Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Sliver of Pinstriped Optimism...


Luis Severino (Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/NY Post)

Severino upgrades Starting Rotation…

No offense, but the Yankees have none (offense). Lately, the Yankees have been Aaron Judge or bust. 

The Yankees were fortunate that Luis Severino brought his “A” game on Saturday against Juan Soto and the San Diego Padres. Sevy pitched into the seventh inning and would have completed it if not for an error by Gleyber Torres that unnecessarily extended the inning. Sevy yielded only one hit over 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs although the second one was unearned after Michael King, in relief of Sevy, gave up a hit following Gleyber’s error. By holding the Padres to only two runs, the Yankees were able to escape with the win, thanks to a clutch RBI single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the bottom of the tenth inning.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa & Greg Allen (Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Yankee fans were able to take a break from the latest game of “What has happened to DJ LeMahieu?” LeMahieu’s home run in the seventh inning tied the game at two after the Padres had taken a brief one-run lead.  He was also responsible for the game’s first run when he doubled to left in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Aaron Judge. Almost two runs were driven in with that hit, but a perfect relay from left fielder Juan Soto to shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, covering third, to the catcher, Brett Sullivan, erased Anthony Rizzo at the plate. LeMahieu advanced to third but was left stranded.   For the game, LeMahieu was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. He was intentionally walked in the bottom of the tenth when Padres Manager Bob Melvin wanted to take no chances with the suddenly hot LeMahieu. 

Credit to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has proven to be the team’s valuable utility player this season. For as much as I was down on him as the starting shortstop last year, he has proven he deserves a place on the Yankees’ roster. This season, he has embraced his role and it has been evident in his play. He is an optimistic player who values wearing Pinstripes despite the past wrath of the fans. 

For Severino, he made eighty-two pitches, striking out five batters. The only hit he surrendered was a fourth-inning home run by Fernando Tatis, Jr. It was a strong performance and exactly what the Yankees needed as the season progresses. After three consecutive losses, the Yankees needed a shot in the arm and Sevy delivered.

Nestor Cortes, Jr’s inability to pitch deep into games is getting magnified and despite his brilliant 2022 performance, the Yankees’ rotation has suffered from Nestor’s placement as the second starter behind Gerrit Cole. Thankfully, Nestor slides down the rotation order with Sevy’s return, and hopefully, he falls further when/if we see Carlos Rodón. It is not that I want to see Nestor fail. Just the opposite. However, something is not right. His Grade 2 hamstring strain in February disrupted his Spring Training and may be the likely cause. Hopefully, Nestor will persevere and get back to his old self.  It remains to be seen if he can do it without a trip to the Injured List. 

So long, Aaron Hicks

The Yankees officially severed ties with Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks when he was released on Friday. With two years remaining on his contract, it was unlikely any team would have placed a waiver claim. I will always wonder if the Yankees could have lessened the financial impact if they had traded Hicks in the off-season, paying part of but not all the dollars remaining. 

As much as I was down on Hicks in recent years, I appreciated his play at the end of the Joe Girardi era. When he was healthy (and productive), he was a fun player to watch. Part of me wishes he had embraced a part-time role like IKF has, but Hicks’ production in recent years leads me to believe a parting of ways was in the best interests of both the player and the club.

I hope Hicks can find a nice role with another team (one which he can embrace) to help extend his career for a few more years until he drifts off to the golf courses in Arizona. 

Aaron Hicks & Cheyenne Woods (Photo Credit: Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

Hello, Domingo German

Domingo German is back. The Yankees activated him today after he served his ten-game suspension for the “sticky stuff”. 

I will never be a fan of German, but his presence is needed…at least until the Yankees can find a better option. Playing a man short was tough on the Yankees’ roster for the past week and a half since the Yankees were unable to fill the spot while he was suspended. There is too much uncertainty with Nestor Cortes, Jr (as previously alluded to) and Clarke Schmidt. German can give the Yankees a chance to win. I will be excited for the day he becomes the long man in the pen instead of a starter (or better yet, finds new residence in another city), but for now, if he can hold teams to two or three runs over six to seven innings consistently, sign me up. 

With the departure of Aaron Hicks, my list of least favorite Yankees has been updated.

  1. Josh Donaldson
  2. Domingo German
  3. Jake Bauers
  4. Albert Abreu
  5. Kyle Higashioka

I did want Bauers to succeed, but he is what he is…which is not very good. With Estevan Florial tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A, I would cut Bauers to give Florial a shot. Yet, it does seem likely Florial will have to go elsewhere to get a true shot. The Yankees seem convinced that Florial cannot hit Major League pitching. I am still surprised that no team took a flyer on him when the Yankees placed him on waivers earlier this season. It seems a given that Bauers’ time will end when Giancarlo Stanton is activated. If the Yankees upgrade left field between now and the trade deadline, Willie Calhoun should be the next to go. 

