New York Yankees: Who will be the Yankees’ major competition in 2021?

After an uncommonly slow offseason, things are really heating up as the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams approach spring training, which is now just over two weeks away. With the 2021 teams shaping up, it’s time to take a look at who will be the Yankees’ major competition to watch.

The Boston Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox has always been the traditional rival of the New York Yankees, up to 2018. Since then, the tables have turned as other teams strengthened in the East. While the other teams got better, the Red Sox got worse. The Red Sox made some bad moves, and beyond their control, they were beset with major injuries, particularly to the pitching staff.

Plain and simple, the Red Sox were a mess last season, and things are not looking that good for this season either. The only major move the Red Sox made is re-hire the shameful Alex Cory as it’s manager again. That in itself does not address the Red Sox problems of starting pitching and the bullpen. Xander Bogaerts and J. D. Martinez are rumored to be traded for pitching help, but with Mookie Betts’ loss last season to the Dodgers, if they move either of the two, they will have no lineup at all.

Last season the Red Sox, the Tigers, and the Rangers fought for the American League’s last place. The Red Sox ended up at the bottom of the barrel in the East. Although the Red Sox probably won’t end up last this season, they will struggle to get out of the hole they have created for themselves.

The Baltimore Orioles:

In recent years the Baltimore Orioles have fought to stay out of the American League’s last place. They have been pretty much in rebuild mode seemingly forever. Going into the 2020 season, there was no reason to be optimistic that the team would be competitive, and they weren’t; they ended up fourth in the league, the first time they were out of the basement since 2016.

Going into the 2021 season, the Orioles still have the problem of first baseman Chris Davis. The Orioles once star player has completely and unexplainable fallen apart. He occupies so much of the Orioles payroll that they have to play him. But last year, he didn’t have a single home run and batted only .115. There is no reason to believe he will improve this year.

The Orioles picked up Kevin Smith from the Mets, and he will likely be the best pitcher in their starting rotation. But the rotation and bullpen will hold them back, but that being said, there is a chance that the Orioles could find themselves advancing from last year’s stats.

The Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays are the big surprise team of the offseason. After reaching the World Series for the first time since 2008, the Rays lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The surprise is that after going to a World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays got rid of two of the reasons they got there in the first place. They let veteran pitcher and postseason winning pitcher Charlie Morton walk. Morton signed a one year deal with the Atlanta Braves. Following that, they traded away their ace Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres.

Also, if you follow the Rays spending traditions, they will not go out and hire any high paid pitchers like Trevor Bauer to replace them. Although a greatly diminished team, it doesn’t mean they won’t contend. The Rays always seem to be able, with no money, to put together a pretty good team. They also still have Yankee killer Tyler Glasnow in the rotation. They have a good lineup and presently a much stronger bullpen than the Yankees.

The Tampa Bay Rays will still contend, but their likelihood of replicating their 2020 season is near zero.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Toronto Blue Jays are the team to watch in 2021. They are young and energetic, and like the San Diego Padres, they are on a mission. A mission to win the East, the ALCS, and go on to a World Series for the first time in 27 years. The last time they won the East Division was in 2015. During the last two years, they have made major improvements in the team, and this year one of the most active in the offseason.

Before the 2020 season, the Jays signed P Tanner Roark, P Shun Yamaguchi, and P Mark Rzepczynski. This offseason, to bolster a team that came in just one game behind the New York Yankees last season, the Jays signed LHP Robbie Ray, SS Richard Urena, RHP A.J. Cole, LHP Kirby Yates, RHP Tyler Chatwood, and the big prize, centerfielder George Springer to a $150 million contract, the biggest contract ever given by the Jays.

With money to spend, the Jays are not done yet improving the team. They have signed 20 new Jays players in the month of January so far. The Toronto Blue Jays mean business and will be the major competition for the New York Yankees this coming season. It’s just my educated opinion; only time will tell; the Yankees may still make more improvements. Many things can change in baseball, where nothing is certain.

