New York Yankees News/Rumors: With the Yankees quest for a catcher, will they look to another Molina brother?

It’s no secret that the New York Yankees are in a bit of a quandary as to who will be the 2021 starting catcher for the team. Although past years have been question marks with Gary Sanchez’s strikeouts, poor defense, and the ability to stay healthy this season, the biggest question will be if Sanchez will be the primary catcher for the Yankees going forward. Sanchez stayed healthy throughout the season in which he had his worst performance in his Yankee career. He hit only .147, and his defense was again deficient.

From the time Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene in 2016, the Yankee heralded him as their catcher for the next decade and beyond. 2016 and 2017 made that statement believable. In 2017 he hit 33 homers. But his 2018 season was horrible catching and hitting. In 2019 he had a bit of a bounce-back with some improved catching and 34 home runs. But even with those stats could only garner a .232 batting average. Sanchez is not the player who gets on base; he had never had over 90 RBI’s in his career. This year he reverted to the poor catcher syndrome and merely took up space in the lineup without production.

The New York Yankees have a big decision to make with their backstop. They have to decide if his performance this year was affected by the shortened season or if it’s a sign of his future performance.  Meanwhile, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has made a name for himself as Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Cole lost only one game with Higashioka catching him, and in that game, the Yankees only scored one run. As the season progressed, the Yankee brass began to lose faith in Sanchez, sitting him and letting Higashioka catch more games, even in the postseason.

There is an easy answer to solve the catching problem: for the Yankees to go out and sign arguably the best catcher in the game, J.T. Realmuto, a free agent. However, the likelihood of that happening is near zero. Realmuto will require that the catcher receive a record-breaking contract for a catcher. With the Yankees lack of revenue this year, and upcoming arbitration costs coming up, it is very doubtful the Yankees will spend that kind of money on a catcher.

There are other catchers out there that are free agents, but few that are an upgrade to Sanchez. One interesting look is Yadier Molina.  The Yankees have turned to one of the Molina brothers before. In 2007 they traded for Yadier’s brother Jose when Jorge Posada was injured. They later signed him to a two-year contract through 2009. Jose won a world series ring in 2009. The three Molina brothers are the only threesome in baseball to all win World Series rings.

The 38-year-old Molina has spent all 17 years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals but now is a free agent. The Cards will make every effort to keep him there. Molina is without question one of his generation’s best catchers, and if younger, would require a contract similar to Realmuto. Jadier stays healthy and is a contact hitter. He has a career batting average of .281 with over 2,000 hits. The younger Molina brother would answer the pitching problem and would only cost a fraction of Realmuto’s projected salary.  Jadier has said he would love to pitch into his ’40s and would require at least a two-year contract.

Molina might be happy to catch where his brother caught with the Yankees. Molina has earned a ton of money in his career and may be more interested in career-defining moments to help him in his quest for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He knows with the present Cardinal team that is not likely to happen in the next few years. A Yankees World Series ring might entice him to become a New York Yankee.

With the Yankee’s shortage of money and other unavoidable costs, I feel the Yankees will do nothing to solve the catching problem, and instead, will focus on improving the pitching situation that many feel caused the Yankees to both lose the division and in the postseason.  The New York Yankees may very well let Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka fight it out in spring training for that starting catcher spot. The Yankees should also resign backup catcher Erik Kratz, who works very well with the Yankees’ young pitching prospects.

One of the more memorable quotes of the 2020 season is when Erik Kratz, upon catching Deivi Garcia’s Major League debut, ran from the dugout shouting, “I’m going to catch my son.”

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow him on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Postseason trade rumors run wild for the Yankees

New York Yankees, Yankees, Luke voit

The New York Yankees are coming off another disappointing season where they lost again in the ALCS. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009.  The Yankee brass and the Yankee fans alike are tired of not winning and waiting for that elusive 28th World Championship. After this short season, when the Tampa Bay Rays beat the pants off the Yankees, the talk about changing up the team so they can win is far more active than ever.

Trade talks suggestions are going on for many New York Yankees players, from scouts to former Yankee players. However, no one is talking at this point about trading Miguel Andujar, a player that they really have no use for and should be traded.  Trade talks include Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino, and more. All of this in the shadow of the nine Yankee players who have become free agents.  According to how you look at it, next seasons Yankee team could look very different, or the Yankees will continue to believe that they have a great team, and it will improve in a normal 162 game season that may have fans in the stands.

