Fun Week in Yankees Universe…

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Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Gerrit Cole is a Yankee…

Sorry, but typing those words does not get old. This was quite the week with the brilliant introduction of Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.  Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and particularly Gerrit Cole said all the right things. “Pressure is a privilege” will certainly become as much a part of our Yankee lingo as “Savages in the box”.  Yankee fans especially liked Cole’s words “I’m here. I’ve always been here” while pulling out the 18-year-old sign from Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix which featured the words ‘YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER’.

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Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY Sports

People seemed to dissect whether the sign was the original or not. Not that it really matters one way or the other, but I think it was the faded original. The point is a one-time young Yankee fan achieved his dream of playing for his favorite childhood team. A child who would grow up to be among the best in his profession.

I’ve been looking for Hal Steinbrenner to excite the Yankees fan base for a few years and he certainly delivered this month. Of course, no sooner than the press conference was over, Yankee fans were calling for Steinbrenner to trade top prospect Jasson Dominguez to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor. As great as it would be to have Lindor in the Yankees lineup, it is not happening. If the Indians do trade their ultra-talented shortstop, it’s more likely he’d go to a team in the National League like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lindor is scheduled to make $16.7 million in 2020 with one more year of arbitration until he becomes a free agent. The Yankees are trying to unload J.A. Happ to get his $17 million off the books to help the team get below the third luxury tax tier. As great as Lindor is, I don’t see the Yankees staying above the third tier. Without Lindor, many are already saying the Yankees are the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. I am not a prospect-hugger but I don’t want to trade Dominguez.  There are countless prospects overflowing with elite potential who never made it to the Show but still, I’d rather take my chances on a seemingly count-miss prospect like Dominguez even if he eventually flames out. He has a chance to be something special and I’d prefer to see it in a Yankees uniform.

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@jassondominguez_7 via Instagram

For me, the only work that needs to be done is bringing in depth at certain positions. I’d like to see the addition of an infielder that can cover second and short to compete with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada in Spring Training. A left-handed hitter would be nice. He can’t play short, but someone like Travis Shaw and his ability to play all infield positions except catcher and shortstop seems to make good sense. Wade, as the backup shortstop, could play a valuable role on the bench with his speed and positional flexibility.

As much as I like Lindor, I think the one player I’d target if I owned the Yankees would be Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies are apparently considering offers since they’re entering a rebuild situation. Financially-speaking, I don’t think the Yankees would take on his contract, but to me, there’s a greater need for a guy like Nolan at third base than there is for Lindor at short. I know, putting Lindor at short would allow Gleyber Torres to stay at second, and D.J. LeMahieu to remain as the Utility Man Extraordinaire. But to add an elite bat and glove at third base carries great value. With no disrespect to Gio Urshela or Miguel Andujar, neither is on the same level as Arenado as a complete premier player.  Nevertheless, I do not see the Yankees bringing in any more “big” names this off-season.

I was surprised the Cleveland Indians finally traded Corey Kluber after years of speculation. Their return from the Texas Rangers seemed a bit light (outfielder Delino DeShields, Jr and hard-throwing reliever Emmanuel Clase). I don’t really feel bad the Yankees missed out on him.  He’ll be 34 in April, and he missed most of last year due to injury. Going to Texas represents a homecoming of sorts for Kluber as he went to high school in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. At some point soon, perhaps, he’ll be entering the decline phase of his career. Maybe he has resurgence in Texas like Justin Verlander did, but then again, maybe not. I’d prefer younger players to help keep the Yankees’ current championship window open. If the Yankees had missed out on Cole, then maybe Kluber would have been a great option. Heading into the season, I have no qualms about a rotation featuring Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. I do feel Happ will be traded so I didn’t include his name, and although I think Montgomery will be on an innings limit, we have guys like Deivi Garcia and Michael King ready to step in at some point next season.  I could see the Yankees bringing in a veteran starter on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Or Brian Cashman making a trade for a young, controllable starter is always an option.

I expected Luke Voit to give up his number 45 to Gerrit Cole but I was surprised Luke went with number 59. On social media, he indicated he will wear the number to honor his brother who went to West Point and was Captain of Army’s football team. Makes sense. 59 has always seemed like a coach’s number to me and that’s who has primarily worn the number in recent years, but no reason that Luke can’t make it his own. Luke has a “football” mentality so it fits his persona.

