Saturday, December 30, 2023

A Lump of Cole Only Goes So Far...


Wanted: Elite Starting Pitching…

I seriously doubt the New York Yankees took an ‘all or nothing’ approach with their failed pursuit of Japanese RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but as the calendar prepares to turn to 2024, we have yet to see Plan B unfold. Most Yankees fans, at least those on X (formerly known as Twitter), seem to prefer a trade for Dylan Cease or Corbin Burnes. No trades appear imminent so the fanbase continues to wait.

The Yankees are a better team today than they were when the 2023 regular season ended for no other reason than they have added one of the greatest young offensive talents in the game to their roster. But for as great as Juan Soto is and can be, he alone does not convert an 82-win team into a World Series championship contender. Soto helped his 2023 teammates, the San Diego Padres, to the exact same record as the Yankees, 82-80. Granted, there were many reasons why the Padres failed, and Soto was not a reason, but the point is the Yankees need to do more than add Soto to the roster. The Yankees are weaker in other areas because of the Soto trade. They lost a valuable bullpen member who had the potential to be an upper-end rotation starter and a dependable, proven backup catcher with elite framing skills and some occasional pop. While you would trade Michael King for Juan Soto any day of the week, King will be missed. The best replacement, today, is faith that Luis Gil can be a trusted reliever after missing several years due to injury or hope pitching prospects Will Warren, Chase Hampton, or Clayton Beeter can emerge.

Will Warren (Photo Credit: Somerset Patriots)

My fear is the Yankees enter the 2024 season with the same hope as 2023, that Carlos Rodón can be an elite starter behind the great Gerrit Cole. After his miserable 2023 season, expectations for Rodón should be lowered. With the questions surrounding Nestor Cortes, Jr, there is too much uncertainty wrapped up into two spots in the starting rotation. The Yankees need certainty, consistency, and strength in the other three rotation spots. Cole nails the top spot without question. Clarke Schmidt can be a dependable fifth starter as he continues his growth curve. This leaves a clear need for a strong second starter behind Cole.

I am not losing any sleep over missing out on free agent RHP Lucas Giolito who has signed with the Boston Red Sox. It was not that long ago when Yankees fans were salivating at the thought of acquiring Giolito, but the homer-prone pitcher was dreadful after his trade deadline acquisition by the Los Angeles Angels last year which led to his release, and he continued the downfall in Cleveland to end the season. Maybe Giolito can rediscover his touch, he is only twenty-nine after all, but that is a risk I would rather see the Red Sox take than the Yankees.

Frankie Montas, who many thought would re-sign with the Yankees, is no longer an option. He has signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Reds, taking the Sonny Gray path to redemption via the road through Cincinnati. Sonny has a nice contract with the St Louis Cardinals by taking that route. Maybe it will work out for Montas too. The Montas trade will forever rank as one of Brian Cashman’s worst, although he continues to add to the worst collection every chance he gets.

I am not convinced the Milwaukee Brewers will trade Corbin Burnes. Some reports indicate they intend to contend in 2024 under new manager Pat Murphy and will be looking to build rather than sell. The team needs to instill confidence in its fanbase after the disruptive departures of former President of Baseball Operations David Stearns, who took the same position with the New York Mets, and former manager Craig Counsell, a hometown favorite, who has moved on to the Chicago Cubs. Trading the best-starting pitcher on the team would not help restore the fans’ confidence in the team.

Free agent Jordan Montgomery continues to rate as the best possible pickup through free agency. James Paxton is still a free agent, but health-challenged pitchers are not a smart bet when you are currently carrying too many as it is. I would like to see the return of Montgomery but how much of an overpay is too much? This much is certain…Monty will get more money than he is worth. The pitching contracts handed out this winter have ensured it will happen. Monty brings the necessary stability the starting rotation sorely lacks. Two years ago, we debated whether he deserved a start in the playoffs and now he would be asked to shoulder the load behind Cole. Montgomery does feel a little like “been there, done that” but I was disappointed when he was traded. I did not want to see him go then even if the Yankees filled a need by acquiring centerfielder Harrison Bader. He has shown growth since his departure from Pinstripes, and it would be nice to capture the new and improved version of the tall lefthander. He loved his time as a Yankee so if the two parties can agree on the money, I am sure any old rifts between the organization and the player will be cured.

Jordan Montgomery

There was a surprising pitching trade today. The Boston Red Sox, a day after signing Luis Giolito, have traded their former ace, Chris Sale, to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Vaughn Grissom. As much as I always wanted to beat Sale, I am sorry that injuries have derailed him in the last few years. I always subscribe to the belief that to be the best, you must beat the best, so a healthy Chris Sale was always better than the alternative. At least he goes to Atlanta where he no longer must be “the guy.”  Spencer Strider has that title. I would like to see Sale return to prominence. I have no desire to see the Braves win a championship, however, it would be good for baseball if Sale became a feared competitor again.

Even though other teams are taking chances with starting pitching, the Yankees can ill afford to go that route. They need certainty and strength if they intend to show they can be one of the American League’s best teams in 2024. I know, playoffs are a crap shoot. But it helps when you have pitchers who can deal. When October rolls around, good pitching beats good hitting. Bad pitching paves the way for early exits, assuming you can even get that far.

The Yankees still have time to upgrade their rotation. It may be less than two months before the team arrives at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, yet there is time. The worst thing the Yankees can do is to do nothing. Hopefully, they will be better than that.

Yankees on the Move

The Isiah Kiner-Falefa Era has ended. I feel bad for him. There was too much pressure placed on him as the starting shortstop in 2022. The Yankees' decision to pass on elite free agent shortstops, particularly Corey Seager who seemed like such a great fit for Yankee Stadium, was a mistake regardless of how you feel about Anthony Volpe. The Yankees fanbase turned hard on IKF and it was not fair. It was not his fault the Yankees chose to make him the starting shortstop. The Yankees knew the flaws like we did. IKF rebounded in 2023 to show that he could be a reliable super-sub, even toiling time in the outfield which had previously been foreign territory for him. He handled his various roles with grace and helped to build support within the fanbase. I would have liked it if the Yankees had signed him to a new deal to continue his super-sub role. Instead, IKF will head north of the border to play for the Toronto Blue Jays where he will most likely see more time at third base which seems more like his natural position even if he does not have the necessary bat for a corner infielder.

Good for him. I would have preferred it if he had left the division (or the league). However, I have no ill will toward the player, and I would never boo him at Yankee Stadium. I will always remember IKF as being placed in an impossible situation by the Yankees, and his perseverance to make the best of a challenging predicament. He never deserved the wrath of the Yankees fans. He loved the Yankees as a kid, and he was thrilled to put on the Pinstripes. He never wanted to fail. He just needed to be placed in the best position to win.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

The Estevan Florial Story finally ended for the Yankees when they traded him to Cleveland for RHP Cody Morris. It is funny that both players carry the label “once-promising” but it is a good opportunity for both to start over with new organizations. The fact the Yankees got anything of value for Florial is a plus since any team could have had him for a simple waiver claim last year. Morris made six relief appearances for the Guardians last season, posting a 6.75 ERA after yielding six earned runs in eight innings of work, but spent most of the season in the minors. There is hope Morris, 27, might see a rebound under the tutelage of Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake. The two are familiar with each other from their days together in the Guardians organization. Morris has the potential to either be a fifth starter or a reliever. Who knows, maybe he can be 2024’s Ian Hamilton.