Luke Voit:

The idea behind trading off Luke Voit is that he is at his highest value ever.  By dumping some of the free-agent pitchers, James Paxton and J.A. Happ, that saving and saving from trading off Voit, would give the Yankees the funds to go out and go out get a premium number two starter like Trevor Bauer.  In his prime, Bauer seems to be willing to take a short one or two year contract for big bucks. The short contract might be something the Yankees would be interested in, as long as Gerrit Cole approves.  Cole and Bauer have had a feud for years.

Gio Urshela:

The Gio Urshela trade rumors are brought about by the idea that getting rid of a great player to save a poor player’s job just doesn’t make sense at all but is gaining interest. The idea is to move the poor playing shortstop, Gleyber Torres, to his natural position. But doing that knocks the baseball batting champion off of second base. By trading off Urshela, whose value is high right now, they can move DJ to third base. For this writer, this is the worst trade the Yankees could make.  The fact is that DJ’s fielding percentage in his eleven games at 3rd base was worse than Torres’s fielding percentage at short.

Adam Ottavino:

The Adam Ottavino trade rumor makes sense for the New York Yankees. Ottavino is a good relief pitcher, but he has failed two years in a row for the Yankees by losing gas when it is most important, at the end of the season. Ottavino might be able to return to the pitcher he was with new scenery. The problem with moving Ottavino is his big salary. To make it happen it is likely that the Yankees would have to absorb part of his salary for the next two years.

Gary Sanchez:

The Gary Sanchez problem is complicated. The New York Yankees have been supporting him and putting him on a pedestal for several years as their catcher of the future.  But this year there was a sign that that support has developed some big cracks in it as he was sat down as the season wanned, and for several games in the postseason, in favor of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka who has become Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Cole is going to be around for 9 years, so Higgy might be as well.

But there is a problem with Higashioka taking the main catching role, that would move Sanchez to back up. Sanchez is due a big raise in arbitration this year. He will make somewhere between $6-8M and that’s too much to spend for a backup catcher. The answer is to trade him to some team that sees his home run power as a plus. Sanchez hasn’t been good for the Yankees since 2017, and this year was his worst, hitting .147 with regressing defense.

The Yankees could then go out and get a real catcher like J.T. Realmuto, whose lead leading batting average and excellent defense would make him a perfect fit for the Yankees. But it would cost dollars to get J.T. But the Realmuto, Higashioka catching twosome certainly is interesting.

Among the other trade, rumors include bringing back Didi Gregorius that the Yankees let walk in the last postseason, causing the Gleyber Torres problem. Did had a great season with the Phillies, hitting .284 with 10 home runs. So the Yankees have all these trade opportunities to consider along with what to do with all the free agents. It should be an exciting postseason as the Yankees try to improve the team so they can win another Championship.

 

 

 

The New York Yankees cannot and should not bring back the same team in 2021

New York Yankees, Brian Cashman

There are a lot of rumors already flying around about what the New York Yankees will do with the upcoming offseason. This year, the bombers went another year without making it to the World Series. They haven’t tasted a World Series in over a decade.

I listened to the words of Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner over the last week. They made their state of the union addresses following another failed Yankees season. One thing that some have mentioned is a possibility is that the Yankees bring back the same team.

Well, virtually the same team. Meaning the Yankees would resign DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka while doing nothing else. This strategy would fall in line with the belief that the Yankees have a WS caliber team right now.

I’m fully onboard and believe that the Yankees need to bring back DJ LeMahieu. It’s the talk about bringing back Tanaka where I draw the line. The bombers cannot simply bring back the same team they had in 2020. They need to shake things up if they want to win a World Series next year.

The Yankees’ Options

The most obvious option for me is that the Yankees need to upgrade the rotation. Tanaka is not going to come cheap especially considering the shallow free agent starting pitching market. That said, I would spend however much else is needed to sign Trevor Bauer.

The Yankees made a huge first step in signing Gerrit Cole last year. However, Cole can’t get it done by himself. That showed this year when Cole was the only starting pitcher who looked like he had a pulse for the Yankees in the playoffs.

If the Yankees are content with bringing back Tanaka and hoping the young guys fill out the rest of the rotation, they’ve already failed. They need to upgrade their pitching and there is a clear answer in Trevor Bauer.

If the bombers aren’t interested in making a free agent pitching splash, they need to look at JT Realmuto. Gary Sanchez was reportedly available at the trade deadline which shows that the Yankees are to the point of moving on.

If they do not want to invest into the rotation, they can upgrade the vital catching position. Realmuto is the best catcher in the game, and he would impact the Yankees on both sides of the ball.

