Monday, February 12, 2024

Yankees Pitchers & Catchers, You're Up! ...


Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, Florida

Steinbrenner Field is ready for the start of Spring Training…

The NFL season has ended. Time for the return of America’s Favorite Pastime.

After a few months of no baseball and a nice but not-as-great-as-it-could-have-been offseason for the New York Yankees, pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, February 15. The forecast for Tampa, Florida on Thursday, February 16, for the first workout, will be a high of 78 with partly cloudy skies. In other words, fantastic weather for baseball. The first full-squad workout will be on Tuesday, February 20.

There are reports the Yankees could still acquire the additional starting pitching they have been seeking during Spring Training. I guess the Dylan Cease rumors will be never-ending until the Chicago White Sox finally pull the trigger, if/when that ever happens. If the Yankees have resisted Chicago's efforts to include outfielder Spencer Jones in a potential trade, I cannot fault the Yankees. I know prospects are suspects until proven otherwise and ‘flags fly forever.’ However, the Yankees have traded away multiple prospects in recent years. For the most part, they have not been hurt by any of the trades. Yet, it is a depletion of the farm system. The best way to combat high payroll is through young, cost-controlled players who can play better than the league average on the field. In other words, you need to maintain a good mix of young and veteran players to keep the salary level from skyrocketing.

Spencer Jones (Photo Credit: New York Yankees)

I get the Yankees have gotten smarter and their system is one of the higher-ranked systems in MLB. I did not want to see pitching prospect Drew Thorpe traded, but it was the necessary cost to acquire Juan Soto. I would have loved it if the Yankees had acquired Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes before the Baltimore Orioles did, but I cannot say that including Jones in a potential trade would have been worth it even if Thorpe for Soto was. As it stands, the Yankees lost Thorpe and others for a potential one-year rental of Soto. Losing other top-ranked prospects for Burnes, who, like Soto, can also walk after the season, is too much unless the Yankees genuinely believed that he was the difference-maker for winning the World Series. The Yankees are not the odds-on favorite to win it all, and Burnes would not have cinched it for them. Sure, the Yankees can win the World Series this year, but they are not the prohibitive favorites and Burnes would not have changed it.

I know the Yankees have held onto certain prospects too long (past their peak values), yet I support the Yankees if they believe Jones can be a special player. I have seen some people say that Jones will never be as good as Aaron Judge. Funny because people once said that Judge would never be as good as Mike Trout. Jones does not have to be Judge to be a valuable player for the Yankees. The Yankees know their players better than we do. I will give them the benefit of the doubt for players they believe they should hold versus those they are willing to package in the right deals. So, I am certainly not going to try and crucify them for losing out on Burnes because of an unwillingness to part with Jones. Again, I would have loved to see the Yankees acquire Burnes, but it needed to be at the right price that made the most long-term sense for the organization.

If the Yankees end up with Cease, I know that he is not on the same level as Burnes. As such, the cost should not be as high as the package the Orioles put together for Burnes. It should not cost the absolute best prospects in the organization, a group headed by Jones and Jasson Dominguez.

Maybe the Yankees will do nothing, and head into the season with a starting rotation consisting of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, Jr, and Clarke Schmidt. It is not like the Yankees are trying to do patchwork with unproven starters. All five guys have proven they can win Major League games. Health concerns aside, it is a formidable group. No doubt we will see starting performances by Cody Poteet, Clayton Beeter, Luis Gil, and others. The question becomes whether this group can get the Yankees to the trade deadline when a potential deal for another starting pitcher brings the needed reinforcement. Barring a Spring Training trade (or signing), this seems to be the current path.

For most of the winter, I had some hope the Yankees would turn to Jordan Montgomery as a potential rotation solution. You keep hearing that he wants to return to Texas, but with the calendar having turned to February and Montgomery still accepting offers, there is always a chance. The Yankees must have decided it was not an option for them as they finally gave away Montgomery’s number 47. If they harbored any hopes of signing Montgomery, they would have withheld the number. According to the Yankees’ website, the number has been assigned to one of the relievers acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Victor González. Thanks for the memories, Monty…the Yankees should have never traded you.

Jordan Montgomery

Speaking of numbers, I was surprised the Yankees gave a low jersey number (29) to non-roster catcher Luis Torrens. If the Yankees trade Ben Rortvedt, Torrens stands a good chance to be the emergency catcher in Triple-A (assuming Austin Wells joins Jose Trevino on the Major League roster as expected). I have low expectations that Torrens will make the Yankees; however, I am pulling for him.

Looking forward to the first sights of Spring Training. The pictures of players working out in Tampa were enjoyable, but it is not the same as organized team activities. The first surreal moment will be when Juan Soto arrives. The other new guys will seem like afterthoughts. Sorry Stro & Dugie, New York loves its stars.

Welcome back, Yankees!

Exhibition Games in Mexico

It was exciting to see the addition of two exhibition games in Mexico City on March 24 and 25.

The Yankees will play the Diablos Rojos del México at Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium. They will be split-squad games since the Yankees will also be in Bradenton, FL to play the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 24 and at Steinbrenner Field on March 25 against the New York Mets.

Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú

It will be interesting to see which players are chosen to make the trip to Mexico City. I am hopeful that Jose Trevino makes the trip for no other reason than how excited he is about it. Spring Training usually becomes a grind by late March so the infusion of excitement for the Mexico City games will be a bonus in advance of Opening Day.

The Yankees last played in Mexico City in 1968 which was Mickey Mantle’s final season. A couple of the new guys, Victor González, and Alex Verdugo, have roots in Mexico like Trevino. They should certainly be on the travel squad, but I would like to see some of the regulars make the trip.

Adding Another Dodgers Reliever

Victor González will certainly see a few familiar faces at Steinbrenner Field this week. Alex Verdugo was a prospect in the Dodgers organization a few years ago and spent some time with the big-league club before he was traded to Boston in the Mookie Betts deal. Last week, the Yankees acquired Dodgers reliever, Caleb Ferguson, a lefty, for the left-handed reliever the Yankees had claimed on waivers from the Houston Astros, Matt Gage, and a low-level prospect, RHP Christian Zazueta.

Caleb Ferguson (Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Gage may have had a chance to make the Opening Day Roster, but Ferguson is the better reliever. Not exactly Josh Hader, but the Yankees have proven an ability to put together an effective bullpen.

How long until Manager Aaron Boone starts calling the new lefty “Fergie”?

I like both González and Ferguson, but there is part of me that wonders why the Dodgers were so willing to part ways with them. I know they needed the roster space, but still. Oh well, it does not matter how they got here, and it does not mean that the two relievers cannot become part of Boone’s trusted inner circle in the bullpen.

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Caleb!

On an unrelated note, former Yankees reliever Lucas Luetge signed with the Boston Red Sox. Regardless of the player, I hate it when ex-Yankees join the Red Sox. At least the Yankees squeezed the best years out of Luetge.  

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)