Thursday, February 22, 2018

From now until April 1, the Yankees will be hitting the flea markets for a Bartolo and a Steve

In the wild jubilation surrounding the arrival of Brandon Drury, there remains speculation about what "Cooperstown" Cashman will do with the remaining $10-$12 million in his Yankee 2018 Spring War Chest. Drury came cheap - not in prospects, but, literally, cheap: He'll earn the MLB minimum, and the Empire owns his tortured soul for the next four years.

So what will Cashman do with all his Mallo Cup coupons? We've discussed the wish list for finding the next Bartolo Colon. Every fan base wants one. Do you realize that it's been seven years (2011) since the Yankees signed Barto off the scrap heap for a measly $900,000? He has twice gone to the All-Star game, and in 2013 finished second in ERA, sixth in the Cy Young vote. Last year, the Braves paid him $12.5 million. Now, that was a signing worth inscription on Cashman's plaque. Unfortunately, we let him go. 

So... first on our fantasy napkin list is a new Bartolo. (Last year we tried ex-Met Jonathon Niese; oh well...)

But next on that list needs to be a firstbaseman, just in case Greg Bird - well, you know... does what Greg Bird does. (Birdy bones are known to snap easily.) Over his six years as a pro, he has played in the equivalent of three and a half seasons. He lost his first years to a knee, then tore his labium, and last year it was the ankle. Last fall, he looked great. But what if he drops a bar of soap on his toe in the shower?

Right now, we would turn to - gulp - backup catcher Austin Romine or the equally injury-prone Tyler Austin. (What is it about Yankees named Austin and Tyler?) The Yanks traded Chase Headley and Garrett Cooper, and said bu-bye to the Toddfather and our own Liddle Rocket Man, Ji-Man Choi. It's been noted that Drury can play 1B, but according to the Internet, he's only played one game there in his MLB career, so... I dunno. As for Judge, Stanton or Red Thunder... I still dunno... Remember how A-Rod and Beltran freaked out there as a Girardian experiment? Old Brigadoon Refsnyder is gone to Team Canada, and Billy McKinney, an "unknown unknown" worthy of Donald Rumsfeld, played 1B in the recent Arizona League. If a Birdian gonad goes pop, the Yankees would be in a free-fall at first base.

Clearly, there's no call to run out and sign Lou Gehrig - no place for him and no money. But the Yankees could use a Steve - as in Pearce - sort of a Bartolo Lite. It's been six years (2012) since Cashman signed Pearce off the scrap heap; he came to bat 30 times for us that year (1 HR, .160 ave.) Since then, the guy has hit 80 MLB homers, barging around the majors, and batted .309 for Tampa Bay in 2016. He's been named AL Player of the Week and in 2014 ranked 9th among AL position players in WAR - so there you go, cyber wonks! We had him. We let him go. No big deal. 

But my guess is that Cashman is trolling the Tiki bars for a Bartolo or a Steve. We're not done until the money's gone. From now until April 1, the flea market is open and underway. Here's an idea: Instead of trading more youngsters, let's buy cheap and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Buried the Lede

Jabari Blash is gone! We never even had a chance to hear The Master's home run call for him!

(Another Blast from Blash? A Smash from Blash? It's on Safari with Jabari?) We'll never know!

Life is so unfair!

Clinical Cashman's trade may bring micro-improvements, but it sure kills the buzz

Studying yesterday's non-blockbuster deal for infielder Brandon Drury, who can escape the sense that a bit of sizzle just vanished from the 2018 Yankees, even if the trade itself represents a crafty, wonky, lizard-like intelligence.  

Realistically, only in Disney movies do the Yankees start two rookie infielders on opening day. As simplistic, dumb-ass fans, we want Miguel Andujar and Glyber Torres to step in and become immediate stars, because it would almost guarantee us a generational dynasty. When a trade for a middling veteran bursts that bubble - last year, it was Chris Carter - who is not secretly disappointed? Opening Day now looks like an unveiling of two players all-too-well defined by "meh" careers - Drury at 2B and Jace "Chase?" Peterson at 3B. Who's on first. I Don't Know is on second. Who Gives a Shit is on third. Insert sigh here. Same old Yankees. Always go with the old guy. It's a wonder Aaron Judge isn't playing for Pittsburgh.

