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  • Cary Greene

Under the Radar

Under the Radar

Early February Thoughts by Cary Greene

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I thought it might be fun to look at some “Under the Radar” storylines that are unfolding in Baseball right now, some of which have current or past Yankees ties and some of which might one day, sooner than later. Forgive me in advance for even mentioning a few of them, but I’m bored stiff waiting for Spring Training.

 

The Volatile Domingo German

First up is former Yankees starter Domingo German, who tossed a perfect game against my Oakland A’s back in June, following two outings in a row in which he allowed 17 runs combined. In early August, he then reportedly arrived at the clubhouse drunk and proceeded to get into arguments with some teammates and manager Aaron Boone, flipping over a sofa and smashing a television in a drunken fit of rage - this per the Wall Street Journal.

 

After seeking alcohol abuse treatment, German is now looking to land with a new team and he’s been garnering interest from the Mets, the Blue Jays, and the Orioles - all teams looking for some added rotation depth.

 

It’s not often that pitcher who threw a perfect game the season prior becomes available for very little, but such is the case with the volatile German.

 

Matt Blake is Making Suggestions, But is He Qualified to Make Them?

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who played baseball for Holy Cross during his college days, doesn’t think the Yankees necessarily need another starter. Oh really? Has Blake ever won a World Series as a pitcher or for that matter, ever been associated with a World Series winner? The answer is a resounding no on both counts.

 

Even casual baseball fans familiar with the Yankees know that the Yankees have significant question marks and injury concerns in the rotation they’re planning on for this season. Prior to joining the Yankees last offseason as a free agent, Carlos Rodon had made exactly four starts at Yankee Stadium in his life and all of them went fairly well. Last season though, he was awful when starting for the Yankees and was only 1-5 at home. If he can pitch in New York, he absolutely has not shown it while a member of the Yankees.

 

Rodon also hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Nestor Cortes has also had two injury ravaged campaigns in a row now and he has a ton to prove in 2024.

 

While Marcus Stroman provides a little bit of stability to a rotation anchored by Gerrit Cole, the Yankees absolutely have question marks in their rotation and lots of them. Clearly, the Yankees rotation still needs help.

 

Aaron Hicks Finally Signed

Former Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks remained unsigned until only recently as he agreed to a MLB minimum deal with the Angels. Despite Hicks showing some signs of life in the second half of last season as he slashed .275/.381/.425 over his final 236 plate appearances. He also showed his usual patience at the plate, walking at 14.8 percent clip during this span.

 

All it took for the Angels to sign Hicks was to agree to pay him the League Minimum of $770,000- seeing as how the Yankees are still on the hook for both the $9.5 million owed to him this coming season and the $1 million 2026 buy out it will take to finally make him go away for good.

 

It seems that Hicks was pretty unattractive to the small percentage of MLB teams that still needed outfield help. I would have thought the cost conscious Orioles would have snapped him up long ago, but guess what?

 

The Birds have a little “problem” these days. They have a plethora of young players who have already forced their way into active roster spots or who are about to do so. They also have a deep farm system so due to service time, 40-man roster spots are in short supply. Why would the Orioles want to foolishly block prospects who are actually good? If they did that, it would mean they’d have to DFA a potential stud who’s out of options.

 

Acquiring Hicks, who was born in San Pedro, CA,  was a zero risk move for the Angels who need only DFA him if he fails to perform. Hicks will be the team’s fourth outfielder and he’ll likely back up Taylor Ward and provide the Angels with needed balance, considering the team’s only left-handed hitting outfielder prior to signing Hicks was Mickey Moniak. The switch-hitting Hicks will give the Angels some versatility as well and he is capable of potentially delivering some upside as well.

 

Bullpen Bubblings

The Yankees have been linked to a pair of right relievers recently, one being the 36-year old Ryan Brasier, who pitched for both the Red Sox and Dodgers last season  and the other is the 31-year old  Phil Maton - who was with the Astros most recently.

