Long-Term Thinking-UPDATED

The Yankees announced almost all of their remaining roster moves today and showed that they are going to focus on the future.

First, Aaron Judge is going to be the starting right fielder.

Next, Luis Severino is the 4th starter.

Both of these moves are absolutely the right choices as they allow the Yankees a chance to see how these prospects can perform and if they are part of the long-term solution.

In other news the Yankees announced:

Rob Refsnyder is headed to AAA which pretty much guarantees that Pete Kozma will be the backup infielder with Didi out.

Eight (ugh) guys are in the pen. Chapman, Betances, Clippard, Warren, Layne, Holder, Mitchell, and Shreve.

One of those arms, will head to the minors when the Yankees name a 5th starter (April 14th or so). Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery will make two minor league starts in the interim, presumeably to decide which one gets the job, though I suppose Luis Cessna could jump back into the race with good minor league numbers.

So, the Yankees still need to pick their fifth starter and demote a bullpen arm to make that happen. That leaves one big decision, what happens to Chris Carter?

With 12 arms headed north, the Yankees have room for 4 bench players. Nicks is one. Kozuma is presumably another. A backup catcher, almost certainly Romine, is three. Do the Yankees want to leave the last spot to a guy who has hit 6-for-51 with 26 K’s this spring and can only play first? One would think not, but the Yankees are starting him today, so this will probably go down to the wire.

UPDATE- Yankees currently lead 9-0 in the bottom of the first today. They sent 13 batters to the plate and everyone of them got a hit or reached base except…Chris Carter who was 0-for-2.

Is This The Lineup?

Tanaka makes his last start of the spring today and the Yankees are using a lineup that could be their opening day lineup. It is:

Gardner-L
Sanchez-R
Bird-L
Holliday-R
Ellsbury-L
Castro-R
Headley-S
Hicks-S
Torreyes-R

It’s perfectly balanced between lefties and righties and it splits Gardner and Ellsbury up. I suspect Didi would hit 5th and Llsbury would be lower, if he was healthy.

Interestingly, it doesn’t include Aaron Judge. That could be a sign, but Judge has done everything the Yankees could have hoped for this spring. His slash line is .321/.390/.509 and he has struck out 12 times in 53 AB’s. Normally, I would think that would get him the job, but the Yankees may want to give Hicks one last chance to play everyday. Judge or Hicks is one of the bigger decisions left in camp.

There are two other big ones.

1- The final two rotation spots. I think Severino has done enough things to earn one and that Jordan Montgomery will lock the other down with a good start on Thursday. He’s been really impressive in camp. That would kick Brian Mitchell to the pen most likely as Luis Cessna has already been sent down.

2- What the Yankees do with Chris Carter. He’s been terrible, hitting .128 with a single home run while striking out 25 times in 47 AB’s. With Bird showing no lingering rust and having a great spring, what role would Carter play? The smart thing would be to cut him loose and eat his $3-million, but the Yankees could go a different route. With three days off during their first seven games, they don’t need a 5th starter until probably April 15th. They could carry Carter for that stretch instead of a 13th pitcher and see if he can help in any way. They would still have 7 arms in the pen as usual, just an extra bat on the bench.

We shall see, only five days until the season starts!

The WBC Strikes Again!

The Yankees announced today that Didi Gregorious will start the season on the DL due to an injury suffered in the WBC. Didi is expected to miss a total of six weeks from now, so he should be back around the end of April. You may recall that in 2013, Mark Teixeira had the same thing happen to him, but ended missing almost all of the season, playing in only 15 games. So, don’t expect the Yankees to be big “fans” of the next WBC.

Brian Cashman thankfully dismissed the idea that Gleybar Torres will take Didi’s place. The Yankees have a number of options.
1- Move Ronald Torreyes into the starting lineup in place of Didi. This will require them to get a new backup infielder.
2- Move Castro back to short and find a new secondbaseman.
3- Use one of the depth guys in camp like either Pete Kozma or Ruben Tejada either as the shortstop or to fill in as backup infielder.
4- Think about Tyler Wade.

#1 makes the most sense and either Kozma or Tejada could be a good fill-in as backup infielder for now. #4 is probably too aggressive as Wade hasn’t even played above AA-ball yet, but the Yankees are grooming him to be a multi-positional player, and he was originally a shortstop, so maybe now would be a good time to get him on the roster and see what he can do?

