Saturday, December 31, 2022

Another Year of Yankees Baseball...


Aaron Judge's 62nd Home Run (Photo Credit: Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Closing the book on 2022…

My final post of the year.

As the year ends, I am grateful Aaron Judge is a Yankee. I think my biggest fear as a Yankee fan in 2022 was the potential loss of Aaron Judge in free agency after Judge and the team were unsuccessful in reaching an extension prior to the season. Plus, there was the drama of player dissatisfaction when GM Brian Cashman went public with the failed numbers. Alas, Judge proved to be a Yankee at heart just as we all thought and had hoped. I would just never want to play poker against him. 

Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Yesterday, AP named Judge the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. Like he did in winning the AL Most Valuable Player, Judge beat out second-place finisher, Shohei Ohtani, a worthy challenger for either award. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who tried unsuccessfully to recruit Judge to San Francisco, was third. 

As the calendar prepares to flip to a new year, we are less than two months away from Spring Training when the latest Yankees Captain and his buddies will reunite at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Spring is in the air. Well, maybe not but soon. 

Thanks for everything, Lucas.

It was a surprise, at least for me, when the Yankees designated Lucas Luetge for assignment on December 21st when a spot on the 40-man roster was needed for newly signed reliever Tommy Kahnle. Although he was never a high-leverage guy, he consistently got the outs when he was called upon. It was telling when the Yankees left him off the ALCS roster last October, perhaps a sign of things to come. Nevertheless, I appreciated Luetge. I was surprised when he made the Yankees a couple of years ago out of Spring Training. He may never have been a “great” reliever, but he was consistent and that is all we can ask.

When Luetge was DFA’d, I did not really expect the Yankees to get much if anything. Maybe a low-level prospect at best. So, I was pleasantly surprised when the Yankees acquired two prospects from the Atlanta Braves for him, including one of their Top 30 prospects. Now, Luetge gets an opportunity to potentially play for another World Series contender. Good for him. 

RHP Indigo Diaz was Atlanta’s 23rd best prospect according to Diaz, 24, pitched for the Braves’ AA-affiliate Mississippi in 2022. A reliever, he was 3-4 with a 3.08 ERA and four saves. If Yankees coaches can do for Diaz what they have done for Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta, I will be very pleased with the outcome of the trade without even considering the second prospect received in the Luetge trade. I guess it is a testament to the strength of the Yankees’ farm system compared to the Braves that Diaz in unable to crack MLB’s Top 30 Prospect list for the Yankees. 

Indigo Diaz (Photo Credit: @indigo_diaz via Twitter)

The second guy is infielder Caleb Durbin, 22, who spent 2022 with Single-A Augusta and High-A Rome. He has been described as “the scrappiest, grittiest guy you’ll ever meet in your life”.  Durbin is only 5’8” but the description of him leads me to believe that he can play bigger than he really is (kind of like former Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia). Durbin hit .241 in 2022 with 8 home runs and 62 RBIs.

Caleb Durbin (Photo Credit: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

It is possible that neither Diaz nor Durbin make an impact for the Yankees, yet I am glad they are part of the organization. I look forward to watching them reach for their dreams in Pinstripes.

Trevor Bauer, free agent-to-be?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have until January 6th to make their decision on reinstated pitcher Trevor Bauer. Many Yankee fans are salivating over the possibility of signing Bauer if the Dodgers, as expected, release him. Count me out. While I recognize the talent of Bauer’s arm, I feel the personality and the controversy he brings to a clubhouse outweighs any good he can do on the field.

Trevor Bauer (Photo Credit: @BauerOutage via Twitter)

Sure, winning cures everything but if the Dodgers believed so strongly in Bauer’s talent, there would be no discussion of his possible release. They know the entire package. I realize that Bauer was not actually convicted of a crime, but something happened, and Bauer has stirred enough controversy over the years to show that he is not a clubhouse guy.  I believe in team chemistry. I never want to relive the chaos of the Bronx Zoo so many years ago. 

If the Yankees did sign Bauer, it would probably make Frankie Montas the odd man out. I would prefer to see a healthy Montas in 2023 and find out if he can be the pitcher he was in Oakland. I know, it could be like hoping Sonny Gray would find success in Pinstripes and there are always health concerns surrounding Luis Severino.  Yet, Montas is my guy for 2023 until he is not.  So, it is a hard pass on Bauer for me. I really want to see what a healthy Montas can provide.  I think Carlos Rodón, once a teammate when both guys were in the White Sox organization, will have a positive impact on Montas.