Still, I cannot fault Cashman for adding another micro-layer of depth. He's always looking to upgrade, even if in atomic-level increments. If Drury plays a solid 2B and hits .260, we escape the possibility that Glyber suffers a washout season (like Bird did last year.) A bird in the hand, right? Isn't that how it goes? Drury is fire insurance.

As an unrepentant prospect-hugger, I submit that anyone who remembers the Yankees of the 1980s understands the folly of gutting a farm system. If we learned anything from the 14-year barf, it's that you always need a multitude of prospects; you cannot assume your scouts will perpetually keep the right ones. Since last July, the Yankees have traded away a shit-ton of young talent. One of these days, we're going to pay a price.

In that regard, I'm sad to see Nick Solack go. He might just be The One That Got Away. Yesterday, we traded him - a firebrand with a huge offensive upside - for a roster chess piece. It's a trade that contending teams often make. If Glyber or Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade take over at 2B, Solack would have no path to the majors, like "Brigadoon" Refsnyder, doomed to appear once a year and vanish. But I can't escape the feeling Solack will be an all-star, an Ian Kinsler type, and we will rue the day we traded him for a coat-hanger. .

Also, I cannot shake the feeling today that Miguel Andujar will never play another inning for the Yankees. All the happy talk lately saying how he's made great strides in defense? It might as well have come from Russian bots. Come March 30, the Yankees will play the seasoning card and send him back to Scranton, where he hit .306 last year. They'll hand the position to Danny Espinosa or Peterson, figuring they'll go with defense. Depressed, Andujar will start slowly and be dealt at the deadline, because, after all, the future Yankee 3B is either Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado. There was never a path for Andujar, aside from in Disney movies. All that discussion about two rookies starting in the infield? We might as well have been talking about about life on Mars. 

The truth is, the Yankees are probably better today than they were yesterday. Ah, but it's not the same.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Brandon Drury is now the starting Yankee secondbaseman

Today, in a three-way, we obtained 25-year-old Brandon Drury from Arizona, a team known to hate us. We gave up Nick Solack and Taylor Widener, two promising youngsters.

Here he is. Pour a drink first. The spreadsheet on Brandon Drury. 

Downside: No speed; one SB per year. He strikes out a lot, one in every five ABs. Doesn't walk. His batting average is on the descent. He bats right. His MLB statistical comparison hitting doppelganger through age 24 is Adonis Garcia. Yeah, Adonis Garcia. He's not even a former first-round draft pick, the kind to which Cashman instinctively gravitates. 

Upside: Middling power. He hits .278 against lefties (platoon with Tyler Wade?) We won't sign Neil Walker or Mike Moustakas, thus saving luxury tax money (he makes the MLB minimum). Guy plays 2B, 3B and OF, and let's face it: If Glyber Torres cannot replace him by July 1, we'll have a bigger concern on our hands.

Middleside: Jabari Blash has been released. Jabari, we hardly knew 'ye.

Behold: The Redsock '18 Hall of Fame $230 Million Superteam of Destiny (TM)

Well, so much for this year. Let's pull the plug, start the tanking process and look to 2020. Can we deal Glyber, Andujar and Justus for prospects? I mean, look at that Boston lineup - look! - now with JD Martinez? It's like The Avengers adding Aquaman. Add an immortal like J-Mar, and, good grief, the season is wicked ovah, bros, fukkin wicked ovah! Flush the toilet and close the stall. I need a drink.

Look at that Redsock '18 Cy Young Hall of Fame Billion Dollar Pitching Staff of Super Destiny (TM), look at it, goddammot! Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and Drew Pomeranz... not to mention "Machine Gun" Kelly, who throws, like, 350something miles per hour. They say he's just a change-up tweak away from winning 30. And King Cobra himself, Craig Kimbrel, with the scary eyeballs, and Dusty P, their "Lil Jeet" at 2B. Hit .293 last year with seven longballs! Plus, they'll platoon Hanley Ramirez at 1B, that is, unless they trade him for Madison Bumgarner, straight up. That's it. UNCLE! I cry UNCLE!