No matter how they slice it though, losing Didi is going to hurt. He hit 20 homers last year and provides some lefty balance to a lineup that needs it. He is not an ideal middle of the lineup guy, but having him there at the start of the year would have kept some pressure off the other young guys. We can only hope that he won’t follow in Teixeira’s footsteps and that he will be back on the field, and healthy, in six weeks.

Torresmania

Gleyber Torres is showing why the Yankees were smart to insist on him as part of the Chapman trade last year. He earned the AFL MVP award and is currently putting up a line of .455/.458/.1000 in spring training. It’s only 22 AB’s, but for a guy who just turned 20 and hasn’t played above A-ball, it’s very impressive. But it is creating expectations no player can possibly live up to.

The thing is, he needs to be sent to the minors as soon as Didi gets back from Team Netherlands and allowed to continue to develop in a quieter environment. As tempting as it might be to see what he could do in the bigs, the downside of shattering his confidence, is too large. Instead, let him open the year in Trenton. If he does well there, he moves up to Scranton. And if he can handle that, bring him up sometime this season. That would still be an incredibly aggressive timetable for a 20-year old player. The reality is that he will probably struggle at times this year and if he even ends the season in Scranton, that would be a great success.

The Yankees are not lacking young players or great stories. We are already going to see if Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird can follow up their impressive debuts with full-season efforts. It seems like Aaron Judge is putting a lock on right field. That’s 1/3rd of the lineup under 25. And when you add Castro and Didi, you have more than half of the lineup under-28. It’s been a long time since the Yankees had that.

The Yankees need to sell tickets, so they will always talk about contending and playing for a championship, but if this season ends with Sanchez, Bird, and Judge showing they are bonafide big leaguers over a full season and a couple of the other prospects looking ready to help in 2018, it will be a success no matter what the record is.

Classic?-UPDATED

Have you been watching the World Baseball Classic? If you have, and if you are enjoying it, stop reading now.

Ok, you are still here so here it goes. This is simply a cynical money grab by MLB with a fake product.

Look, I would love to see a real tournament with the best players in the world representing their countries and putting it all on the line. Luckily, soccer does that and it is called the World Cup. Sadly, MLB doesn’t come close. Consider some important differences.

In the World Cup, the best players in the world play. They play every game and they play the entire game with only three substitutions allowed for an 11-man side. The MLB version has many of the best players staying away and has pitch counts of 65 for the opening rounds and rules on how often a pitcher can be used.

Now I know what you are going to say, you are going to say that MLB clubs won’t risk having their star players hurt at the WBC. You are right, but consider this. Do you know who the highest paid athlete in the world is? (Hint, he plays soccer) It’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns about $50-million (not a misprint) a year to play soccer in Spain. When the World Cup comes along, he suits up for a country that doesn’t have the greatest relationship historically with Spain, Portugal, no matter what.

So what you say? Soccer is stupid because they go to a shootout if they are tied. Well yes, they do, but that’s after 120-minutes of running up and down a field and guess what MLB is doing for the WBC? The equivalent of a soccer shootout! From the rules page:
For any inning beginning with the 11th inning, the Federation Team at bat shall begin the inning with runners on first and second base.

That’s right, you get two runners on to start an inning and three outs to score. They still play the bottom of the inning, but this is a soccer shootout, just with less superstars on the field.

So count me out of caring a whiff about this whole thing. If they want to create a real tournament with everyone from MLB eligible and games played for real, I would be the first one there. And here’s how I would do it. Start spring training early like you did this year. Have the teams play about a month of the usual spring training games and then crank up an eight-team tournament based on the College World Series format of double-elimination. You split the teams into two brackets and have them play until each bracket has a winner. (five days max). Then you play a best-of-three series to proclaim a winner. The whole thing would take eight days, weather permitting, but you could be smart and schedule it in places where rain is very, very unlikely (Arizona) or in domed stadiums. Yes there would be injury risks but that would be something to watch. I would love to see a U.S. roster with Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and others going all out to win a title. Until that happens, this is just a way for MLB to sell some merchandise and TV rights with an inferior product. To use a good analogy for March, it’s the NIT of baseball tournaments and I want the madness.

UPDATEAnd just in case I didn’t convince you. The tiebreaking rules for this tournament should do so. Even MLB doesn’t understand them!