No matter how you slice it, the Yankees need to shake things up. They have had a losing mentality for years and have failed to address problems when it forces the front office to be uncomfortable. Well, it’s time for the front office to get uncomfortable and it’s time to get the Yankees back to the World Series.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: The Yankee blame game is in overdrive, fans want answers

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees have lost in the postseason, again! That in itself is not horrific, but the operative word is again. It’s become again and again, and Yankee fans want to know why.  After all, it’s the New York Yankees; expectations are high. The Yankees are supposed to win the division, go to the ALDS and ALCS, and go on to a World Championship in the World Series. For Yankee fans, that hasn’t happened since 2009.

Now that the Yankees have lost again, the blame game’s wheels are rolling at full speed, as fans try to nail down what happened and what went wrong and who or what to blame. The most significant question fans have; is how does a team with one of the lowest payrolls beat the Yankees at every stage of the season.

  • Injuries:  Injuries have played a big part in the New York Yankees’ recent woes. In 2019 they had 38 injuries to 30 players. In this coronavirus shorted season, it was almost as bad, with several key players going on the IL for short periods. In the case of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton long periods make them miss substantial field time.  Add to that the team went the whole season without co-ace Luis Severino and last year’s winningness pitcher Domingo German who was out all season on a domestic violence suspension.
  • Gleyber Torres: After the 2019 season, the Yankees failed to re-sign free agent Didi Gregorius. They instead, decided to go with the young Gleyber Torres, knowing that his defense at short was suspect. That turned out to be true, as Torres committed the second-most errors in baseball. Add to that the 2019 home run leader just didn’t perform at the plate.
  • Aaron Judge: Slugger Aaron Judge is the most recognizable star on the team and for the most part was a no show, particularly late in the season and in the postseason. This is not the first year that the big hulking body of Judge just can’t stay free of injuries. He started out the season, okay hitting 9 home runs. But when he came back from injury, he never hit another home run from August 11 to the end of the season. In the postseason ALDS, he hit .143 in the ALDS, even worse in the ALCS at .111, not exactly superstar numbers. If you really wanted to blame Judge, you could say he was useless, which wouldn’t be far from wrong.
  • Gary Sanchez: Gary Sanchez was another player that was a waste of space in the lineup, and his defense at backstop wasn’t stellar either. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he has taken most of the flack for the team’s poor performance. He did hit 10 home runs, most early in the season, but his play was so bad he ended up getting sat several times as the postseason ended.  The front office brass is now questioning if he will be the New York Yankee catcher next year.
  • Aaron Boone: When you have the highest payroll in baseball, do you hire a manager with absolutely no managerial experience at any level in baseball.  Yes, if you are the Yankees, you do. Although Aaron Boone brought the Yankees to the postseason every year, he has failed in each of those postseason contests. Many fans wonder what Joe Girardi or a Buck Showalter could have done with this team full of stars. There is no question that Boone has made some questionable decisions, especially in the postseason. Is he to blame? The Yankees have made it known that they have no plans on replacing Boone.
  • Brian Cashman: Everyone likes to blame Brian Cashman because he, for the most part, put this team together. The only problem with blaming Cashman is, yes, he hires, but he doesn’t hit or pitch for the team; the players do.
  • Hal Steinbrenner: The final person to blame is the owner; after all, he is responsible for everything. You can’t say he doesn’t spend money to make the team better.  The Yankees have the highest payroll in all of baseball. This past offseason, he put out for the highest-paid baseball pitcher in history.  Yesterday he addressed the Yankee fans.
  • “I’m very disappointed, obviously,” Steinbrenner said during a radio interview. “We invested a lot of time, energy, money into the team last offseason, and we all felt that we had a team that could win a championship, and we failed to do that. We didn’t even come close. So right now, at this point in time, all I can do is apologize to our fans. They deserved a better outcome than they got. Period. I mean, they just did.”

  • Team philosophy: Everyone knows that the New York Yankee is a team built on the home run. The only problem with that is that when they don’t hit home runs, they usually lose.  That is what happened in the ALCS. The Yankees only had 10 home runs in the five-game series, four of them in the first game that they won. But the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the teams with the lowest payroll in baseball, manufactured runs all season long. The Rays beat the pants off the Yankees in the regular season, then took the division from them and, ultimately, the postseason as well.

It’s tough to dissect what is wrong with the Yankees. They spend the money to win a championship. So is it the players, the coaches, or the management? Like most things, it’s probably a combination of flaws. For a team with probably the best lineup in baseball, maybe the team needs a new hitting coach. As far as the players’ health, the Yankees completely revamped that department, hopefully, they will see the fruits of that change this coming season. Probably, the biggest issue that must be addressed in this offseason is that the Yankees must fix their pitching.

