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Just What They Needed

If you had asked Joe Girardi to draw up a list of things he wanted to see tonight, I imagine it would have looked like this:

1- A Win!

2- A deep start by CC

3- No need to use Green, Robertson, or Chapman

4- The bats wake up.

If that was the list, he must be really happy. This game worked out perfectly as the Yankees saved the big part of their bullpen for tomorrow and Wednesday while getting the win and seeing the bats wake up. Really the only downer was Betances, but you can’t fault Girardi for trying him out in that spot.

So, the Yankees are alive and a win away from tying things up. Sonny Gray takes the back for the first time since Game 1 of the ALDS. He hasn’t looked great recently, but we know the talent is there. Facing him will be Lance McCullers Jr. Yankee fans of my vintage remember seeing his Dad pitch in the 80’s for the Yankees. Junior got smacked around in three innings by the Red Sox. Hopefully, the Yankees can repeat that result.

Stop It!

What is it that drives us to make silly comparisons. For example, just because the Yankees came back from 0-2 against Cleveland doesn’t mean they will do it against Houston. Even worse, comparing Justin Turner’s homer to Gibson’s.

I get that they happened on the same day, and yes, Turner’s was dramatic. But let’s count the differences.

1- Gibson’s happened in the World Series not the NLCS.

2- Gibson’s home run came with two outs and the Dodgers down a run.

3- Gibson hit his home run off of one of the greatest relievers ever, Dennis Eckersley, not John Lackey.

4- That was Gibson’s only plate appearance in the World Series as he was too hobbled to play again and barely made it around the bases.

I would rank Gibson’s homer as one of the ten greatest in baseball history. Joe Carter winning the World Series, Bobby Thomson (The Giants win the pennant), Bill Mazeroski in 1960, Hank Aaron hitting 715, Fisk in 75, Maris hitting 61, Bucky Dent, it’s in that company. Turner’s was a great moment, but not an immortal one.

Back to Ohio

Don’t minimize what the Yankees have to do Wednesday to win. First, they have to survive another start by Kluber. Next, they have to survive a crowd that will be amped to say the least. And finally, they have to beat a team that won 102 games and hasn’t lost three-straight games since July. It’s a huge task, but the fact that the Yankees have an opportunity to play the game says a lot too.

This team has shown resiliency and heart when it matters most. Different heroes keep emerging. Sunday it was Tanaka and Bird. Monday it was Severino, Kahnle, and the clutch hitting of a number of guys. If you believe like I do that this team is the start of something bigger, this playoff seasoning can only hasten that development.

The blueprint for Wednesday will be the same as Friday. The bullpen will be deployed early and the Yankees will hope the lineup can produce against Kluber. I expect they might try Holliday at DH because Headley and Ellsbury are not getting it done, but expect little else to change. We shall see.

Stealing Signs

One of my favorite stats has nothing to do with sports. It is the fact that on the day he resigned the Presidency, Richard Nixon had a 24% approval rating. To me that stat captures how viciously partisan people can be in the way they view things. I bring that stat up because the Red Sox have admitted to a very modern method of cheating.

I will fully admit to being biased here, this cheating took place against my team. I also suspect a solid portion of Red Sox fans will defend it and go with arguments like “it’s no big deal” and “everyone does it”. That’s the nature of a partisan divide. We saw a good example of it with Deflategate and the other Patriot scandals. Outside of New England, the majority thought they cheated. Inside, the minority did. So, I am not going to dwell on the nuts and bolts of this case, other than to ask Red Sox fans what they would be saying if the situation was reversed? I want to focus on the larger issue, why is sign stealing able to happen considering all the technology available in the world today?

Why do pitchers and catcher still communicate with signs? Why couldn’t they both wear a device that allowed one to signal to the other what pitch to throw? Why couldn’t the same technology be employed to send signals from the third base coach to the runners and batters? If the goal is to speed up baseball, wouldn’t every player wearing some form of Apple Watch and getting a signal telling them to bunt, steal, throw a fastball, or move three steps to their right, improve the pace of play? I get it, there would have to be safeguards and security, but it seems feasible.

