Saturday, March 26, 2022

These Are Your New York Yankees...

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP

For better or worse, the Yankees roster is solidifying…

While it feels like the Yankees could have done so much more this interrupted and abbreviated off-season, it is hard to not have some excitement for the 2022 New York Yankees as they are presently structured. I know many of us wanted Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman and one of the elite shortstops, but it was not meant to be. It most certainly does not mean that the Yankees will not be good…they will be exceptionally good.

  • 1B           Anthony Rizzo
  • 2B           Gleyber Torres/DJ LeMahieu
  • SS           Isiah Kiner-Falefa
  • 3B           Josh Donaldson
  • C             Kyle Higashioka (and Ben Rortvedt when healthy)
  • RF           Aaron “Pay the Man” Judge
  • CF           Aaron Hicks
  • LF           Joey Gallo           
  • DH          Giancarlo Stanton

A bench that will most likely include the versatile Marwin Gonzalez and the speedy Tim Locastro.

This is a better lineup than the one featured on Opening Day 2021 which featured Jay Bruce at first base and Clint Frazier in left field. I know we will miss the fun associated with Gio Urshela but clearly IKF and the Bringer of Rain are improvements. Gary Sanchez, well Gary, have fun in Minnesota before you hit free agency.

I had thought the Yankees would acquire an additional starting pitcher before returning north next month. For a while it seemed like they were hot after either Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas, but those talks appear to have cooled. The Yankees always seem to be hot after some pitcher, only to see the guy get traded elsewhere. With Opening Day less than two weeks away, I think the Yankees will revisit the starting pitching market in July when asking prices lower. The front office is expecting holes to be filled by the younger Yankees talent waiting for their opportunities in the Show, like Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil and, if he has shaken off the disastrous 2021, Deivi Garcia. Schmidt is 26, Gil will be 24 in August, and Garcia will be 23 in May. Their time is now, and the Yankees do need to see what they have with these guys. Michael King pitches today, but he is better for the bullpen.

Clarke Schmidt / Photo Credit: AP

If Cashman makes any move between now and Opening Day, I fully expect him to address catching. Willson Contreras seems to be the most mentioned name, along with Oakland’s Sean Murphy. I feel we will see a new catcher before starting pitching or center field help if any trades are made. Two defensive catchers seem a bit underwhelming even if I am grateful defensive catching is no longer the liability it was just a season ago.

I doubt the Yankees trade him, but if there was one guy on the roster, I would trade today it is Aroldis Chapman. There is no chance the Yankees re-sign him when he hits free agency this fall. He is not the elite flame-throwing reliever he once was, and Jonathan Loaisiga has proven he is up for the challenge. I would love to eliminate Chappy’s salary to free up room for other areas and start Loaisiga’s run at the back end of the bullpen. No doubt we will see a transition this season. With Aaron Boone’s stated intention to use Chapman more consistently, even if that means bringing him in earlier in games, Loaisiga will be the safety net to potentially close out games.

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

We have much to be excited about with this Yankees team. Toronto may be getting stronger, but they are not perfect. Although they have made some nice recent acquisitions, it can be argued they are not upgrades over the guys they lost. Boston clearly overachieved last year. They are making a huge financial commitment that Trevor Story does not show reduced production through the Coors Field effect and that he can successfully transition to second base. Just because DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado have been successful outside of the Mile High City, it does not automatically mean Story will be. I think he will, but it is not guaranteed. Nothing against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, but when he is your best starter (due to Chris Sale’s latest injury), there are challenges in the rotation from top to bottom. Tampa always finds a way, but there are no clearcut favorites and the Yankees can beat any of these teams.

It is time to get excited about our team, the Six Billion Dollar Men. Let’s Go Yankees!

