Saturday, July 9, 2022

Matty Moustache Goes Yard...


Matt Carpenter

Former Card rejuvenated in New York…

Matt Carpenter, thought to be on the fast track to retirement in his final years with the St Louis Cardinals, has been a brilliant discovery by GM Brian Cashman and his horde of analytical gurus. “Carpenstache,” as Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes likes to call him, has hit more home runs for the Yankees in 2022 than he did the past two seasons combined for the Cardinals.

In his final season with St Louis, his batting line was a dreadful .169/.305/.275, with .269 wOBA and 70 wRC+. His fWAR was -0.3. He appeared in 130 games, limited to only 249 plate appearances. His Cardinals career ended last November when the team declined his option, making Carpenter a free agent. Reading some comments made by Cardinal fans at the time of his departure, these words seemed to sum up the thoughts of many: “It is pathetic that he didn’t retire after last season and offered to work with younger players for the ridiculous money he was paid. Can’t imagine anyone picking him up for 2022.”

Well, a team did pick him up. The Texas Rangers signed Carpenter, now 36 years old, to a minor league contract on March 20th. He did not make the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup and was languishing in Triple-A Round Rock, Texas when the Rangers released him on May 19th. A week later, the Yankees surprisingly signed him to a Major League contract, and we know the rest of the story.

We should be under no illusion that Matt Carpenter is an everyday player. At this stage of his career, he is not. Give him three games a week, and he can show the player he used to be. As the Toby Keith song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” It is hard to believe, even now, that Carpenter’s production is sustainable. In twenty-four games (70 plate appearances), Carpenter has nine home runs and has driven in twenty runs. His batting line is .305/.406/.814, with .499 wOBA and 236 wRC+. His fWAR is +1.3. We should enjoy the ride. For Carpenter, it is no doubt his ride into the sunset. We hope he takes a Yankees World Series championship with him.

Carpenter was born in Galveston, Texas, and attended Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas where his father, Rick, was a baseball coach. His high school teammates included former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney. Interesting that Carpenter’s path, in college, crossed with former Minnesota Twins star Torii Hunter. Hunter is known to have had a huge influence on Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks during their time together in Minnesota. During his junior year at Texas Christian University, Carpenter was rehabbing in Prosper, Texas where his father was then coaching and met Hunter who had recently moved to Prosper. They met through Torii’s son who was playing high school ball for Rick Carpenter. Hunter invited Carpenter to train with him and even covered his gym membership to make it happen. It was a turning point in Carpenter’s baseball career that led to a College World Series appearance, and he was chosen in the 13th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Cardinals.

I am glad Carpenter is a Yankee. However, it should not stop the Yankees from getting reinforcements at the trading deadline. It has been a terrific Cinderella story for Matty Moustache, but the slipper could fall off if he is exposed with too much play. Pick his spots and let him hit. The magic of the 2022 season continues.

It seems highly probable the Yankees will have a new outfielder over the next three weeks. I routinely say it, but I like Joey Gallo. He has a fun personality, and he meshes well with his Yankees teammates. I do not get the demands by fans for his release. While he has not hit in New York, he has value. The Yankees are 61-23 and hold a 15 ½ game lead…that is FIFTEEN AND A HALF games…over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays, last year’s AL East champions. There is no urgency to dismiss Gallo. 

Joey Gallo / Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP

I recognize these are his final days. Even if he somehow manages to survive the trading deadline, there is no way the Yankees re-sign him in the off-season. While I like Gallo, I know his spot is the one that must be upgraded. Even if he went on a home run binge over the next week or two, it would not change my mind. I do not feel his bat will play in October when he is facing elite starting pitchers and that is what really matters. So, trade Gallo for what you can get, and seek help elsewhere.

It seems most fans prefer Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs. The cost will be high since he is under control through next season. There is no doubt he would look good at Yankee Stadium. He is only twenty-seven, still improving, and can bat from both sides of the plate. I like Happ. My only concern is the potential cost. If the Yankees included Everson Pereira in a trade for Happ, it would give the Cubs two top Yankees outfield prospects in the past year. The other is Kevin Alcantara who was part of the trade last July that brought first baseman Anthony Rizzo to New York. The Yankees will lose quality prospects in the next few weeks if they intend to strengthen areas of need. Honestly, if it does not involve Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez, no prospect should be off the table depending upon the return. You do not give up an Oswald Peraza for some aging outfielder who might help. For Happ? A difficult decision but one you must consider. I personally see Peraza as the Yankees starting shortstop by September but if he must go, make sure the return is worth it. Championships are forever.