I hope Florial gets a legitimate opportunity in Cleveland. I have no love for Myles Straw, and it would be tremendous to see Straw get supplanted in center field by Florial. If Florial cannot wrest a starting position among the outfielders, he will hopefully contribute off the bench. While I am generally not too fond of ex-Yankees, there are some I root for and Florial will be among them. At least he did not go to another AL East team.

Lame Duck Manager

Aaron Boone will enter the 2024 season in the last year of his contract. There is a club option for 2025 but to the best of my knowledge, it has not (yet) been picked up. Normally, I would prefer to see the team’s manager receive a new contract to avoid the lame duck status, but Boone warrants special consideration as a lame duck.

Aaron Boone (Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP)

If the Yankees underperform in 2024, there is no reason the club should exercise its option for 2025. It will be time to find a new skipper. 2024 will be a critical year for the organization. As it sits today, Juan Soto is a one-year Yankee who will be moving on to greener pastures in 2025 unless the Yankees can convince him to stay. Boone has a solid rep as a player’s manager so his relationship with Soto could go a long way toward determining the Yankees' fate for both. Money will obviously be the key determinant for Soto as he is expected to break the $500 million barrier (void of the 98% deferrals contained in Shohei Ohtani’s contract). Yet, his relationship with the Yankees, the front office, the players, the manager, and the fans, will play a role. If Soto is convinced that he wants to be a Yankee and the money is close, the advantage will go to the Yankees.

If the Yankees run out another 82-80 season and Boone is dismissed after the season, it seems more likely that Soto will move on. So, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about Boone. I like the guy personally, and I do appreciate the support of his players. His decision-making skills are questionable at times, but I am hopeful that new bench coach Brad Ausmus can help. I have always wanted an experienced Major League manager to sit next to Boone, and this is the first time in his Yankees managerial career that it has happened.

Nevertheless, the Yankees should wait to make any decisions about the future of Aaron Boone as manager until AFTER the season has ended. I am totally in favor of an extension for Soto in advance of the season, if agent Scott Boras will allow it, but Boone is clearly in the hot seat and must prove that he deserves his next extension. Two years into the current extension has not yielded that determination.

It is about time to close the book in 2023 and start the new story of 2024. Happy New Year to the Yankees, its players, and all the fans! It is time to bring in a championship year!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Yankees Miss Their Target...


Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Yamamoto decides to join Shohei in LaLa Land…

When it was announced that Shohei Ohtani had deferred all but $2 million annually of his record $700 million contract for the next ten years, it seemed inevitable the Los Angeles Dodgers would do what it takes to sign Shohei’s fellow countryman Yoshinobu Yamamoto despite speculation the Yankees were the frontrunners to sign the talented free agent Japanese pitcher.

I never bought into the belief the Yankees would get their man. I wanted it to be true, and I would have loved to have seen Yamamoto wearing number 18 in Pinstripes, but sadly, the Dodgers had the advantage, and they knew it. My only hope was that Yamamoto would want to be “the” Japanese star on his new team despite knowing there is comfort in playing with a teammate without the need for an interpreter. Shohei Ohtani will be THE STAR in Los Angeles. Whatever Yamamoto can do, Ohtani’s star will shine brighter. But Yamamoto has a chance to celebrate championships with one of the greatest players to ever play the game. I do not blame him for his choice. I wish the outcome would have been different, but I wish no ill will to the pitcher, and I hope he has a spectacular Major League career.

The Yankees made a fair offer to Yamamoto. According to multiple sources, the Yankees offered a 9-year contract worth $300 million. The Dodgers offered 12-years at $325 million which is the same figure presented by the New York Mets. The Yankees’ deal offered a greater average annual value, but it was clear that Yamamoto wanted to play in Los Angeles.

There is no doubt it would have been a spectacular offseason if the Yankees had been able to acquire both Juan Soto and Yamamoto. It certainly would have heightened the optimism for the 2024 season. As it stands, the Yankees will need to pivot to find another starting pitcher. It will be hard to replicate the potential Yamamoto would have provided, but a front two of Gerrit Cole and say Corbin Burnes (currently with the Milwaukee Brewers) would be exciting. The downside is the talented prospects it will take to acquire another frontline player. The Yankees could sign Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell for only money, but neither of those pitchers will significantly upgrade the starting rotation. Burnes or Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox seem to be the best options to slide behind Cole in the starting rotation. It is a hard pass on Cleveland’s Shane Bieber for me given his injury history in recent years. Miami’s Jesus Luzardo is also an option.

The Yankees do need help for the starting rotation. If 2024 success is dependent upon good health for Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes, Jr., the Yankees are doomed. They need a dependable top starter that they can pair with Cole. I wanted the Yankees to sign Rodón last year, and I still hope that he can be the pitcher he was in San Francisco, but it is not a bet I would want to make. The Yankees must lessen the “need” for Rodón so that anything we get can just be icing on the cake.

I am hopeful that someone emerges from the Yankees’ top pitching prospects to claim a spot in the rotation. An earned claim, not just giving a spot to a pitcher to see what he can do. Chase Hampton, Will Warren, and Clayton Beeter come to mind, along with a healthy Luis Gil. Most might be destined for the bullpen, but it would be nice if one emerged as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter or even as a strong fifth starter.

Pitching aside, the next order of business should be signing Juan Soto to a long-term extension. I know that his agent, Scott Boras, is not known for extensions but under the right circumstances, he has done it. The Yankees need to put their best foot forward to secure Soto so that he is not a one-and-done rental player for the Yankees. The announcement of a huge contract extension during Spring Training would be incredible. It would set the tone for the season and would bring the certainty Soto will remain an integral part of the lineup moving forward. It would be great to see Soto on the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, surrounded by teammates, friends, and family, celebrating a long-term deal to keep him in the famed Pinstripes for the next decade. The Yankees were willing to give Yamamoto $300 million, knowing they would have to pay Soto. There is no reason the organization cannot pony up the money it will take to keep Soto and entice him to forego the free agent market. It will be a $500 million plus contract, for sure, and without the “Dodger” deferrals. The Yankees can afford to keep one of baseball’s greatest players in New York, and more specifically, in the Bronx.

Juan Soto

As much as Soto may enjoy New York during the upcoming season, I think it would be a mistake to let him hit the open market next offseason. He does not have long-time ties with the organization like Aaron Judge did. Being a Yankee is special, but money is better. If Soto is a free agent, it is a certainty Steve Cohen and the New York Mets will go hard after him. Every winter, there seems to be at least one Major League owner with stupid money. The potential to lose Soto in free agency is far greater than it was with Judge. Even if the Yankees must pay more, the talent of the player has proven his worth. With escalating salaries, the Cole and Judge contracts are beginning to look like bargains. If the Los Angeles Dodgers can afford to pay over a billion dollars for two Japanese players, including one who has never thrown a pitch for a Major League baseball team, the Yankees can afford to pay Juan Soto.

As awful as it felt to lose out on Yamamoto to the Dodgers, the pain of losing Juan Soto to free agency next Winter would be far worse, particularly if Soto has the type of season that we expect him to have in 2024. His style of play, and the results, are certain to endear him to the Yankees fan base. He will become a fan favorite in one of the safest 2024 season predictions you can make. It will rip our hearts out if he leaves.

Good thing Spring Training is still two months away. The Yankees have a lot of work to do.

