Friday, January 19, 2024

The End of Yankees Christmas...


Marcus Stroman

No more gifts for Yankees fans…

Are the Yankees done with their off-season shopping for us?

I know, when your team acquires one of the youngest and greatest superstars in the game, you should be ecstatic. Trust me, I am excited that Juan Soto is a New York Yankee, and I look forward to his presence at Yankee Stadium, wearing the famed Pinstripes. Yet, I felt like the Yankees needed to do more to overcome the disappointment of 2023. Plus, there is the concern that Soto calls the Bronx home for only one season before he departs for much greener ($$$$) pastures. If the Yankees had signed or if they could sign Soto to an extension before the season starts, my enthusiasm for Soto in Pinstripes would be much greater. He seems destined to be a Yankee, so I am hopeful that it becomes a long-term relationship.

I will give the Yankees credit. They did bring in a legitimate outfielder to cover left field in Alex Verdugo after ignoring the position last season. Granted, Verdugo is a right fielder who must learn the nuances of the vast Yankee Stadium left field but throwing him out there is better than trying to convert infielders like last season. I wanted Cody Bellinger who could cover center field and provide backup at first base, but it was not meant to be, so Verdugo is fine as an alternative albeit in left. I have gotten over the addition of a hated Red Sock. Now, it is up to Verdugo to prove he belongs.

Marcus Stroman is not exactly the frontline starting pitcher I had been hoping for after our dreams of Yoshinobu Yamamoto were destroyed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After Yamamoto chose to play with Shohei Ohtani, I legitimately thought the Yankees would pivot to either Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell. If reports are correct, Monty is pining for a return to Texas and Snell simply wants too much money. The Yankees allegedly made an offer of 5-years for $150 million although I heard today it was for six years. Either way, Scott Boras rejected the offer, and the Yankees subsequently pivoted to Stroman. As good as Stroman is, it is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison since Snell is the much better pitcher. If the rumors are true that Snell’s camp wants more than $200 million for the two-time Cy Young winner, I have no problem with the Yankees deciding not to play. Yet, by signing Stroman, I thought the Yankees would still aggressively pursue a second starting pitcher. 

On a side note, as a blocked account on Stroman's X (Twitter) account, I do believe he is a talented pitcher who is an upgrade for the Yankees. Even though I think Snell is the better pitcher, it is not like Stroman is a slouch (he is not). I will gladly accept Stroman over Luis Severino, a pitcher I loved during his time as a Yankee. Stroman will be a solid piece for the starting rotation. I regret telling him that I did not want him as a Yankee (the reason for the block) but those were my feelings at the time. Things change; we change.

Now, it seems like they are finished, although they will re-evaluate later this summer at the trade deadline. I am not sure Stroman is a difference-maker, but one thing is for sure, the Yankees are heavily relying on comebacks by Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes, Jr. I am not sure those are bets that I would place. It seems possible that the best-case scenario might be only one of the two emerging in 2022 form. I would love to be wrong with both players pitching to their respective ceilings. However, it seems like a long shot at best. It also places greater importance that Clarke Schmidt continues his upward progression. No doubt we will be watching Cody Poteet and/or Cody Morris starting games this year when the inevitable injury bug strikes. I would prefer going into Spring Training with six or seven guys having a legitimate shot at the starting rotation instead of just five, but it is what it is. May good health be with us.

I keep hoping the Yankees acquire Shane Bieber from the Cleveland Guardians before the start of Spring Training despite the inherent injury risks with the pitcher. I have given up on the possibility of Dylan Cease since the White Sox do not appear motivated to move him now and if they are, the prospect ask is untenable. Realistically, we need to be prepared that all 2024 starting pitchers are already in-house.

When it became obvious the Yankees had slowed their search for starting pitching after the Stroman signing, there was hope the Yankees would redirect their attention to the bullpen. Josh Hader has been a dream of the Yankees fan base forever, dating back to his days in Milwaukee. As much as I would have liked the Yankees to sign him, there was not any indication to show they had an elevated level of interest. Hader is now off the board, having signed a 5-year, $95 million contract today with the Houston Astros. The Astros have a scary bullpen with Hader, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly. There has been some talk of former Astros reliever Hector Neris, a free agent, but it seems unlikely to me that the Yankees will meet his asking price. There has been chatter about bringing back Wandy Peralta although it is tough to look at that as a major upgrade. There were some warning signs with Peralta last year, and I would always prefer to move on from a player a year too early than a year too late. The Yankees may be finished with any further major moves. It might not be as much as we had hoped when the offseason started, but the Yankees are a better team today than the one who lost the season’s final game on the first of October last year.

