Yes, there’s just 31 days (February 19) until pitchers and catchers report in for Spring Training at the Tampa minor league complex. The rest of the squad reports less than a week later on February 25, and Opening Day is March 2 (against Detroit). Single and packaged multi-game tickets are available if you’ll be in the Sunshine State in March.
While the Yankees have certainly not made a splash this off-season, they haven’t exactly been idle either. Following last year’s run for the postseason, the Yankees’ regrouping included retooling its roster to find a better mix of its current and needed strengths, like adding another arm to the end of their bullpen. At the end of the year, the Yankees traded for power-closer Aldrois Chapman. The trade with the Reds sent minor league prospects Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda to Cincinnati; Cotham had some MLB time this year out of the bullpen, but mostly bounced around the farm system. The Yankees seem to have a plethora of amazing talent in their farm system, which essentially becomes trade bait for teams that, well, don’t. In exchange, the Yankees can find themselves with a good active player for the roster now, rather than wait for the talent to develop a few seasons down the road.
Truth be told, the Yankees adding Chapman (who is known for his nasty triple digit strikes) to the Betances-Miller back-end of the bullpen made every other team nearly cringe. Betances and Miller are already so respected by so many in the league that adding another ridiculously talented closer to the mix made the Yankees appear to be unstoppable. I don’t know many Yankee fans (or executives) that mind that train of thought. Girardi also made it known that he expects Chapman to be their closer and will go into Spring with that in mind.
The Yankees also made some minor additions to their extended roster, but with all the wheeling and dealing still in the works, it seems like the farm system is in a constant state of flux with just a month to go before the formal invite goes out to Spring Training invitees.
Also part of the “wheeling and dealing” phase of the off-season is the arbitration part of the contracts of current players. Currently, they avoided arbitration (or came to terms with) Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley, while sending Chapman, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and Didi Gregorius to the next level. Pineda and Ackley reached deals with the Yankees before the deadline this Friday. Negotiations continued this weekend, and Gregorius is the first to come to terms as of this afternoon.
Essentially, this business part of the player’s contract is to reach a deal for the final year of their contract — the player (via his agent) puts one number down and the GM (or his staff) put another number down and they negotiate to get to an agreement for that year to play for the team. This means that the Yankees are still in negotiations with Eovaldi, Nova, and Chapman, and should they come to terms before the arbitration meeting scheduled in February, the arbitration (a meeting where an arbitrator, a legal mediator, decides what the player will be paid) will be cancelled and the season moves on.
The Yankees lost former pitcher Luis Arroyo last week. Arroyo was a Yankee 1960-1963 and part of the famed 1961 team, helping them win the Series that year. After retiring, Arroyo served as a scout for the Yankees and was a popular fixture every Old Timers’ Day. He passed away last Wednesday after a battle with cancer at his home in Puerto Rico. He was 88.
And in other news, no Yankee alumni are headed to Cooperstown this July. The BBWAA voted earlier this month to formally elect two Yankee rivals into the Hall of Fame. Of the 440 ballots cast, 437 voted (99.3%) to elect Ken Griffey Jr. and 365 (83%) for Mike Piazza. After a really stellar career mostly with the Mariners, Griffey (or “Junior”, as he was affectionately known) set the record for most votes into the Hall in his first year up for eligibility. Piazza, a 3rd year candidate, spent most of his career with the Mets.
Candidates must earn at least 75% of the votes to be elected to the hall, which meant that other candidates up for the Hall missed the boat — including Bagwell, Raines, Hoffman, Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, E. Martinez, Mussina, McGriff, McGwire, Sheffield, and Sosa. Once a candidate has been through a decade of eligibility or receives less than 5% of the votes, he is removed from the ballot. Honestly, if I could vote for the Hall, Griffey and Piazza would definitely have been on my ballot. They deserve the honor and recognition for their amazing on-field talent and contributions to the sport of baseball.
Let us remember this day of people who stand for equality and justice and are willing to fight for it even to this day with the grace and dignity reflective of the people they represent. Use today to remember, but use today as your own call to action to give voice to those who aren’t heard.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” (Jackie Robinson)