Saturday, December 17, 2022

Charge On! With Carlos Rodón…


Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Yankees sign FA Top Lefty Starter…

The man was destined for Pinstripes. Although Gerrit Cole remains the staff ace, the Carlos Rodón signing has greater impact than Cole because of how much it helps the rest of the rotation, Cole included. Cole no longer must carry the weight of the World, and the other starters move down to the lesser pressurized three through five spots. You can argue that Nestor Cortes, Jr was the Yankees’ best starter last season, but there is a chance for regression. Nasty Nestor is exactly the guy I want as the third starter. Placing high expectations on him come Spring may have had an adverse effect. Now he can just be who he is, and I think he will excel.

No doubt the greatest beneficiary is Frankie Montas. He was unfairly labeled as a disappointment by the fan base, but we truly never saw the pitcher he was in Oakland and who he can be for health reasons. As the fifth starter, he is afforded the opportunity to reset expectations and I feel he will be better for it.  Signing Gerrit Cole was a must, and he filled a huge void, but Rodón helps everybody else and that is the difference maker. Plus, he is a damn good pitcher (much better than James Taillon or Jordan Montgomery, and, sorry, Masahiro Tanaka). 

I was fearful the Los Angeles Dodgers would lie in the weeds and swoop up to grab Rodón at the last minute, but they have been quiet this offseason (despite the acquisition of Noah Syndergaard). Whether it is the unknown for how much Trevor Bauer will cost them pending a Judge’s ruling or a payroll reset as the Dodgers prepare for a huge run at free agent-to-be Shohei Ohtani next offseason, it is good the Dodgers sat this one (Rodón signing) out. I am glad Uncle Steve was able to get Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, and Kodai Senga since it took the Mets out of play. Competition between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins for Rodón?  Yeah right, if the Yankees wanted their man (and they did), they were going to get him.

I am curious what number Rodón will wear with the Yankees. He wore 55 with the Chicago White Sox. When he signed with the San Francisco Giants last year, the Giants have not retired 55 but it has been held out of circulation since two-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum last wore it in 2015. So, Rodon chose 16. He will not get 16 with the Yankees since it is retired for the Chairman of the Board, the late Whitey Ford.  He has the money so he can certainly attempt to buy 55 from Domingo German or the Yankees can generously trade German, who has been bumped from the rotation, to free up the number. Granted, Rodón can just approve another number, but my preference is 55 because the number was so prominent on his back when he first made us notice how good he is.

Clarke Schmidt’s name comes up frequently as a potential trade candidate given the surplus starters, but I would prefer to see the exit of German who has not been one of my favorites. I like the thought of Schmidt as the long man in the bullpen, capable of spot starts if necessary. I think we may see Will Warren sometime in 2023. I get the idea that you can never have too many starters, but I do not think it is necessary to have both Schmidt and German on the roster.  There are other options available. 

Back to Rodón, I am happy he is a Yankee. He is the starter I wanted and felt the Yankees desperately needed. I watched his last 2022 start yesterday. It was on September 29th when he faced the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park in San Francisco. He was so efficient in that game, attacking the hitters. Nothing cute. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs over six innings. He struck out ten batters, or 50% of the guys he faced in the game. The Giants bullpen almost blew the game in the ninth, but they held on to win which improved Rodón’s record to 14-8. He finished the season with a 2.88 ERA. As an aside, the San Francisco TV announcers are so dang boring. It really makes me appreciate Michael Kay, Ryan Ruocco, David Cone, and the others at the YES Network plus John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. When the Giants announcers used the typical “Outta here!” call for a Giants home run, I could not help but think how boring Aaron Judge home runs would have been at Oracle Park if he had joined them (compared to the dramatic Yankee calls).  

I look forward to Spring Training in two months when Carlos Rodón takes the mound at the Yankees’ training facilities in Tampa. Even better when he makes his start against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium next April.  

Welcome to the New York Yankees, Carlos! We have been waiting for you.

Former Yankees in the news

I was disappointed yesterday when I heard the news that brief Yankee Andrew Benintendi had signed a five-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. I liked Benny, and I wanted him to return. If the fifth year was the deal-breaker for the Yankees, I have no problem with their decision to pass. There is some concern about how long it will take Benny to recover from the hamate bone removal. It was a risk I certainly would have taken, but there are other options. If the grumblings are true that Benny wanted to return to the Midwest (his home is in St Louis), then I get it. I personally would prefer playing for the Yankees over the White Sox but of course I am biased. 

