Category Archives: The Front Office

Game #33. Misplay in LF costs Yanks. 5-4 loss drops them 10 back.

After keeping Aaron Judge, owner Hal Steinbrenner promised him that there was enough money to make more moves.

But the Yanks only made one move after that—signing Carlos Rodon, who hasn’t pitched at all yet for the Yanks this year. More on that later.

One move the Yanks didn’t make, and it is costing them now, is that they didn’t address left field. They wanted to retain Andrew Benintendi but lost him in free agency to the White Sox (the White Sox have a terrible record right now at 10-22 before last night, and although Benintendi is hitting .275, it is without any power. His OPS+ is just 83, 100 being average).

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks do something to address LF. There has been misplaced trust that Aaron Hicks should have a bounce back season. Hicks before last night’s game was hitting .146 with no extra base hits and is below a converted infielder (IKF) on the totem pole. IKF is a converted infielder hitting .196 with no extra base hits before last night’s game. Oswaldo Cabrera has not built on the success he had in his MLB beginnings last year. He is struggling at .196. Franchy Cordero had a hot week but has been sent back to the minors after hitting just .151. Willie Calhoun has been DH-ing because his defense is subpar. The Yanks’ LF production may be the worst in the majors at that position this year.

With the struggles of those players, and injuries, the Yanks have brought up Jake Bauers. The journeyman OF hit a HR the other day, but in just his third game with the Yanks, he misplayed a fly ball last night into a run-scoring double, and that proved to be the deciding run in a 5-4 Yanks loss last night. The loss to Tampa Bay dropped the 17-16 Yanks ten games behind those first-place Rays in the AL East.

So yes, injuries have hurt, but LF is a place where no one has gotten injured. The Yanks just haven’t received any production there and I would expect and hope that something is done to fix that soon.

Speaking of Rodon, the lefty pitcher will have a cortisone shot in his back next week. His condition is chronic. Sigh. He was just signed to a 6-year deal for $162MM. When right, he is lights out, but now you wonder if he can manage that back issue or if he turns out to be another Pavano.

I wanted and applauded the Rodon signing. Of course, I, and probably the Yanks, not to mention Rodon, didn’t know there was going to be a chronic back issue to come with it.

Last night’s game started poorly. Starter Jhony Brito gave up a HR to Randy Arozarena in the bottom of the first. Arozarena was HBP twice later in the game, causing Arozarena and the Rays to become infuriated and causing Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash to be ejected.

Tampa Bay, who are 18-2 at home this season, scored in the bottom of the second to make it 2-0. Yandy Diaz touched Brito for a HR in the bottom of the third, and the Rays tacked on another run after that. 4-0 Rays after three.

The Yanks tied it up in the top of the sixth. With one out, Anthony Rizzo singled. Gleyber Torres doubled home Rizzo. D.J. LeMahieu walked and after Willie Calhoun struck out, Harrison Bader hit his first regular-season HR as a Yankee (he had five in last year’s postseason) to tie the game.

In the bottom of the seventh, with one out and a man on first, Wander Franco hit a fly ball to left. Stats said there was a 95% chance of it being caught for an out. Instead, Bauers misplayed the ball into a double. The Yanks almost got the runner at home. He was originally called out, but the play was overturned upon review. The run turned out to be the deciding run.

In the postgame show, Jack Curry on YES mentioned what I believe. That instead of Jimmy Cordero pitching in that seventh inning, that it should have been Michael King. Manager Aaron Boone needs to realize that too, that King is his best reliever right now and to use him as such. Forget roles. You go by what you see and adjust to that.

Yes, injuries have hurt. But the Yanks have to make adjustments. In the bullpen, with King taking on the go-to role, and also in LF, where the Yanks’ LF production so far this season has been weak.

GM Brian Cashman said they tried to make more moves in the off-season but no move made sense. We will see if one makes sense soon. Someone in LF needs to step up or a move has to happen.

And with Rodon’s back being chronic, and with no pitching depth in the minors, a move for a starting pitcher may have to happen as well.