The Yankees want no more of this blame game, they just want a 28th World Championship for their club and fans. They will work diligently this offseason, to make that a reality.

New York Yankees News: Brian Cashman speaks out on Gary Sanchez and others (videos)

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees are coming off a disappointing season and postseason. They lost the division and the postseason to the same team, the Tampa Bay Rays.  Since there exit from the postseason, there has been much bantering and reporting on what went wrong and how to fix it before the  2021 coming season.

Today via Zoom, New York General Manager Brian Cashman addressed several subjects. Among one of the most intriguing subjects was if Gary Sanchez would be the team’s everyday catcher. Cashman would not commit to an answer but offered that it was a very fair question.

Cashman indicated while he tiptoed around the question, saying that Gary Sanchez is a very talented player. He couldn’t decide whether his poor play resulted from the coronavirus or for some other reason.  He pointed out that Kyle Higashioka stepped in at the end of the season and was able to do what he did. Higashioka caught New York Yankee ace Gerrit Cole and others very well. He had fewer passed balls and fewer errors than Sanchez, based on a regular season. He was also a more timely hitter, striking out fewer times and had a batting average of nearly .100 higher than Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez started with a bang in 2016. He hit 20 home runs slashing .299/.376/.557 in 229 plate appearances, but his offense and defense have been inconsistent since then. In 2019 he had a career-high 34 home runs but only garnered a .232 batting average. In 2018 his batting average was just .186, and this year a worse .147. Also, this year his defense at backstop reverted back to passed balls and errors.

The Yankees have long supported Sanchez as the Yankee catcher of the future. With his horrible performance this season, that support seems to be waning. Late in the season, Manager Aaron Boone benched him not only in Gerrit Cole’s starts but in a few others as well. When the postseason came about, the Yankees went with Kyle Higashioka four of the seven games. With the cracks in support, it’s a fair question to ask if Sanchez with be the catcher as we advance, or if they will go with Kyle Higashioka, or maybe look to acquiring a catcher like J.T. Realmuto.

In the Zoom interview, Cashman touched on many other subjects as well, including the questionable play of Gleyber Torres at short.

Cashman also commented on Luke Voit’s foot issues saying that Luke Voit has plantar fasciitis. He will be in a walking boot for one week. They believe that will resolve the issue. Along with Luke Voit, he spoke about Gio Urshela’s right elbow bone spur and Luis Severino’s recovery from Tommy John surgery.

 

John Flaherty defends Yankees’ Gary Sanchez: ‘There is still a lot of potential with him’

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Hal Steinbrenner, the owner, managing general partner and chairman of the New York Yankees, said on Tuesday that the team won’t be parting ways with struggling starting catcher Gary Sanchez. He believes the “Kraken” will return to form in 2021. “We’ll get him back,” he said, per Bryan Hoch.

Aaron Boone, the New York Yankees’ manager, also said the right words: “I still have a ton of confidence in Gary Sanchez.” Yet, they didn’t show their confidence in the man throughout the playoffs.

Sanchez was regularly benched in favor of Kyle Higashioka. The trend started in the regular season and became more evident come playoff time. Boone prefered Higgy’s blocking prowess and game-calling traits to Sanchez’s offensive potential.

Sanchez only played in three postseason games for the Yankees and took nine plate appearances. He hit a home run, but not much more. He was never given the opportunity to establish any offensive rhythm.

The Yankees’ struggling catcher

During the regular season, Sanchez struggled to the tune of a .147/.253/.365 line in 27 games. Yet, he was able to hit 10 home runs and his offensive potential remains that of one of the league’s best-hitting backstops.

And, despite the New York Yankees’ management saying they do not envision trading him, YES Network’s John Flaherty certainly sees that scenario.

“There’s still a lot of upside with Gary, and I could see him going somewhere and rebounding and being a very good player again … I would not be surprised if Sanchez rebounds, either in a Yankees uniform or somewhere else,” he said.

Flaherty knows what he’s talking about. He played three seasons as the Yankees’ catcher and 14 in total in the bigs.

“The one thing I will say is that we noticed pitchers throwing fastballs right by him, middle of the plate and up,” he said. “To me, that would be concerning, because we know that high velocity is a part of this game.”