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@lukevoit via Instagram

The excitement for Cole was nearly matched by yesterday’s news the Yankees had parted ways with their director of strength and conditioning, Matt Krause. While I believe it was a necessary change (much like the dismissal of pitching coach Larry Rothschild), I feel bad for Krause, the man. His dismissal most likely happened weeks ago and we’re just now hearing about it, but regardless of when the decision was made, you hate to see anyone lose their job prior to Christmas.  People view Krause as the reason for the high number of injuries last year and that’s probably unfair. Krause was the 2017 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and had been employed by the Yankees since 2014. I am all for the change, but I do hope that Krause lands on his feet for his next opportunity. Sadly, he now carries the stigma of 30 men lost to the Injured List in one season, a MLB record.  Not exactly something you want on your resume as a specialist in strength and conditioning.

Credit to the Yankees for realizing the changes they needed to make within their infrastructure regarding coaching philosophies and the bright, new talent they’ve brought in with the changing of the guard. New pitching coach Matt Blake may be the face of the change, but this goes much deeper than just him. Yankees Assistant GM Michael Fishman, the analytics guru, is rapidly becoming a major force within the Yankees’ hierarchy. With the news that Assistant GM Jean Afterman is moving to Sonoma, CA for family reasons and will be working remote, it seems like Fishman may leapfrog her as a bigger voice, and now face, within the organization. His presence at Cole’s press conference was confirmation.

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I know many Yankee fans were disappointed yesterday to see Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher last year, Martin Maldonado, re-sign with the Houston Astros. As we saw with Austin Romine’s departure, the Yankees are not going to spend $3-$4 million on a backup catcher. Maldonado got 2 years, $7 million from the Astros and there’s no way the Yankees were going there. They seem committed to making Kyle Higashioka the backup to Gary Sanchez, but admittedly, I’d prefer a better Plan B than the return of 39-year-old Erik Kratz who was signed to a minor league deal this week. At this point, I don’t see the Yankees bringing in competition for Higgy. Jason Castro, currently a free agent, has experience with new Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson but I don’t see the Yankees paying Castro the money he’ll be looking for.  We were spoiled a bit by Romine the last couple of years since he always seemed to come up big during Gary’s IL stints.  But there’s no reason Higgy can’t deliver in the role.  He has superior pitch framing skills, and there’s some pop in his bat.  As much as I am looking forward to Swanson’s work with Sanchez, the same holds true for Higgy. The brightest catching prospects in the organization (Anthony Siegler, 20, and Josh Breaux, 22) have yet to play above Class A ball.

Lastly, it appears to be the end of the Pinstriped road for former top pitching prospect Chance Adams. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday before the Yankees announced Cole to make room on the 40-man roster. It’s disappointing as many of us had very high hopes for Adams, but the last couple of years have not been fun. Like many, I thought Adams might be a stronger option in the bullpen but we’ll never know. He could clear waivers and end up back in Scranton/Wilkes Barre but it seems like somebody would be willing to take a chance, no pun intended, on the former top prospect. He is only 25, has an option remaining, and some team might think they can pull his potential out. You see pitching-starved teams like the Los Angeles Angels and think they’d be all over this. I expect a trade as the more likely outcome although I can’t really see the Yankees getting much in return. Hopefully the change of scenery will be good for Chance and he’ll achieve the Major League dream at some point in the not-so-distant future. I am sad it didn’t work out with the Yankees but it was not to be.

The Yankees still need to make room for Brett Gardner once he is officially announced. If J.A. Happ isn’t traded, I think Stephen Tarpley is probably next up on the chopping block. I’d prefer to keep Ben Heller over Tarpley, and not really interested in parting with the younger arms that were added to the 40-man roster earlier this Fall. There was a time I wanted Luis Cessa to go, but he proved last year to be a good long-man option. With the departure of Nestor Cortes, Jr, Cessa carries more value than he did in seasons past. At this point, the next major milestone for the Yankees will be Februrary 12th when pitchers, including Gerrit Cole – woohoo!, and catchers report to Legends Field in Tampa, FL.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

As always, Go Yankees!

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