Volpe 2 hits, SB (11).
LeMahieu 2 for 2 with 2 walks.
Bader 3 RBI. 3-run HR (1).

Brito 4 IP, 4 R, 6 H, 1 W, 2 K. 1 HBP. 2 HR given up. 6.08
Abreu 1 1/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 1 K. 1 HBP 4.60
Hamilton 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 1 K. 1.50
J. Cordero (L, 1-1) 1/3 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 1 W, 0 K. 3.09
King 1 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 1 K 1.42

Observations 10% of the way in.

It is early, just 10% into the season, but with an off day tomorrow, some thoughts and observations.

Remember Spahn and Sain and pray for rain? That was a slogan of the 1948 NL pennant winning Boston Braves.

With Rodon, Severino and Montas on the IL, the Yanks can go with Cortes and Cole then dig out of a hole.

Cortes and Cole are 6-0, the rest of the team 4-6. Until Rodon and Sevy come back, others have to pick up the slack. Brito did so for two starts, German for one. Schmidt hasn’t carried his weight yet, and like Michael King, I wonder if Schmidt is far better in relief than as a starter. Just like with King, the ERA differences are huge between starting and relieving.

I am not sold on Holmes closing. He has been shaky so far this season. 4 saves but ERA 5.40 and he blew one game already and came close to blowing another.

I don’t mind having Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the team, and he was OK as a one-year stopgap last year until Volpe and/or Peraza were ready. They are now ready. IKF is still ok as a bench player who can play 2B, 3B, SS and even CF, LF, RF? and third-string catcher. Heck, he even had to pitch in a blowout and pitched a scoreless inning. But he has gotten into 9 of the 16 games so far. That is way too much for a player with no power (4 HR last year) whose OPS+ for his career is 80 (20% below league average). He is 2 for 22. IKF should be used more like the Yankees used Fred “The Chicken” Stanley. Stanley platooned at SS in 1975 and 1976, playing in 117 and 110 games, which was far too much for a guy who like IKF had no power (10 HR in his whole career and an OPS+ even worse at 62). From 1977-1980, after the Yankees got Bucky Dent (and Bucky didn’t have much power either) Stanley played in 48, 81, 57 and 49 games. Dent missed about a month in 1978 which is why Stanley’s 1978 numbers are higher. But IKF should be a 48-60 games a year player for the Yankees right now. Now 9 out of 16 which would be some 90 games. That is too many. And as mentioned, he is just 2 for 22 right now.

LF is another concern. Once Harrison Bader comes back and plays CF and moves Judge back to RF, the Yanks need to decide between Hicks, Cabrera, Cordero and Calhoun for LF. They are concerned about Calhoun’s defense, and it appears he may be sent down when Bader returns. What I really wish would happen is that the Yankees finally dump Hicks.

Hicks is 3 for 22 this season and the boos are just getting louder. he is this year’s Joey Gallo. A target for the boo birds who (and I hate to say it, but justifiably) hate the player. There is no fire in him anymore, just as there wasn’t with Gallo. Hicks, like Gallo, wants nothing more than to be out of there. You can see it in the body language. They are defeated.

Hal Steinbrenner needs to come to his senses and bite the bullet with Hicks. Eating the contract—the money and the years left on it—will not be appetizing, but it NEEDS to be done.

The problem with Hal and Cashman is that they are keeping bad players too long, and (like spoiled milk) way past their expiration dates. Think Sanchez, Frazier, Andujar, Gallo, Sonny Gray …. and now Hicks. Donaldson we will see about. I’m not too sold on that either. But Hicks?

I was really ticked off today when Suzyn Waldman during today’s game mentioned that Stanton’s injury could see more playing time for Hicks. Another reporter asked manager Aaron Boone the same in a postgame interview. What the hell are they watching?