I continue to like Kansas City’s Andrew Benintendi. He may not be the hitter that Happ is, but he will be cheaper since he is an impending free agent. He is an upgrade over Joey Gallo. He showed so much promise with Boston when he first came up (hitting 20 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2017). He was a pesky hitter, and I would like to see what hitting coach Dillon Lawson and his team could do to bring out the best of Benintendi. It seems like if he does not come to New York, he will go to Toronto. I guess we will find out in a few weeks.

David Peralta’s name has been mentioned, but it is hard for me to get excited about the Arizona Diamondback outfielder. I know, he is left-handed, but he is also 34. The age alone is not reason to pass on him and maybe he can help, but I prefer either Happ or Benintendi.

Aaron Judge’s recent soreness that caused him to miss a couple of games makes you think center field should be a priority over left field so that Judge can return to right. Everyone would LOVE Brian Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I try to temper any excitement for him because the Pirates, if they move him, will ask for a King’s Ransom…as they should. Reynolds is under team control through the 2025 season and would be a long-term solution for center field. I would be tremendously excited if the Yankees acquired Reynolds, and seriously, no prospect can be off the table for those trade discussions. The realist in me recognizes that Reynolds to the Yankees is a pipedream, but the fan in me salivates over the possibility.

We shall soon see. August 2nd is approaching rapidly.

How do you spell relief? For the Yankees, the names of Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Zack Britton, and Richard Rodriguez seem to be the reinforcements looming on the horizon. It seems less likely the Yankees will pursue outside help. Given their ability to uncover Clay Holmes, there is part of me that wants them to capture the next Clay Holmes.

Richard Rodriguez

Unfortunately, there are only so many spots on a 40-man roster. Counts fingers, yes, forty spots. If the Yankees can upgrade the outfield and bring in a potential starter to help reinforce the rotation, I think the Yankees can maintain a dominant bullpen with the guys they have. It is easy to say the Yankees have Clarke Schmidt and JP Sears as rotation support, but the recent wobbles of Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr and Jameson Taillon show more might be needed. Luis Severino has been a stud, but he has not pitched much the last few years. At some point, it might make more sense to move him back into the bullpen for the rest of the year depending upon where he is with his season total innings-pitched count.

Luis Castillo always seems to be the pitcher most routinely connected to the Yankees. I am fearful of the cost, especially if the Yankees pay high for an outfielder. I keep hearing that the Reds want Anthony Volpe and that is not a trade I would make. There are other pitchers who might help as much as Castillo could, so I trust Team Cashman to find the right arm.

The budding Yankees All-Star Tree. After Aaron Judge captured the most ballot votes which ensured his placement as a starter in the 2022 All-Star Game, he was joined by newly selected outfield starter Giancarlo Stanton who beat out Toronto’s George Springer. Congratulations to Giancarlo! He gets a hometown trip to Los Angeles and will play in front of family and friends at Dodger Stadium later this month. 

All-Star Giancarlo Stanton

They will be joined in the AL Outfield by Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (queue the Angels jokes).

The Yankees will get more All-Stars when the pitchers are announced. If Clay Holmes does not get selected, it will be the biggest snub I have seen in my years of following Major League Baseball. He is the most dominant reliever in MLB today. I felt stronger about Nasty Nestor’s selection a few weeks ago so if he does not make it, I will understand. Gerrit Cole should get a chance to visit his sunny Southern California home turf. Michael King is another worthy candidate, but setup men generally do not get the love.

Lastly, a hat tip to Yankees manager Aaron Boone. After last season, so many Yankee fans were ready for a managerial switch and there was sadness in the Yankees Universe when the Yankees signed Boone to a new contract. I was critical of Boone and thought the Yankees could do better. Yet here we are on July 9th, 2022. The Yankees have won sixty-one of their first eight-four games. When does Boonie get credit for the team’s success? I know, he does not hit, he does not field, he does not pitch. Yet, his steady influence and support of his players has been invaluable this season. He has made the right calls. He continues to get better as a manager every year. He is the right man at the right time.

Manager of the Year Aaron Boone / Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton, Getty Images

I was listening to Bret Boone’s podcast this week. His guest was his youngest brother Matt. At the end of the conversation, Bret asked Matt a few rapid-fire questions. One was who he thought was the most intelligent among the three Boone brothers. Without hesitation and despite being on Bret’s show, Matt immediately responded with “Aaron!”

I was wrong about Boone last season. I am glad he is manager of the New York Yankees. I supported his choice when he was hired and despite the bumpy road at times, he has persevered to become a true leader of men. I am sure he still has plenty of critics. No one can ever agree it seems. But for me, I am happy, and I love every minute of the 2022 New York Yankees and its contributors.

As always, Go Yankees!

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