Okay, let's lower the Snarkometer. The truth is, we've known since December - the moment we traded for Giancarlo - that Boston would sign Martinez. It's their thing. They will enter 2018 with a payroll north of $230 million - nearly $35 mill higher than ours. That means they'll either sit out next winter's free agent class (Bryce and Manny), or their owner John Henry simply has so much money that he doesn't care. (In which case, he is shaming Hal, whose money supply is closer to infinity than zero.) Ever since the Curse of the Bambino died, one popular theory goes that Boston and the Yankees flipped polarity - they became the hammer and we became the nail. This may be the season that proves or disproves that notion. Could they overpower us simply by spending whatever it takes? If so, we need regime change.

But here are some truths that I believe to be self-evident, and it's why I'll take our chances on this otherwise dark day...

1. Since 2004, the Redsocks have thrived through a powerhouse farm system, which management has, at least temporarily, gutted. Meanwhile, ours is running at full capacity. Were I a Boston fan, I would greatly fear this as the flipping of polarity.

2. The delay in signing Martinez at least kept the Yankees from being pressured into a bad countermove. Yes, I'm talking about Todd Frazier. By waiting until spring training is upon us, Boston failed to trigger the weeks of Gammonitic outcry that the Yankees needed to "keep pace." There remain a few free agents out there - Arrieta, Moustaka, etc. - but we don't need to blow up a long term strategy to "win the winter." (Frankly, I believe we already won it, anyway, forcing Boston to blow up its own long term plan.)

3. The 2018 Redsocks will hinge on pitching, pitching, pitching, which Martinez cannot deliver. After Sales, every one of their all-star starters is a melting ball of Jello pudding. Porcello remains the lamest former Cy Young winner in history, and Price may have permanently attained Bostonian pariah status. They have no upcoming wave of young arms, just a pile of ex-prospects in the third year of their disappointment. (See "Machine Gun" Kelly.)

4. The real key to their team is 20-year-old Rafael Devers, who will play 3B, if his glove allows. In 222 at bats last season, he hit .284 with 10 homers, and he killed us a few times. Still, there is a quirkiness to his stats - though LH, he hit lefties far better than righties. Will that stand? Nevertheless, he could be an emerging star. If so, their farm system's death has been exaggerated, and we are in trouble, unless Miguel Andujar rises from Scranton.

5. It's a Yankees/Redsocks season. Nobody else in the AL East looks remotely competitive, and it means that - despite all the bluster and rivalry - the two teams will play 2018 merely to decide which draws the October home field advantage, and which must play the one-game Bud Selig horror show Wild Card. Between now and August 1, some serious impact players (Manny, Bumgarner, Josh Donaldson) could be on the move, and you would think Boston's already bloated roster would be over its limit. If Andujar flops, we might seek a 3B rental.

6. Make no mistake: Martinez is the real deal. In each of the last four seasons, he has hit for both average and power. But by the end of his contract, he will be 35, and Boston is not a nice place to be banking big money without producing big numbers. It's not as bad a contract as Jacoby Ellsbury's turned out to be, but if Martinez falters, the crowds and radio shows will be cruel. It's a long way from Detroit and Arizona, especially if you're Aquaman joining The Avengers. 

But I still need a drink.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The 2018 Yankees need a Jacoby Ellsbury far more than a Red Thunder

Today, the Gammonite universe is feverish over the notion that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton could both take batting practice, reenacting last July's home run derby and possibly tweaking the game's two largest sets of gonads. It's a Gammonite's dream come true, and the Yankees are playing along. The team will open its parks early in 2018, so fans can watch a daily Indian Point Power Report display and eat more sushi, while the players try to hurt themselves by hitting balls to White Plains.  