Hicks’ time has passed. I’d rather see Cabrera (12 for 49, just under .250, no HR, but whose main problem this year is his walk to strikeout ratio. 1 walk to 16 whiffs.) Cordero (low batting average but the 4 HR and 11 RBI) or Calhoun. Heck, Jake Bauers at SWB had a 3 HR game today. If none of the above can step up (and I discount IKF in LF) from Calhoun, Cordero, Cabrera, even Bauers, Florial (if he is brought back) … etc. then a deal has to be made somewhere.

But no Hicks. Enough already.

Montas (shoulder surgery) to miss most or all of the season

Frankie Montas will have shoulder surgery next Tuesday Feb. 21. Best case scenario is that he comes back in the second half of the season. The worst case is that he misses the whole year.

With Montas a free agent after the season, it is very likely that the Yankees will get nothing from Montas after a trade in which Montas (who was acquired with Lou Trivino) gave the Yankees eight starts last year, going 1-3, 6.35 while giving up young prospects in

Luis Medina, 24 this year, 5-7, 5.24 at AA in 2022.
Cooper Bowman, 23, ,215-11-47 with 47 SB at High A.
J.P. Sears, who turns 27 in a few days, 6-3, 3.86 between the Yanks and A’s in 2022 (17 games, 11 starts) and
Ken Waldichuk, 25, 2-2, 4.93 in 7 starts with Oakland after the trade.

We will see what the lefties Sears and Waldichuk do this year, but I hated giving those two up, and both look like they could be MLB help this year (both could be in the A’s starting rotation). Now it looks as if Domingo German (who Aaron Boone says looks really good on this first day of pitchers and catchers reporting) and Clarke Schmidt will be competing for the #5 spot in the rotation, but after them, who else is on the depth chart? Will Warren (hasn’t pitched above AA)? Clayton Beeter (ditto)? Randy Vasquez (ditto again)? Yoendrys Gomez (ditto)? None of those four have AAA experience, (Luis Gil is recovering from TJ surgery).

Last year’s moves at the trade deadline have really backfired for the Yanks. Besides Montas, the Yanks got Andrew Benintendi for LF but he broke a hamate bone, missed the last couple weeks of the season as well as the postseason, then went to the White Sox as a free agent. The Yanks only got 33 games and .254-2-12 out of Benintendi (yes, I had wanted him, but who knew he, Montas, and Effross—who I’ll discuss next—would get hurt?). But for Benintendi, the Yanks gave up

Chandler Champlain, 23, 3-8, 5.98 at Low and High A ball.
T.J. Sikkema, 24, 1-6, 4.83 at High A/AA and
Beck Way, 23, 8-8, 3.75 at High A.

None MLB ready yet, but Way looks AA bound.

Then there was Effross, who was great in 13 games, 0-0, 2.13, and three saves but who then needed TJ surgery which will make him miss all of this year. For Effross, the Yanks gave up

Hayden Wesneski, 25, who after the deal went 3-2, 2.18 in 6 games (4 starts) for the Cubs last year.

The Yanks could have used Sears, Waldichuk and Wesneski as depth. For them they got Trivino, Montas (out all or most of this year) and Effross (out all of this year). Ugh.

Sometimes you need to do better due diligence on a player’s health (Montas had shoulder issues before the trade) and sometimes you just get unlucky (Beninteni and Effross). Either way, last year’s acquisitions have been disastrous.

In some other camp news, D.J. LeMahieu is looking good after that toe problem ruined the end of his season last year, and Michael King looks ready to go after that fractured elbow ended a fabulous season for him last year.

Yanks go to bargain basement again for another OF.

The Yankees went to the bargain basement again for another lefty-hitting OF. It really looks like unless they can dump salary in a trade, that this will be the way to go for a LF. Either internally via Hicks, Cabrera or Florial or by trying to get a bargain like McKinney, Calhoun, or this latest signing, Rafael Ortega, to a minor league deal.