And let’s go further. Why do we still need the manager to come out and take the ball from the pitcher when he is bringing in a new one? Couldn’t he press a button that tells the umpire to go out to the mound while the new pitcher runs in from the bullpen? And finally, why does replay take so long? Why doesn’t MLB have its replay officials looking at close calls before they are challenged in order to speed up the process?

Just some random thoughts on a wet Wednesday.

A Touch of Gray

The Yankees added a big piece for today and the future with the addition of Sonny Gray. I won’t claim Gray is an ace, but I think he slots into the tier just below. Here’s why the deal makes sense.

1- The Yankees needed a better starter than Caleb Smith and while Jamie Garcia could eat up innings, he isn’t going to do what Gray can. Assuming Tanaka’s resurgence is for real and Severino holds up, the Yankees have four good options to turn to in October. And Gray obviously taking the ball every fifth turn makes it a lot likelier they make it to October.

2- Next year Pineda and Sabathia are gone. Tanaka could opt out. Pitching has grown amazingly expensive and the Yankees can stay away from the free agent market and look to a guy like Chance Adams to join Gray, Severino, Montgomery, and maybe Tanaka in the rotation.

3- Consider the young lineup the Yankees can employ through at least the next two seasons-

Catcher: Sanchez
1B-Bird
2B-Castro
3B- Torres
SS-Didi
LF-Frazier
CF-Hicks
RF-Judge
DH-Gardner/TBD

Every one of those guys is under contract until at least 2020 with some much longer than that. Gardner is the only one over 30, and no one else would turn 30 while in that lineup. Assuming Frazier and Torres work out, the Yankees don’t need to go to free agency for a bat until 2020 at the earliest. They could, but they don’t have to. They also have guys like Wade to plug in around the diamond and Andujar to cover third. They traded two guys who could turn into good hitters, but they also have that covered for a few years. And by keeping Florial, they kept their highest-ceiling hitter outside of Torres or Frazier.

4- Don’t sleep on the international money they’ve added. They are aggressively pursuing the top international market to try to develop more prospects. This helps with that.

5- The guy I think they will miss the most is Kapriellian. He’s a big time arm, but he has also been an injury disaster. He won’t be back before the middle of the next year at the earliest. He may haunt them, but this isn’t a terrible risk to take because his ceiling isn’t that much higher than Grays and the Yankees have Gray through 2019.

6- Finally think about the 40-man roster. The Yankees face a crunch there and this will help mitigate that. It would be wonderful to keep every prospect, but the reality is you can’t. Depending on their age when you draft them, you have four or five years before you have to protect them.

Some will see this as evidence that the Yankees are turning back to their old ways. I would disagree with that. Adding Gray gives them a cost-controllable pitcher for next year. It will allow them to get under the luxury tax and they have plenty of youth to refresh their player pool. I think we should tip our caps to Brian Cashman. When you consider where this team was a year ago and how he has transformed it, he deserves our praise.

Deadline Blog

2:53-As in years past, I thought I would do a live blog of the trade deadline. So far we have some smaller trades. The Red Sox solidified their bullpen by getting Addison Reed from the Mets. The Astros got Liriano from the Jays and the Cubs got Justin Wilson from the Tigers. For now, the Yankees are said to be at an impasse with Oakland for Sonny Gray. Let’s see what the next hour brings.

2:57- Yankees have traded a AA arm to Baltimore for more international signing bonus money.

2:58- Here we go. Jack Curry is reporting that Sonny Gray will be traded to the Yankees. No word on what is being sent to Oakland.

2:59- Jeff Passan says the Yankees are sending Fowler, Mateo, and Kapriellian back.

3:01- Joel Sherman confirms those names.