A few new rules were announced this past week. Active rosters will be expanded from 26 to 28 players until May 1st due to the shortened Spring Training. The maximum thirteen pitchers will not be enforced during the month of April. In a rule favoring Shohei Ohtani, if a team uses a starting pitcher as the DH, he can remain the DH after being pulled from the mound. Makes me wonder if we will start to see more players attempt to become two-way players with this rule and the universal DH. Lastly, in the return of a pandemic rule that has left many fans aghast, there will be a ghost runner at second base in extra innings. Too bad we cannot sign the ghost of Lou Brock or the phantom of Rickey Henderson’s younger days. I am indifferent to the rule. I have never been a huge fan of extra-inning games going beyond the tenth or eleventh innings. The longer games make players more susceptible for injury, and with fewer off days (and more double-headers) this season, it will be all hands-on deck for nine inning games. From a traditionalist view, it seems a bit janky to put an unearned runner at second base. Oh well, it is what it is.

A "younger" Rickey Henderson

These changes were agreed to by MLB and the Players Association but need to be ratified by the MLB Owners this upcoming week (through a simple majority vote).

I had been concerned about twelve arbitration eligible cases for the Yankees this year, but they successfully signed all but one, Aaron Judge. Judge filed for $21 million, while the club countered with $17 million. I am grateful the Yankees are not a ‘file and trial’ club. The Dellin Betances arbitration case a few years ago remains on my mind for how ugly this process can be. I simply cannot imagine going into a room to hear your employer tell an arbitrator how much you suck at your job. Human emotions surely come into play. As for Judge, I did not really expect them to agree on 2022 compensation since they are actively discussing a long-term extension. I am hopeful they can work it out before Opening Day. I am all in favor of retaining Judge and making him the team captain. I have no idea how Judge will age into his late thirties but that is not a concern for today. He is a great Yankee and a guy who can help win the elusive championship(s).

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey, MLB Photos

Speaking of Dellin Betances, whatever happened to him? I think of him every time Manny Banuelos, his former Killer B teammate, runs out to the mound as a Mini Me #68. I know Betances has had his struggles the last few years, but I would love to see the Yankees sign him to a minor league contract. As for Banuelos, I am quietly hoping he makes the team. Good health has not been his friend (the Yankees seemingly have too many of those kind of guys) but watching Banuelos in pinstripes again has rekindled thoughts of how much I had wanted him to succeed when he, Betances and Andrew Brackman were the great trio of hope in the farm system.

Manuel Banuelos

It is kind of funny that so many fans did not want the Yankees to sign Carlos Correa due to his participation in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, yet it did not stop the Yankees from signing his former Astros teammate Marwin Gonzalez. I had thought Oswaldo Cabrera would inherit the utility role this year from Tyler Wade, but I like Gonzalez better (for now). He may not be the player he once was (when garbage cans assisted him), but he can help. With an ability to play both infield and outfield, he provides Aaron Boone an ingredient to field stronger lineups. Maybe he only proves why the Boston Red Sox cut him last summer, maybe he is something more. With the expansion of the rosters to twenty-eight, I view his signing as ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ If he does not work out, cut him. It is not like the Yankees are making a huge financial commitment with him. He needs a spot on the 40-man roster, but I am sure Brian Cashman will figure it out.

Lastly, Eli Fishman (@elifishman on Twitter) reported this week that George Steinbrenner IV has joined the Low-A Tampa Tarpons as an advanced scouting analyst. Young George is the 25-year-old son of late Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner. He mostly likely holds an ownership interest in the Yankees with his three siblings. I saw many fans cry nepotism at the news, but I like seeing a young Steinbrenner take an interest in learning the baseball side of the business from the ground up. Considering that neither Hank nor Hal exhibited strong interest in the Yankees when they were in their twenties, I like the ambition of Hank’s son. He seems driven to succeed and of course he carries a great name. For those who wish George Steinbrenner were the owner of the Yankees, maybe they will get their wish again one day.

George Steinbrenner IV

Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, here is wishing a speedy recovery to their manager, Rachel Balkovec, who was struck by a baseball during hitting drills.

Rachel Balkovec (via Instagram)

As always, Go Yankees!