Regarding his defense, Flaherty explained that “clearly the season wasn’t great, the one-knee stance behind the plate … his framing numbers got better, but it was told to me at the beginning that they didn’t expect Gary to block balls to his left and right from that stance. The expectations of what they’re looking for behind the plate have changed, and it’s going to be a very tough decision, as he’s in line to get a nice raise (in arbitration).”

Report: Yankees were open to trading Gary Sanchez, could it still happen?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The tree that keeps on giving, Gary Sanchez. Maybe I should rephrase that, the tree that decides to give sometimes and other times disappears for weeks on end. The Yankees have been living in a state of caution at the catcher position, especially during the 2020 season. While Sanchez has proved to be of quality in the past, his continued inconsistencies have made him a liability at the position and one the Yankees must decide on.

While I personally think manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman will elect to retain Sanchez and continue rolling with him and Kyle Higashioka, they could make a big decision to sign JT Realmuto this off-season.

However, signing Realmuto almost guarantees the departure of Sanchez, who the Yankees would have to get off the books and gain some capital from.

Reports have indicated that Realmuto is eyeing a record-shattering contract at his position, possibly in the $200 million range. Signing him would require a lengthy deal and a ton of money upfront. The Yankees have the cap space with multiple several players hitting free agency, but is it really worth it to spend that much money when you have a capable tandem with Sanchez and Higashioka?

Again, Higgy looked fantastic this season, becoming Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. His defense is far more evolved and superior to Sanchez’s, but he lacks the power that the Yankees seek in the hitting order. Nonetheless, the Yankees were potentially looking to move Sanchez at the deadline this year.

According to Mike Rosenstein of NJ.com, the Yankees were shopping catcher Gary Sanchez at the August trade deadline.

According to sources, the Yankees were open to the idea of trading Gary Sánchez in August, though no deal ultimately came to fruition. Could the Yankees move Sánchez — who is arbitration-eligible for two more seasons — and make a play for Realmuto? One catch could be the price tag; the Yankees laid off a number of staffers this season, so it remains to be seen whether they jump back into the deep end of the free-agent pool.

If the Yankees were open to dealing Sanchez just two months ago, what makes you think that they have completely disregarded the idea? They would be selling low on his stock, but if they really want to solidify the position for years to come, they have a chance to do it with Realmuto in free agency.
To give you an idea of how good the Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher is, he finished the 2020 season with a .266 average, 11 homers, and 32 RBIs. Prior to the season, he hadn’t dipped below .275 since 2015. Defensively, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball at throwing runners out on the base paths (47% caught stealing rate in 2019) and only allowed one passed ball in 36 games this year.
Upgrading the Yankees’ specific spot gives them not only an elite catcher but also a contact-oriented hitter with phenomenal power. With the winter hot stove months coming up, we will be watching this connection closely.

New York Yankees Analysis: A Deeper Look, what’s wrong and how to fix it

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees lost again in the postseason on Friday night. There is obviously something wrong that the Yankees haven’t been able to win a World Series in the last eleven years.  The question is how to fix it and get back to their winning ways. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but at the same time, I have been an avid life-long Yankee fan for 70 plus years. I have seen teams come and go, and dynasties come and go. I’ve seen some truly great players and many that were not.  This look at the Yankees is not a report, but purely an opinion piece. I am a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and a Yankee writer for the last five years.

First of all, we are talking about the New York Yankees, not the Kansas City Royals or any of the other 29 major league teams. I can think of at least 25 teams that would consider this 2020 shortened season for the Yankees a great success.  But, that is not the case we talked about the Yankees, where the season is a failure if they don’t go into the postseason and win a World Championship.

The 2020 Yankees season was a good one, considering all of the obstacles and injuries.  For the second year in a row, the Yankees had an unprecedented number of injuries. Key pitchers and some in the lineup were either missing for the whole season or much of it.  Last year the Yankees completely shook up their strength and conditioning department. One would not expect an immediate positive result, but those changes should reap the rewards in the coming years after a season. But going forward, there is no way to predict what injuries the Yankees might endure in the coming season.

Last December, after another losing season, the New York Yankees made a big move, their first in a few years.  The front office was tired of losing. They went to California and signed the best pitcher available in the offseason, and one of the best in all of baseball; Gerrit Cole.  That was the only change they made, believing it would be the difference in winning a Championship, and they spent $324 million to sign him.

As the Yankees approached spring training, everything looked rosy, as the team was healthy, and they had a new pitching ace that would take care of the 2019 shortcomings.  Well, it didn’t take long for that rose to start to wither. They knew going in that they would be without their 2019 winningest pitcher, Domingo German, who was 18-4 last season. He would be out the much of the season, serving the remainder of his domestic violence suspension.

