LADY AT THE BAT

Friday, July 29, 2016

Decision Time For Yankees: Stay Or Go and What About A-Rod?

Aroldis Chapman getting traded was going to happen no matter what.

For much of the season the Yankees seemed to be headed for a trade deadline sell off, something they haven't done for decades and in fact,  have rarely been done dating back to the days when the deadline was June 15th. Regardless of their position in the standings, trading Chapman in his walk year made all the sense in the world. Too many teams needed a closer and Brian Cashman knew that trading Chapman would bring a major haul, despite Chapman  being a two month rental for someone. The Cubs won the Chapman sweepstakes, sending the Yankees Adam Warren, a reliable swing man familiar to all Yankees fans, and three prospects.

So with the Yankees maintaining their status as on-the-fringe contenders, thanks to a July surge, where do they go from here? Clearly, they are not sellers, but if they were blown a way with an offer, say for Andrew Miller, they might be enticed to do just about anything. And therein lies the rub. In the  Chapman trade, the return was a quality and very  useful major leaguer (Warren) and some serious minor league talent,  Cashman was able to convince ownership that this trade not only benefited the Yankees for the long haul but kept the Yankees in the race for the post season by trading from strength. their  bullpen. As with Chapman, contracts are also expiring for Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova. If Cashman could sell off either or both for prospects, what would stop him from trading for young controllable replacements, from their suddenly deeper farm system? This is something ownership might approve.

It may be that the Yankees won't do anything significant from here to the deadline, and it  won't be from lack of trying. Taking the buy/sell angle a little further opens the door for a lot of possibilities, and this is what Cashman does well,. He agrees to trades that are clearly under the radar. So trade Beltran, if you can find a younger more controllable bat for the middle of the order at the same time.

Which brings us to Alex Rodriguez. .Benched for several days against right handed starters and one lefty, Dallas Keuchel, A-Rod may or may not see action against Tampa Bay left handers scheduled to start on Saturday and Sunday. If he is in the lineup against the left handers, then we know A-Rod is back to his platoon designated hitter role against left handers. If not, then it seems that there really isn't much use having A-Rod on the roster. But he is owed a ton of money for the rest of 2016 and all of next season and is four home runs shy of 700. Of course, it is widely accepted throughout baseball that you can't hit home runs while sitting on the bench. There have been rumors of the Yankees cutting A-Rod altogether. It would certainly add roster flexibility regardless of who you summon form the minors or acquire in a trade. It just seems to make a lot of sense to make the move and jettison a player who hit 41 years of age this week and it has been pointed out elsewhere, hasn't really hit much since hitting 40 last July.

But while the A-Rod scenario doesn't appear likely, a sell off of a player or two for minor leaguers is not out of the question. It is very likely ownership wants Cashman to make the necessary counter moves to keep the Yankees in the race, tenuous as it is.

The next few days should prove interesting.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Yankees Lose, Move On To Season-Defining Rays Series

The greased pole of the Yankees' season continued last night as they, once again, slid down, giving the front office more headaches as it continues to argue over whether the team should sell or stand pat. 

A sweep of the Astros would have gone a long way towards putting "sell" in the rear-view mirror, especially with Boston and Toronto both losing last night. Now they have to leave the Trop on Sunday with no less than a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays. If they don't do that, they are at risk of their season becoming bootleg (if they stand pat) or over (if they become sellers).

Going back to headaches for a moment, all this not knowing what should be done is giving me one, so you can imagine the one Yankees brass has! The entire situation is just too tiring to think about. Instead, I'll talk about the positives from last night:

1. Two more hits for Didi Gregorius. That dreadful start he had at the beginning of last season is hardly a thought in anyone's mind.

2.  Another hit for Mark Teixeira. Hopefully this isn't too little too late.

3. Brian McCann went deep. Let's hope this is the beginning of some consistency at the plate for him.

4. Adam Warren had a successful season debut. I don't know what happened in Chicago, but I'm sure Larry Rothschild can fix whatever the problem is.

5. Luis Severino pitched two hit-less innings, giving up only a walk and striking out three. Perhaps, he'll kiss the starting rotation goodbye.

The Yankees have an off-day today before beginning the series in Tampa Bay. It will be the most important series of the season. There is no margin for error.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yankees Having Fun During Current Hot Stretch

During the bottom of the 2nd inning, with the Houston Astros highly touted prospect Alex Bregman at the plate and CC Sabathia on the mound (on his way to an excellent 6.2 IP, 2 ER start), Bregman sent a chopper right back to Sabathia, who barehanded the ball on the bounce and tossed it to Mark Teixeira for the out.

In describing the play Ken Singleton (my favorite non-David Cone Yankees announcer) had this to say: “CC goes after this one like it’s the last biscuit in the basket and he comes up with it…somebody pass the butter, here it comes.” I kid you not.  Here’s the video for proof.

It was hilarious. It’s things like this that make baseball fun (and part of the reason I still enjoy listening to the schtick of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman). Quirky baseball-isms on great plays. I point to things like this when people tell me baseball is boring. It’s hard to be bored when you’re laughing.

It’s also hard to be bored when the Yankees are playing the way they have over the past week. The offense got to Astros starter Doug Fister in the 2nd inning, and didn’t let up until they had six runs and Fister was out of the game.