I am not sure why I am so down on Donaldson. Maybe last year was an aberration with the shortened Spring Training. We all know that Donaldson knows how to handle the glove at third base. If he can find a rejuvenated bat, he can serve a purpose. Yet, I have not missed Donaldson in the lineup. If the Yankees do not trade Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu is more than capable of handling third base with some assistance from Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Since Donaldson is currently on a rehab assignment, his return is imminent. He will have the next couple of months to prove his bat has not retired ahead of his playing career. If he continues to hit like last year (or rather, not hit), the Yankees should cut bait, just like they did with Hicks. I know I would prefer to have Oswald Peraza on the active roster over Donaldson. Not sure what Peraza has to do to earn a promotion since he should be playing in the Major Leagues right now.  Peraza is literally the team’s best fielding shortstop and he, like Florial, is playing very well in Triple-A. Not saying that he should start over Anthony Volpe, but Peraza should be on the MLB roster.  If given a choice, I would take the upside of Peraza over the ‘past-his-prime’ Donaldson. 

Oswald Peraza

Albert Abreu was once my favorite pitching prospect. While it seems likely the Yankees will demote Matt Krook when it is time to activate Tommy Kahnle, Abreu is the one who should go. We have seen enough. There are more deserving arms in the system, including Krook. The Yankees like Abreu so he continues to hang around, but it seems inevitable he will be bounced off the island at some point.

For as strong as Kyle Higashioka is behind the plate, the bat does not warrant a place on the roster. If the Yankees decided to replace Higgy with Ben Rortvedt after Jose Trevino returns from the Injured List, I would not be disappointed. Higgy has one more year of arbitration before he hits the open market, but the Yankees should move on from him this coming off-season if they do not part ways sooner. I like Higgy, but his performance does not match his rising salary (he is making $1,462,500 this season). Through eighty-one plate appearances, Higgy is hitting .173/.235/.333 (.250 wOBA) with seven home runs and eleven RBIs. If there is a player I would like to see turn it around, it is Higgy. Trevino’s injury gave him a chance to shine, but he has chosen to take the dull path. It would be nice if Rortvedt seized the opportunity, but his chances have been limited. 

The Yankees are 31-23, seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and three games behind the Baltimore Orioles. As the Yankees continue to get healthy, there is reason for optimism. Giancarlo Stanton’s return will take pressure off hitters not named Aaron Judge which will benefit everyone.  If the Yankees can get back to winning series consistently, they can make up ground in the division. Today is a good day to start.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Movin' On from Aaron Hicks...


Aaron Hicks (Photo Credit: AP)

Long-time Yank is designated for assignment…

In an unexpected move, the New York Yankees designated outfielder Aaron Hicks for assignment on Saturday to make way for the re-acquisition of outfielder Greg Allen who had been toiling away in Worcester (WOO-stuh!), Mass for the top Red Sox affiliate.

Most Yankees fans have recognized that time had passed for Hicks with the Yankees. By placing Hicks on waivers (he almost certainly will not be claimed), the Yankees will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary except for minimum wage when another team signs him once he has been released. Just like the Yankees erred in tendering a contract to Gary Sanchez in December 2021, they made a mistake not trying to trade Hicks in the off-season when they could have gotten another team to absorb part of the contract.  I guess it becomes a question of how talented of a prospect(s) would it have taken to get a team like the Minnesota Twins to pay half of Hicks’ contract. We will never know. Teams can now try to sign Hicks for MLB’s minimum salary of $720,000 as soon as he clears waivers.

The Yankees owe Hicks the remainder of his 2023 contract, which was $10.5 million for the season, and in 2024 and 2025, they must cover his $9.5 million annual salary. There is a $1 million buyout attached to 2026. 

For his eight-year career with the Yankees, Hicks hit .230/.329/.384 (.713 OPS) with 81 home runs and 278 runs batted in.  He played in 651 games for New York. 

The Yankees acquired Hicks on November 11, 2015, from the Minnesota Twins for catcher John Ryan Murphy.

Unfortunately, Hicks lost his job just as he was starting to hit in recent days, but it was time. There was nothing Hicks could have done to recapture the trust of the fan base. He may be well-liked in the Yankees clubhouse, and I bet he is fantastic to play golf with, but if anybody needs a change of scenery, it is the 33-year-old Southern California native.  Hicks’ frustrations with part-time play are well documented, and the purge clears some negativity from “The Room”. 