The Yankees were not aware at the time that James Paxton had had back surgery and would also miss the start of the season.  They knew that they had co-ace Luis Severino coming back from missing much of the 2019 season. Fast forward to him throwing his first few pitches of spring training, and his elbow was injured, which ended up requiring him to have Tommy John surgery, and he too would miss the season.  Considering the aging Masahiro Tanaka and missing two key pitchers, I, at that point, said to myself, well, that negates the plus of having Gerrit Cole, and we are back in the same situation we were last year.

Another big blow came when we learned Yankee slugger and star Aaron Judge had shoulder problems, which turned out to be a collapsed lung and a fractured rib. He two would miss the beginning of the season. The injuries piled up that I am not going to go into, but the Yankees’ rosy season looked in jeopardy.  Then it hit, COVID-19. As the virus began to sweep the nation, MLB shut down all baseball operations and announced a delay at the baseball season.

The original two-month delay turned out to be a delay of more than four months. There were contentious negotiations between MLB and the players regarding how to start the season safely and who would get paid for what. Those negotiations lagged, and Commissioner Rob Manfred ended up putting health protocols in place and implementing a 60 game season. To a degree, this was a godsend for the Yankees as it would give them time to get everyone healthy in time for the season start.

After a surprisingly good start to the season, they went 9-2. But then the injuries started popping up. The Yankees endured a 5-15 stretch and the season looked like they would have to fight to win the division.  They didn’t, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to win the East Division. Gerrit Cole did his job, but much of the rest of the rotation didn’t. The Yankees endured long stretches where the powerful lineup was anything but effective.  Roughly half of the season, they went without Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees ended up the regular shortened season going 33-27.

Because of the expanded postseason format set up by MLB, the New York Yankees got to the postseason. They faced the Cleveland Indians, burying them in just two games while scoring 22 runs in the two games. The Yankees advanced to the ALDS against their nemesis  Tampa Bay Rays, winning the first game with 9 runs and Gerrit Cole on the mound.  That would be the last time they would score as much as two runs in the remaining four games. The lead in the series bounced back and forth, calling for a game five. In the eighth inning of that game, Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman would give up the winning run to Mike Brosseau.  This is the second season in a row that Chapman has ended the season giving up the winning run.

So, what’s wrong with this team that they can’t win in the win in the postseason and advance to a World Series appearance?  The answer is multi-folded. They don’t have dependable pitching, they don’t have consistent, timely hitting, they leave too many men on base, and they have some defensive holes.

Let’s address the defensive problems first, as they are the least significant. At shortstop, we have Gleyber Torres, after the Yankees did not re-sign Didi Gregorius in the offseason.  They bet on Torres fulfilling the position, it did not turn out well. Torres got off to a slow hitting start, but his main problem was holding down hitters at short. Torres committed 9 errors, the second-most in all of baseball. Torres also had two errors in the postseason.

One of the most significant problems the New York Yankees had in the 2020 season was their catcher, Gary Sanchez; after a year of improved performance at the backstop, Sanchez returned to his old ways, having allowed six passed balls, that’s near 19 in a regular season, leading all of baseball for a catcher. Add to that, he was, for the most part, just taking up space in the lineup. He ended the season with a .147 batting average. He had only 23 hits on the entire season, 10 of them home runs.

The Yankees have had undying faith in Sanchez as their catcher of the future. The Yankees continue to wait for him to fulfill that promise. The only problem is that he is going backward. His defense is worse than last season, and he has had a batting average of less than .232 during the last three seasons, two of them under .200. For the first time since he has been a Yankee, the Yankee front office, is showing cracks in that support.  As the end of the season approached, manager Aaron Boone benched him twice, and in the postseason, he caught in only one of the seven games.

Turning to pitching, Gerrit Cole was the only dependable starting pitcher in the season. Masahiro Tanaka, second in the rotation, went 3-3 with an ERA of 3.56 on the season. The Yankees lost both of his postseason starts. He had a postseason ERA of 12.58. James Paxton went 1-1 on the season but was injured and missed the last half of the season, and he all of the postseason.  J.A. Happ was a mixed bag, pitching poorly in the first half but becoming the best pitcher in the second half. Happ was 2-2 with an ERA of 3.47 ERA.  Jordan Montgomery was inconsistent all season, going 2-3 with an elevated ERA. He pitched his one postseason game well, but the Yankees lost the game nevertheless.