Alex Verdugo, the Yankee…

I had wondered when the Yankees would hold a press conference for Alex Verdugo. I guess the days of the big press conferences at Yankee Stadium are over, but the Zoom calls with the press are nice. It helps to get insight into the players and to get their thoughts about joining the organization.

When Verdugo held his press conference this week, his comment about being mad when he heard that he had been traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees is the type of intensity I wanted to see from him. We always want the players to despise the enemy as much as we do, but honestly, they do not. They will go to whichever team is willing to show them the money. We saw David Wells and David Cone join the Red Sox. It happens. I would rather see a player dislike the Red Sox like we do. Granted, Verdugo had no love for the Yankees, but it is the passion, the intensity I respect, and I know that when he does pull on the Pinstripes, he will be ready for war. Maybe he will bring the energy the Yankees lineup has been missing. I wanted Cody Bellinger because of Bellinger’s ability to play centerfield while Jasson Dominguez recovers from offseason surgery, and first base as a hedge for Anthony Rizzo’s health. Nevertheless, if Verdugo is a Yankee when the team heads north next March, I will support him. I was not excited about his acquisition when it was first announced, but given time, I can see his value in getting on base for Judge and Soto. Whether he is in left field or center, I would have preferred elite defense, but Trent Grisham will get plenty of opportunities and will provide an excellent glove late in games.

Verdugo has chosen a Yankees number, but he did not reveal it during the press conference. He wore 27 with the Dodgers, and 99 with the Red Sox so neither of those numbers are options. Weirdly, the Yankees website continues to show Verdugo with 99 on the 40-man roster. I think that number is already taken. For that matter, they show outfielder Trent Grisham with number 2. We know that number will never be handed out again. Regardless of the number Verdugo wears, I look forward to the passion and energy he will bring to the Yankees next season. I know he has learned from his past mistakes, and he will continue to get better as a Major League player. So, I do not care what happened between him and Red Sox manager Alex Cora so long as the past mistakes are not repeated.

Alex Verdugo

Several Minor League signings…

The Yankees signed a couple of players to minor league deals this week with invitations to Spring Training. One is a former Pirates pitcher who spent 2023 in the Chicago Cubs organization, 30-year-old right-hander Nick Burdi. The Yankees enjoy reclamation projects from the Pirates, having found success with Clay Holmes, and their signing earlier this offseason of Yerry De Los Santos. Burdi has not found Major League success and has had trouble staying healthy, but he gets a clean slate with the Yankees and hopefully he can be the pitcher he has always wanted to be with his new team.

The Yankees also signed former Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants outfielder Luis González, 28. It is hard not to think of a painful bloop hit by Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez off Mariano Rivera to give the Arizona Diamondbacks the 2001 World Series Championship. “That” Gonzalez is unrelated to the player the Yankees signed, but the name (with or without the accent) will always be a painful reminder of 2001. I was in a bar outside of Arizona’s ballpark (now known as Chase Field) when the older Gonzalez forever placed his name among historical World Series achievements.

González was limited to only thirty-one minor league games last year after back surgery so he will be looking to rebound in 2024. If not with the Yankees, he can hopefully open eyes for some team to capture the continuation of his MLB dream.

Luis González

It was not a signing, but the Yankees claimed infielder Jeter Downs on waivers from the Washington Nationals. Downs was once a top prospect for the Cincinnati Reds. The right-handed shortstop, second baseman, and third baseman was traded, with pitcher Josiah Gray, in December 2018 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that sent Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer and Alex Wood to the Reds. The Dodgers sent Downs, Alex Verdugo, and Connor Wong to the Boston Red Sox in a February 2020 trade that brought Mookie Betts (and David Price) to LA. The Washington Nationals had claimed Downs on waivers in December 2022 from the Red Sox, and a year later, Downs became a Yankee after his placement on waivers again. I'm not expecting much for the player with the impressive first name after he failed in Boston and Washington, but he is a former top prospect, so he has the pedigree. Maybe Jeter and the Yankees were always meant to be together. I wish him luck with his continued journey, and I do hope he finds success. It is kind of funny the Yankees have two of the three players the Red Sox acquired for Betts.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

As always, Go Yankees!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Juan Soto: Dreams Come True...


Credit: @Yankees via X

Juan Soto is a Yankee.

The New York Yankees successfully acquired young superstar outfielder Juan Soto; a player coveted by the Yankees fan base for years. 

Despite the acquisition of one of baseball’s brightest young talents, the 2023 Baseball Winter Meetings were largely a bore. I am excited that the Yankees acquired Soto, but the process was tiring. I guess I would have liked it better if we had received a Jeff Passan tweet that simply said, “Yankees acquire Juan Soto”. All the tweets and reports from the various team beat writers saying a deal was close to the finish line was too long and drawn out. After hearing the Yankees and Padres were trying to complete the deal all day on Wednesday, the final day of the Winter Meetings, the official word was finally announced at nearly 11 p.m. Eastern time. 

Wednesday evening there were reports that medical records (review on the San Diego side) were holding up the deal. Then, there were reports the Padres executives were attending a social event. I was not sure what to think, but the reports from the trustworthy beat writers did not express any concern that the deal was falling apart. Finally, Joel Sherman broke the news that the deal was done. Whew! 

I thought the Yankees might give Jack Curry an exclusive to break the news. The Yankees Hot Stove show was scheduled to air at 10:30 p.m. Eastern (around the time the news started breaking about the finalization of the trade). Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Nets postgame show ran over so Yankee fans had to patiently (or rather impatiently) wait through the Nets postgame show to finally hear Jack Curry confirm the Soto trade.

It was a long, difficult road with so many rumors. Granted, much of it was trade posturing. In the days leading up to the trade, it felt like the Padres might wait to see the market develop after Shohei Ohtani signs, thinking the jilted suitors might flip their attention to Soto. Fortunately, it was all smoke. The Yankees had the best offer on the table, and it gave the Padres the pitching and financial relief they needed to make the deal. 

Losing Michael King hurts. I appreciated and valued Michael King, the reliever, and then I got even more excited when he excelled during his brief audition as a starter late last season. I was looking forward to King’s future in the starting rotation. I know he has dealt with his share of injuries in recent years, but I did not want to see him go. Obviously, losing him for Juan Soto is a deal you would make every day of the week, but it does not mean that there cannot be sadness to see King go. I truly wish him the best in San Diego. I was hopeful the Yankees would not lose both King and Drew Thorpe, yet they did. I would have preferred to see Clarke Schmidt accompany Thorpe to the West Coast over King, but it was not meant to be. The Yankees paid a healthy price for Soto and center fielder Trent Grisham…four pitchers…King, Thorpe, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vasquez…along with catcher Kyle Higashioka. I refuse to call it an “overpay” even though the Yankees are guaranteed only one year with Soto. Soto is exactly what the Yankees need, and he is worth the cost regardless of how much it hurts. 

Credit: FriarWire, Official Blog of the San Diego Padres

Higgy leaves as the longest-tenured Yankee. I am proud of his time in the Yankees organization, and I am glad he has been part of the team. I recognized that his salary and age were working against him, and it made him the most likely departee among the multiple catchers on the 40-man roster.  Like Austin Romine before him, there comes a time when the Yankees and a player must part ways. Sadly, for Higgy, the day was December 6, 2023. 

