Yankees

Dial it Down

Aaron Judge may be the best story in baseball right now. He has amazing power and he is showing it prolifically, but unfortunately people are getting stupid with their comparisoions and need to stop.

Judge isn’t Jeter or, and I can’t believe I have to say this, Mantle. Jeter was 22 when he broke in and Mantle was 19. Judge is 25. He could still improve, but 3,000 hits or 500 homers are very, very, unlikely so let’s set the expectations a bit lower.

Judge looks like he could be a very good player for the next decade and the best Yankee rightfielder since Dave Winfield. That would make him “better” than Paul O’Neill, which should be more than enough for Yankee fans. The immortal Yankees are safe, everyone else is in play. Let’s just enjoy it.

Managing Mystery

I have no problem with what Joe Girardi did in the tenth inning today, my problem is with what he did in the ninth inning. Let’s go through it.

The Yankees entered the seventh trailing 4-2. Girardi went to his usual guy for the seventh, Tyler Clippard. They entered the eight in the same sport and Girardi did the same thing, calling on Betances. They entered the ninth in the same spot and here is where Girardi went off the rails bringing in Mitchell.

He had already used Holder, Clippard, and Betances, and Warren was not available, so there are three pitchers left in the pen- Chapman, Layne, and Mitchell. Choosing Mitchell is the absolute wrong choice of the three. Pick Chapman, your best choice for a clean inning, and you hope to score two in the ninth and tie things. Choose Layne, a guy who can only go one inning, and hope he gets you through the ninth still trailing by two. But choosing Mitchell, your only long guy in the pen locks you into a quandary. If you tie the game, but don’t win it, what then?

Girardi correctly determined that Chapman was the best chance to get through the tenth and have a chance to win it. The problem was, he had already used Mitchell and Layne couldn’t give him multiple innings. So he got creative and moved Mitchell to first. That allowed him to use Mitchell as a pitcher again later in the game, but cost him his DH, and current first baseman, Chris Carter. It was a creative solution, but one he could have avoided by thinking a couple of steps ahead in the 9th inning.

But in the bigger picture, the Yankees are 15-8. That’s about as great a start as anyone could have imagined.

A Fortunate Flip

I watched tonight as the Yankees dug a 9-1 hole. I stopped watching there and turned to other things. So I was shocked when I pulled the game up on my IPad later that night and found out that it was tied at 11 and the Yankees had runners on in the tenth.

A quick flip of the channel gave me one of the greatest rewards I have had as a Yankee fan. Holliday parked it, and we celebrated our best win of the season.

The Big Picture

At 1-4, we thought disaster was imminent. At 9-5, we can dream of October baseball. But I think the rational fan realizes this is the likely future- they will lose a bunch, they will win a bunch, and they most likely end up around 85-wins. Yes, you can make more optimistic arguments and more pessimistic ones, but let’s move beyond that and focus on the critical issues about this season. There are four big issues the Yankees need to solve between now and the end of the season-whenever that is.

1- What is the 2018 rotation?
If you buy the premise that the next championship is in the future, you need to think about this. Tanaka can opt out. Pineda and Sabathia are going to be free agents. That means the Yankees have to find solid internal replacements in 2017. Are those Severino and Montgomery? We shall see, but if not, how long can they afford to wait before trying out someone else? And if Sabathia or Pineda scuffles, how long is the leash?

2- Who are Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird? At their best, they are the middle of the lineup for years to come. But none of them have shown that ability over even half a season. Can they produce at those levels for a full year?

3- Will the prospects turn into players? Some are off to great starts, some are not, but this is a critical year for a number of the Yankees prospects. Can Frazier make it to the Bronx? Can Sheffield throw himself into contention for a 2018 roster spot? Will Mateo rebound from a rough 2016? Is Andujar ready to challenge at 3B? These performances will dictate the Yankees moves at the deadline and in the offseason.

4- Who is the manager and GM of the 2018 Yankees? I suspect that both Girardi and Cashman will be back, but what if this team loses 90 games? Then what?

So enjoy the wins, and try not to get too down about the losses. The big picture is that 2017 is about building a better future.

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.

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.

George The Second?

Randy Levine has never been very smart about keeping his mouth shut. His most recent performance was out of the old book of Steinbrenner.

Not content with just winning the arbitration case against Delia Betances, Levine blasted his agents, and Betances in a pointless attack that will only poison relations with him down the road.

I understand why the Yankees chose to go to arbitration with a Betances. While the gap between them was only $2-million this year, if Betances had made $5-million, like he asked for, he would have been eligible to significantly increase that in arbitration next year. And, after 2018, the Yankees may have found themselves on the hook for a second closer salary-wise.

That doesn’t excuse the stupidity of Levine or the absurdity of the system. Betances may be the most valuable reliever in the game over the past three years. Throw out saves and he is right there with them all. But arbitrators rely on saves and Betances didn’t have enough of them to earn his bigger payday. Levine should ha e pocketed the win and moved on. This was an unforced error.

Spring Is Here!

The bags are unpacked and the gear is ready to go. Pitchers and catchers reported today in Tampa and in a few weeks we will have box scores once again. How great is that?

Camp for the Yankees should be interesting, even though you can almost predict the final roster right now. On offense, it seems almost certain that the 13 guys headed north will be Sanchez, Romine, Bird, Carter, Castro, Didi, Headley, Torreyes, Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge, Hicks, and Holliday. The pitching is murkier because 2 spots in the rotation are open, but I would expect to see the following 11 guys make the team: Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, Green, Warren, Chapman, Betances, Clippard, Mitchell, and Cessa, with the final spot going to a left-handed reliever.

So, why is camp interesting with almost all of the final roster set? Because it is all about the future. We will get a look at almost every top-10 prospect in the system and should start to get an idea of when these guys are realistically going to make the Bronx. The two closest right now would be Frazier and Kaprielian. The Yankees hope Frazier is their left fielder of the future and Kapreilian is a part of the 2018 rotation. Both could force their way to the Bronx early in 2017 if they play well. While Torres will also certainly get plenty of attention, keep your eye on Miguel Andujar. The Yankees need to see if he can continue to hit and handle third as they eye him as a possible replacement for Headley. I’m also excited to see Chance Adams and Dietrich Enns. Adams went 13-1 between A ball and AA with over a strikeout an inning. Enns went 14-4 between AA and AAA with 124 K’s in 140 innings. When you consider that Tanaka has an opt-out after this year while Sabathia and Pineda are free agents, the Yankees will need some of their younger arms to step forward.

Trade Coming?

The other day I posted this: Think about the Yankees. Matt Holiday was a pretty solid signing at $13-million for one year, but what would you say if they had signed Chris Carter for much less than that?

Well I guess I need to say something now because the Yankees just signed him for the bargain basement price of $3-million.

The price is great, but I don’t think this is a good fit with the way the team is presently constructed. Holliday and Carter are too similar. They are both righties and they are both best suited for a DH role.

But, if you had to, you could put Carter at first. The problem is that is where Greg Bird should be. So maybe you put Holliday in left, but then where does Brett Gardner go? The Yankees could simply be adding Carter as righty power on the bench. But if you carry 13 pitchers, you only have four bench spots. A guy who can really only play first doesn’t make a lot of sense in that scenario.

Perhaps the Yankees are just taking a flier for spring and will see if they can flip Carter for something towards the end of camp? Or they have another trade in the works? Because absent that, I don’t get this. Yes, the price is great, but the fit is poor.