Going into the last half of the season, the New York Yankees realizing they needed pitching help, allowed the major league debut of Deivi Garcia. Garcia basically didn’t disappoint. He got in six starts on the season going 3-2 with an ERA of 4.98. In the season the Yankees also introduced Michael King and Clarke Schmidt who may be a part of the coming seasons.

The Yankees made a big mistake in the postseason. They tried to outsmart the Tampa Bay Rays by playing their game when they should have played their own game. Game 2 of the ALDS will be looked back upon as the game that turned the tide in favor of the Rays. For some unknown reason, the Yankees decided to start game two with an opener, instead of Masahario Tanaka. Mistake number two came when the only let Deivi Garcia pitch one inning. Mistake number three was when they brought in J. Happ to replace him, burning two starting pitchers in one game. The gamble didn’t pay off; the Yankees lost the game and their momentum.

The Yankees hitting in the Wild Card round was just that, wild. When it came to the ALDS the bats for the most part went silent again. I have no explanation as to why throughout the season, all of the Yankees bats went silent at the same time, with the exception of Luke Voit. I have to assume it was only an annoying coincidence.

How the New York Yankees can fix things!

The Yankees will presumably be getting Luis Severino and Domingo German back for the 2021 season. However, after not pitching for a year, the Yankees have no way of knowing how they will perform.  The Yankees need another premium arm.  Tevor Bauer is a free agent, he would be a good fit for the Yankees. That would give the Yankees a starting rotation that would look like this; Gerrit Cole Trevor Bauer, Luis Severino, Domingo German, and Deivi Garcia.  No one knows right now what will happen with Paxton, Happ or Tanaka who are all free agents.  My guess is that they will take Tanaka back at a discount and let Paxton and Happ go. Another option for the Yankees is Carlos Carrassco of the Indians.

On the defense and hitting side of the issue, the Yankees need to replace Gleyber Torres at short. Enter Francisco Lindor who is a free agent.  Lindor would be an upgrade at short and in the lineup. That would allow Torres who the Yankees will not get rid of, to return to his natural position at second base.  This would allow LeMahieu to become a utility man that can adequately fill in at all infield positions while keeping his hot timely bat in the lineup.

Looking at the other positions, Voit and Ford, although not the best, they can handle first base. Voit finished his season as the best home run hitter in all of baseball. The Young Gleyber Torres can continue to blossom at second base and in the lineup.  At third base is the real deal Gio Urshela, who is a Gold Glove type defender and timely hitter.  The outfield is pretty well set with Judge, Hicks, Frazier, and the MLB’s best defending outfielder, Mike Tauchman. Tauchman committed no errors.

Outside of the Torres situation, the Yankees still have three situations they must clear up in the postseason. One is easy; the Yankees must re-sign DJ LeManhieu, the 2020 batting average winner.  My suggestion is a 4 year $65 million contract, although it may take more dollars, the Yankees must get it done.  The other two questions are less clear. Brett Gardner is in the last season of his contract although he has an option for 2021. The Yankees can dump him for $2.2 million. Although Gardner didn’t hit as well this year he did contribute on the field and the bases. Gardner is also a team leader in the clubhouse.

The question about Gary Sanchez is more complicated. Sanchez can be very good, he hit 34 home runs in 2019. His defense is still questionable and his ability to get on base has been greatly reduced.  His trade value is near zero presenting the options to leave things as they are, move Higashioka to the everyday catcher, and domote him to backup.  Another option is to go after one of the best catchers in the game, J.T. Realmuto who is a free agent and would be a big-time upgrade.

The New York Yankees have the money to make all these upgrades, they spend less on player salaries compared to revenue than any other baseball team. In general the Yankees rely on the home run to win games, when they don’t hit them they lose. Lindor would help that, he hit 61 hits compared to Torre’s 33 hits.  Realmuto added to the lineup would provide more timly hitting as well.  The result would be a team that plays small ball and long ball for a better mix, and more consistant scoring.

The New York Yankees have a great team but need to make some minor tweaks to win a World Series, and time is running out.  The Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman made no moves to improve the team by the trade deadline in the last two years. The cheap “Baby Bombers” aren’t so baby anymore, they are aging and will all become free agents in the next two years, with the exception of Gleyber Torres, who is under team control until 2024.  If the Yankees want to win with the core of players they have, they only have this and the next year to make that a reality. Only the front office’s determination to win a 28th Championship and more in the coming Cole years will make that happen.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is s member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

 

 

Are the Yankees making a mistake with their catcher situation in Game 4?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees are playing for survival tonight. They will face the Tampa Bay Rays at Petco Park, in San Diego, in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. The Bombers are down 2-1 in the best-of-five affair, and if they don’t win tonight, they will return to New York empty-handed.