Ex-Red Sock in the house

While it seems like the Boston Red Sox are always stashing former Yankees in their organization, the Yankees took a flyer on former Red Sox reliever Tyler Danish this week. Danish, 28, had been outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster in late October. He cleared waivers and elected free agency over minor league assignment. The right-hander has signed a minor league contract with the Yankees which includes a Major League invite to Spring Training.

Tyler Danish

The former White Sox prospect, who has also spent time the Mariners and Angels organizations, had signed a minor league agreement with the Red Sox last February.  He posted a 5.13 ERA for the Red Sox this season, with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over 32 relief appearances. He did miss time due to a right forearm strain from early July to late August.

Not expecting much here but then again that is what I thought when Lucas Luetge signed a minor league deal with the Yankees a few years ago.

Marwin Gonzalez heads Overseas

After spending the 2022 season as a utility player with the Yankees, Marwin Gonzalez has found a new team. He heads to Japan to join the Orix Buffaloes. He will be tasked with helping to replace former Buffaloes outfielder Masataka Yoshida who signed this offseason with the Boston Red Sox. 

I never expected the Yankees to re-sign Gonzalez. Unless Oswaldo Cabrera is tasked with starting left field (which I still doubt), Oswaldo is the clear utility player for 2023. If all goes well, Isiah Kiner-Falefa will also be an infield backup (behind my favorite starting shortstop candidate Oswald Peraza). Plus, both DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres remain on the roster so there is no room for Gonzalez. I appreciate his contributions in 2022. It is never easy embracing a former 2017 Houston Astro, but Gonzalez quietly fit in and did his job when asked. Nothing spectacular but his role never really demanded it. Not everybody can be Matt Carpenter. I have no complaints with the guy and wish him the best in Japan.

Marwin Gonzalez (Photo Credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Left Field Mystery

The Yankees have been very quiet this week. Granted, it is the holiday season and the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are generally quiet.

I do not expect the Yankees to acquire Pirates outfielder Brian Reynolds. The cost seems prohibitive, and Reynolds is not worth a Juan Soto-like return for the Pirates.  I feel the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a very clear need for a centerfielder and a strong farm system, are the more likely destination for Reynolds if the Pirates decide to trade him. 

I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Andrew Benintendi, but I will not criticize the team for choosing not to match the offer he received from the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees know more about Benny than any of us, and if they felt he was not worthy of a five-year contract, so be it. I trust their evaluation. I would have liked his defense in left and his ability to make contact at the plate, but if the risk outweighs the return, I am fine with the decision to move on.

Fans seem to hate the idea of a potential trade with the Minnesota Twins for Max Kepler. The thought of even suggesting Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich brings even more hate. I cannot say I have formed an opinion about Kepler. I would not be excited about him like I was with Benny, but I would not scream if he was on the team. The Yankees have some strong outfielders coming up in the minor leagues. They may not be ready in 2023 so an outfielder to fit the short-term gap is fine with me. I preface that by saying I have an extreme dislike for the term “stopgap” after experiencing life with Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the starting shortstop in 2022 after passing on elite free agent shortstops, but a guy like Trent Grisham, if San Diego chooses to trade him, can adequately fill left field until, eventually, Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira and Spencer Jones are ready to ascend to the Bronx.  Although he has done nothing to prove his worth in the Majors, Estevan Florial deserves a chance in Spring Training to see if he can be the guy. It will be his final ‘make it-or-break it’ opportunity with the Yankees since he is out of options.

I was hoping for better in left, no doubt. Yet, the team is better with Carlos Rodón. Of course, he is unable to help the team hit in October, so more is expected from the team’s offense. A healthy DJ LeMahieu certainly helps as does the elimination of the shift for a hitter like Anthony Rizzo. 

It seems we will have no answers for left field in 2022 so this vacancy (God, please no more Aaron Hicks in a starting role!) will be continued next year. I hold out hope Brian Cashman makes the right move for the position and does not lessen the value of the highly versatile Oswaldo Cabrera by plugging him into one role. 

Oswaldo Cabrera (Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, prosperous, and successful 2023! May it be the year we achieve the twenty-eighth Yankees World Series championship!

As always, Go Yankees!