Brito and Vasquez did a good job providing rotation depth last year, but I am hopeful the pitchers remaining in the organization will step up. Will Warren, Chase Hampton, and Clayton Beeter are the pitchers who immediately come to mind. Luis Gil will also be back after distancing himself from Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the pitching losses reinforce the need to bolster the pitching staff between now and Spring Training. 

Congratulations to General Manager Brian Cashman and his team for closing the deal to bring the 25-year-old superstar Juan Soto to New York. I was not sure they would do it. After ignoring most elite free agent talent in recent years, it seemed implausible the Yankees would pay for a potential future Hall of Famer with prospects and proven Major League talent when they could have had the best of the best for only cash and passed. I am glad they did.  Soto alone is not enough, but Cashman seems to understand there is more work to do…or at least I hope he does.

Although the Yankees acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo earlier in the week from the Boston Red Sox, I am not convinced the 2024 Opening Day outfield will feature Judge, Soto, and Verdugo. The early speculation has Verdugo in left and Soto in right, pushing Judge to center. Cashman made an interesting comment during today’s press conference he held with beat writers when he said that if the season opened today, Judge would be in center. It leaves open the possibility there may be changes. In other words, there is no guarantee Verdugo will be on the opening-day roster. He could be moved for pitching if the Yankees come up with a better outfield solution that would keep Judge in right. Of course, the question would then become where you put Soto who seems better suited to play right field over left field. 

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign Cody Bellinger as the second move behind the Soto acquisition. Bellinger, if you believe he found himself last year in Chicago, offers both offense and defense and could cover center field until Jasson Dominguez is ready to return late next season and he could back up Anthony Rizzo at first base. Verdugo is simply a corner outfielder who has not played center field in a few years. He is not known for his defense and is obviously far less versatile than a player like Bellinger.  I think the Bellinger dream is gone, but I am hopeful the Yankees can find the best outfield mix. If it ends up with Soto, Judge, and Verdugo, so be it.  I am glad Trent Grisham is around as the fourth outfielder over the various options we had last year. It seems like Grisham will get plenty of playing time. I certainly like Grisham better than Verdugo even if Verdugo is the better everyday player. I do feel badly for Estevan Florial who will probably never get a genuine opportunity in Pinstripes. As much as I like Everson Pereira, I fully expect his name to be part of any trade acquisitions for pitching. 

Since Manager Aaron Boone stated this week that DJ LeMahieu will be the starting third baseman in 2024, the Yankees have much riding on the health of their older corner infielders.  There has been no speculation about Oswald Peraza, but I did find it odd that Peraza was not even given a chance to compete for the starting role in Spring Training.  Both Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera can still find their way on the 26-man roster as part of the bench strength, yet if Peraza is included in a trade for pitching, it would not surprise me. Peraza and the Miami Marlins make total sense to me.

The Yankees will now turn their attention to Yoshinobu Yamamoto. They plan to meet with the free-agent Japanese pitcher on Monday.  The competition for Yamamoto is steep. The Mets, backed by Steve Cohen’s huge wallet, are interested. If the Dodgers lose out on Shohei Ohtani, they may enter the bidding for Yamamoto if they are not there already. It seems like the Yankees are one of the favorites to sign Yamamoto, but it is far from a certainty, and if the bidding gets excessive (hearing reports of $300 million plus the $46 million posting fee), it does seem like Hal Steinbrenner may tap out.  If the Yankees find Yamamoto too expensive, they might look at a reunion with Jordan Montgomery. I would like to see Gumby return, but I wish it was not predicated on whether they get Yamamoto. I would prefer to see Montgomery return as a stand-alone move.  With the questions surrounding Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes, Jr, the rotation needs greater dependability in the other spots behind Gerrit Cole and for depth purposes. If the Yankees do not sign Montgomery, I hope he returns to the Texas Rangers. It would be tough to see him pitch for the Red Sox, Blue Jays, or Orioles.  There is room for Montgomery in the Yankees rotation regardless of whether they sign Yamamoto. 

Given the time the Yankees have spent following Yamamoto in Japan including Brian Cashman’s trip last summer when Yamamoto threw a no-hitter, the Yankees are clearly all-in on the talented righthander.  There is no doubt Yamamoto has felt the Yankees’ presence for a long time which helps. I am glad the team is pulling in Hideki Matsui as part of the recruitment team. Unfortunately, I am less optimistic about Yamamoto than I was with Soto.  I tried hard to temper my excitement for Soto under the belief the Yankees might (would) fall short. It worked out with Soto, however, there are no guarantees with Yamamoto and perhaps more adversity given the steeper competition in play for Yamamoto’s services. 

We keep saying the Yankees need to protect the best years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge. If the Yankees sign Yamamoto and can re-sign Soto after next season, they could represent the core of the team in the years beyond 2024. We will be talking about protecting their best years. 

I have seen fans already grading the Yankees’ offseason. I prefer to wait for the finished product or at least until we see the guys who show up in Tampa for Spring Training in February. There is work to be done and it will determine how much better the Yankees can be in 2024.

Suffice it to say that I feel better about the Yankees with Juan Soto and Trent Grisham than without.  Nevertheless, other teams are not going to sleep on the Yankees. They are working to get better, and it is possible the best player in the game, Shohei Ohtani, may sign with Toronto, a key division rival. The Orioles have a wealth of young talent, and if they made a financial commitment to invest in starting pitching, they could be a dominant force for years to come. Never underestimate the Rays or the Red Sox.  If Brian Cashman wants to be up for the challenge in the American League to compete with the league’s best, there will be no rest between now and Spring Training.

Thanks for bringing Juan Soto to us, Brian Cashman, now get to work!

Loss of Pitching

The Yankees took a huge hit with their pitching depth this week because of the Verdugo and Soto trades, and the Rule 5 Draft. RHP Mitch Spence and RHP Matt Sauer were the first two Rule 5 Draft selections made. Ouch!

The list is long:

RHP Greg Weissert, RHP Richard Fitts, and RHP Nicholas Judice to Boston. 

RHP Michael King, RHP Randy Vasquez, RHP Jhony Brito, and RHP Drew Thorpe to San Diego.

RHP Mitch Spence, selected by Oakland in Rule 5 Draft.

RHP Matt Sauer, selected by Kansas City in Rule 5 Draft.

RHP Carson Coleman, selected by Texas in Rule 5 Draft.

Although most Rule 5 picks are generally returned, it seems like a certainty Spence will stick with the lowly A’s and there is a strong chance Sauer stays with the Royals all season long.  Carson Coleman had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last spring, but the Rangers feel he has upside for the bullpen after he completes his rehab. It is possible and maybe probable that all three of the Rule 5 losses stick with their new teams for the duration of the upcoming season. 

Credit to the Yankees for how they have drafted and developed pitching in recent years.  Hopefully, the trend continues as they will need to make up for the losses.  I was dreading the Rule 5 Draft as I do every year since the Yankees are always one of the most targeted teams. It was as painful as I expected.  Even when I see a former Yankees prospect lost in the Rule 5 Draft bounce from team to team like catcher Luis Torrens, I wonder what could have been if the player had been allowed to continue his development in the Yankees organization.  Spence, Sauer, and Coleman appear to be more Major League-ready than Torrens did, but new organizations represent change, for better or worse, and the players will need to adapt.  I wish them luck with the slight hope they are offered back to the Yankees.

As always, Go Yankees!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Looking for Mister Good Bat...


