That Was Fun!

Did you enjoy the four-man bench? If you blinked, you probably missed it because Cameron Maybin got hurt Friday, and after taking a day to see how their pitching lined up, the Yankees went back to 13 pitchers, using the injury to recall Nester Cortes back from AAA two days after sending him down.

From the sound of it, Maybin is going to be out until the start of August. The Yankees open the second half with 17-straight games and then after two games over four days, start a stretch on August 2nd of 19 games over 17 days. There is no way they will use a four-man bench then, so I wonder if Maybin will suffer some sort of “setback”, that ultimately delays his return until after the rosters expand September 1st? (Kind of like Jacoby Ellsbury’s infinite rehab, or Troy Tulowitzki’s disappearance. The Yankees know how to make this happen).

And while we wait to see what happens there, the need for another starter grows. What will Cashman do?

The Vulture Returns

In 1966 the Dodgers had a rotation of Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen, and Sutton. Combined the quartet started 154 games and pitched over 1,050 innings. Yet they only combined for 69 wins because manager Walter Alston relied on a crack reliever, Phil Reagan to pitch in tight spots. Reagan rewarded that faith, going 14-1 with 21 saves and earning the nickname “The Vulture” from Sandy Koufax for how frequently he swooped in and got a win. (That was an era when they knew how to give nicknames. None of this “A-Rod” laziness!) Well he’s 82 now and he just got named Mets pitching coach.

That’s right, the current pitching coach of the Mets closed games for three Hall of Famers in 1966. His first manager in the bigs, Jimmy Dykes, was born in the 19th century and played for Connie Mack! Reagan pitched to Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. I hope every Mets reporter on the beat sits down with him and gets him to retell the stories of his career because he has probably seen and heard it all and I bet the stories are amazing.

It’s A Miracle!

In news that stunned me, and proved me wrong, the Yankees announced that Nester Cortes is being sent down to make room for the return of Aaron Judge.

I suspect three things made them comfortable with this move. First, Cortes threw 50 pitches tonight, so clearly wasn’t going to pitch again soon. Second, the schedule looks like this between now and the ALL-Star Break- six games, two days off, two games in London, one day off, six games, and then the break. Three, the Yankees have Harvey, Adams, and Tarpley, all eligible to be recalled from Scranton starting tomorrow, so reinforcements are close by if needed. What will be interesting is if they can make this work to the point that they are willing to stick with it after the break when they start out with a stretch of 17-straight games and then another stretch of 17-straight after two games over four days.

But for now I am happy that the Yankees have a four-man bench. Pinch running, hitting and defensive subs are going to be in vogue again.

Not Happening

MLB announced today that they have given permission to the Tampa Rays to explore splitting their home games between Tampa and Montreal. This is simply a desperate ploy to create some form of leverage to try to extort a new stadium from the Tampa area.

Let’s start with the big obstacles. First, the Rays have to get permission for St. Petersburg to play any home games away from the area before 2027. Then there’s the players union which certainly isn’t going to embrace the idea of a team splitting home games between two countries, and 1,500 miles. Then there’s the fact that Montreal’s baseball stadium is a dingy dome just like the one the Rays currently play in. Oh and the Expos didn’t exactly pack the place back in their day.

Baseball in Florida has been a disaster, though the reasons are very different between the two franchises. The Marlins have had terrible owners and have betrayed their fans on multiple occasions. The Rays have some of the best management in the game, but simply can’t draw fans to their dismal ballpark. I’m not sure how it ends, but my guess is the Rays will head for greener pastures once 2027 rolls around.

Sample Sizes

Cameron Maybin has been a wonderful find for the Yankees this year. Coming into today he has hit over .300 while slugging over .500 and adding in dependable defense. The problem is, he has never come close to these numbers in the 3,300 at bats he had before joining the Yankees. And since he is 32, it is highly unlikely he has found new skills or attributes that will lead him to sustain this performance for much longer.

I mention this because the Yankee have a roster decision to make in the next few days. They are clearly going to activate Judge as soon as he is ready, and that means they need to shed a player from their active roster. If that player is Maybin, it means they are saying good-bye as he has zero options remaining and some team will certainly take a flier on him after this week.

That doesn’t mean I think the Yankees should let him go. I personally think 13 pitchers is ridiculous, but I don’t think the Yankees are suddenly going to rethink that approach. (I would be thrilled to be wrong though.). Assuming they demote a batter, then Maybin is the obvious choice. With 13 pitchers, you have a bench of three players- backup catcher, backup infielder, and backup outfielder. Gardner is a better choice for backup outfielder right now as he can play center and is a lefty bat. Furthermore, if they need an injury replacement, both Tauchman and Frazier are in AAA as needed. Maybin has been great, but his time is probably up.