3:02- Kapriellian and Fowler are big prospects, but both of them are out for the year. I’m stunned that the A’s would take a guy recovering from TJ surgery and a guy who suffered a horrific leg injury.

3:06- Passan adds that Yankees will get more international bonus money from Oakland.

3:07- While I am bummed we won’t see Dustin Fowler in a Yankees’ uniform, I’m still going to root like crazy for him.

3:09- Mark Feinsand tweets that the Red Sox are “likely done”.

3:11- one way to evaluate this trade will be in a few years when we know what Florial has become.

3:14- Just a guess, but with Gray scheduled to start tonight in Oakland, I don’t think we see him take the mound until Thursday as he has to get here and the Yankees have a day game on Wednesday.

3:16- Yankees just confirmed the trade.

3:20- I think it is a fair exchange. The A’s get three legit prospects, but two come with big risks attached. The Yankees solidify the rotation for the next few years and keep guys like Frazier, Torres, and Adams.

3:28- Ken Rosenthal reports the Dodgers are looking at Tony Watson.

3:34- Jon Herman says the Astros, Dodgers, and Nationals are the final three for Brad Hand while Joel Sherman says the Dodgers have moved away from Yu Darvish.

3:38- Ken Rosenthal reporting that Tony Watson is headed to the Dodgers.

3:40- Bob Nightingale says the Rangers are pessimistic that they will be able to move Darvish.

3:42- Jeff Passan echos that reports and adds that Zach Britton looks to be staying put as well.

3:47- Tom Verducci points out that only one position player has been traded today. Teams want pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

3:53- Jack Curry says Gray will start “at beginning of road trip” so my Thursday guess might be a good one.

3:56- Rosenthal and Heyman report that Padres will keep Brad Hand.

4:07- Nats get Brandon Kintzler

4:14- Ken Rosenthal says Darvish was traded.

4:15- Apparently to the Dodgers

I think that’s it. I will be back later with some thoughts on the big Yankee trade.

Running on Empty?

One of the unstated reasons the Yankees might try to add a starter, any starter, between now and the deadline is that both Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are probably going to face innings limit problems in the future.

With 65 games left, each starter should get approximately 13 starts if healthy. Through 19 starts, Severino has thrown 120.2 innings. He threw 160 in 2015 and 150 in 2016. Montgomery has thrown only 101 innings so far and threw 140 last year.

Now the Yankees aren’t about to announce the innings limits for these guys and this is guesswork only. But most teams use a percentage for the jump from year to year, 20 to 30 percent seems to be the usual range. Using those numbers, Severino could go as high as 195 innings with Montgomery clocking in at 180. That would leave both with a cap of about 75 more innings.

That would be more manageable, but still would require the Yankees to juggle their spots and probably skip them at least once or twice the rest of the way. That’s why I think they are going to hone in on a starter over the next week and use a six-man rotation more than once the rest of the way.

A Big Trade-UPDATING

10:37pm We don’t have anything official, but the Yankees are apparently getting David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle from Chicago. The return package is Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, and perhaps more.

Let’s break this down piece by piece.

Robertson is clearly a name we know and he has pretty much done what he did here, in Chicago. Adding him back to the bullpen gives the Yankees a lot of firepower at the back of the pen, but at a big price.

Frazier is a pending free agent who can play first or third and has a .214 BABIP, which suggests his .207 average is a fluke. He has a .328 OBP and a .432 slugging, so he is a much better option at first tha what the Yankees have tired so far and he could shift to third if they traded Headley. (That wouldn’t be a shock right now.)

Kahnle is a former Yankee farm hand who they lost to the Rule 5 draft after 2013. It’s all clicked for him this year and he isn’t a free agent until 2021.

Rutherford is the prize going back, but he is only in single A and the Yankees have a ton of outfield prospects/ young guys. Rutherford is projected to be a corner guy, so I can’t kill them for trading him when you consider the wealth they have in the corners right now.