In the win-or-go-home affair, Yankees manager Aaron Boone will once again start Kyle Higashioka over Gary Sanchez at catcher. What started out as a “personal catcher” situation, given that ace Gerrit Cole feels more comfortable with Higgy, is now becoming a trend, and despite Boone recently saying that the situation would be a “day-to-day” thing, it seems like he is sticking with inferior offensive option.

Are the New York Yankees making a mistake by not starting Gary Sanchez regularly at the catcher position? Some will say that the Kraken has struggled this season, and he has. After all, he hit .147/.253/.365 in the regular season with a 69 wRC+ and Higashioka hit .250/.250/.521 with a 102 wRC+.

The Yankees’ catching controversy

However, it’s unfair to dismiss four seasons of being one of the most dominant offensive backstops in the game (.236/.320/.502, .346 wOBA, 117 wRC+ career line) and judge Sanchez for 49 games, not to mention that Higgy’s performance came in only 16 games. That’s just not enough sample to determine he is the best option to be in the Yankees’ lineup over Sanchez.

And while Higashioka does offer good defense behind the plate, the difference is not so big that it can justify leaving Sanchez on the bench for three of the four games of the ALDS.

If your ace express a strong preference to throwing to the backup catcher, it is understandable to let it happen, which has been the case when Gerrit Cole takes the mound. However, the Yankees haven’t even let Sanchez get into any kind of groove by not giving him enough plate appearances and essentially making him a backup option.

Here is the full Game 4 lineup:

  • 2B DJ LeMahieu
  • RF Aaron Judge
  • CF Aaron Hicks
  • DH Giancarlo Stanton
  • 1B Luke Voit
  • LF Brett Gardner
  • SS Gleyber Torres
  • 3B Gio Urshela
  • C Kyle Higashioka

P Jordan Montgomery

More than just umpiring cost the New York Yankees in ALDS game two

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The New York Yankees were unable to follow-up their ALDS game one victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with another win, dropping game two by a score of 7-to-5.

One of the headlines of the game was the poor performance from home-plate umpire CB Bucknor. He’s infamous for poor calls, and Tuesday’s game was no exception. The calls were brutal for both teams, but seemingly more so for the Yankees. He screwed the Yankees in big parts of the game. Check out this call on a pitch to Gleyber Torres in the ninth inning:

As bad as the umpiring was, it wasn’t the only reason the Yankees lost. The umpiring certainly contributed to it, but it was by no means the only reason for the loss.

Aaron Boone sent rookie Deivi Garcia out to start the game, the first postseason start of Garcia’s young career. But within three pitches, JA Happ was warming in the bullpen and came in after just one inning of work by Garcia. The Yankees were trailing 1-0 after one inning, but they had planned on having Happ piggy-back off Garcia early.

Happ isn’t comfortable in relief, and he’s on eight days rest. The hope was to take advantage of lefties in the Rays lineup by throwing the curveball of pitching Happ. The Yankees played with fire on this one, and got burnt. Happ gave up four runs in 2.2 innings, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Should Happ have been better? Absolutely. But, in his defense, pitching in relief isn’t always very comfortable for starters, especially after long rest. Pitchers get in a rhythm of starting every five days. His post-game interview expressed his displeasure of coming out of relief.

And now that the Yankees burnt two starters in an already depleted rotation in just one game, the team could have serious pitching problems in a potential game five. The speculation is that the Yankees will likely set Jordan Montgomery as the game four starter, but who starts game five? Gerrit Cole on three days rest? Garcia?

The other massive issue with Tuesday’s game was that the team struck-out 18 times. Does having a bad umpire affect your approach and the pitches that you swing at? Absolutely. But regardless of the umpire, 18 strikeouts in unacceptable. They only got five hits. That can’t happen, nonetheless in the postseason.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez looked lost all night, combining to go 0-for-9 with six strikeouts. Their at-bats were short with both players taking massive cuts each swing. They didn’t have a base-hit approach. They wanted to hit 500 foot home runs.

The only thing that the Yankees can take away from game two is the performance of Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton. Both players were great for the second-straight night; Stanton going yard twice while Hicks walked twice and picked up a hit.

Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse needs to erase game two from their memories completely. The game was just flat-out ugly in every aspect for them.

When they wake up on Wednesday, the Yankees have a three-game series facing them. Masahiro Tanaka, historically their best postseason pitcher, is on the mound. If the Yankees want to advance to the ALCS for the third time in four years, they desperately need to win game three against the Rays.