The New York Yankees or the Toronto Blue Jays will win the AL East. If it’s the Yankees, it will be close. Then the teams to watch for the Yankees will be the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox. If the Yankees can advance to the World Series, it will be against the Los Angeles Dodgers or, less likely, the San Diego Padres.

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

 

The Rays falling back creates a new headache for the New York Yankees

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

Last night, the New York Yankees biggest threat in the AL East took a major step back. The Tampa Bay Rays traded away former Cy Young award winner, Blake Snell, to the San Diego Padres for a package of prospects.

Combining that with the loss of Charlie Morton earlier in the offseason, and you can expect the Rays to take a big step back next year. While they won’t be a bad team, they won’t be the biggest threat to the Yankees.

Instead, you will have to look north of the border to find the Yankees biggest threat. The Toronto Blue Jays are going to be a major player in the AL East in 2021. There are some analysts already picking them to win the division.

However, the Rays taking a step back could create a different headache for the Yankees than some would expect. While the Rays getting worse is seen as a good thing, it also opens the window even more for the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays now can look at the Yankees as their soul competition in the AL East. What’s one way you can really hurt your only competition? Signing away their MVP candidate who has shined for them over the past two years.

The Yankees AL East bidding war?

It was reported last week that the Toronto Blue Jays are a serious threat to take DJ LeMahieu away from the Yankees. New York and LeMahieu have been at a standstill for the past couple of weeks after making initial progress. 

The talks have halted over a potential fifth year. The Yankees do not want to give LeMahieu a guaranteed fifth year factoring in his age while DJLM’s camp is insisting on the bombers making the fifth year guaranteed.

Since the two sides are not blinking, other teams have been getting more serious about their pursuit of LeMahieu. Obviously one of those being the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are very serious about signing LeMahieu.

They are also the kind of team that would more than likely give him the guaranteed fifth year to secure him. Everything we’ve heard up until this point suggests the Yankees and LeMahieu want a reunion. However, will one blink to make it happen?

If not, the Blue Jays could be staring at a golden opportunity in the East. The Rays have fallen back and the Yankees MVP candidate is there for the taking. This is definitely a situation to keep your eye on as we move forward.

New York Yankees: Trevor Bauer flirting with yet another AL East team

New York Yankees, Trevor Bauer

The New York Yankees know they may have strong competition for the services of free agent hurler Trevor Bauer. At this point, it is unclear if the Bombers will decide to pursue the flamboyant right-hander and whether they will offer him a short-term deal or a long-term contract. But one thing is sure: there will be plenty of suitors.

One of the teams that could entertain the possibility of signing Bauer, clearly and evidently the best free agent starting pitcher available in this market, is the Toronto Blue Jays. That would be highly inconvenient for the New York Yankees given that they are a direct AL East foe, and because it is an up-and-coming group that may be a star or two away of becoming a real problem for the Bombers.

MLB Network released a segment this week discussing Bauer’s future. As you know, the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher led the National League with a 1.73 ERA in 2020 and is a strong candidate to win the Cy Young award. He won’t be cheap, and he has made it clear that he will consider each and every offer that comes his way.

Could Bauer join the Yankees? Or could he choose Toronto?

He said that he could even consider joining the Yankees, which seems far-fetched given the team’s desire to cut costs and because of the alleged feud between him and ace Gerrit Cole from their UCLA days.

Bauer has downplayed the issue and says the dispute is “non-existent”, but coaches and other personalities have confirmed there is bad blood.

Anyway, if the Yankees don’t pounce, they should hope that Bauer doesn’t join Toronto. Bauer himself added fuel to the fire on Twitter, saying that “Toronto is a nice city. Could be a destination.”

The Blue Jays were, at one point deep into the season, ahead of the Yankees in the AL East standings. They are already a good club, but adding Bauer would push them near the top of the division given that they have fellow ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, a very good pitching prospect in the minors in Simeon Woods-Richardson, a young star ready to blossom in Nate Pearson, and one of the game’s top offensive cores, including Vladimir Guerrero jr, Teoscar Hernandez, Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Rowdy Tellez and Lourdes Gurriel.