Clarkin was a first round pick in 2013, but he is still in A ball and would need to be protected on the 40-man this offseason. I don’t think the Yankees would want to do that, so this isn’t a loss.

10:50pm- Tyler Clippard is apparently part of the trade which really isn’t a loss at all.

11:02pm- The Yankees are sending a fourth player to Chicago according to reports.

11:10- Think about the potential bullpen choices if this happens. Kahnle, Green, Warren, Robertson, Betances, and Chapman. Wow

11:24- Not sure how to quantify this, but I would bet anything that if D-Rob comes home, Betances moves to the 7th inning. That would diminish his earning potential in arbitration next year which has to factor in this trade.

11:55- Both the Yankees and White Sox have finished their games. Not sure why a trade hasn’t been announced at this point.

12:04- The trade is official! What I said above, plus Tito Polo, a guy the Yankees acquired for Ivan Nova in addition.

This is the type of trade I can handle from the Yankees. Rutherford may turn out to be awesome, but he isn’t considered a center fielder by the Yankees and they hope that Judge and Clint Frazier are going to lock down the corners for years to come. Clarkin is not a guy the Yankees have roster room for, so he is a sunk cost. Polo may be the best of the bunch, but again, the Yankees have a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Clippard is a salary dump.

In exchange the Yankees have two huge bullpen assets for this year and next, plus Frazier for rest of the year at first. At the very least, this should solidify their wild card chances. At best, they are now contenders for the division.

I won’t go that far, but for a big market team, this is a solid trade. They’ve improved the team this year and next, but havent subtracted from the immmediate future. Perhaps they regret this in 2020, but that means that Judge and Clint Frazier didn’t pan out.

The Word on Bird

The Yankees announced that Greg Bird is going to have surgery tomorrow and there is a six-week rehab afterwards. If everything went well, that would put him back on a baseball field right before Labor Day. The minor league regular season usually ends right around then. so there is little room for him to be able to return and get into rehab games.

And that’s clearly the goal here. Joe Girardi has this to say: “It’s really tough to get on track when you’ve missed basically two whole years. Hopefully he can get some at-bats before the end of the year.”

For now, the Yankees appear to be willing to try a platoon with Choi and Cooper. That’s not an optimal idea for a team with only four bench players, so I wouldn’t expect it to be the ultimate solution. The Yankees will probably look pretty hard at the trade market for first baseman.

Pray for Rain-UPDATED AFTER GAME 1

The Yankees pulled out a victory by the skin of their teeth on Saturday. A dramatic homer in the ninth followed by some nifty escapes in extras, and a bizarre play at first, gave the Yankees a sixteen-inning victory. Now they get to play a doubleheader!

Expect some big roster changes. The Yankees have already announced that CC Sabathia, and not Bryan Mitchell, will start this afternoon. Mitchell will almost certainly be recalled for depth. Luis Cessa hasn’t been down in the minors long enough to be recalled without injury, but the 26-man rule for doubleheaders lets the Yankees get around that. I would expect them to add a third pitcher as the bullpen is a mess right now. It wouldn’t shock me to see Chad Green as the closer today. And if the Yankees have to pitch a lot of bullpen innings today, tomorrow will be really interesting as the scheduled starter already is “TBD”.

UPDATE-Three new pitchers it is. Mitchell is the 26th man, Domingo German and Caleb Smith promoted from AAA. I suspect Cessa will start tomorrow and is on a plane to Minnesota. The interesting thing is that they opened a 40-man spot for Smith, a late bloomer who has had a nice year at AAA. I wonder if they are going to look at him as a possible Pineda replacement?

UPDATE- Cessa is starting Tuesday, so tomorrow is still TBD. I wonder if the Yankees are going to see if Caleb Smith pitches in game 1 today, and if not get him on an evening flight to Minnesota?

UPDATE- The Yankees have now won consecutive games for the first time since June 11th/12th. Getting six innings out of CC was huge as they only used the bullpen for three.