Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Story of the Week...

Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu

Linking Trevor to the Yankees…

A new year, the same old toxic relationship between MLB Owners and MLB Players Association as the MLB Lockout continues with no resolution in sight. The longer this goes on, you really must wonder how much time the Yankees will have to improve their roster before the season starts…correction, if the season starts.

The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff released his updated free agent predications this week and has the following players signing with the Yankees after the Lockout ends.

Shortstop Trevor Story

Davidoff originally had Story signing with the Houston Astros to replace Carlos Correa for five years and $110 million. He now sees the Yankees for less money. I entered the off-season under the belief that Corey Seager made the most sense with his strong left-handed bat, and pivoted to Correa, after Seager took big money in Texas, because a great young all-around elite shortstop is a valuable commodity regardless of his past misdeeds. It seems weird to see that we may have to ‘settle’ for Story (some have even referred to him as a stopgap) when, in reality, the guy is really good. I took the position after the season ended that I would be happy with any of the three top free agent shortstops so if the Yankees sign Story, I certainly will not be disappointed. During my years living in Denver, Colorado, Story was a joy to watch at Coors Field. He routinely received huge applause from the home crowd.

First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

Davidoff continues to believe Rizzo will be back in the Bronx on a two-year, $32 million deal. No doubt most of us would prefer Oakland’s Matt Olson via trade, but if the Yankees do not grab a “big fish” (i.e., Olson or free agent Freddie Freeman), Rizzo is better than nothing or in this case, Luke Voit. I do like Voit and his football mentality, but he is more of a DH. Rizzo showed us last season how much great defense at first base can be, and that’s just not Luke’s game. I will truly be disappointed if the Yankee first baseman next season is not Olson, Freeman or Rizzo.

Outfielder Seiya Suzuki

Davidoff originally had Suzuki joining Team Derek Jeter for three years and $21 million. He has pivoted to Suzuki becoming the second Suzuki to play outfield for the Yankees. Ironically, he has Brett Gardner going to the Miami Marlins to rejoin Jeter. Recent speculation elsewhere has Suzuki signing with the arch-rival Boston Red Sox when the Lockout ends. Despite Boston’s re-acquisition of CF Jackie Bradley Jr, they could certainly use some help in the outfield. I would not mind seeing the Yankees sign Suzuki, but I do feel it is more likely he goes to Boston. As for Brett, thanks for the memories. You were a great Yankee.

If this is the Yankees’ 2021-22 off-season, it would be slightly underwhelming if they do nothing else. The Yankees need to improve center field and catching and could use another topflight starter. I like Aaron Hicks when he is healthy, but the reality is that is not very often. Keeping Hicks as the fourth outfielder would make more sense. Although Brett Gardner routinely started as the team’s fourth outfielder because of the injury-prone Hicks, a healthier starting option might help to keep Hicks fresh and less susceptible to injury.

While I keep wanting to support Gary Sanchez, I am slowly realizing that his time as a Yankee has run its course. I wish the Yankees had done something before the Lockout to improve the position, but there is still hope for action once the Lockout is lifted. It seems like Willson Contreras is the most obvious option in a potential trade with the Chicago Cubs, but there are other catchers that would be an improvement over Gary (Austin Nola and Mitch Garver to name a few). Gary, right now, is my top ‘guy in need of a change of scenery.’ If the season starts and Sanchez remains the Yankees catcher, I will support him but if he continues to struggle, the toxic situation is only going to get worse. It is best to clear the slate and start anew.

I like Anthony Rizzo. I know he is not on the same level as Olson and Freeman, but it is not like he is a shlep. I admire his baseball acumen, the defense he provides at first base, and the team-first mentality he brings every day. A great clubhouse leader, he helps bond team chemistry. I still want Olson, but I will not be disappointed if Rizzo returns.

Reports about Jameson Taillon’s recovery and Clarke Schmidt’s health have been positive, but the Yankees must improve the starting rotation. Just as I would not bet the future on shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza by only signing a true stopgap shortstop (an Andrelton Simmons type), I am reluctant to hedge the future on the emergence of Schmidt, Luis Gil, Luis Medina and/or the disappointing Deivi Garcia. When they are ready, the Yankees will make room. Until then, decisions should not be based on the hope they emerge. I want the young guys to succeed but meanwhile we are wasting the best years of Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge if we continue to wait for the youngsters to develop. Win now means we need players ready to contribute to a championship today, not tomorrow.

If only MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA could set aside their differences and come to an agreement for the good of the game. I am ready for some actual baseball activity to take place and end the incessant speculation about how to improve the 2022 New York Yankees.

It was disappointing to hear this week that brief Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach Eric Chavez has chosen to join Buck Showalter and the New York Mets as their hitting coach. I had really been excited to have Chavez on the Yankees staff and could have seen him as a viable option if the Yankees ever decide to part ways with fan-not-so-favorite Aaron Boone. But I do not begrudge Chavez for taking a promotion to join the Mets. As excited as I was when I heard he was joining the Yankees as an assistant hitting coach, I was little surprised that he would take an “assistant” role in any capacity. His name had been mentioned in a few managerial rumors for other teams recently. Boone’s analogy that he would be a “Swiss Army knife” made sense but in retrospect, they should have created a title that better fit the position or expectations. I knew once the Mets hired Billy Eppler as their GM, they would be a desirable spot for Chavez given his lengthy association with Eppler. He left the Yankees before to join Eppler in Anaheim, so the precedent was there. For a guy with managerial aspirations, collaborating with Buck Showalter seems to be the better play so I wish Chavez the best and we move on.

One of the names mentioned to replace Chavez as Yankees assistant hitting coach is former Baltimore Oriole Mark Trumbo. I cannot say his name excites me. Right or wrong, I cannot shake the ‘swing and miss’ association I have with Trumbo’s name. The Yankees are apparently looking for someone with strong Major League experience so it seems unlikely the Yankees will do the sensible thing like promoting the deserving Rachel Balkovec. Someone such as Carlos Beltran would be fantastic but there is absolutely no way in hell he would take an assistant role. This is where it might make sense to bring Brett Gardner back unless he is determined to continue playing. Jorge Posada has always seemed like a desirable choice although he might be too joined at the hip with Derek Jeter in Miami, and I am a little uncertain how his intensity would play at a coaching level. I have always liked Tino Martinez, but his partial season run as hitting coach with the Miami Marlins ended in July 2013 when he resigned amidst allegations of physical and verbal abuse of players.

The other big news this week involved Yankees broadcasters David Cone and Michael Kay. David Cone will be joining ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, along with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez. They replace Matt Vasgersian, who has left ESPN, and Alex Rodriguez, who has been reassigned. Cone will reportedly maintain his role with YES Network albeit a reduced schedule. This is one of those happy/sad moments. I am happy Cone will gain a broader national audience, but sad for us as we lose the exclusivity of Cone breaking down Yankee games for us. This was a great move by ESPN.

Michael Kay will be joining Alex Rodriguez on ESPN2 for eight of the Sunday Night baseball games. Their format will be like football’s Manningcast which features Peyton and Eli Manning in a sports bar style setting for a less formal discussion of the game, with frequent special guests. While Kay will retain his role on YES Network, I am in favor of any move that can get Ryan Ruocco into the YES Network booth more often. With Ken Singleton’s retirement and Cone’s reduced schedule, it will be interesting to see who joins the YES Network lineup. I would love to see David Wells in an expanded role although I have no idea his level of interest.

Rob Manfred, please get off your ass and kickstart the negotiations. This ‘wait until the last minute’ shit sucks.

As always, Go Yankees!