It might be a baby step toward the hubris that always gets us in the end. Or maybe a daily mini-derby will indemnify our sluggers from giving a shit about the All-Star break contest, a celebration of hype nearly equivalent to the Super Bowl Halftime Show. If every day brings a mini-derby, who cares about Chris Berman's final moments in the sun? Let's hope, anyway...

But we should worry that the 2018 Yankees will become the All-Time Three-True Outcome Team - the three events being homers, walks and strikeouts. This would make the Yankees not only boring but prone to failing against tough pitchers - the kind you see in playoffs. Let's look at last year's HR/BB/K numbers and - assuming my math is right - consider what could be in store.

Brett Gardner  21/72/122
Aaron Judge 52/127/208
Giancarlo Stanton 59/85/163

Gary Sanchez 33/40/120
Didi Gregorius 25/25/70
Greg Bird 9/19/42 (prorated to entire season: 27/60/150)

Aaron Hicks 15/51/67 (prorated: 25/100/110)
secondbaseman (let's say: 14/50/110)
thirdbaseman (let's say 10/40/110)

For starters, the team's HR total - 276, not counting players off the bench - looks like comic book violence. It would beat the all-time team single season HR record, set by the Mariners in 1997 (264), which - it should be noted, didn't make it to the World Series. Add bench homers, and the 2018 Yankees could do what no team in history has done: Hit 300 homers. Ridiculous. I mean, flat out bonkers.

The lineup would also generate about 600 walks - not bad, even though well below the all-time record of 835, set by the 1949 Boston Redsocks. Add bench numbers, and it could reach 750 bases on balls. Huge. Still, the lineup has two problems: Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius do not take enough walks to fully do damage. If either can be more selective, the Yankees could walk their way into history. 

And then there is the downside: Our lineup would deliver 1,163 strikeouts, a crazy number for an AL team, though not the record. That was set by the miserable, super-tanking Astros of 2013, at 1,535 whiffs. If we add 60 strikeouts by our pitchers in inter-league games, plus a couple hundred by the bench, the Yankees could fall within striking distance (no pun intended) of the ultimate strikeout lineup in history. That's a lot of players walking back to the bench without putting a ball into play. It's a lot of time spent watching nothing happen.

A couple takeaways here: 

Such a team can win - runs are runs - but it would need solid pitching. 

The 2018 Yankees need a Jacoby Ellsbury more than a Clint Frazier - table-setters, not another HR power. 

Likewise, in the two open slots, 2B and 3B, the Yankees need a Ronald Torreyes more than a Mike Moustakas. Also, if both positions prove to be sinkholes - that is, lots of strikeouts and little production - this so-called super team could be more vulnerable than we may think. 

You have to love the homers, but get comfortable in the bean chair, folks. This could a season when nothing seems to happen. And when certain players go into a funk - they all do - the losses could be excruciating.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Giancarlo's moment

Walking into history.

A Yankee bold strategy for spring: Let's do nothing and see what happens.

In today's Murdoch, Joel Sherman opines that Cooperstown Cashman likely will horde his $20-$25 million in leftover salary cap/tax threshold money, and forego the low-hanging free agents still dangling on grapefruit league vines. The plan: Keep the mad money for the August 1 trade deadline, when an avalanche of big name salary dumps could scramble the pennant races beyond recognition. 

Close your eyes, and around July 31, you can imagine the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Manny Machado hitting the auction barn, with the Empire paying not only prospects but cash on the barrel-head. In the meantime, Cashman might chase a fading prospect, such as Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, in his eternal quest to collect all the Aaron Hickses of the universe. The Yankees might become the Team of Second Chances.

If that's the plan, count me in. The key to building with prospects is allowing them time to develop, and every wretched period in Yankee history is pocked with hasty decisions about slow-developing youngsters. Over the last 18 months, they broke Old George's generational need for Yankee instant gratification by allowing Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks to survive sluggish periods. If this were the 1980s under Syd Thrift, it's not hard to see them all traded to other teams for the likes of a Rick Rhoden. But that doesn't seem to be Cashman's way, and - once again, with fingers crossed - let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

For now, let's embrace the perfect plan: 

Let's do nothing and see what happens.