I am not sure if Greg Allen is an upgrade, but the Yankees only need short-term outfield help. They seem to enjoy stopgaps. Allen knows his role, and like Matt Carpenter last year, will be ready regardless of the role he is asked to play. Maybe not this year, but Jasson Dominguez, Spencer Jones, and Everson Pereira will be knocking on the door soon. Three players who have an opportunity to be exceptional Major League talents. Jake Bauers has a short window to prove his worth, but left field seems it will garner attention at the trade deadline for GM Brian Cashman and his team of nerds. I had thought playing Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield was a good way to engage him in games, but the latest IL-stint reinforces the need to keep him at designated hitter.

Allen wore #22 during his prior Yankees tenure, but the number has since been taken by centerfielder Harrison Bader. For his latest number, Allen will be rocking in classic David Robertson (30). A great number, 31, goes back into circulation. For me, the number is forever David Mark Winfield. Admittedly, it would have been tacky if Allen had chosen 31 before Hicks’ corpse was cold.  But somebody in the future will be the beneficiary of a strong number choice.

I wish Hicks the best for his next opportunity.

For today’s series finale in Cincinnati, the Yankees have activated Luis Severino for the start. He replaces Jhony Brito, who was optioned to Triple-A after yesterday’s game. Sevy will be missing the big bats, hopefully for both teams, as Aaron Judge gets the day off.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Where Do the Yankees Go from Here? ...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: AP)

Yankees slowly finding their “sea legs”…

I have absolutely no idea where the New York Yankees will be at the end of September. I would like to think they will be the AL Eastern Division Champions with a game left to play in Kansas City against the Royals on the first day of October to conclude the 2023 Regular Season, and ready to prepare for the playoffs with momentum on their side. Or maybe they will be one of the Wild Card Teams hoping for a 2022 Philadelphia Phillies type of run. Yet, just as easily, they could be on the outside looking in. Who knows? Much can happen between now and the end of the regular season.

I have lowered my expectations since the start of the season and even with some recent optimism, the Yankees still manage to disappoint us as often as they excite us. I have not found them to be a team of destiny, at least not yet. I believe the Yankees will be better when the injured guys get healthy, however, there is no certainty that everyone else will stay healthy. This could just be a rotating cycle of different guys headed for the Injured List.

As I write this post, it is not my belief that the Yankees are championship-caliber. They can be, but not today.  No, I am not giving up on the season. I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will start winning with greater frequency and consistency. Any team with Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole is going to be a contender. The question is who is going to make the Yankees better than a contender likely to be bounced in the early playoff rounds? The continued maturation of Anthony Volpe will help, and a strong, healthy debut by Luis Severino on Sunday adds value. Tommy Kahnle will soon be making his latest debut in Pinstripes to provide much-needed bullpen help, and Giancarlo Stanton and his monster bat should be along shortly. Josh Donaldson keeps finding new ways to stay on the Injured List, but he is not missed.

As for the continuation of injuries, the Yankees placed catcher Jose Trevino (hamstring strain) on the Injured List this week. Catcher Ben Rortvedt will finally get his chance to make an appearance for the Yankees after all the jokes about his fictional status in the organization. I am hopeful Rortvedt makes a positive impression when/if he gets to play. Over-exposure of Kyle Higashioka as the starter is troublesome. The Yankees also lost reliever Ian Hamilton to the IL with a groin injury.    

As we roll into June, the rumor mill for trades leading up to the trade deadline starts percolating. We may begin seeing a few trades in June as teams begin to assess their needs and organizational directions. There had been some questions if the Yankees would be buyers or sellers, but that is crazy. The Yankees will be buyers.  After two years of disappointing deadline deals (with no disrespect to Anthony Rizzo who was a very fine acquisition), maybe this is the year for GM Brian Cashman to hit the jackpot. The third time’s a charm, right?  If the Yankees can find the right mix of healthy, productive players in the coming months, I will be far more optimistic in September than I am today. 

I would like the team’s senior consultants, Brian Sabean, and Omar Minaya, to show why the Yankees brought them aboard. Time for them to show their mettle and prove their worth. They need to make Cashman look like a genius for hiring them. 

I usually do not start a post so negatively after a Yankees win. The Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night, 6-2, but of course, it is the Reds so the Yankees should beat them. The win improves the Yankees’ record to 27-20. I was prouder the team went into Toronto this week, and, despite the drama of Aaron Judge’s eyes, they took three of four games in Vladimir Guerrero, Jr’s house. 

The Blue Jays, the only AL East team to lose Friday night, fell into a last-place tie with the Boston Red Sox, elevating the Yankees to sole possession of third place.

It would be nice for the Yankees to get on a roll. I always love ten-game winning streaks. Two down, eight to go. My goal every year is to be 34-21 (or better) after 55 games. It has been that way since I was a kid although I am not sure why. If the Yankees go 7-1 over the next eight games, I will have no reason to be disappointed. 

