-diverse team for 2022…

The end of the World Series is always nice since it signals the end of the present baseball season, and the start of the always enjoyable Hot Stove League.

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for their surprising…but well-earned…World Series championship. They lost their best player, Ronald Acuna, Jr, during the season, yet overcame the odds to capture victory with some of the most improbable names. 

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports

No sadness in watching the Houston Astros suffer humiliating defeat on their home turf, where the trash cans could only stand by quietly and watch. As much as I wanted the Astros, like the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, to LOSE (friggin’ Losers), I think I had reconciled myself to the fact if they won the series based on their talent, I would accept the win. Fortunately, it did not come to that, but I do recognize there are talented Astros despite their prior misdeeds. They did not reach the World Series by luck.

So, you can place me among the Yankee fans who would accept Carlos Correa as a Yankee if he were to sign with our favorite team. Realistically, I do not think it will ever happen. But how could you say no to one of the best (all-around) …and still quite young…shortstops in the game? His best years are ahead of him. Whichever team signs him, whether it is Houston, Detroit, the Los Angeles team also known as Anaheim, or some other team, will be better in 2022 with Correa on their roster.

All tea leaves indicate the Yankees will sign Corey Seager despite not as defensively gifted as Correa and clearly on a fast track for a position move to third base. There is a part of me that hates to see Seager leave Los Angeles, but they are in good hands (and bat) with Trea Turner. Turner’s move to short would allow the Dodgers to plug the talented Gavin Lux in at second base (the natural positions for both Turner and Lux).

Photo Credit: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

Many fans seem to be down on him, but I would be happy with Trevor Story. I get the concerns about his Mile-High inflated stats, but Story can play. His skills are transferable to sea level. Any of these three (Correa, Seager, or Story) would help improve the Yankees. There are more moves to be made, but this would be a tremendous start to a successful off-season. If we hear news the Yankees have signed Andrelton Simmons as their choice for shortstop, it will be hard to get excited about next season regardless of any other moves they may make.

I am concerned about a potential lockout when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at midnight on December 1st. It makes you wonder if we will see more activity in November…or less if the owners decide to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. I am trying to stay optimistic and hope the owners and players can work to find common ground before any potential lockout or work stoppage. The last thing the game needs right now is disruption.

The fans in the Yankees Universe seem to salivate, excessively, over A’s first baseman Matt Olson as it appears there may be a fire sale in Oakland. I get it. I would love to have Olson on the roster in addition to one of the top three free agent shortstops. However, like Correa, I do not think it will happen. I would love to be surprised on this one. If the Yankees can get Anthony Rizzo, at the very least, I will feel much better about first base heading into next season. So, Rizzo to Olson, or somewhere in between, will be fine. Ready to move on from Luke Voit and I continue to believe it is a waste of DJ LeMahieu’s talents to put him at first.

As fun as it would be for the Yankees to sign free agent starter Robbie Ray to slot in behind Gerrit Cole, the Yankees, or rather owner Hal Steinbrenner, is not going to abandon his financial constraint as a professionally trained bean counter. If a huge contract is handed out, it will be isolated to the new shortstop. Jon Gray seems to be an interesting pitching option to me. He was once a Yankees draft pick (unsigned), and I would like to see what Gray can be away from Coors Field. He is a talented pitcher, and I would certainly take the risk with him. I know, we did not have much luck with the last Gray to wear pinstripes, but, honestly, I feel the results would be better this time around. The right-handed Gray is only 30 (his birthday was yesterday), so he has good years ahead of him. Let us see Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake work his magic with Gray to pull out his full potential. I would love to see it.

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali, Getty Images

The Yankees waive four players, and three are claimed by other teams. The Philadelphia Phillies waived six players, and all, including former Yank Ronald Torreyes, go unclaimed. It is a testament to the talent on the Yankees roster. I do not think it was a surprise to see the Yankees remove Bronx native Andrew Velazquez, Tim Locastro, Greg Allen, or Rob Brantly from the 40-man roster (to clear room for the Injured List returnees before the opening of free agency on Monday). The toughest part is Locastro being claimed by the Red Sox. I really hate to see Yankees lost to the Red Sox for nothing, particularly when they perform as well as former Yank Garrett Whitlock did last season. Locastro is not suddenly going to become the next Mookie Betts, and there is no guarantee he will survive the Red Sox roster through the off-season, yet I simply dislike the Sox grabbing any Yankee players. As for Velazquez, he was a fun story and I appreciated his contributions last season, but there is no way the Yankees would sacrifice a roster spot for the journeyman infielder. I wish him the best in Anaheim. Allen takes his speed to Pittsburgh. Fine, give Estevan Florial a chance. Brantly went unclaimed and was outrighted to Triple A, but he can refuse the assignment to become a free agent. All four of those players are replaceable.

Earlier in the week, Brett Gardner became a free agent when he declined his player option. While there was no way the Yankees were going to exercise the team option ($7.18 million), I did think Gardy would pick up his option. But in retrospect, you know Gardner will be back in Pinstripes next season if he wants to. By declining the player option, he picks up $1.5 million from the Yankees for the buyout and can still sign a new contract for as low as the player option amount of $2.3 million to increase his overall compensation. Every year I say it, I am ready to move on from Gardy, but it seems inevitable he will be back until he is not. At some point, Florial must learn and mature as a Major League player. If not, trade him. It is another move I find highly unlikely, but it would be cool if the Yankees acquired Starling Marte to play center, making Aaron Hicks the fourth outfielder, sending Gardy off to retirement and future Old Timer’s games.

I am not sure why former Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers left Boston after the season, but I do find him an intriguing candidate for the Yankees. Boston bats have performed well under Hyers’ tutelage. There is talk the Red Sox could replace him with Astros hitting coach Troy Snitker, son of the Braves manager. I would not mind if the Yankees snagged Snitker for themselves. There seems to good options for the Yankees to replace former hitting coach Marcus Thames. I am anxious to see who will be sitting next to Aaron Boone in the dugout, assuming they move current bench coach Carlos Mendoza, as they should, to another role (first or third base coach). I continue to hold out hope for a seasoned, veteran strategist who can help Boone be the best he can be.

Let the off-season begin. I hold much hope the guys reporting to Steinbrenner Field next February will be ready and prepared to bring the long-awaited 28th World Series championship to New York City. A Braves championship means the start of a Yankees dynasty, right? Let’s go!

As always, Go Yankees!