New York Mets: Offense Held Silent in 3-2 Loss to Blue Jays

Amed Rosario, New York Mets

The New York Mets could not produce the same way the did in their 18-1 victory on Friday night. All the Blue Jays needed were three runs off Seth Lugo to secure themselves a 3-2 victory to even up the series at one game apiece

Lugo was dominant through the first three innings of his start. He held the Blue Jays to a single and struck out four. The following 2.1 innings had a different story for Lugo as he seemed to progressively lose steam and the feel for his curveball as his pitch count rose.

Lugo gave up a run in each of the last three innings he pitched along with six hits. His curveball hung in the fourth inning and struggled to a point where he barely used it for the rest of the start. His velocity also sat around 92-94 with the occasional 95. It was not a great start for Lugo, but it certainly put the Mets in a position to win.

Ray Too Much to Handle

One year ago, Robbie Ray did not get out of the first inning against the Mets. It was the only bad start Ray has made against them and he found his groove early. Ray held the Mets to one run over five innings and struck out five. His money pitch was his slider and used it often as he got deeper in his start. The start was much needed for Ray and lowered his season ERA to 6.85.

Jake Marisnick provided the only run off Ray with a double in the fourth inning. Unfortunately later in the game, Marisnick had to leave the game with right hamstring issues. It was the same injury that kept him sidelined early in the season.

The only other run came on a gift when Joe Panik fumbled a double play transfer allowing Wilson Ramos to score in the seventh inning.

Amed Rosario had a good game with three hits but he showed once again why he is not an everyday player. After getting first base with a gift wild pitch strikeout, he fails to advance on a ball in the dirt then proceeds to get picked off to end the game with the red hot Jeff McNeil at the plate.

A pair of lefties square off in a 3:07 p.m. ET start time as David Peterson faces Hyun-Jin Ryu in the final game of the series.

New York Mets: 10 Run Fourth Inning, Gives deGrom Plenty in 18-1 Win

Worrying about the New York Mets providing Jacob deGrom run support seems to be a thing of the past. Their 18-run effort gave more than enough for their two-time Cy Young winner in the 18-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

deGrom did not have his best command but put up deGrom-like numbers. He threw six innings, holding the Blue Jays to one run on three hits with nine strikeouts. deGrom continues to make a strong case for a third consecutive Cy Young award as his ERA dropped to 1.67.

Erasmo Ramirez picked up the rare three-inning save in relief of deGrom. Ramirez held the Jays offense scoreless on two hits and only threw 30 pitches in the effort. His ERA is 1.13 through his first eight innings with the Mets.

Relentless Offense

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.‘s RBI single in the first inning was the only bright spot for the Blue Jays. After that, the Mets got things going with four runs in the third inning, highlighted by a Michael Conforto three-run home run.

The offense went bezerk in the fourth inning with ten runs. J.D. Davis started things off with an RBI fielders choice, then Dominic Smith hit a grand slam to break the game open to 9-1. Wilson Ramos contributed a three-run double, making it 12-1. The final two runs of the inning came in on a Conforto single, and Davis double.

Every starter in the lineup recorded a hit other than Pete Alonso. McNeil, Ramos, and Robinson Cano led the way with their three hits. 8 of the Mets 19 hits were for extra bases, and those same numbers (8-for-19) are how they hit with runners in scoring position.

The Mets hope to put up another similar offensive output with Seth Lugo on the mound for the second game of the series. Toronto has not named their starter for game two, but game time is 6:37 p.m. ET from Buffalo.

 

New York Mets Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (9/11-9/13)

New York Mets, Pete Alonso

The New York Mets head up to Buffalo to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game weekend series. Toronto comes off taking two of three from the New York Yankees, while the Mets come off a two-game split against the Baltimore Orioles.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday, (9/11) @ 6:37 p.m. ET: Jacob deGrom (3-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. Chase Anderson (0-0, 4.94 ERA)

Saturday, (9/12) @ 6:37 p.m. ET: Seth Lugo (2-2, 2.05 ERA) vs. TBD

Sunday, (9/13) @ 3:07 p.m. ET: TBD vs. TBD

Friday’s game comes on the 19th anniversary of the tragic World Trade Center attacks. For the first time in over a decade, the Mets are allowed to wear first responder hats during the game. This is a movement led by Pete Alonso, who led the team to wear commemorative cleats on 9/11 during the 2019 season.