Apparently, Cashman will wait on Glyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier and a gaggle of young pitchers likely headed to Scranton. He recently let the Mets sign Todd Frazier and the Redsocks grab Edwin Nunez, and I don't see Yankee fans slinging bile over the losses. I don't even see a movement growing to sign Neil Walker or Wilbur the Talking Pig. 

We have the most interesting lineup in baseball. We don't need a stimulus package. We don't need new infrastructure. We just need time.

Let's do nothing and see what happens. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Could Thairo Estrada be the next D'Angelo Jimenez?

In the looming battle for second base, the Yankees yesterday found they couldn't dodge a bullet. News came out that Thairo Estrada, a 21-year-old breakout prospect last year at Trenton, was shot during a robbery last month in Venezuela, and he will play 2018 with a bullet in his hip. The Yankees say he will make a full recovery, and let's hope that this time the team is telling the truth (though it seldom does regarding injuries.) Still, I find it hard to imagine a shortstop - considering the range of motion required - will not be affected by a sliver of metal in his hip. And once again, we of the Yankiverse must suffer the grim reminder that players are actual people - with actual lives - and not just fantasy Strat-o-Matic cards.

Today, I'm thinking of D'Angelo Jimenez, a 21-year-old shortstop who came to the Yankees in 1999 and hit .400 in a late-season cup of coffee. Of course, he was cock-blocked at SS by the great future Marlins brain trust, but the Yankees planned to either trade Jimenez for pitching, or move him to third. He'd hit .327 at Columbus, was an all-star in Triple A, and was unquestionably one of the premier prospects in baseball.

But that winter, Jimenez was in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic, forcing him to spend months in traction. Even though he was expected to make "a full recovery" - that's what the Yankees said - he missed the 2000 season and never again appeared in Pinstripes. He played eight years in the majors, bouncing between seven teams, usually as a utility infielder, compiling a .263 lifetime average. Not what we wanted. Not what he expected. Life, eh?

This morning, let's also ponder the fate of Andre Robertson, who was 23 in 1983, when he broke his neck in a terrible car accident on NYC's West Side Highway. It effectively ended his career and left a young ballerina paralyzed, destroying two lives. Ten years later, the Times found Robertson working in a chemicals plant, and the young woman had sued the city, in part because the former player was broke. Life...

There was, of course, Graig Nettles' inability to mow the lawn, and Brien Taylor's inability to avoid a bar fight, not to mention Mickey Mantle's lifetime of distractions, and Steve Howe weakness for anything addictive, and Henry Cotto's troubling decision to ram a fucking Q-Tip into his ear. Every year, somebody screws up, or maybe - like Estrada - they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

For the 2018 Yankees, losing Estrada is hardly the worst setback that could happen. He was barely in the mix to win a starting job. And let's assume the docs know what they're doing - maybe he can make "a full recovery." But I dunno. Shortstop is a tricky position. And we as fans can move on to the next youngster. After all, pitchers and catchers are here. Summer is within sight. The world is turning, and while we celebrate the eternal hopes of spring, let's pause for a moment to remember how quickly life can go south. Enjoy every sandwich, folks. We're not Strat-o-Matic cards, and neither are the Yankees.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The price of Jaime Garcia is a rude awakening to Yank fans hoping for a spring steal

I hate to keep barking about this, but one of these days, "Cooperstown" Cashman is going to spend the remaining $12 million in mad money that Hal Steinbrenner has bequeathed to the 2018 Yankee spring roster. With every free agent signing, the music stops and one chair disappears, and one of these days, we will get our man... I think, anyway... 

Yesterday, the still-not-ready-to-tank Blue Jays signed 31-year-old Jaime Garcia for $8 million this year, plus $2 million in bonuses, if he pitches well, (and we all know he won't.) Garcia poses an interesting benchmark, because Cashman obtained him last summer for Diedrich Enns and the living legend Zach Littell, a 21-year-old who went - get this: - 19-1 at Single and Double A. Nineteen and one. (Write this down: If Littell turns out to be a keeper, the name of Jaime Garcia will roil the Yankiverse for many years to come.)