 

After an awful first half with the Red Sox during which he tossed 21 innings with a 63 ERA+ (7.29 ERA) and a 1.571 WHIP, Brasier was the polar opposite with the Dodgers, pitching to a 627 ERA+ (0.70 ERA) with a .724 WHIP. After the Dodgers had Brasier add a cutter, which they had him work on in Arizona before he was even added to their roster, Brasier saw instant success which he sustained over a fantastic 38.2 inning stint with the boys in blue. Also, the higher the leverage situation he pitched in last season, the better Brasier performed. He turned into a valuable reliever for the Dodgers and he was particularly tough on right-handed batters.

 

A former Astro, Maton is a crafty reliever who limits hard contact, he features a wipeout curve that he consistently throws for strikes as it’s a pitch he likes to work low in the zone with. He plays off the lethal curve with a four seamer that he likes to elevate and which he consistently gets strikes on with as well - despite the pitch only averaging 89 mph. Maton also features a sweeper that sinks and breaks away to right-handed batters.

 

Both Brazier and Maton would be very interesting potential members of the Yankees bullpen and either would likely slot into middle innings roles, opposed to being back end of the bullpen relievers. The Yankees could use some help in this area so either reliever would be a good fit.

 

Blake Snell Rumors Persist

With free agency largely being frozen solid this winter, the Blake Snell click bait articles persist, with each seeming to mention that the Yankees are the only team that have offered Snell a contract to date. Then they each go on to mention that a deal still might happen..etc. Folks, please. Enough with this silliness - Hal Steinbrenner isn’t happy at all having what is presently the highest payroll in MLB. There’s zero chance he’ll be on board with making things even worse.

 

It seems that the national media doesn’t at all understand how the Yankees work. Yankees GM Brian Cashman pivoted away from Snell after he rejected his offer, signing Marcus Stroman instead. That’s it - nothing more to see here. Next topic.

 

It’s kind of shocking that after such a massively disappointing season that the Yankees' major free agent signing turned out to be Marcus Stroman. Acquiring Juan Soto via a trade was certainly a bombshell but is Stroman going to be enough, when added to other trade acquisitions like Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham?

 

Stanton Gaining Flexibility and Looking Leaner

Yawn. I refuse to get excited by Giancarlo Stanton any more. His player comps suggest there may still be one more productive season left in him. StatCast suggests he’s lost the ability to do damage with hittable pitches. He’s no longer able to do much with hittable fastballs and he’s become easy to exploit with offspeed pitches.

 

Can some mechanical tweaks help him catch up to fastballs and stop biting on pitches in the dirt (both in and away)? I’m not convinced some minor tweaks can help him. I think father time is catching up to Stanton and I think his goose is just about cooked.

 

Should the Yankees Count on Stanton?


I think the Yankees should add a right-handed replacement bat for Stanton. Jorge Soler is a reasonably priced free agent who makes sense, he’s projected to land a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $36 million. Soler would protect Rizzo and bat mostly fifth for the Yankees, he’d lengthen the lineup and serve exclusively as a DH. While Stanton presently occupies the DH spot on the roster, if the Yankees want to contend this season, they would be wise to not count on Stanton.

 

With a bench composed of Trent Grisham, Oswald Peraza, Austin Wells and Jorge Soler, the Yankees would be well balanced and more multi dimensional. Oswaldo Cabrera has options remaining and he can be sent down until there is a need for him.

 

I’m not sure if adding Soler’s contract is realistic though, as team owner Hal Steinbrenner's desire to spend this season seems to have cooled off considerably. That said, I think planning on Stanton being the primary DH could wind up being a problem that Cashman might need to address at the Trade Deadline.

 

A Starter Teams are Leery Of

The name Trevor Bauer is whispered on fan boards here and there, but Jon Heyman of the New York Post has tweeted this offseason that his representatives at Luba Sports have met with MLB teams as they try to find him a job. All is quiet on this front as no offers are known to have been made up to this point in the offseason.

 

After spending 2023 in Japan, pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars, going 11-4 with a 2.59 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 160 strikeouts in 157 innings, Bauer claims to have matured and he’s looking to find a landing spot with a MLB team who is willing to either overlook his past off field issues and or offer him a chance at redemption.