Anthony Volpe is a Major Leaguer

I do not understand the Yankee fans who are calling for the demotion of Anthony Volpe to Triple-A. Like many fans at the beginning of Spring Training, I thought Oswald Peraza should be the starting shortstop for this year’s team. I slowly came around as Volpe continued to impress every day in Florida and it started to look like he would make the Opening Day Roster. I was fully prepared to accept Peraza, but equally, I accepted Volpe because the Yankees believe in him.  Okay, I do not trust everyone the Yankees believe in (case in point, Aaron Hicks). When Volpe was named the starting shortstop, he had my support. But in accepting a rookie, a then-21-year-old who has since turned 22, there will be good days and there will be bad days. It is part of the growth of a Major League Baseball Player. When he makes an error, I am not going to call for his head. This is what we signed up for. Accept Anthony Volpe for who he is and let him blossom over time. 

Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

I think Volpe will prove to be a game-changer with his speed and the disruption he can cause on the basepaths for opposing pitchers.  Volpe can be an elite player, but this is a long-term project. He was primarily a Double-A player last season with only a cup of coffee in Triple-A. It is not going to happen overnight or in a matter of days. It could be a few months, or it could take a couple of years. Regardless, it will be worth the wait. Sending Volpe down now serves no purpose. If he was booting routine grounders every day or flailing at pitches at the plate, I could see sending him back down to Triple-A to work on the fundamentals. That’s not the case. I think Volpe grows with each game and learns from every mistake. He is getting better. Give him your support, not your anger or frustration. Save that for Aaron Hicks.

Domingo German is a…

Regardless of the excuses given, it stands out to me that Domingo German has once again let his team down. The Yankees are a man short for ten days while German serves his ten-day suspension for being thrown out of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays after a foreign substance check. If the rules say pitchers should only use rosin on the pitching mound, there is no excuse for German to use any substances in the dugout regardless of his intent.  He selfishly made a decision that hurt the team. 

While I appreciate when German is pitching well, it does not detract from my desire to see his removal from the team. Hoping the trade deadline brings some good news on that front. 

The Reds contended Clarke Schmidt was using a foreign substance in Friday’s night game when they detected a black smudge on his wrist. Schmidt was checked by the umpires who accepted Schmidt’s explanation that the smudge was the result of black fur inside his black glove combined with sweat and rosin on his hands. The umps did not find Schmidt’s hands to be sticky, and he remained in the game much to the chagrin of Reds manager David Bell who was subsequently tossed from the game. It would have been tough for the Yankees if a second pitcher had been ejected from the roster for ten days, positions that cannot be filled during their absences. 

This is not a double standard. German was clearly using a substance obtained off the field with sticky hands. As William Petersen’s Gil Grissom character once said on CSI: Vegas, the evidence never lies. 

Yankees Acquire Outfielder

Greg Allen is back.

It was a surprise to see the Yankees had acquired Allen from the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. Allen had been playing in the Red Sox organization on a minor league deal. According to Red Sox beat writer (and one-time Yankees beat writer) Pete Abraham, Allen had an upward mobility clause in his contract. The Yankees sent 18-year-old minor league pitcher Diego Hernandez and cash to Boston for Allen. 

The 30-year-old Allen was with Boston’s Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was hitting .250 (.407 OBP) with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs in 116 at-bats for the Worcester Red Sox. He scored 25 runs and had stolen 23 bases.

Since Allen is expected to be added to the Major League roster, whom will he be replacing? It seems like either Oswaldo Cabrera or Willie Calhoun could be headed to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The less likely moves seem to be either Jake Bauers or Aaron Hicks although I would gladly drive Hicks to his new destination at no expense to the Yankees.  It does seem strange that the Yankees acquired Allen at a time when Estevan Florial is tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A. Not sure what Florial must do to prove he deserves an opportunity in the Bronx.

It is always odd to see the Yankees trade with the Red Sox.

I was a little surprised when the Yankees left Allen off the roster following the 2021 season, and he was plucked by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Glad to see him back on the team. He is obviously not a difference-maker, but he can help the team.   

Greg Allen

The Yankees also signed reliever Michael Feliz to a minor-league contract. The 29-year-old was playing in the Mexican League when he got the call from the Yankees. Feliz pitched in the Boston and Minnesota organizations last season, only making it to the Show for 3 ½ innings with the Red Sox. 

Feliz was part of the package, along with Jason Martin, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove, that went from the Houston Astros to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2018 trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Astros. Time will tell if he gets a chance to play with the guy he was once traded for. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Rising Out of the AL East Cellar...