Ortega, 31, has played for the Rockies (2012), Dodgers (2016), Marlins (2018), Braves (2019) and Cubs (2021-2022). In 364 MLB games he has hit .250 with an OPS+ of 88. He can play all 3 OF positions and his 162-game average is .250-9-45 with 18 SB. OPS+ 88. Last season in 118 games for the Cubs he hit .241-7-35 with 12 SB.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, the Yankees brought in Brian Sabean as an advisor to Brian Cashman. Great move. Sabean, along with Gene Michael, helped to build the Yankees dynasty (via the core 4 and Bernie) of 1996-2003. After going to SF, where he has been for the last 30 years, Sabean won 3 WS there. Great addition for the Yankees to bring him back.

Finally in this report, a passing to relay. Stefan Wever, who had one MLB game in his career, died at the age of 64. Wever’s only MLB game came in 1982 when he started and lost a game for the Yankees on Sept. 17, getting knocked out in the third inning after giving up 9 runs, 8 earned.

Cashman goes “dumpster diving” for two outfielders.

I don’t know how much up against a budget Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is, but he did sign two outfielders yesterday on the cheap. Rumor are that the Yanks are around $290MM in payroll and that they don’t want to go over the next level of $293MM. So, before they’d get someone pricy, salary would have to be shed (Donaldson, Hicks).

With that in mind, and the Yanks still looking for a LF, preferably one that hits lefty, Cashman did some “dumpster diving”.

One was Billy McKinney, signed to a minor league contract and assigned to AAA. You may remember the name. McKinney was a Yankees prospect who began his MLB career with the Yanks but was traded after just two games. McKinney has played for the Yankees (2018), Blue Jays (2018-2020), Brewers (2021), Mets (2021), Dodgers (2021) and A’s (2022). So, he’s been around. In 263 MLB games, he has hit .206 and has an OPS+ of 78 (100 is average). He has played mostly RF in his career but has also put in time in LF and at 1B. McKinney made $700,000 last year. His 162-game average is .206-17-44. He is 28.

The other signing is a non-roster invite. Willie Calhoun, a former top prospect for Texas. Calhoun has played for the Rangers (2017-2022) and Giants (2022). Also 28, Calhoun hit 21 HR in only 83 games for Texas in 2019. Two HBP, one in 2020 and the other in 2021 have slowed down his career. The first broke his jaw, the second, his forearm. He is a .240 hitter for his career, with an OPS+ of 85. His 162-game average is .240-20-66. Calhoun has only played LF.

Both are long shots, and it seems that Calhoun has the better chance to stick. Offensively the edge would be with Calhoun, defensively, McKinney. Calhoun made $1.3MM last year.

Both low-cost, low-risk, signings. Both lefty-hitting OF. Good for a look-see. Hope to catch lightning in a bottle and get high reward (think Matt Carpenter last year).

LF option. David Peralta?

With Michael Brantley going back to Houston, another LF option is off the board.

Besides the LF options I wrote about before (Reynolds, Kepler, Varsho, McCarthy, even having Cabrera as full time LF (and please, no Hicks!)) I ran across a few other options. Some, like Tommy Pham or Andrew McCutchen, I disregard because the Yankees need a lefty or switch-hitter to balance out the lineup and Pham and McCutchen (who was briefly a Yankee before) don’t fit that qualification.

One name I didn’t mention before is David Peralta. He is a free agent, and a lefty bat that could help. Peralta is 35, a LF and a former Gold Glove winner. At 35, Peralta would not demand a long-term deal. Good. He made $7.5MM last year, so he wouldn’t be as expensive as Benintendi, who got $15MM/yr for five years from the White Sox, would have been.

While Peralta did hit 30 HR in 2018, that is an outlier. He has a 162-game average of .281-18-78 but given his age and what he has done in the past few seasons, .255-.260, 10-15 HR and about 55 to 65 RBI is what you can reasonably expect. If a lefty pitches, maybe that is the time to sit Peralta and play Stanton in LF. You don’t want Stanton in the OF often, but this could keep Stanton fresh.

I don’t know if Peralta could be an answer or if the Yanks have him on their radar. One thing is for sure. The free agent LF are coming off the board. If not Peralta, then a trade may have to be made. Apparently, it would take a lot to pry Reynolds away from Pittsburgh. I am not sold on Kepler from the Twins. What it would take to get say Varsho or McCarthy from Arizona, I don’t know.