Garcia threw 37 innings for the Yankees - eight sickly starts - and pitched 2 scoreless innings in the Divisional Series against Cleveland. Overall, he went 5-10 last year, with an ERA of 4.41 (which, terrifying fact alert here, was still better than Masahiro Tanaka's 4.74.) 

But if $8 million wins you Jaime Garcia, I believe it's safe to say that Yankee fans can forget about Jake Arrieta or Lance Lynn. Even with Toronto out of the auction - and that's no certainty - the big name pitchers will still command far more than what Garcia is receiving. If not, something is seriously wrong with the concept of supply and demand.

Which brings us back to the hope that Cashman can find a cheap, used-lottery ticket reclamation project. Yesterday, Tim Lincecum auditioned in front of about two dozen scouts, and supposedly hit 93 on somebody's radar gun. (In this day and age, hitting 93 is the equivalent of a GED diploma.) It's amazing to think that Lincecum - after four years of sustained mediocrity - might be too pricey for the Yankees, but jeez, if Jaime Garcia costs $8 million... that may be a reality. 

We might have to start thinking about 35-year-old Jason Vargas, or 29-year-old Chris Tillman, who endured a completely lost season last year in Baltimore, falling from near ace status to a Betances-in-crisis, end of the bullpen lugnut. I don't know what Tillman would cost, but it's like Popeye's Fried Chicken - cheap but not good for you.

Last year, Cash coaxed Chris Carter up from the primordial ooze - a strike-out machine DH who cost us $3 million. Hard to imagine, but this year, in search of pitching, we might get less. We want a Bartolo. Might just be that even the Bartolos are too expensive.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tim Lincecum is exactly the pitcher the Yankees need

Today, before a police lineup of scouts, agents, accountants, trainers and gun-owners (radar guns, that is), the Freak himself - Tim Lincecum - will step onto a mound and into Spring Fantasy Comeback Crapola History. Maybe.

At age 33 - (34 in June) - Lincecum is seven years removed from elite status with the SF Giants, and three since he threw more than 100 innings. In his last, torture-porn incarnation with the Angels, he was horrible, Anthony Scaramuchi-bad, with an ERA over 9.00 in 38 firebombed, air-sickness innings. That was 2016. He didn't bother showing up last year. He was probably rolling sushi.

And yet... here he is, lacing up his Doc Dentons and attempting to be John Travolta. And before anybody yells, "Battlefield: Earth," I offer one word: 


Bar. Toe. Low.

Okay, I know what you're thinking: Duko, you done gonna batshit, Glen Beck-crying crazy batshit. The mere fact that the Yankees once gave Bartolo Colon a final chance, which he parlayed into a second career, does not mean it can happen again. Odds are Lincecum will get hammered in spring training by some Zolio Almonte clone, end up in Scranton and then disappear into some sanctuary city to pour gluten-free wine to Trump-supporting Junior Leaguers. 

But but BUT... if there is one piece yet to be played for the 2018 Yankees, it is the opportunity for a cast-off pitcher to return with sheer guile and maybe some slippery elm - a guy who gives us 100 innings until July, when the Domingos and Justuses take over. 

My guess is that Lincecum will sign for around $2 million - slightly more than porn star hush money, these days - and he's a gamble worth taking. He won't pitch in the all-star game. He won't be our third starter. But he could be the sixth man, and we will need one. If anybody thinks the current rotation will stay healthy, let them note the ankle brace CC was wearing yesterday, when golf-carted to his car, following the first action-packed day of soft-tossing. He must have stepped on a sparrow.

The Yankees can afford a high-risk, piss-away-some-of-Hal's-money signing this spring. If Lincecum flops, no harm, no foul. It just means more of a chance for the Domingo Acevedos or the Domingo Germans. He either pitches his way onto the team, or he vanishes into the fast food joints of Clark Summit. 

Supposedly, the Yankees will send a scout for today's audition. Whoopie. They'd be fools to skip it. Let's hope they like what they see, and lay down some cash. Let's dare to dream about 2018. We have three Aarons and a lineup full of potential. It would be nice to have a Freak.