Ride deGrom Out

It is no secret to how poor the Mets starting pitching has been this season. The main reason they do not sit dead last in the National League in rotation ERA is due to Jacob deGrom’s greatness. His 1.69 ERA is first in the NL and second in all of baseball. Manager Luis Rojas lined up his rotation to squeeze out as many starts as possible for deGrom, and the Mets will need those in order to make the playoffs.

Seth Lugo has not started as many games as deGrom but is another anchor to the Mets rotation. The Mets lined him up to pitch after each of deGrom’s start to get the momentum going. It is much better than having deGrom throw a gem then watch a mediocre starter allowed five runs the following night.

As for the Blue Jays, their lineup packs a mighty punch. They are second in the American League in home runs, fourth in RBIs, and fourth in hits. They are led by Teoscar Hernandez, who is slashing .308/.358/.637, with 14 home runs and 27 runs batted in. Hernandez’s slugging percentage is third in the AL behind Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout. Luckily for the Mets, Hernandez is currently on the injured list.

Key Statistics

Joe Panik vs. Jacob deGrom: 3-for-19 (.158), Double, 3 Walks, 5 Strikeouts

Michael Conforto vs. Chase Anderson: 2-for-11 (.182), 2 Home Runs, 2 Walks, 3 Strikeouts

First Pitch Swings Against deGrom in 2020: 5-for-59 (.085), Double, Home Run, 23 Strikeouts

Seth Lugo As a Starter in 2020: 1-0, 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 20 Strikeouts, 4 Walks

Yankees win last game of series vs. Blue Jays, Garcia picks up first MLB win, post game quotes

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia

The New York Yankees snapped their five-game losing streak tonight with a big win against the Toronto Blue Jays. Deivi Garcia threw really well for the team as he also picked up his first career MLB win.

“I wanted to attack them, that’s what the plan was,” Garcia said following his outing. “They hit a couple of balls there very well and for me, it was to stay firm out there and remain calm.”

Garcia went the distance for the Yanks, throwing seven complete innings allowing two runs on five hits. He ended his night with 95 pitches, fanning six batters during the outing.

Manager Aaron Boone was pleased with the way the team played tonight. “A lot of good things (tonight),” Boone said following the game. “Deivi going out and actually getting us deep into the game was huge. There were more good at-bats, we were able to cash in obviously tonight. A few homers to kinda get us going and some really good add on runs there to kinda put the game away.”

Boone spoke on Garcia’s outing some more saying, “He’s (Garcia) just got such good feel out there and mound presence. The ability as a young pitcher to just kinda add and subtract with his fastball, getting creative and going a little more with his slider that third time through the order. He just demonstrated a really good feel for pitching.”

Clint Frazier talked about the team’s “vibe” following the game, “It’s really loud right now (in the clubhouse). I think they’re actually about to turn the music down because it’s so loud, but everyone is excited because we wanted this moment the last couple days and to get it tonight, we’re definitely celebrating.”

Gleyber Torres had a big game for the Yanks tonight being responsible for four of the seven runs the Yankees scored. He went 2-5 with a solo home run, a double that knocked in Hicks and Voit, then a fielders choice that scored Hicks again.

“The most important thing for us is to be focused, be together, and work hard to win,” Torres said. “We had a really good game tonight.”

The Yankees will try to carry this positivity into tomorrow where they’ll begin a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

New York Yankees lose a tight one to Blue Jays, drop second game of series

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

The New York Yankees have now fallen to .500 after losing the second game of a three-game series to the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite having a great outing by J.A. Happ, the Yankees offense was flat all game. The Yanks have now lost five games in a row, losing 12 out of their last 17 games.

There wasn’t much scoring done tonight on either side. The Blue Jays scored their only two runs with a home run from Jonathan Davis which Statcast estimated it was 411 feet.

The Yankees scored their lone run on a Mike Tauchman sacrifice fly to left field which knocked in Luke Voit.