Juan Soto (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Juan Soto Rumors grip the Yankees Universe…

I get it. Juan Soto is a generational left-handed talent and any team that acquires him will be a better team (well, better in all aspects except liquid assets if they intend to sign Soto to a long-term contract after he hits free agency next offseason). For a team that failed miserably in 2023 despite higher expectations, the New York Yankees need a true superstar to pair with Aaron Judge, particularly given the downward trend of the team’s older veteran players. Giancarlo Stanton has the potential for a rebound, but he will never be 2016 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton again. Soto would help protect Aaron Judge who is the team’s ‘ride or die’ player. To win a championship, the Yankees must put quality pieces around the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole and 2022 AL MVP Judge. Soto would give them a player who can turn the awesome duo into an outstanding trio to build around. 

I have never been one to propose potential trades because General Manager Brian Cashman and his team have a far better understanding of what it would take to acquire a player like Soto. Throwing names around serves no purpose, at least not to me, since we, as fans, are not experts or key decision-makers in MLB organizations. However, I can say I believe the Yankees should pay the cost for Soto if they feel they can sign him to an extension. The latter point may be an unknown until the 2024-25 offseason, but the Yankees should have an idea if they intend to be one of the last teams standing when Soto decides where to sign his next behemoth contract. 

Michael King and/or Drew Thorpe should not be dealbreakers. I like both of those pitchers. King’s audition as a starter was much stronger than I had anticipated even though I already knew he had the right mental approach as a starter. He left us wanting more, and I hope he stays with the Yankees. But if King is the cost to get Soto, so be it. San Diego is a lovely city for King to call home. I would wish him well before running out to buy my Juan Soto jersey. Thorpe might be as excited as I have been for a Yankees pitching prospect in a long time.  Yet, Thorpe should not be the reason to lose out on Soto. The Yankees have gotten so much better at developing strong pitching within the organization. 

I believe today’s events with reports stating the Yankees and San Diego Padres are far apart, and other teams like the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have entered trade discussions, are all part of the larger Yankees-Padres negotiation. They are trying to see who will blink first. Maybe the Red Sox or Blue Jays put together a package that the Padres bite on. The Yankees must ensure they are competitive until the end, regardless of where Soto ultimately ends up. As much as I want Soto, the Yankees should not roll over and give the Padres whatever they want. Soto may be a young elite player, but he has only one year of control and that fact does need to factor into the equation. Yet, it is understood the Yankees will need to give up quality to get quality. This is clearly a double-edged sword. 

If the Yankees ultimately fail to land Soto, I will be disappointed like most of the Yankees Universe. If Brian Cashman and his team of nerds and lieutenants show us that they did everything possible, it will be hard to fault the Front Office despite our frustrations with them over the past few years. If they refuse to trade this player or that player without justification or give other lame excuses, then they will deserve the full wrath of the fans’ fury. In other words, there is a limit to how far the Yankees should go in terms of players and prospects, but they need to go as far as they can to acquire a game-changer. Only the Yankees truly know how far they can go without causing irreparable harm to other areas. 

It is amazing to think that when the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres, 3-0, in Game 4 of the 1998 World Series behind the pitching of Andy Pettitte, Jeff Nelson, and Mariano Rivera, winning the World Series championship with 114 regular season wins and 125 wins overall on October 21, 1998, Juan Soto’s mother, Belkis, was four days away from giving birth to Juan José Soto Pacheco. Hard to believe it has been 25 years since the greatest Yankees championship in our lifetime. Seems appropriate that Soto should spend his twenty-fifth year in Pinstripes. 

1998 World Series Champions (Photo Credit: AP)

Juan Soto will get paid. There is no doubt. The Yankees can afford it, but the question is will they? In 2023, Soto played 162 games. He hit 35 home runs, 32 doubles, and had 109 RBIs.  His batting line was .275/.410/.519 (.930 OPS), which was better than any Yankee. He walked 132 times which led Major League Baseball. Soto, by himself, does not convert the Yankees to a legitimate World Series threat, however, he is clearly a cornerstone player who would help set the table.    

I hope this turns out in the Yankees’ favor. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of potentially adding such a truly great young player. It would be heartbreaking to see him go to a key rival. While I continue to temper my expectations because there is no certainty until a deal is done, there is some hope for a positive resolution.  Santa, all I want for Christmas is Juan Soto calling Yankee Stadium home. Please, make it happen. 

Perhaps good news awaits us next week. If not, life goes on. I will still be a Yankee fan regardless of where Juan Soto plays next season. I would just be a happier one if he was a Yankee.

Baseball Winter Meetings next week...I cannot wait. My favorite time of the off-season.  

Farewell Luis Severino

When the season ended, I think it was apparent to all fans that Luis Severino had pitched his last game in Pinstripes. This is not how we wanted it to end, but as hard as it was to see Sevy leave, it was really the only viable outcome. The Yankees were not going to bring him back after the lost years to injury and the horrific ineffectiveness of the 2023 season. Sevy has been one of my favorite Yankees and I want to see him succeed. I still do. I dislike that he went to the Mets, but I respect his decision to stay in New York City for his family. I am a little surprised the Mets gave him $13 million on a one-year deal although they need help in their starting rotation. It seems like they would have used the money for safer bets. Yet, I am not going to worry about Uncle Stevie’s money.  He can afford many mistakes. If Sevy delivers a healthy, productive 2024 season, it will be great for the Mets and tremendous for Sevy when he hits the open market again next Fall. I hope the best-case scenario works out for him. I will never cheer for the Mets, but I will cheer for Luis Severino when he is not pitching against the Yankees. 

Sevy posted a strong, heartfelt goodbye message for the Yankees Universe on Instagram today. It is hard not to read this without wishing things with the Yankees could have been different. Yet, I have no regrets. It is what it is. When healthy, Sevy was an excellent pitcher.  Even hoping he rebounds in 2024, the Yankees were correct in moving on. Sevy had so many chances but simply could not stay on the field. He was no longer a chance the Yankees could afford to take.  

Here is Sevy's message to the Yankees Universe (via @severino40 on Instagram):

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your love and support over these last 12 unforgettable years. As a young boy growing up in the Dominican Republic as a Yankee fan, I could only dream of what it would be like to play the game that I love professionally at the MLB level and earn the opportunity to don the famous pinstripes In 2011, my dreams became a reality when the New York Yankees organization took a chance on me and gave me and my family the opportunity of a lifetime by signing me as an international free agent. From the time I put on that special uniform and completed the journey of making my MLB debut in 2015, the Yankees organization and the city of New York welcomed my family and me into their hearts, which we are forever grateful! Together, we have all shared amazing memories that I will always cherish and it has truly been an honor and a privilege to have played for one of the greatest organizations in the world.

To the Yankees organization, I want to take a moment to thank you all for giving my family and me the opportunity to become members of your family. A big thank you to the Steinbrenner family along with Brian Cashman for believing in me and affording me the opportunity to be a member of the Yankees organization for my entire career thus far. Also, thank you to every member of this first class organization whom will always hold a special place in my heart! And I want to personally thank the medical and training staff for always having my best interest at heart. Despite having to overcome unfortunate injuries, I always knew that I was in the best of hands due to their care.