Sending A Message

The Yankees made an interesting choice Sunday night, sending Clint Frazier to AAA to make room for Edwin Encarnacion. The obvious move was sending Tauchman back to AAA, but the Yankees chose to send Frazier down, even though Tauchman will almost certainly follow him Monday night to make room for Giancarlo Stanton.

I suspect this is the Yankees way of letting Frazier know they weren’t thrilled with his response to his multiple error game a few weeks ago. I also suspect he will be the centerpiece for any trade they make in the next six weeks, so this could be the last time we see him in pinstripes. If so, it’s a shame. This guy has a bat that will be fun to watch.

Why Not?

I get it, critics of tonight’s trade will harp on the fact that the Yankees acquired a hitter instead of s pitcher, and that they expect to have Stanton and Judge back in the lineup shortly. But, that ignores the genius of this deal. Encarnacion is one of the best bats in the game right now. He actually has a higher WAR than any of the current Yankees and he cost $3-million and a prospect who is ranked 27th in the system.

That’s a steal and the Yankees would have been dumb to pass on him at this price. Now they have another huge bat to fortify a lineup that will be really fortified soon. It doesn’t mean they can avoid upgrading their pitching, but they got better tonight and that’s all you can ask for.

A Hip, Not an Arm

When I bemoaned the Yankees’ decision to let Dallas Keuchel go elsewhere over $2-million, I referenced, “the wear on German’s arm” as a reason. Well right church, wrong pew, as they say. German is headed to the IL, but for a hip injury and not for an arm injury.

And now the Yankees have a big problem. German was already their sixth starter. Starter number 7, Loaisiga, is on the 60-day IL. Now they probably have to go to Chance Adams, Nester Cortes, or try to get some length out of Luis Cessa, unless they want to keep trying the opener every fifth day. Severino is throwing off of flat ground, nothing more, so he is at least a month away. And of course another pitcher could get hurt. I’ll bet you anything the Yankees would love a second shot at Keuchel today.

Big Mistake

The reports out there are that Dallas Keuchel has signed a one-year deal with Atlanta for around $13-million. Those same reports suggest that the Yankees offered around $11.5. Assuming these reports are true, the Yankees made a dumb mistake passing on Keuchel because they didn’t want to pay an extra $2-million.

I get it, the Yankees want room to maneuver at the trade deadline, but Keuchel would have solved a lot of problems without costing any prospect capital. He’s durable, and while not an ace, he would have been a huge boost to a rotation with a lot of questions hanging over it. Between Paxton and Sabathia’s knees, the wear on Domingo German’s arm, and the questions that always lurk in the background with Tanaka, this group needs reinforcements. And before you say Severino, remember that he isn’t doing more than throwing off of flat ground right now. Keuchel could have fortified this group and reestablished a margin of error for the Yankees rotation that they don’t currently have. If one of their five gets hurt, we are going to see a lot of bullpen games, and I would almost bet anything that someone will get hurt.

Now the Yankees will have to turn to the trade market to fortify their rotation. For $2-million that’s a dumb decision.

Defense!

Clint Frazier showed the country what Yankee fans have known for awhile, he’s not a good outfielder right now. He butchered three plays, which probably led to three runs, and then made the ultimate sin of not talking to the media after the game. There’s no excuse for that, you can’t just duck the press, it only makes it worse and it forces your teammates to answer questions in your place. But the defensive struggles have a pretty clear culprit in my mind.

Let’s go back a minute to when Frazier was drafted. Cleveland took him, assessed his tools, and stuck him in center. It made sense, he can run and has a good arm, features he still possesses today. He pretty much stuck there for his first three seasons and he has played 286 of his almost 500 games in the outfield as a center fielder. But in 2016, Cleveland and then the Yankees started moving him to the corners and since arriving in NY between the minors and majors, he has played 120 games in left, 30 in center, and 68 in right.

Now think about what your eyes show you when Frazier plays outfield. Is he slow? Nope, he has enough speed to play anywhere in the outfield. How’s his arm? I would say not bad, though I haven’t seen accuracy in the same amounts that I have seen strength. Does he hustle? Yup, sometimes maybe too much like on that ball hit with two outs and a runnner on first last night. So what’s the problem? To me, he takes some really, really, poor routes to balls and doesn’t get good reads off that bat. You could see that in his last error last night on the ball spinning down the right field line.

And that makes sense when you consider his usage. The advantage of playing center is you get the easiest read off the bat. When you move to the corners, you have to read the ball differently and if you are playing both corners, you essentially have different reads depending on where you are. The Yankees need to make things easier on Frazier and stop flipping him all over the place. He’s going to have to work hard, and reports are he has, and not flee press conferences, but I think he could be a perfectly adequate outfielder. Considering the state of the outfield with Hicks and Stanton signed long-term, and Judge almost certainly to be, left field would seem to make the most sense for Frazier. I know the Yankees need is in right more than left at this very instant, but the Yankees need to mitigate the down side of this asset and not let his defensive problems unravel a promising future. Give the kid one position and let him earn his time there.