The Yankees should always be greedy, so I am feeling underwhelmed even if I am trying to put a positive spin on it. Sorry, I just miss October baseball and want to be a part of it again.

Designated for Assignment

Because I am so conditioned to what the word “designated” means in Major League Baseball, I must admit that my heart always stops when I see my favorite NFL team has “designated” a star player for return. I know it is a positive in the NFL as an injured player is returning to active status, but the word carries such a negative connotation for the finality it means in the MLB that I cannot overcome that feeling when I hear the word in the NFL.

With that being said, the Yankees have designated two players for assignment this week (so far). They still need to make room for pitcher Luke Weaver so another one is forthcoming. The two players designated for assignment are outfielder Oscar Gonzalez and infielder Jeter Downs. I was looking forward to both players in Spring Training, but they always were the most logical players to lose their seats at the table. There is always a chance both clear waivers and are sent outright to Triple-A, but they have enough promise that other teams may or should bite. When Downs was designated earlier today, Boston Globe beat reporter Pete Abraham was quick to tweet “Yankees DFA’d Jeter today.” I am sure he loved typing those words. Downs had been claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals in December. Gonzalez was DFA’d to clear space for Marcus Stroman, while Downs met his fate when the Yankees claimed infielder Diego Castillo, a former Yankees prospect, off waivers from the New York Mets. Castillo, along with infielder Hoy Park, was traded by the Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 for Clay Holmes.

Diego Castillo (Photo Credit: Matt York/AP)

It does seem funny the Yankees are loading up on infielders. It seems like a prelude to a potential trade of Oswald Peraza or Oswaldo Cabrera. Or it might be nothing.

I am surprised the Yankees continue to carry five catchers on the 40-man roster. It seems like trading at least one of them (Ben Rortvedt or Carlos Narvaez?) would be a better option if you genuinely believe there is potential with Gonzalez or Downs. Maybe a catcher is moved to make way for Luke Weaver. If not, outfielder Bubba Thompson or reliever Matt Krook seem like the most logical DFA candidates.

Update: Bubba Thompson is the loser. He has been DFA’d to add Weaver to the 40-man roster.

International Signings

The Yankees made multiple international signings this week, as the new signing period opened on January 15. The big acquisition is Francisco Vilorio from the Dominican Republic. Vilorio, 17, is rated as the fifteenth-best international prospect according to The 6’4” right-handed outfielder received an overall scouting grade of 55.

Francisco Vilorio

Here is’s Scouting Report for the prized prospect.

Vilorio is a tall, projectable outfielder with power potential and the ability to impact the game in various ways. The athletic teen has a solid bat tool and has a chance to hit for average and power in the future. He already shows emerging raw power, and more strength should come as his body matures.

Overall, he projects to be a middle-of-the-order bat and an offensive threat if he continues to develop at the expected pace. His offensive potential makes him valuable, but he’s also improving on the other side of the ball. On defense, Vilorio is toolsy enough to start in center field and just might stay there. There’s also a chance he outgrows the position and moves to a corner spot.

Currently, he shows the arm strength and the bat tool to profile as a right fielder, which bodes well for the team that signs him.

The Yankees paid close to $1.7 million to sign Vilorio. Their total international bonus pool allotment for the current signing period is $4,652,200.

Here is a list of the signings according to Baseball America:

 Francisco Vilorio, OF, Dominican Republic

Richard Matic, 3B, Dominican Republic

Dexter Peralta, SS, Dominican Republic

Queni Pineda, C, Dominican Republic

Alexander Almonte, RHP, Dominican Republic

Browm Martinez, OF, Dominican Republic

Angel Ventura, OF, Dominican Republic

Edgar Jimenez, C, Dominican Republic

Carlos Villaroel, C, Venezuela

Dylan Medina, OF, Dominican Republic

Carlos Rondon, C, Venezuela

Estivenson Montero, OF, Dominican Republic

Remy Veldhuisen, OF, Dominican Republic

Marco Manzano, LHP, Venezuela

Cristofer Reyes, SS, Dominican Republic

Jesus Marquez, C, Venezuela

Luis Ilarraza, RHP, Venezuela

Diego Gonzalez, OF, Dominican Republic

Diego Flores, C, Venezuela

Juan Araujo, SS, Venezuela

Junior Tavera, LHP, Dominican Republic

Enixon Sanchez, RHP, Venezuela

None of these guys may make it to the Show, but you never know. One or more of these names might be celebrating World Series championships down the Canyon of Heroes in the next decade or two. Vilorio and possibly Matic will get the most immediate attention, yet it is fun to watch the names that emerge as the players work their way through the farm system.

Congratulations to all the players who signed and to the Yankees for making them part of our family.

As always, Go Yankees! 

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