To my teammates, you will always be family and there is no one else whom I would have rather competed with all these years. We will always have our memories and I will cherish the time we had together complete with the blood, sweat and tears we shared by working to make the city of New York proud of their Yankees. Despite not achieving our ultimate collective goal, I could not be more proud to have been your teammate and forever your brother! While there are no guarantees in the future, I will always be proud to compete with you 

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank the greatest fans in the world. From the time I arrived in New York, my family and I felt as if this was our home and we are so proud to have spent so much time here. You all played a huge part in my career as well as my family’s and I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making my experience unforgettable and for playing a huge role in having my dreams come true. It was truly an honor of a lifetime to compete every 5th day in front of a special fan base where I will forever be grateful to have been a proud member of your organization. This is not goodbye, it is simply I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon as I prepare for the next chapter of my career across town as a proud member of the New York Mets organization. I am thankful for this opportunity to remain a New Yorker and compete in the city I love!

Luis Severino (Photo Credit: @severino40 via Instagram)

Sevy, thanks for the memories. We wish you the best in Queens and hope you are among the Cy Young contenders in 2024. You wore the Pinstripes proudly and it will never be forgotten.

Oscar G. is a Yankee       

In a bit of a surprise, the Yankees announced today that they had claimed outfielder Oscar Gonzalez off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians today. Many were unaware that he had even been exposed to waivers. Perhaps the Guardians were trying to slip him through waivers to outright him to Triple-A if no one claimed him. Unfortunately for them and maybe fortunately for us, the Yankees made the claim.

The 25-year-old Gonzalez had a key hit for the Guardians in Game 3 of the 2022 American League Division Series against the Yankees when he hit a game-winning two-run single off at Progressive Field in Cleveland off Clarke Schmidt with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees, 6-5.

Oscar Gonzalez (Photo Credit: Phil Long/AP)

Gonzalez only played in 54 games for the Guardians in 2023, batting .214/.239/.312 (.551 OPS). He had 2 homers and 12 RBIs. For Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Gonzalez played 83 games, and hit .287/.323/.496 (.819 OPS), with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs. 

As a fourth/fifth outfielder, Gonzalez makes sense. Gonzalez is an improvement over the departed Franchy Cordero and Billy McKinney, and with Jake Bauers in Milwaukee, the Yankees need outfield help, especially if any outfield prospects like Everson Pereira are dealt this winter. At worst, Gonzalez is depth for Triple-A. According to Roster Resource, he has options remaining so, assuming he does not get cut this winter, he should have a chance to show the Yankees what he can do in Spring Training and will probably head for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when camp breaks unless he has a Greg Bird-like Spring Training. 

Gonzalez was popular among Guardians fans, and he gained some notoriety for using the “SpongeBob SquarePants” theme song as his walk-up music.  He is best remembered for his success in the 2022 post-season. In addition to his walk-off against Clarke Schmidt, he bounced the Tampa Bay Rays from the playoffs a series earlier with a 15th-inning homer off former Yankee Corey Kluber, He also had a tiebreaking single in the 10th inning of Game 2 of the 2022 ALDS against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, with Clay Holmes on the mound. Gonzalez subsequently scored on a double by Josh Naylor in the 4-2 win over New York. I remember thinking, who is this Oscar Gonzalez dude?

I have no issue with Brian Cashman’s latest dumpster dive. Teams always need good supporting players, either at the back end of the roster or with the top farm club. We certainly know the Yankees generally have more than their fair share of injuries throughout a long season. 

Welcome to the Yankees family, Oscar Gonzalez!

On a side note, “Oscar G” reminds me of the great Oscar Gamble. Totally unrelated to Oscar Gonzalez, but it is always nice to remember the late former Yankees outfielder. I met Oscar Gamble one time in early 1981 (before the season), and it remains one of the best interactions I have ever had with a professional athlete in my lifetime. He was so kind and considerate. I remember telling him how excited I was about the Yankees signing free agent Dave Winfield earlier that winter and Oscar was equally excited about it. In retrospect, I wish I had talked more about Oscar Gamble and not Dave Winfield with him. Oscar Gamble will forever be one of my all-time favorite Yankees. He may not have been a legendary player, but he was a legendary man.

The late Oscar Gamble (Photo Credit: Martin/New York Daily News)

As always, Go Yankees! 

Friday, November 24, 2023

31 Years Later, Brad Ausmus Comes Home...


Brad Ausmus (Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP)

Ausmus joins Yanks as new Bench Coach…

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! As much as I love Thanksgiving, it is always exciting to get past the Turkey Day Weekend so that the MLB Hot Stove League can start boiling over.  Soon, the Baseball Winter Meetings will be upon us, and…perhaps…Juan Soto will be a Yankee. 

With no major player acquisitions so far into November, the Yankees did hire a new bench coach this month when they announced veteran manager (and former Yankees prospect) Brad Ausmus had accepted the position.

Be careful what you ask for without being more specific. I have wanted, literally for years, a veteran manager to sit next to Yankees manager Aaron Boone as his bench coach. I always envisioned a guy like Buck Showalter or Willie Randolph, but the Yankees had other plans. They finally avoided hiring one of Boone’s buddies to sit next to him on the bench (Yay!) and went the route of an ex-manager. They just happened to choose a two-time loser. I know Showalter has been fired multiple times and Willie has received the managerial pink slip, but I cannot say that Brad Ausmus ever crossed my mind as a good, viable candidate. Yet, I am willing to give him a chance. 

I have been as frustrated with Aaron Boone as any Yankees fan, but conversely, I feel there is potential for improvement. I do not place the failure of the 2023 season on Boone. He played the hand he was dealt by General Manager Brian Cashman. The blame for the ‘almost a losing season’ sits squarely at the feet of Cashman and his Front Office staff. Even if I had wanted the Yankees to fire Boone after the season, there are not too many great options available. The Texas Rangers struck gold by hiring acclaimed championship manager Bruce Bochy, but sadly, there are not too many Bochy’s idly sitting by waiting for the phone to ring. I did think the San Francisco Giants snagging Bob Melvin from the San Diego Padres was a solid move, but it is hard to get enthused about any of this off-season’s new managers, such as Carlos Mendoza, Pat Murphy, Stephen Vogt, or Mike Shildt.  Houston’s Joe Espada is probably the most deserving of the new managers, but even with Espada’s history with the Yankees, I would not want an Astro as the Yankees manager. Obviously, Aaron Boone is not going anywhere, so complaining about it serves no useful purpose. 

I do think Brad Ausmus, with his experience, can help Boone make better decisions. No doubt Boone is the final decision maker, but better information leads to better choices which leads to better decisions.  Ausmus has sat in Boone’s seat, and he can offer insight that the prior bench coaches before him (Mendoza and Josh Bard) could not. 

Ausmus managed the Detroit Tigers from 2014 through 2017 and was 314-332 (.486 winning percentage) during his time in Motown. He managed the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2019, leading the Halos to a 72-90 record and a fourth-place finish in the AL West. His overall managerial record is 386-422 (.478 winning percentage). He had replaced a popular Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, and upon Brad’s firing following the 2019 season, the Angels hired Joe Maddon. History showed that Maddon fared no better than Ausmus before his departure from the Angels. The Chicago Cubs’ World Series-winning manager was only 130-148 for the Angels from 2020 until he was fired in 2022.    

Ausmus served as bench coach for the Oakland (soon-to-be Las Vegas) A’s in 2022. He only spent one season in the role before he decided to pursue a front-office position. A year later, with no front office position in hand, Ausmus must have rethought his career strategy when Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman came calling. 

