Thoughts on the Yankees off season--so far:
1. Aroldis Chapman
That's a ton of money committed to a closer, but it's only money. Chapman's return to the Bronx will allow the Yankees to move Dellin Betances to the more suitable role of set up man. Since the Yankees did not noticeably improve their starting rotation (still hoping for that diamond in the rough) the need is great to shorten the game on as many nights as possible. With Chapman and Betances holding down the late innings, and with the likes of Tyler Clippard and maybe Adam Warren, the Yankees can use the bullpen to cover the sixth or seventh inning and beyond.
Chapman returning to New York means the two trades with the Cubs within the last year netted the Yankees Starlin Castro, some prospects led by hot shortstop Gleyber Torres and the return of both Chapman and Warren, previously dealt to Chicago, All it netted the Cubs was infielder Brendan Ryan, whom the Cubs released within days of acquiring him. That is all the Cubs have to show for their recent dealings with the Yankees. Well, that and winning their first championship in 108 years. I would say it was well worth it for the Cubbies, all things considered. Now the Yankees must make good on the haul from these transactions.
There is still the issue of Chapman being suspended 30 games at the start of the 2016 season under the MLB domestic abuse policy. Some have held onto the fact that Chapman was never charged with anything criminal. However, it is also true that victims do not always file complaints, so that could be why there were no formal charges. In Chapman's case, MLB did suspend him without pay, so there has been some issue of note. Here's hoping all this is behind Chapman and no further incidents will occur. This is also an opportunity to shed light on the universal problem of domestic abuse and hopefully Chapman can move forward as part of the solution, not the problem.
I acknowledge not everybody is happy with this signing because of his domestic issues, as well as the money and length of this contract. Let the speculation begin as to when Chapman's fastball eventually tops out in the low 90's rather than 103 of this past season.
2. George Misses the Hall of Fame
Fritz Peterson posted on Facebook that George Steinbrenner deserved a place in Cooperstown. I can see his point. Peterson wrote a book covering the Yankees pre-Steinbrenner years called When the Yankees Were on the Fritz--Revisiting The Horace Clarke Era. Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, and they were in the World Series in 1976, winning it all the following season. Steinbrenner certainly brought two championships to the Bronx early in his tenure and he oversaw the last great dynasty in baseball which began in the mid 90's.
But there is also this to remember: Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball twice, once for illegal campaign contributions and the other for his relationship with a known gambler, Howard Spira. George also engineered a series of bad trades and free agent signings through the 1980s that brought the Yankees franchise to its knees by the rock bottom year of 1990. The constant meddling and firings and hirings of managers and general managers, coaches and staff brought instability to the organization for over a decade. It was only during the second suspension that the Yankees were able to build a solid foundation which helped bring the new dynasty in the 90's.
Do all the distractions of George Steinbrenner's Yankees tenure invalidate the greatness for which the Hall of Fame has stood all these years? I tend to think so. Of course, you might have a different opinion, I might be willing to reconsider, but for now there are far too many issues which seem to put a damper on that greatness.
3. Other Dealings and Non Dealings
The Yankees also added former Cardinals left fielder, Matt Holliday to serve as the team's designated hitter for the 2017 season, a one year signing that is of little consequence for the long term. They dealt Brian McCann to Houston for even more prospects, clearing the way for hotshot 2016 Rookie catcher, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine to work behind the plate and for Holliday to be the everyday DH.
The Yankees have been linked to a host of other players in trades. The White Sox's Jose Quintana has been rumored this week, but it doesn't seem likely the Yankees will be willing to part with major prospects at this point. Then there are all the remaining free agents, some off which have been linked, at least somewhat, to the Yankees. We shall see how that goes, but I fully expect the Yankees to wait out the process to see if any player that interests them would be willing to sign a short term contract, with one year being optimal.
We have also heard the Yankees want to drop more salary, and Brett Gardner and Chase Headley are making the rounds in the rumor mill. The interesting part of dealing either player will be who the Yankees might find as replacements. Aaron Hicks or Mason Williams for Gardner, perhaps, but who would replace Headley at third base?
Stay tuned, the winter is still young, even with the winter meetings over and done.