Even the Yankees seemed to be having a good time. After Sabathia gave up his 2nd home run of the game, this one to Evan Gattis, Chase Headley strolled over to the lefty and said something that left the big man chuckling heartily.

There were no tense players, silent benches or frustrated fans after last night's game. This is the team we love to watch. We know they won’t win every game but we just need them to show up. Need them to recover some swagger or, if they don’t have the swagger, then fake it until they make it.

Aside from Dellin Betances doing his best to add some suspense to the game by loading the bases in the bottom of the 8th inning before striking out Jason Castro on three pitches, and Headley trying to pull a poor man’s Derek Jeter in the bottom of the 9th inning, there wasn’t too much to worry about. It was a sit and relax kind of game. (Well, Joe Girardi still seemed tense in his post-game conference on the YES Network, but that is par fpr the course.)

The Yankees are now 4 games over .500. As Joe Torre used to say in his post-game conferences on YES, worry about getting 5 games over .500, then worry about getting 10 games over. I still tuned out all the Division and Wild Card talk between Michael Kay and Singleton on the broadcast because the Yankees have quite a ways to go before that becomes realistic.

But it is fun to watch now. We watch whether it’s fun or not but when the team is playing like this, 8-2 over their last 10 games, it’s a much better experience. Like adding butter to a biscuit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Yankees Trade Chapman, Win Close Game Without Him

When the Astros' George Springer sent Michael Pineda's first pitch into the right field seats last night, I assumed that the big news of the day was over, and that for the rest of the night the story would be a familiar one: Pineda being a bum and Dallas Keuchel ho-humming his way to another victory over the Yankees.

But no, Pineda bounced right back! He out-dueled Keuchel, leading the Yankees to a 2-1 win. It was his second-straight great start. He pitched seven innings, eliminating, at least for one night, the need for a new seventh inning guy. The Yankees are now three games over .500 for the first time this season. They have won seven of their last 11 games.

Is this late-July surge enough? Can they turn it into a late-season surge? Or, is this a false sense of security that will come back to burn them in a few weeks? The jury is still out on this team.

Brian Cashman and the Yankee brass are a part of that jury, and yesterday they could agree only to sell off Aroldis Chapman. Personally, I like the deal very much. Sure, you have no idea what Gleybel Torres will turn into, and the other two prospects could be a bust as well, but on paper, how can you not make this deal? Plus Adam Warren, who pitched well for the Yankees, is now back in the fold, and a prime candidate for the seventh inning role.

The Yankees were not going to get a Major League-ready prospect for Chapman. For Christ's sake, the guy is a free agent at the end of the year! It's a wonder they even got Torres. My assumption is that only if the Cubs were able to get Chapman to agree to an extension would they give up someone knocking at the door of the big leagues.

How the Yankees play the rest of this week will determine whether or not they hear that knocking. Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Eovaldi Showing Potential At Crucial Time For Yankees

Maybe a demotion to the bullpen was the wake up call Nathan Eovaldi needed.

When Eovaldi was traded to the Yankees prior to the 2015 season, my first thought was one of concern. The young righty reminded me of another import from the then Florida Marlins, with Eovaldi’s obvious talent coupled with his equally obvious lack of results. I was less concerned with his demeanor, feeling very confident that no one could replicate the “get paid and hardly ever play” approach of Carl Pavano. (There, I said his name. Let’s never say it again.)

But even if he wanted to help, there was still a question of whether he could. I never put much stock in the “only certain types can play in NY” thought process until Randy Johnson joined the team and I saw just how the environment could affect some players.

So I worried about Eovaldi. The Yankees are his third team in just 7 years. That’s strange for a player with a mid to high 90s fastball and two off-speed pitches with different mph differential.

He did nothing to allay my concerns for the first half of 2015 but then went on a terrific run, marred by an injury, to end the season. My hopes were dashed as Eovaldi, along with much of the Yankees rotation struggled to start this season. Eovaldi’s struggles were hidden by those of Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, but the time finally came when the attention shifted to #NastyNate.

The results were not pretty and, prior to the All-Star Break, Eovaldi was demoted to the bullpen in favor of Chad Green, and I firmly believe that, if Green hadn’t been shelled in his replacement start, the demotion would have lasted longer.

Green struggled, however, and Eovaldi was restored to the rotation. He has responded relatively well with strong starts against the A.L. East leading Baltimore Orioles (5.1 IP, 1 ER) and the N.L. West leading San Francisco Giants (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 SO).

Eovaldi got into his biggest jam in the top of the 4th inning when he loaded the bases (BB, 1B, BB) with only 1 out. He buckled down, got out of it and proceeded to provide 2.2 more innings of length on a day when the Yankees “big three” (potentially soon to be big two) were all unavailable.

So far, so good post-ASB but the clock is ticking. With the trade deadline just a week away and Chapman reportedly already out the door, the Yankees will be hard pressed to hold off a bigger sell-off.

The Yankees are now two games over .500 and have won back to back series against those same Orioles and Giants. They now head back onto the road to face the Houston Astros. The potential Eovaldi is showing now is the potential the Yankees traded for and the potential they will need if they truly hope to make a playoff run.