 

It's highly unlikely that the Yankees and Bauer will ever be formally connected as he and staff ace Gerrit Cole aren’t on the best of terms and it’s a dislike that dates all the way back to when they were teammates at UCLA. The dislike only got worse over the years, with Bauer needling Cole repeatedly regarding sticky substances. After MLB cracked down in 2021, both pitchers spin-rated dropped massively (Cole -6%/Bauer -10%) and when Bauer came clean almost immediately, even beforehand and Cole remained silent - it was game on.

 

Bauer has a history of clubhouse issues due to him not fitting in with teammates and this was even a problem when Bauer first joined Cole at UCLA. Bauer has always marched to his own drum and he’s been very outspoken on social media as well. Cole meanwhile has been the opposite. The two are like oil and water, I don’t foresee the Yankees ever trying to warm Cole up to the idea of reuniting the two stars.

52 Comments


jeff
Feb 02

The "prove it" is in his inability to string together multiple seasons in which he at least is in the discussion for a possible Cy Young Award. He has to prove that his two Cy Young seasons weren't flukes and that in multiple years after winning a Cy Young, he can at least pitch as a good as a #2 or a #3 behind Gerrit Cole.

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Feb 02
Replying to

Jeff, I get your point but a pitcher with multiple Cy Young awards has accomplished something already that only .00whatever percent of all pitchers fail to do over the course of their entire playing careers. In seasons where he wasn't Cy Young level, he was a solid starter who was a very tough matchup for hitters - he's averaged a 127 ERA+ for his career. --To frame that Jeff, Gerrit Cole has averaged a 130 ERA+ over his career.


This notion that Blake Snell is a highly erratic pitcher who's either great or awful is simply not true. He had a 3.85 ERA from 2019 to 2022 (the seasons sandwiched inbetween his two Cy Young seasons - with 551 strike…


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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Feb 02

Snell has to prove that his winning the Cy Young wasn't a fluke, and that he will break his trend of not getting any votes at all in seasons when he does not win the Cy Young because of a regression in the years he did not win the award. So he has to prove that he can put together multiple seasons of at least being in the discussion of a possible Cy Young Award, which is all you can ask for.

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Feb 01

Regarding Matt Blake, I think he would be excellent as a Yankees pitching INSTRUCTOR, and he would be a tremendous asset in that regard, much better than him being what he is now, the Yankees pitching coach. I think a pitching coach should be someone who has had experience pitching on a Major League mound and has been involved, while on the mound, in multiple game situations, and who can draw on that experience during an in-game mound visit. That is one of the many reasons I would love to see Dave Righetti as the Yankees pitching coach. He has that experience both as a starter AND as a reliever, and can advise in game situations from his experience…


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jjw49
Feb 01

I believe you have provided the inconvenient truth about Stanton... Yankees are stuck with him this year unless they eat a ton of his contract!

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Feb 02
Replying to

Yep. We're talking about a player who's PECOTA Player Comps suggest he has 1 more productive season left. Then, possibly, a very lackluster season in the tank, then he's done. That's the law of large numbers or whatever the heck they use, LOL, suggesting very clearly, "Why would we trade for a player who's owed superstar money for three more seasons, when he's not projected perform?"


Not to mention, he's all messed up at the plate these days, he's getting overpowered by pitches he used to mash, he's more offbalance than he's ever been in his career and he's so often injured he can't even be counted on to shag fly balls. It's a big, fat, "No Thanks!" Not a…


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Alan B.
Alan B.
Feb 01

Hicks. Good for him that he found a place to be, but as Mr. Greene and others have pointed out, free agency has moved at the opposite speed of 'faster than a speeding bullet..' so I'm not wondering why just now.


German. How many people let this guy down over the last several years? OMG! Freakin everyone! the Union, the Yankees, Britton (player rep), and others. George would've had him in rehab probably inside a week of that incident in September 2019. Good luck Domingo.


Stanton. The way the Yankees have put together their OF defensive alignment, he should already be on high alert, as having Judge as the CF (I think he will be better prepared to handle i…


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Feb 01
Replying to

He'd have to built back up and doing that might take years, not months. Injuries really derailed him. At one point, I thought he was a pitcher with middle of the rotation upside, who at worst would be a very solid, crafty fifth starter.

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