Notes from Tampa
By Ed Botti
March 25, 2023
I have a friend and colleague from the west coast that is also a writer (business not baseball) and a huge baseball fan. Over the years we have had a lot of fun with our back and forth banter. We also engage in quite a bit of serious baseball talk, scouting methods, hitting techniques, front office strategy, etc. We can get pretty deep!
This past week we had a business call, and before we can kick it off he started asking about the Yankee shortstop situation.
Of course, I gave him my two cents and the standard 2023 Yankee line of “they are trying out Volpe and Peraza and of course there is the incumbent” and his newly signed $6mm 2023 contract.
After he was done laughing, he asked me what the **** is going on with them. They signed IKF for $6mm this off season as the shortstop, but he is now talking about a utility role, catching and was even inserted into a game or two in centerfield for the first time in his career, and we are still in Spring Training.
Photo by MLB Photos
His point was basically, two of your top prospects are shortstops, and by all accounts, both are really good shortstops. One already showed his skills last year at the MLB level, and the other is your team’s Number 1 prospect. Why would you sign IKF to $6mm and then try and fit him into other positions?
Good and valid points. Remember, they thought $15mm for Benintendi was too much, but they just wasted almost half of that on a guy with no position.
How can I argue with that logic? After all I was already thinking the same thing!
They wasted the resources that could have been used to close other holes (left field, bullpen, starter, third base) on a player whose skills are redundant.
It really did not make sense. Whether or not you think Volpe is ready (he looks it), it is clear that Peraza is ready. He should have started from the day they brought him up in 2022. He should have been there for every playoff game. A rookie at shortstop didn’t seem to bother the Astros last season, did it? It didn’t seem to bother the Yankees in 1996, either.
Why the lack of confidence? Why spend money frivolously when you are trying to save money?
Then he made a really good point. IKF is not even a shortstop.
He was 100% right again. I have even written that on these pages since the day they traded for him last spring.
We have seen this before when the Yankees signed Tony Womack to play second base in 2005 when Robinson Cano was ready to play second base. Womack played about half the season hitting .249 and then Torre got his way, and Cano become the second baseman and went on to hit .297 with 14 home runs, and stayed at second base for nine more All-Star caliber seasons, and one World Series title.
It made no sense in 2005 and it makes even less sense in 2023.
This team already has a super utility player in LeMahieu, a centerfielder in Bader, a starting second baseman, two stud shortstop prospects, and three catchers. Why waste $6mm on a player that was benched during the previous playoffs?
I guess one can argue he is an insurance policy at shortstop. I disagree. He is not even a shortstop.
To me, this is just more of the same round hole square peg application we have seen for many years now.
At the very least, IKF seems to be a good guy with the right mindset, he recently stated, “Whatever happens, happens, I just want to win. That’s all I’m worried about right now. I am ready for whatever I need to do. If I’m gonna do this, I want to be the best utility player I can be. I don’t want to do it halfway.”
A very refreshing mindset from a 2023 athlete.
Some good news (to a degree, I guess) made its way to us this week. Carlos Rodon and his $160mm arm are getting closer to adding on to his two innings of Spring Training play. Well not exactly, but he is getting close to pitching off of a bullpen mound.
Rodon, will start the season on the injured list. He has been shut down after his only Spring Training start on March 5.
As soon as Rodon gets on the bullpen mound, he will start a training plan that is expected to include throwing two to four bullpen sessions before facing hitters in live batting practice.
According to Pitching Coach Matt Blake, after throwing “a couple” of batting practices, Rodon could then be ready to start a rehab assignment, if he continues to stay healthy.
That tells us that Rodon’s return to the Yankees, in a perfect world, is at least a month away.
Blake then went on to say “Just knowing that it’s something he kind of felt at the end of last year, he was aware of it early”.
Really? So, he felt it last year and the Yankees went ahead with a $160mm investment.
Here we go again?
Photo by Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
This is almost hard to believe but Gary Sanchez, who made the big club in 2015, and went on to six seasons in the Bronx as the starting catcher, may have played his last game in MLB at 30 years old.
It wasn’t too long ago that Sanchez was viewed by many in the game as one of the premiere young catchers in Major League Baseball.
His career got off to a great start and he actually received MVP votes in 2017, when he hit a solid .278 to go along with 33 home runs and 90 RBI.
He was named an All-Star twice in his career.
Things just quickly fell off for him.
This year he played for the Dominican Republic team in the world baseball classic. When the DR was eliminated, he signed a contract with Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Republic league.
His MLB status as of today is “unsigned free agent”.
During his MLB career he ended up with hitting .225 with 154 home runs and 401 RBI.
His productivity and interest in game appeared to fall fast. Last season as a Twin he hit .205 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 128 games, including the longest ball hit at Yankees Stadium in 2022, a 473 foot bomb.
There were rumors during this past winter that the Angels and Giants had interest in him, but it just never materialized.
So now the “Kraken," as he was nicknamed by the Yankee Stadium faithful, is staying home in hopes of resurrecting his career.
I certainly wish him all the luck in the world.
Once again this week we all saw Ex-Yankee Reggie Jackson regurgitate his version of the truth. Of course, that is always easy to do, when everyone else involved is dead. Anything for a buck, Reggie!
A couple of great Yankee quotes from the past regarding Reggie and one of my favorites, Mickey Rivers.
Reggie: “You should start reading more”
Mickey: “You'd better stop reading and writing and start hitting."
Reggie: “I have a 160 IQ”.
Mickey: "Out of what, a thousand?"
Best of luck goes out to Ex-Yankee draft pick (24th pick of the 29th round-- 815th overall in 1994), and current Princeton men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson who has his Princeton Tigers in the Sweet 16.
If you watched the World Baseball Classic this past week, you saw some great Baseball.
The WBC takes a lot of criticism each year it rolls around, but personally I love it.
Team USA, defending its title, made it to the finals and lost 3-2 to Japan. The Japanese pitchers figured out how to pitch to the powerful team USA, and kept them off balance all night with a great game plan.
I mentioned him last summer, keep an eye out for the 23 year old lefty hitting third baseman Munetaka Murakami. In his short career he is already a two time MVP. He hit 56 home runs in 2022, and hit a walk-off rocket off the centerfield wall against team Mexico to send Japan to the finals this past Monday night.
Oh yeah, He is a free agent in 2 years!!
RIP to the “Captain” Willis Reed.