Aaron Judge & Friends (Photo Credit: @Yankees via Twitter)

Yanks move past Red Sox to shake division-worst label…

The World always seems to be a little better when the New York Yankees win. Before the start of the latest series with the Tampa Bay Rays, it kind of felt like this might not be the Yankees’ year. Injuries have derailed what should have been the AL East’s best for the Yankees, while the Rays jumped out to a terrific start that put them as many as ten games ahead of our favorite team early into the season.

The Rays won the series’ opening game Thursday evening in convincing fashion, an 8-2 drubbing of Domingo German and the Yankees. With the win, the Rays became the first team to reach thirty wins in the Major Leagues this season. German was the luckless starter in the game. He did not pitch badly, giving up only one earned run, a total of two runs, in 5 2/3 innings. The bullpen, behind Ron Marinaccio, Albert Abreu, and Ryan Weber, let the game get out of hand.

Despite the convincing victory, the game proved costly for the Rays. Rays starter, Drew Rasmussen, who had pitched seven strong shutout innings, yielded only two hits and kept all Yankees out of scoring position to pick up the win, was placed on the 60-day Injured List. He was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his forearm. Although he will not require surgery, he has been shut down from pitching for two months. Tough break for the Rays. We wish Rasmussen the best for a speedy recovery. As I always like to say, to be the best, you must beat the best, and the Rays are better when Rasmussen is pitching.

The Yankees needed to make a statement in this series if they intend to make noise in the AL East. Yes, it is still early in the season, but we are reaching the point where wins and losses make a difference later in the season. Losing the first game of the series was ‘not what you want’, yet the Yankees came back to take the next two games as the series prepares to conclude later today that could either give the Yankees a tremendous three-to-one series win…or a disappointing two-game split.

Friday night’s win was huge. It always seems like the Rays score first in their games with the Yankees and Friday was no exception when Randy Arozarena belted a first-inning home run off Gerrit Cole. Rizzo tied the game in the bottom of the first with his shot to right. Cole gave up another home run in the second inning (so much for the thought that he had overcome the tendency to give up dingers this season after last year’s disaster). It set the stage for Anthony Volpe to be the hero. Dropped in the batting order, his fifth-inning homer tied the game, and his run-scoring single in the seventh put the Yankees ahead. Oswaldo Cabrera added an insurance run on a line drive to right field, but he ended the inning prematurely when he was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double.

Sadly, the lone insurance run was not enough. A three-run home run by Josh Lowe in the top of the eighth inning put the Rays ahead, 5-4. Not to be denied on his bobblehead night, Anthony Rizzo belted his second home run of the evening after Aaron Judge had walked in the bottom of the eighth. 

Anthony Rizzo (Photo Credit: @Yankees via Twitter)

The two runs were enough to give the Yankees an improbable 6-5 victory, aided by a clean ninth-inning save by Wandy Peralta.

Saturday, I cannot say I was optimistic when the Rays jumped out to a 6-0 lead, highlighted by scoring five runs off Nestor Cortes, Jr. in the fifth inning, which included a Yankee Stadium-silencing grand slam by Yandy Diaz.  Thankfully, Aaron Judge decided to match Rizzo’s performance from the night before and his two home runs helped the Yankees overcome the deficit, the second homer put the Yankees ahead, 7-6. Oswaldo Cabrera, who saw his insurance run erased on Friday night, added two insurance runs that held up this time when he hit a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth after Judge’s second home run had given the Yankees the lead.  DJ LeMahieu’s slide at home with his hand reaching the plate before the catcher could get his glove down, scoring the second run, was a thing of beauty. The Rays scored a couple of funs to make it interesting, but Wandy Peralta picked up his second save in as many days to give the Yankees the come-from-behind victory. A sweet victory a week after the Rays had done the same against Gerrit Cole and the Yankees.    

(Credit: @Yankees via Twitter)

I am worried about Nestor Cortes, Jr. With the debut of Carlos Rodón in Pinstripes delayed indefinitely, and Luis Severino working his way back through rehab starts, the Yankees have had to rely upon Nasty Nestor more than they should have. With his struggles facing lineups the second and third time around, there is the question of whether Cortes will need to spend some time on the Injured List too if the hamstring injury at the start of Spring Training has continued to affect his performance through the shortened preparation for the regular season. Severino should be able to make his season debut soon, but I was (am) hoping he would (will) be replacing Clarke Schmidt and not Nestor. Hopefully, this is an unfounded fear and Cortes will show improvement in later innings as the season progresses.

The two wins put the Yankees in a position to win the series against the Rays this afternoon. Of course, Clarke Schmidt is pitching so it lessens the optimism but if the Yankees can beat a great pitcher like Shane McClanahan yesterday despite spotting him a six-run lead, the Yankees can win with Schmidt on the mound. He will be opposed by former Philadelphia Phillies starter Zac Eflin, who signed with the Rays as a free agent in the off-season. 