The New York Mets hired former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons as bench coach for their new manager, Carlos Mendoza, and I saw people posting on social media that the Mets were just copying the Yankees. The Mets are just doing what the Yankees should have done when they first hired Boone.  They recognized that a first-time manager would benefit from a voice of experience on the bench. 

Ausmus is an intelligent guy, and I think he will help Boone. I do not believe he will be a ‘yes’ person for the Front Office or Boone.  No doubt I would have preferred Willie Randolph, but it is what it is. I will never choose negativity over positive outcomes, so I want Ausmus to succeed, and I hope he has the support of the Yankees Universe to help him thrive in the Bronx. Years ago, he was a young prospect in the Yankees organization seeking the path to Yankee Stadium. The Colorado Rockies nixed those dreams when they chose him in the November 1992 MLB Expansion Draft, but life is about second chances. Ausmus gets a second chance to realize his dreams in Pinstripes. 

I am excited to see what Brad and new hitting coach James Rowson can bring to the team next Spring.  They are here to make Aaron Boone and the Yankees better. They are here to help rebuild our faith and trust in the organization. I have nothing against Carlos Mendoza, who is highly respected in the Yankees organization, but I feel the Yankees are better with Ausmus as the bench coach. 

Yankees interested in Jordan Montgomery

Recent reports show the Yankees, among other teams, are interested in free-agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery. While I believe the team that offers the most money will be the victor in signing Gumby, I wonder if he has any hurt feelings over his trade to the St Louis Cardinals at the deadline a couple of years ago. He has always taken the high road, and even if he has hurt feelings, it is nothing that money cannot cure. 

I would love to see the Yankees re-sign Montgomery, but I am not optimistic. I think the Texas Rangers, where Monty just won a World Series ring, hold the inside track. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex offers great advantages for housing and quality of life, and those factors will certainly come into play. If the Yankees do not re-sign Montgomery, my preference would be for him to stay in Texas or go to a National League club. I do not want to see him sign with the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, or Toronto Blue Jays (or the Baltimore Orioles, for that matter). 

Jordan Montgomery (Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP)

Monty has grown as a pitcher since his departure, and I think he can help the starting rotation. Barring any major moves this offseason, Carlos Rodón will once again attempt to become the rotation’s second-best starter after a failed try during his first season. I am unsure what the Yankees will get with Nestor Cortes, Jr. Clarke Schmidt showed improvement, but he seems to be on everybody’s mock trade list for Juan Soto. Michael King will be looking to build upon his early success as a starter.  The only sure thing in the Yankees’ rotation is Gerrit Cole. Jordan Montgomery would be the starting rotation’s great stabilizer.  The Yankees have good, young pitching coming up, and the talent is beginning to surface at Triple-A, which is a short phone call away from New York. I am excited about Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton, Clayton Better, a healthy Luis Gil, and others, but I love the certainty that a good veteran like Montgomery would bring to the rotation. 

I hope the Yankees can entice Monty to return. I am not optimistic, but I am in favor of his return.  As they say, you can never have too much pitching. If the Yankees are successful in trading for San Diego’s Juan Soto, they WILL lose pitching. It is a foregone conclusion. I want Yoshinobu Yamamoto as well, but my confidence about the Yankees signing him has weakened considerably in the past few weeks. Too much competition, and there is always at least one random MLB owner each offseason who foolishly throws excessive cash at superstar players and potential stars. Hal Steinbrenner will never be anybody’s fool, and he will keep his pennies neatly accounted for. So, if I had my choice, I would take Yamamoto over Montgomery, but realistically, I think Montgomery over Yamamoto is the more likely successful outcome.  To walk away with neither would be a loss. I am not interested in Blake Snell, despite his NL Cy Young Award, and I want no part of Marcus Stroman. Maybe Brian Cashman surprises us, or maybe he does not. I recognize the Yankees are in severe need of roster reconstruction on the playing field, but good pitching is always needed. It cannot be Gerrit Cole and a bunch of question marks if the Yankees expect to contend in 2024. 

Yankees sign Yerry De Los Santos

Even if it is a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, I thought the signing of former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Yerry De Los Santos was a move worth making. De Los Santos turns 26 next month. The 6’2” righty pitched in 22 games for the Pirates in 2023. He totaled 24 1/3 innings, with 18 strikeouts. He gave up 9 earned runs while facing 104 batters. He allowed only 1 home run but surrendered 17 total hits and 13 walks. 

Yerry De Los Santos (Photo Credit: Pirates Prospects)

If the Yankees see something they can fix, I trust them. Granted, it is hard to have any trust in the Yankees Front Office, but to their credit, they have shown proficiency for uncovering talented pitchers. If De Los Santos is part of the 2024 Yankees Bullpen, this signing will be viewed as a sneaky good move. If he falters, oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.   

De Los Santos does not solve the problem of needing more left-handed relief pitching. There will be more moves, and hopefully, the next great lefty reliever will be a Yankee soon (whoever that may be). So many needs, so little time. De Los Santos is a start. 

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Yerry!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Yankees Clearing Roster Space...


Jake Bauers (Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/NY Post)

Wanted: Quality Major League Players…

The Yankees made a trade on Friday even if it was not the one everyone had been waiting for.

First baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers, who was not expected to be part of next year’s club (at least not by the fans), was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for two prospects.  Something is better than nothing. The two prospects are minor league outfielders Jace Avina and Brian Sánchez. Avina, 20, is the higher-rated prospect (appearing twenty-ninth on the Brewers’ top 30 prospects according to He was drafted by the Brewers in the 14th round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft. 

Jace Avina (Photo Credit: Carolina Mudcats)

A left-fielder, Avina is 5’11” and 180 lbs. The Nevada native is right-handed and spent 2023 in Single-A.  He had 22 doubles, 14 home runs, 50 runs batted in, 56 walks, and 10 stolen bases but he also had 118 strikeouts in 326 at-bats (399 plate appearances).  He hit .233/.373/.442, with .815 OPS.  Despite his slow start in Single-A, he was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Month in August. If he is unable to cut down the strikeouts, he will not advance far in the Yankees organization, but if he can, he might be a diamond in the rough. I am okay with lottery tickets for players like Bauers. 

The nineteen-year-old Sánchez, also a left-fielder, signed with the Brewers as an undrafted free agent in February 2023.  The Venezuelan native is 6’3”, 170 lbs. He is a lefty bat and throws right-handed. Playing 33 games for the DSL Brewers 1 (Rookie League), Sánchez batted .297/.414/.446 (.860 OPS). He was 30-for-101, with 7 doubles, 19 RBIs, and 20 walks. He stole 8 bags. 

Bauers had some nice moments as a Yankee, but he is who he is…replaceable.  I had expected the Yankees to release him at some point, so getting a couple of lower-level prospects was a better-than-expected outcome. I wish Bauers the best in Milwaukee. He will get to play for a respected veteran professional/collegiate manager with the new Brewers’ manager Pat Murphy. The team and city are adjusting to being jilted by former manager Craig Counsell, who departed for the “greener” pastures with the Chicago Cubs, and a chunk out of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ wallet.   

With the Bauers trade, the Yankees’ 40-man roster was reduced to 39 players. On Friday, the Yankees made several other moves that further reduced the roster to 36 players when they non-tendered RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Lou Trivino, and LHP Anthony Misiewicz. No surprises here. For Abreu, his departure has been overdue. Abreu, Trivino, and Misiewicz are now free agents. Goodbye, and please do not let the door hit you on the way out.

