To Santa, With Love, From: The New York Yankees

What are the Bronx Bombers hoping to find under the tree this year?

Editor’s note: Welcome to ChinMusicPod.com’s continuing Christmas coverage. We kicked the merriment off with the new Nice List/Naughty List feature Monday Morning Update, which will run through the month of December. Today marks the debut of another holiday related installment, titled “To Santa, With Love.” Enjoy.

It’s Christmas time, and that means that toddlers, schoolchildren, bloggers and millionaire professional sports team owners and general managers alike readying their Christmas lists in hopes that St. Nicholas will leave all sorts of goodies in their stockings and under the trees.

Everyone’s Christmas list is different. Kids typically opt for the coolest toy or gadget out there. Bloggers just want enough money to keep the site running. But what to get for owners and GM’s who seemingly have everything, or at least the money for everything?

Alas, they don’t quite have everything. Even the richest of teams surely have something they’d like to unwrap on December 25. In this feature, we’ll try to figure out just who or what is topping the list to Santa for various teams and clubs.

But it’s not just about the lists. As we all know, the Big Guy is making a list and checking it twice, and Sports Santa is no different. We’ll take a look at whether each team deserves it, based on just how smart they’ve been with their moves and how kind they’ve been to their fans.

Lastly, remember that even the most well-behaved children with the most reasonable wishlists sometimes end up with their second-choice come Christmas morning, so to finish it off, we’ll predict whether this Christmas wish will come true.

First up…..

The Team: The New York Yankees

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The Yankees find themselves in a spot they normally don’t this Christmas—figuring out how to build a new behemoth out of the wreckage of their last contending ballclub.

Starting with this summer’s fire sale at the trade deadline, there’s lots of money, and veterans, coming off the Bronx Bombers’ books. The old corner infield of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera, along with their combined more than $40 million in annual salary, have departed, and the much maligned Chase Headley is soon to join them. The middle infield of glory days gone by has also gone to greener pastures, with second baseman Robinson Cano in Seattle and former captain, shortstop and current “publisher” Derek Jeter set to watch his number join him in retirement this May.

More big contracts, like Headley’s and  CC Sabathia’s,  are set to expire soon, and the deep-pocketed Steinbrenners will no doubt be entrusting GM Brian Cashman to load up the roster with shiny new toys shortly.

So what are they hoping for this year?

What’s on the list: Starting pitching

Masahiro Tanaka delivers a pitch in the second inning.

Despite what Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine told us told us in the 1990’s, power hitters are no longer sexy in the MLB; it’s all about the arms, baby.

Despite losing offensive stars like Teixiera, Rodriguez and Cano in recent years,  the Yankees seem pretty stocked in the field and at the bat.

Gary Sanchez looks like a more than competent replacement of Brian McCann behind the plate, Cano’s replacement. Starlin Castro has impressed so far, with a 20 HR season in 2016, and with the addition of Matt Holiday and more prospects on the way, the Yankees’ offense should be just fine in 2017.

The pitching staff, however, could use some work.

The top starter right now is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, who I’ve expressed concern over in the past, but did dominate at times in 2016. After that, however, the lineup is littered with also-rans like the disappointing  Michael Pineda, an aging Sabathia, and not much else after that.

Last year, that rotation was bolstered by what was probably baseball’s best bullpen through the trade deadline, and news broke last night that it likely will be again. The team inked controversial fireballer Aroldis Chapman to an $86 million dollar, five-year contract,  the richest ever reliever.

Even with the Chapman signing, the Yankees’ bullpen will be without perhaps its best arm, as Andrew Miller still has at least one more year to play out in Cleveland, or whever else his contract might get traded to.

Given the departure of Miller and the re-addition of Chapman, a new starting arm likely tops Cashman’s wish list this year.

The issue is where to find one….

Nice list or naughty list: Toss up

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Listen, it’s never going to be easy to get on the nice list if your nickname is the Evil Empire.

The Yankees list of greed-motivated grievances is probably pretty long. The payroll is constantly ranked as one of, if not the, heftiest in the majors, even if the record doesn’t prove it.They were criticized for using public money to build their stately new stadium, have been skewered by John Oliver and other comedians and observers for their super-high ticket prices, incurred a PR storm when they attempted to blackball secondary sellers like StubHub and are generally seen to be the horned devil of baseball’s landscape.

Now, that reputation is fair, not to mention self-inflicted, and may hurt their chances on the nice list.

All that said, GM Brian Cashman has been an awfully good boy this year.

He held firm against the Steinbrenners during the trade deadline this year according to many reports, he made smart, future-focused moves as it became more and more clear the Yankees wouldn’t be truly contending for the crown in 2016.

The Yankees may have a permanent home on the naughty list, but if there’s any GM that deserves to be rewarded for prudent decision making this year, it’s Cashman.

Then again, even if they get their wish, that could land them right back on the naughty list…

Will they get what they want: Probably not (but you can’t ever rule out the Steinbrenners)

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First things first, let’s get something straight: in the eyes of the Yankees organization, they already are going to have a merry Christmas.

It was no secret entering the offseason that Cashman had a reunion with the hard-throwing closer as one of his biggest priorities after Chapman was done with the parade in Chicago. The Yankees without a doubt had the strongest regular season bullpen up to July 31, and may have found themselves in the playoffs had they not sold off the arms, given the surge the team showed in the second half. Thus, it makes sense to try and rebuild some part of that bullpen again, particularly given how this year’s playoffs and World Series played out.

But if the Yankees want to compete with the Red Sox at the top of the AL East, they need another arm, stat. Right now, the Red Sox have at least three pitchers as good as the Yankees’ best, and the #2 arm in the Bronx just doesn’t measure up in the brave new world of Major League Baseball’s arms race.

But who will that arm be? That’s an interesting question.

Sale was the big fish this offseason when it came to starters, and may be the only sizable swimmer in the whole pond. The free agent pool was probably highlighted by Rich Hill, who already signed with the Dodgers, and is now headlined by Jeremy Hellickson. Both of these H’s are fine pitchers, but won’t give the team a marked improvement over their current crop.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be impossible for the Yankees to match their I-95 foes, so it’s probably best that they don’t try.

Then again, this is the Evil Empire. They have a way of getting what they want, and Detroit would likely be willing to part ways with Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander for the right price.

But this is Hank and Hal, and not George. Verlander may seem appealing, but given his age, they’re probably better served letting the dust settle, rather than trying to keep up with the Jones Henrys.

It’s seeming all the more certain that Yankee fans won’t have a shiny new starter waiting under their tree on Christmas morning, they’ll just have to be content with the almost-new reliever they already have.

 

Want to make sure you end up on Santa’s nice list? Follow @MurraySporttalk on Twitter for more musings.

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