The Yankees’ win yesterday, coupled with a loss by the Boston Red Sox, allowed the Yankees to slip past the Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Yankees (23-18) are only a half-game up on Boston (22-18) so the cellar escape could be short-lived. Yet, it is a first step “upward” and if the Yankees can get back to winning series again, they can make further gains as the inevitable “stumbles” hit every team eventually. Getting Luis Severino back soon and hopefully, Giancarlo Stanton by month-end will be huge pickups for the team. You can add Josh Donaldson to the mix but frankly, I have not missed the guy. 

The Yankees are a game behind the Toronto Blue Jays, two in the loss column. It is hard to look much further than the Jays. Despite Tampa’s hot start, I continue to believe the Jays are the team to beat in the division. Surprisingly and despite their struggles, the Yankees have a better record than every team in the AL Central. Only one team in the AL West, the Texas Rangers (24-15), is better than the Yankees. As things stand now, in a way too early view, the Yankees hold the final Wild Card spot. While the Yankees’ struggles have been magnified by the media, not much is said about the Houston Astros and their 20-19 start. 

Luis Severino Update

Since beginning his rehab assignment, Luis Severino has started one game for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Earlier this week, Severino threw forty-nine pitches in 3 1/3 innings of work. He surrendered two hits, including a home run, but was optimistic about the overall performance. He felt all his pitches were working. He is scheduled to suit up for the Double-A Somerset Patriots on May 16 to pitch against Reading.

Luis Severino (Photo Credit: @swbrailriders via Twitter)

Severino is expected to be activated either later this month or early June. There is some talk that he could be activated after the upcoming game, but it seems like he will need more time to build up his stamina. The Yankees cannot afford for Severino to stumble deep into games like Cortes is currently doing. When Sevy comes back, he will be viewed as the second-best starter in the rotation. He must pitch like a solid #2 starter for the Yankees to succeed since Rodón will not be helping anytime soon. Cortes has not been “that guy” even if he was the best starter last season. Gerrit Cole and a bunch of struggling starters are not the right answer for long-term success despite Cole’s greatness.      

I am happy that Severino is nearly ready. Hopefully, the comments about his frustrations with how the Yankees have handled him are overblown. Sevy can help the Yankees overcome their slow start, and I hope his Yankees career extends beyond this season. I think Sevy understands the business side of baseball and sees the value of staying in Pinstripes.

Outside of bringing in the Brinks trucks to lure Gerrit Cole to the Bronx, the Yankees have not proven to be adept at bringing in elite starting pitchers, either through trades, free agency, or the farm system.  Okay, I should qualify that…healthy elite starting pitchers. They seem very good at picking the unhealthy ones.

The Invisible Man Makes an Appearance

Ben Rortvedt has been a Yankee since March 2022, yet there is not much visual evidence to support his presence. Injuries have held back the man who was intended to be Kyle Higashioka’s catching partner, which led, of course, to the acquisition of the invaluable Jose Trevino.

There may still be hope for Rortvedt in Pinstripes. He was recently activated off the Injured List and optioned to Triple-A. He contributed a walk-off three home run on Saturday afternoon, leading the RailRiders to an 8-6 victory over the Omaha Storm Chasers. Not known for the long ball, Rortvedt has homered in two consecutive games. 

Ben Rortvedt (Photo Credit: Kirsten Peters)

I am happy for Rortvedt and genuinely would like to see him succeed. It seems that it will take an injury to Trevi or Higgy to earn the Major League promotion, yet he can position himself to be ready for the call when/if it happens. The power to succeed is his. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Turbulent Waters for Brian Cashman...


Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Long-serving GM has passed his expiration date…

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has had a nice run. He has been senior vice president and general manager of the greatest team in Major League Baseball since February 1998. Although he was not the architect of Dynasty Championship Teams of the late 1990s, he was seated in the General Manager’s seat when the Yankees won 114 games (125 games if you count the playoffs) to win the 1998 World Series against the San Diego Padres in a convincing four-game sweep. Given his long tenure with the Yankees and four World Series championships under his belt (even if he was the beneficiary of Gene Michael’s work for the first three and Hal Steinbrenner’s money for the fourth), Brian Cashman will one day find his way to Cooperstown. 

It is time for Cashman to find a new job. 

Of course, the truth is he will be secure for the next four years after signing an extension in December. It seems improbable that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner would sever ties with his father’s pick for the general manager’s chair. Hal cannot even bring himself to alter his father’s outdated facial hair policy. I am sure ‘daddy issues’ run strongly in the Steinbrenner family.

Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters)

The game of Baseball has changed significantly since Cashman ascended to the GM’s throne. I do not dispute Cashman’s ability to work internally and externally with people to create trust and rapport. It is always a joke among the fanbase that Cashman wants to prove himself to be the smartest guy in the room. The only problem is, he is not. Younger, smarter general managers are starting to run circles around Cashman. You wonder what an elite front office like the Tampa Bay Rays have, could do if they had the financial resources of the New York Yankees. It has taken some time, but Ben Cherington is winning in Pittsburgh because of smart decisions. Not sustainable but that is not the point. 

Looking back over the Yankees’ significant trades since the infamous Sanchez/Urshela for Donaldson/IKF/Rortvedt deal in March 2022 is discouraging. They say that sometimes the best deals are the deals never made. In Cashman’s case, he went ahead and made those deals anyway.

March 13, 2022

In a surprising move, particularly after the Yankees had tendered Gary Sanchez a 2022 contract before the December 2021 lockout, the Yankees sent Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins for aging third baseman Josh Donaldson (and his fat contract), infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa (I refuse to say shortstop because he is not one), and the invisible catcher Ben Rortvedt. 

Sure, Sanchez was an addition by subtraction, but the Yankees would have been better off simply non-tendering Sanchez the previous December and retaining Urshela. There were better options for shortstop than IKF, like actual shortstops which included a few elite ones. Rortvedt’s injuries led to one of the few good trades Cashman has completed in the last year. 

March 18, 2022

Bumped from first base by Anthony Rizzo, Luke Voit was a man without a position. I cannot fault Cashman for moving Voit to San Diego for a lower-level prospect, Justin Lange.  I always liked Voit’s football mentality playing baseball, and his home runs in 2020 were nice. But man, Voit with a glove was a precarious situation. There was simply no room on the roster for a DH-only type of player.

Lange, 21, a right-handed pitcher, is currently assigned to the Tampa Tarpons (Single-A).

Voit is with his third organization since leaving the Yankees. He signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in February, and he is currently on their Major League roster although his production has been underwhelming. Voit had to go so it does not really matter if the Yankees ever get any results from Lange.

Hard to fault Cashman for this one. 

April 2, 2022

Cashman scored a win when he sent RHP Albert Abreu and LHP Robert Ahlstrom to the Texas Rangers for their backup catcher, Jose Trevino. Trevi has become the primary starter in a platoon with Kyle Higashioka, vastly upgrading the defense behind the plate, and while not known for his bat, he has knocked in a few game-winning hits. 

Jose Trevino (Photo Credit: AP)

We know the story with Abreu. The Rangers designated him for assignment and traded him to the Kansas City Royals. The Royals DFA’d him, and he found his way back to the Bronx via waivers before the end of last season.  Robby Ahlstrom is in the High-A minors for the Rangers organization, representing the only loss to get Trevi. 

The lone trade win for Cashman during the past year.

July 27, 2022

The Yankees finally made an upgrade in left field when they acquired Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals for RHP Chandler Champlain, LHP T.J. Sikkema, and RHP Beck Way. Unfortunately, just as Benny was getting comfortable in Pinstripes, he broke his hamate bone and never played for the Yankees again. He signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. 

Sikkema and Way are currently playing for the Royals’ Double-A affiliate, while Champlain is in High-A. 

I liked Benintendi and I wanted the Yankees to re-sign him, but this trade failed. 

August 1, 2022

Right-handed reliever Scott Effross was somewhat of a surprise when he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for RHP Hayden Wesneski. Wesneski, along with former Yankees prospect Ken Waldichuk, was viewed by most to be the best two starting pitchers in the Yankees’ farm system. If Wesneski was moved, I always thought it would be part of a package for a proven Major League starter. So, for a reliever was a bit of a letdown, at least for me.

Effross proved to be a better reliever than expected and if he had stayed healthy, this trade might be viewed as a win. But alas, Effross required offseason Tommy John Surgery and will not resume his Yankees career until sometime next year.  Wesneski is currently in the Cubs’ starting rotation.  Given the dearth of starting pitching for the Yankees, Wesneski might have helped.

Cashman loses this trade.

August 1, 2022

Luis Castillo was the number one starting pitching target for most Yankees fans, but he proved to be cost-prohibitive. We will never know what the Yankees offered or were asked for, but it is assumed it was too much. In retrospect, was it? The Yankees paid heavily to acquire the second-best option in RHP Frankie Montas, along with left-handed reliever Lou Trivino, from the Oakland Athletics for LHP Ken Waldichuk, LHP J.P. Sears, RHP Luis Medina (probably the guy I was most sorry to see go), and 2B Cooper Bowman.