The players who were tendered contracts are 2B Gleyber Torres, RHP Clay Holmes, RHP Jonathan Loáisiga, RHP Michael King, RHP Clarke Schmidt, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr, C Jose Trevino, and C Kyle Higashioka. If there is one of these players that I thought could be non-tendered, it is Higgy. With six catchers currently on the 40-man roster, it seems a given that a few catchers will be moved. I expect Higgy to be one. The early forecast shows Trevino and Austin Wells as the catching tandem for the upcoming season. The Yankees will need to choose who will represent the minor league depth. The other catchers on the 40-man roster, besides Higgy, are Carlos Narvaez, Agustin Ramirez, and Ben Rortvedt. It seems like at least two of these four catchers will find themselves in new homes by next season. 

Other Moves

I was surprised to see the Milwaukee Brewers non-tendered RHP Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff is expected to miss the 2024 season after shoulder surgery. Woodruff only made two starts in 2023 before he was shut down with shoulder tightness. He ended up missing the rest of the season and had surgery last month to repair a sub-scapular strain in his throwing shoulder. I get Milwaukee’s financial constraints and if he had been healthy, Woodruff was expected to make $11.6 million in salary arbitration. Woodruff made $10.8 million this past season. As much as I would like to see the Yankees offer him a two-year contract with an eye toward his return in 2025, there will be competition. Honestly, it would not surprise me if the Chicago Cubs and Woodruff’s former manager were successful in snagging him. Woodruff will be 32 when the 2025 season opens. He is a chance worth taking even if there are durability concerns. Signing Woodruff seems like a better option (higher potential reward) than re-signing Frankie Montas even if the latter will be ready to pitch in 2024.

Brandon Woodruff (Photo Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Colorado Rockies were the successful team in acquiring RHP Cal Quantrill from the Cleveland Guardians (who had designated the pitcher for assignment earlier in the week). A talented but struggling pitcher going to the Mile High City…what could go wrong? I did think the Yankees might try to make a play for Quantrill. It would have been interesting to see if Matt Blake and Sam Briend could help Quantrill recapture his potential. Given the Rockies were able to grab Quantrill for a low-level minor-league catcher, it seems like the Yankees could have done better without much effort.

Among former Yankees, Mike Ford was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners. His departure from Seattle was expected when he was designated for assignment earlier this week, but the non-tender cuts the veteran first baseman free.  Best of luck to him with his next opportunity. He keeps bouncing to and from the Mariners so it would not surprise me to see him sign a minor league contract with Seattle. 

Miguel Andujar signed a one-year deal with the Oakland/Las Vegas A’s. The A’s had claimed Andujar on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month. Good for Miggy. He gets $1.7 million for 2024 and will head to the Arizona desert for Spring Training for the first time in his career. Hopefully, Miggy has better luck with the A’s than the City of Oakland has in recent years. 

The Cincinnati Reds have non-tendered reliever Reiver Sanmartin. The 27-year-old lefty appeared in only 14 games for the Reds this season, pitching to an unsightly 7.07 ERA by giving up 11 earned runs in 14 innings of work (13 runs overall). Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers, Sanmartin was in the Yankees organization from November 2017 to January 2019. The only reason I mention his name is he was the other player sent to the Reds in the Sonny Gray trade. I guess his post-Yankees career has not gone as successful as Sonny, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award this season.   

For moves NOT made, I have no interest in Boston’s Alex Verdugo or Tampa’s Manuel Margot, the most recent rumored trade targets. Even if Verdugo could help the Yankees, it is not worth helping the Red Sox improve. Sending Gleyber Torres to Boston for Verdugo makes no sense to me as Gleyber is the better player. Margot may be talented, but he seems to be a regular on his team’s Injured List and the Yankees have had too many of those kinds of guys in recent years. I am not sure where these rumors come from. The Yankees tend to be a tight-lipped organization, and there is no benefit to the team by spreading those rumors. For a team looking to reinvigorate the fan base and restore their confidence in the team’s direction, leaking the potential for unpopular trades is not exactly a recipe for success.

MLB insider Hector Gómez is reporting the Los Angeles Dodgers will not only be very aggressive in their pursuit of 2023 AL Most Valuable Player, free agent Shohei Ohtani, but they will also be pursuing a trade for Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout scares me a little with his recent injury history, but when healthy, he remains one of the best in the game. No doubt the Dodgers would have more success with Ohtani and Trout in their lineup than the Angels did with their ability to surround the duo with much better players.  I am old enough to remember when the Yankees were the most aggressive big-market team. They have been supplanted by the Dodgers and the New York Mets.  Whatever it takes to distract the Dodgers from signing Japanese RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Speaking of Yamamoto, he is expected to be posted on Monday, and his 45-day negotiating period will begin on Tuesday. With so many teams interested in Yamamoto, it will be interesting to see how aggressive the Yankees will be in their pursuit. I guess we will soon find out if Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is ‘in it to win it’. Signing Yamamoto and acquiring Juan Soto in the same offseason would be huge for the Yankees. The additions would go a long way toward protecting the best years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge and reopening the team’s championship window.   

American League Cy Young Award Winner

Congratulations to Gerrit Cole for his unanimous selection as the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner. Not sure why Sonny Gray’s name kept popping up as a potential surprise winner given Cole had the more dominant season, but in the end, it was Cole as it should have been. 

Gerrit Cole (Photo/Text Credit: NY Post)

Cole becomes the sixth Yankees pitcher to win the award and the first Yankee since Roger Clemens in 2001. The other winners are Bob Turley (1958), Whitey “The Chairman of the Board” Ford (1961), Sparky Lyle (1977), and Ron “Gator” Guidry (1978).

Cole, 32, was 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA. In 209 innings pitched, he struck out 222 batters while walking only 48 batters. After giving up 33 home runs in 2022, Cole reduced the total to 20 homers this season. Admittedly, it is hard to get excited about individual awards in a team-oriented sport, but I am happy for Cole. He met fans’ expectations this season and proved Hal Steinbrenner was right in his decision to sign Cole. Hopefully, the next award Cole wins is a World Series trophy.    

He Said, She Said

There was too much drama with General Manager Brian Cashman and Giancarlo Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe this week.

Cashman recently said that injuries seem to be part of Stanton’s game. He is 100% correct, but the words triggered a response from Stanton’s agent.  In a released statement, Wolfe said: “I read the context of the entire interview. I think it’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically because you can never let your guard down even in the offseason.” The words had implied ramifications since Wolfe also represents impending Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto. 

Wolfe has not retracted his statement, but Cashman subsequently stated that he and Wolfe have spoken to clear the air. Anyone who believes it will adversely affect the Yankees’ ability to sign Wolfe clients is mistaken. Wolfe needs Cashman as much as Cashman needs Wolfe. In the end, Wolfe clients will sign for the most money wherever that may be. 

I like Giancarlo Stanton, and I am impressed at how he has handled playing in baseball’s largest market after spending years in low-pressure Miami. Yet, if the Yankees could convince Stanton to waive his no-trade clause, I would be in favor of moving the player to another team. If he remains a Yankee, I am hopeful that new hitting coach James Rowson can help G rebound from his disastrous 2023 season. 

Is Juan Soto a Yankee yet?

As always, Go Yankees!