J.A. Happ had a great outing tonight, going the distance pitching 6.1 innings with ten strikeouts, only allowing the two runs on the Davis home run. Besides the one mistake to Davis, he had his stuff all night and was getting a ton of swing-and-misses. It’s unfortunate that Happ picked up the loss tonight especially with how powerful the Yankee lineup should be.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker started the game for the Blue Jays where he went four complete innings pitched, only allowing two hits while striking out three. The Jays relied mostly on their bullpen this game using four guys to finish off the remaining five innings.

Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone talked about the team being .500, “I know we are better than that, but we have not played to our capabilities. Obviously the last couple weeks have been a rough stretch to get us to that point. So, we still have time here to turn this thing around and I’m confident we will.”

The New York Yankees’ record drops to 21-21 after starting the season 16-6. They are sitting in third place for the AL East, three games behind the Blue Jays, and only one game up on the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays advance to a 24-18 record on the season.

New York Yankees get crushed by Blue Jays, drop first game of series

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

What should have been a close game between two good slugging teams, the Toronto Blue Jays capitalized on a ten-run inning to beat the New York Yankees to take game one of a three-game series.

The Yankees took an early lead against left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu when Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks hit back-to-back bombs in the first inning. Hicks’ homer went 401 feet and Voit’s went 387 feet.

This lead would be short-lived for the Yankees as in the bottom of the first inning, first basemen Rowdy Tellez would double to right field which knocked in Cavan Biggio. The following inning, Santiago Espinal singled to center field which knocked in Travis Shaw to tie the game.

The Yankees would win the next three innings, with a Miguel Andujar home run, a Clint Frazier double which would score two, and a walk by Aaron Hicks that would knock in a run.

It would all go downhill from there for the Yankees.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Blue Jays would score 10 runs to take a 12-6 lead. Catcher Danny Jansen would top off the inning with a grand slam that pretty much shut the door.

A Yankee rally was unsuccessful except for a lone run scored by Miguel Andujar in the top of the ninth inning.

The New York Yankees would drop to 21-20 and sit at third place in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays improve their record to 23-18 and sit 2.5 games ahead of the Yanks at second place for the AL East.

There weren’t many positive things for the Bombers in this game except to see that Luke Voit is still swinging it well and Clarke Schmidt looked good on the mound. The Yankees are going to need to turn things around soon if they want to get out of the hole they’re currently in. If the playoffs started today, they would have the eight seed and would have to play the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round.

Toronto snags Yankees’ target and pretends to contend this season

Taijuan Walker, New York Yankees

The Toronto Blue Jays made the first major splash of the trading season, acquiring the services of right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker from the rebuilding Seattle Mariners. The M’s received a player to be named later from the Canadians in return. The development is noteworthy for the New York Yankees since they expressed interest in the talented hurler not so long ago, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

As of now, it is unclear who will be going to Seattle in return for Walker, who is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the year. The most likely scenario is that a mid-level prospect is going to the state of Washington.

The Yankees, having lost Luis Severino and Domingo German for the year and James Paxton for the foreseeable future, are in need of some rotation help, especially since they don’t seem to want J.A. Happ on a regular schedule.

Toronto beat the Yankees in this particular trade, however, signaling that they will try to contend this year despite being currently in third place in the American League East division. They have a 15-14 record and are just 4.5 games back from the Tampa Bay Rays, who lead the pack in the east.

Walker could have made sense for the Yankees

Walker, currently 28 years old, was having a nice season in the Mariners’ rotation, with a 2-2 record, a 4.00 ERA and 25/8 K/BB ratio in 27 innings across five starts. He can be a stabilizing part of a Blue Jays’ rotation that hasn’t gotten expected returns from a number of arms.

The Yankees viewed him as a rental, since his deal expires after this season and probably didn’t require a very big investment as far as prospects is concerned.

Now, the Yankees will presumably turn their attention to other potential targets, such as the Indians’ Mike Clevinger, the Reds’ Trevor Bauer, the Rangers’ Mike Minor and possibly others. The Angels are said to be making Dylan Bundy available, as well.