We know the story with Montas. He arrived hurt and was a shell of the player he had been earlier in the season for the A’s. Following offseason surgery, he is out for most if not all of the current season. Same with Trivino, who underwent Tommy John surgery this week.

Regardless of what happens with the quartet of prospects sent to the A’s, this trade is a colossal failure for Cashman. He gave up reasonable prospects for what has proven to be nothing. A little more creativity and he might have been able to secure a better, more reliable option for the starting rotation.

August 2, 2022

Sending Joey Gallo to the Los Angeles Dodgers was a needed trade. Clearly, Gallo had worn out his welcome in New York among the fanbase. A great guy…I will always be convinced he was a strong influence in the clubhouse with his personality and wit, but unfortunately, the on-the-field performance led to his unrecoverable downfall. 

The biggest surprise is that Cashman received a quality prospect for Gallo. I have heard that RHP Clayton Beeter, a starter in the minor leagues, is destined for the bullpen when/if he reaches the Majors. However, regardless of what his future holds, he is legitimately better than I expected. Beeter is currently pitching for the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate and has an outside shot to reach the Majors by the end of the season. If not this season, then next year.   

The Yankees could have received a lesser prospect for Gallo, and the trade would still be called a win for Cashman. Gallo simply had to go.

August 2, 2022

Trading LHP Jordan Montgomery to the St Louis Cardinals will always be a head-scratcher. Centerfielder Harrison Bader, when healthy, is a great player. I like having him on the Yankees, and I am hopeful his stay extends beyond the length of his current contract. But in trading Montgomery, the Yankees were not exactly dealing from a position of strength. They needed another starter when they made the trade and have subsequently needed more quality starters.

I will give this trade a ‘no-decision’ which could tilt in the Yankees’ favor if Bader helps the team win the World Series. Yet, it seems like the Yankees could have figured out a way to get Bader without giving up Montgomery. For as good as Bader played in the playoffs, I thought Montgomery’s loss from the clubhouse harmed the team for weeks after the trade (the psyche of the team was adversely impacted) and it may have contributed to their struggles late in the year and early exit from the playoffs. 

December 28, 2022

LHP Lucas Luetge was shipped to the Atlanta Braves for prospects SS Caleb Durbin and RHP Indigo Diaz. Durbin is currently in High-A and Diaz is in Double-A. 

Luetge served a decent role for the Yankees, but the trade was indifferent for me so I will have to give Cashman credit for picking up a couple of lottery picks for a journeyman pitcher. Many teams are routinely successful at reassembling their bullpens every year, and the Yankees are better than most. The performance of a reliever seems to be the most like a roller coaster ride to any position I have seen in my years of watching baseball. 

None of the trades above, except the acquisition of Jose Trevino, can be viewed as an outstanding trade. Gallo and Voit were throwaways and the players received for them were less than the prospects the Yankees gave up acquiring them.

The Yankees ignored the elite free agent shortstops the past several years, and they passed on generational talents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. If they had a better track record with trades or a stronger record for producing homegrown Major League talent, it would be understandable to forego the multi-millions it would have taken to bring additional superstar talent to New York. Sadly, it seems we are caught in a loop that will continue to produce flawed regular seasons and disappointing October results. I know the season is young, but the Yankees are currently ten games behind the attendance-challenged Tampa Bay Rays.

Sometimes a team needs a new voice. The Yankees brought in high-powered executives to help Cashman when they hired former Giants GM Brian Sabean and former Mets GM Omar Minaya this past offseason, yet their presences have yet to materialize (at least from the outside looking in). It just seems like the same old stagnant Yankees Front Office.

Brian Cashman

I have long been a proponent for moving Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and hiring a new General Manager. Whether Cashman stays or goes, the Yankees need a new voice in the room. A voice that can make the best decisions for today’s New York Yankees and the teams for the coming years. We are the New York Yankees so we should have the best that money can buy. 

I like Brian Cashman. He was the right man at the right time when he was hired. Times change. It is not a personal attack on Cashman when I say the Yankees need a new general manager. Sports management in all sports…generally speaking…tends to have a short shelf life. Longevity stifles creativity.

If the Yankees fail this season, Hal Steinbrenner needs to carefully reevaluate both his manager and general manager, recognize their shortcomings, and cut his losses. There have been many similar quotes, but I will use one by Tony Robbins. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

I am ready for another New York Yankees World Series Championship. 2009 is a distant memory. The Yankees need to refresh our memories for what it feels like to see, hear, and taste Pinstriped success in the season’s last and grandest series of all.  Hal Steinbrenner needs to make the decisions that help propel the Yankees forward. It is what Daddy would have wanted, after all. 

As always, Go Yankees!