But the Yanks should add Peralta to the mix of LF to target if they haven’t already. Think of him as a little older, and slightly less (not by much, the stats are very similar) version of Benintendi.

Cashman signs 4 year extension

I should have written this yesterday, but I’ve been on pins and needles as we all are, waiting for the big news regarding Aaron Judge. (Not only fingers crossed, but prayers too. I keep thinking of the kids like that one in Toronto that have their Judge shirts. What they want for Christmas is their favorite player, Judge, back in the Bronx!)

But in other news, Brian Cashman was re-upped as Yankees GM for four more years, through 2026. He’s been GM since 1998.

Trevino wins Platinum Glove.

Besides his Gold Glove for best defensive catcher in the league, Jose Trevino has won the Platinum Glove as best defender in the AL period.

One thing I read that worries me a bit. Justin Verlander apparently was quoted as saying that the Yankees are dinosaurs when it comes to free agency. That they are behind the curve. I guess he means that there are new methods to it and that the Yanks are stuck in the 1977 or 2009 times? I don’t know. But a disturbing read nonetheless.

Free agency begins. Some Yankees moves.

From Major League Baseball Trade

The Yankees announced they’ve selected pitchers Jhony Brito and Matt Krook onto the 40-man roster. New York also outrighted outfielder Tim Locastro off the roster, and the speedster elected minor league free agency upon clearing waivers.

Both Brito and Krook have played seven seasons in the minor leagues. That’d have given the right to elect free agency this evening if the Yankees didn’t place them on the 40-man roster. New York clearly values both enough to keep them from hitting the open market, with each player cracking a 40-man for the first time.

Brito, 25 in February, is a former amateur signee out of the Dominican Republic. He’s a quality strike-thrower, and Baseball America wrote this summer that he could develop into a back-of-the-rotation starter. The righty split this year between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, working to a 2.96 ERA through 112 2/3 combined innings. He only struck out 20% of opponents but had a tiny 7.7% walk rate.

Krook spent the whole year in Scranton, starting 22 of 29 appearances. The University of Oregon product, a fourth-round draftee back in 2016, pitched to a 4.09 ERA over 138 2/3 frames. He had a solid 25.7% strikeout percentage but walked an elevated 12.1% of batters faced. The left-hander is generally regarded by evaluators as a likely future reliever.

Locastro, a 30-year-old outfielder, has seen sporadic action for the Yankees in each of the last two seasons. He appeared in 38 games this year but worked mostly as a late-game entrant based on his speed and defense. Locastro hit .186/.239/.349 in 46 plate appearances this year and is a career .227/.325/.331 hitter. He spent most of the season in Scranton, putting up a .240/.332/.395 line over 47 games.

The Yankees announced that they have added right-hander Jimmy Cordero to their 40-man roster.

Cordero, 31, logged 83 innings of MLB action across the 2018-2020 time frame, putting up a 4.55 ERA in that time. Unfortunately, he required Tommy John surgery in March of 2021, wiping out that entire season. The White Sox outrighted him at the end of that campaign.

He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees for 2022 and was able to return to the mound by June. He eventually made 32 appearances for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 38 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.09 ERA, along with a incredible 31.8% strikeout rate and 51.7% ground ball rate.

Based on that strong showing, he’s earned his way back onto a 40-man roster. He has one option year remaining, which will allow the Yankees to use him as an optionable depth arm in 2023. He has between two and three years of MLB service time, meaning they can keep him around for years to come if he continues to hang onto that roster spot.

Also (and not from MLBTR) the Yanks are reportedly interested in Masataka Yoshida from Japan, who I wrote about a few days ago. Lefty hitting OF. Good bat-to-ball contact. Think Benintendi with more power.

The Yanks offered the qualifying offer to Anthony Rizzo ($19.65MM). We will see if he accepts or wants a little more, like 2 years/$40MM.