Not sure where the Yankees go from here. Brian Reynolds is everybody’s favorite choice but despite his trade demand, there is no indication the Pittsburgh Pirates are motivated to trade him. If the only way to get Reynolds is to include Anthony Volpe in the deal, I would not want to see it. Not trying to prospect-hug, but Volpe is on the verge of becoming the best homegrown Yankee to debut since Aaron Judge. He is the future of the infield, whether it is shortstop or second base (where most expect him to move).  I like Jasson Dominguez, but he is a prospect I would consider in a deal for Reynolds, or any other Yankee prospect not named Volpe. 

Brian Reynolds (Photo Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

I am with the Yankees crowd that does not want Max Kepler in Pinstripes. A trade that would send, say, Domingo German and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to Minnesota is appealing, but I would prefer other left field options. Kepler is a right fielder so it would be a position switch, but the biggest issue is that he is just not a good hitter. The Yankees need a good contact hitter for the position. One of the Arizona outfielders (Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy) might make sense. I cannot say that I am excited about a guy like Michael Brantley (seems like it is a few years too late) but he could hold the position until one of the younger prospects is ready to take the role (I hate stopgaps!). Too bad the Red Sox overbid for Masataka Yoshida. He might have been a good option. Michael Conforto would be a good fit on a short-term deal. 

It is possible that GM Brian Cashman is working on a left fielder no one is talking about since that is what he likes to do. Until then, we can only speculate until Cashman surprises us. Hoping for a pleasant surprise before Spring Training opens.

Former Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo has found a new home. He is the latest ex-Yankee to join the Minnesota Twins. Gio Urshela (Angels), Jake Cave (Phillies) and Gary Sanchez (free agent, will not be re-signed due to Twins’ signing of Christian Vazquez) are no longer there, but I suspect Gallo will rebound at Target Field. The elimination of the shift should allow him to at least get back to being the .200 hitter he was in Texas. I wish him the best. We may not have enjoyed his production, or lack thereof, in New York, but there is no question the guy has an exemplary personality. I hope he is successful in Minneapolis. Well, except for their games against the Yankees. 

Former Yankees infielder Hoy Park, acquired this offseason by the Red Sox from the Pirates, is on the move again. After being designated for assignment by the Sox, Park has been traded to the Atlanta Braves where I am sure he will flourish enroute to Cooperstown (kidding, of course). Speaking of the Red Sox, they have designated both Jeter Downs and Eric Hosmer for assignment in the past week. With Jeter Downs, the Mookie Betts trade looks worse and worse by the day. I am glad to see the Jeter namesake will no longer be in Boston. His prospect shine has certainly dulled. Maybe he can recapture some of his promise elsewhere. Hosmer was basically free for Boston since the San Diego Padres pay his salary above minimum wage, but he was considered expendable to help clear the first base lane for Triston Casas. Hosmer has time to find a new home before Spring Training. Maybe he should go back to Kansas City since the Padres are paying. 

Minor League Contracts

As TGP’s Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal. The Yankees have certainly been active in this market.

Here are some of the signings according to the Yankees website (a few names I have never heard before).

RF Michael Hermosillo

RHP Mariano Salomon

3B Adrian Gonzalez

Niurby Asigen

RHP Michell Chirinos

RHP Dari Brito

SS Ovandy Frias

RHP Ryan Weber

LHP Tanner Tully

LHP Nick Ramirez

RHP James Norwood

DH Jake Bauers

RHP Zac Houston

RHP Demarcus Evans

C Rodolfo Durán

RHP Art Warren

LHP Lisandro Santos

2B Jamie Westbrook

I saw that minor league catcher Max McDowell left to join the Phillies, so I am glad to see Durán stayed to provide catching depth in the farm system. Always need those extra catchers in Spring Training.

Art Warren, the former Reds reliever, had elbow surgery last month so he will spend 2023 in rehab and preparation for the 2024 season. 

Norwood, a native New Yorker, is intriguing. 

James Norwood (Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

He is 28 and has not been successful in five seasons with the Cubs, Padres, and Phillies (he finished last season in the Red Sox organization). He fastball averages 97 mph and he is in the 90th percentile in the entire league according to Baseball Savant. If the Yankees can help him learn control and figure a few things out, he might be able to help. He is in the right organization if he is looking to become the best he can be. Same can be said for Zac Houston.

As always, Go Yankees!