Wednesday is the big day. Wednesday is when pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training for the Yankees (though many of the Yankees are already in Tampa and have started their spring training). There’s still more than six weeks until Opening Day and real, meaningful baseball, but spring training is here.
This week’s questions and comments are related to the current roster and if the Yankees did enough this offseason to improve it.
We need another bonafide starting pitcher. – Mario
Last week in the blog Spring Cleaning: A Fresh Start for Giancarlo Stanton, regarding J.A. Happ, I wrote:
I understand you can never have enough pitching, except when you’re talking about a 37-year-old coming off the worst season of his career and set to earn $17 million.
What felt like minutes after writing those words, it was announced that James Paxton will be out for the next three to four months after undergoing a back procedure. It was almost as if the Baseball Gods were upset with me mocking the idea that you can never have enough pitching.
The Paxton news certainly isn’t ideal, but it’s not the worst thing ever either. Paxton has never pitched a full season in the majors. Not one. His career-high innings came in 2018 when he threw 160 1/3. In his first season with the Yankees, he only managed 150 2/3 when he missed nearly four weeks and then admittedly pitched with a knee problem for most of the season before being shut down in his final start of the regular season with a back problem, which he eventually needed this recent surgery for.
The Yankees won’t have Paxton for at least the first month of the season and I would expect him to miss at least the first two months of the season. So now, instead of having Happ as the team’s fifth starter in what needs to be a bounceback season, Happ moves up to the No. 4 spot and Jordan Montgomery, most likely, becomes the No. 5 starter.
There isn’t really an available free-agent starting pitcher the Yankees could go out and sign at this point like the comment suggests. If Happ sucks again and Montgomery proves to be not ready as he separates himself from his Tommy John surgery, I would rather see what Deivi Garcia or Mike King or someone else within the organizatio can before giving an opportunity to the scrap heap.
So it’s true, you can never have enough pitching, even when you’re talking about a 37-year-old coming off the worst season of his career and set to earn $17 million.
Nolan Arenado is the best third baseman in baseball. You get the best when you can. No need to be concerned with costs. If they don’t mind paying the luxury tax, I’m not complaining. – Vinny
I couldn’t agree more, Vinny. I wrote about this extensively in the blog If the Yankees Can Get Nolan Arenado, Go Get Him.
The problem is while we aren’t worried about the luxury tax, Yankees ownership certainly is. It’s why they held back the last few years on free agency. The Yankees are the best team in baseball right now and good enough to win the World Series as currently constructed and ownership likely looks at Arenado as a luxury and not a necessity. They know they can win with a third base combination of Gio Urshela at $2.5 million and Miguel Andujar at somewhere around the league minimum, so there’s no need for them to go take on another nine-figure contract.
The franchise can more than afford to take on Arenado’s contract, but they know they can win with a third base making $32 million less.
I don’t get this obsession with Nolan Arenado, what the Yankees actually need is to lock up and secure our infield with Francisco Lindor. The kid makes perfect sense across the table. We need left-handed punch and to fill the hole that Didi Gregorious left at short. Gleyber Torres with all due respect is a much better second baseman than he is a shortstop. – El
The obsession with Arenado is that he’s the best all-around third baseman in baseball. As for Lindor, if the Yankees could somehow trade for him I would also be all for it. The difference is Arenado would cost only money as the Rockies are looking at moving him in a straight salary dump the way the Marlins moved Giancarlo Stanton, while Lindor will cost actual players.
As for the knock on Torres, I disagree. I would expect Torres to be a better second baseman than shortstop the same way I would expect any major leaguer to be a better second baseman than shortstop since it’s an easier position to play. But Torres came up as a shortstop (except for the brief time he playing third base in the minors before a season-ending injury in 2017, so the Yankees could stop playing Chase Headley), and he was only playing second because of Gregorius. Gregorius is gone, so Torres is the shortstop the way he was before Gregorius came back last season, and he’s going to be playing shortstop for a long, long time … unless the Yankees do something like acquire Lindor.
I’d like to have the best player in baseball at every position, but there are financial implications. They got in trouble chasing every free agent and came back to prominence developing their farm system. They laid out big money with Gerrit Cole, and huge payouts lie ahead for Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Luis Severino. – Michael
There are financial implications to signing big-name free agents, but the Yankees are the Yankees and have more financial resources than any other team in the sport and should use that to their advantage. It was disgusting when they came one win away from the World Series in 2017 and then cut payroll by nearly $50 million for 2018, and their decision to sit out on every free-agent pitcher not named J.A. Happ for 2019 cost them the AL pennant once again.
The Yankees have returned to prominence by building up their farm system, but when you have a young core making the league minimum or in arbitration years, that’s when you should add free agents to the roster before the young core needs to be paid. Judge and Sanchez both got significant raises this season and Severino got a four-year, $40 million contract last season. Those numbers are only going to continue to go up, and that’s why it’s more important than ever for the Yankees to win a championship as soon as possible before ownership decides to go back into a signing freeze due to an increasing payroll they can more than afford.
I predict Giancarlo Stanton will have a banner year. Hope he has a great year and opts out. – Jack
Last week, I wrote that I’m going to give a clean slate to Stanton for 2020. No sarcasm to start the season, no snarky comments, no “Ladies and gentlemen” tweets on Opening Day. I’m going to be positive when it comes to Stanton for as long as he lets me be positive.
The response to that blog hasn’t been great. Either people don’t believe me, saying I won’t be able to last through the fourth inning of Opening Day, or they despise Stanton so much that they’re appalled that I’m willing to be positive when it comes to him.
I really do believe Stanton is a luxury for the Yankees. He was a luxury when the Yankees were able to acquire him for nothing and he’s become even more of a luxury with the team proving it can win without him. They don’t need him to be his pre-Yankee self to win. Last season, they were able to win 103 regular-season games and get to within two wins of the World Series without him. But even though he’s a luxury, I would very much welcome him returning to his pre-Yankee self and being an MVP candidate, especially with Aaron Hicks out for most of the season and the unpredictability of what Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier will provide.
When it comes to his opt-out clase though, you can forget about that. Even without a 2017-like season, on the open market, Stanton wouldn’t come close to getting what he’s owed as a 31-year-old who will obviously spend his later years as a DH. Even if he thought he was worth more and could get more, who would pay him? The Yankees would be out on him. The now small-market-operating Red Sox would be out on him. The Astros? No. Unless the NL adopts the DH, I can’t see any NL team wanting him. He will be three years removed from his historic season with one good season (2018), one nine-game season (2019) and whatever he does in 2020 since his MVP campaign. Stanton isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be a Yankee.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!