To no surprise, Aaron Judge added the Silver Slugger award to his Hank Aaron Award. We wait for all-MLB and MVP awards.

News and Notes.

To no one’s surprise, Aaron Judge was named as one of the three finalists for the AL MVP award. He is considered the favorite to win the award. I still get ticked by people pushing for Alvarez (it’s a regular season award, people!) or Ohtani (the Angels finished 33 games back. So, you are telling me that without him they are 45 back? Whoopdie damn do.).

The Contemporary Baseball Committee will be looking at 8 ex-players for the HOF. Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling. Five of the eight would be controversial selections because of steroids and/or personality issues, despite in some cases 3000+ hits, 500+ HR, 300+ wins. I won’t get into that. We know about all that. That leaves McGriff, Mattingly and Murphy. I believe McGriff, who is tied on the all-time list with Lou Gehrig with 493 HR (and no steroids) should have already been put in. I’d love Mattingly, but Mattingly’s 1994-1989 pre-back injury (HOF quality) and 1990-1995 post-back injury numbers (merely above average) are drastically different. If Donnie could have only stayed healthy and put up numbers 1990-1995 that matched his 1984-1989 numbers, then he would be a more serious candidate. Murphy I am on the fence on. A back-to-back MVP (1982 and 1983) that like Maris (1960 and 1961) isn’t in the HOF. Maybe a few more HR (he had 398) or a higher average (.265) would have given him a better shot. Once he turned 32, he wasn’t the same player. A few more seasons at his peak would have given him a better chance.

The Yanks have not only players as free agents, but coaches too. Pitching coach Matt Blake is a free agent. (GM Brian Cashman is coming back but as of now is working pro bono. His contract expired October 31 and no new deal has been done yet). Assistant pitching coach Hensley Meulens is gone to be hitting coach for Colorado.

As expected, the Yanks picked up the team option for Luis Severino at $15MM for 2023. Anthony Rizzo opted out of his contract and is a free agent. Here are the Yankees’ free agents and my thoughts.

Andrew Benintendi. Yanks will make an offer to try to keep him.

Zack Britton. Interesting call. With Chapman departing, Yanks could use a lefty reliever, but Britton will be 35 next year and missed almost all of 2022 after a poor 2021 and TJ surgery. Pass. Use $ for Judge.

Matt Carpenter. A tough call. Turns 37 around Thanksgiving. If Stanton is DH most of the time, where does that leave Carpenter? I think it depends on if Judge stays or goes. If Judge stays, pass. If Judge goes, then the Yanks may look to sign Carpenter and Stanton and Carpenter could switch between RF and DH.

Miguel Castro. Pass. The Yanks could probably replace him with Weissert at a lower cost (save $ for Judge). They already have Trivino, Marinaccio, King, Holmes, as RH relievers, as well as Schmidt and German if Schmidt and German aren’t starters. And Stephen Ridings should be over his injury issues that cost him 2022.

Aroldis Chapman. Pass. Goodbye and Good Riddance for missing that mandatory workout before the ALDS.

Marwin Gonzalez. Pass. Only hit .185 in 2022. Since 2019, has only hit .198. Oswaldo Cabrera can fill his utility role for less money. 34 next year. Like Britton, pass, go with youth and less $$. Save $ for Judge.

Chad Green. Pass. Will miss most if not all of 2023 because of TJ surgery. Instead of paying him will need to throw that $ at Judge.

Aaron Judge. Obviously the #1 Yankees target and priority.

Anthony Rizzo. The Yanks will look to retain him.

Jameson Taillon. Questionable. Even if the Yanks get Judge back, is there enough money left to go after a Carlos Rodon (my choice)? Would they give a low in years but high in $$ deal to Verlander, DeGrom or Kershaw? Could go either way here.

Of course, getting rid of the salaries of Donaldson and Hicks would help. As of now, the Yanks think both have something left (excuse me while I get sick), but of course they aren’t going to say anything that diminishes whatever trade value they have.