On Tuesday afternoon, the New York Yankees announced Jordan Montgomery would be undergoing Tommy John surgery. On Tuesday evening, Madison Bumgarner made his return to the mound.
According to some Yankees fans and a fair few pot-stirring beat writers, this was the sign needed from the baseball gods that Bumgarner was destined for pinstripes.
Hmm… Yankees scouts in the stands? https://t.co/fUr3oRa1YO
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) June 5, 2018
Except there is an only-slightly-above-zero chance that that happens.
Let’s start with the obvious: Yes, Bumgarner is in many ways a perfect fit for the Yankees. Targeting him is both logical and completely understandable on an emotional level.
The Yankees needed another starter before Montgomery was done for the year, so what was a pressing need has now progressed to something just short of a trash compactor.
Bumgarner is arguably the best pitcher who could even conceivably be available, is the best postseason pitcher in a generation, and is young and cheap if for some bizarre reason that wasn’t already enough.
There’s just one problem — trades require two teams.
The Giants enter Wednesday 30-31 but only 2.5 games back in the NL West, despite having lost three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation to the DL in the first quarter of the season. Joe Panik has spent time on the DL, Hunter Pence is now relegated to a bench role after his own return from the DL, $62M erstwhile closer Mark Melancon has thrown a total of 1 (one) inning, and offseason acquisitions Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria plus hometown favorite Brandon Crawford had to overcome slow starts.
Through all of this, the Giants have somehow kept their heads above water, largely thanks to surprise contributions from rookie starters like Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez and an MVP-caliber start from Brandon Belt.
The Giants plan from the beginning was to hang on until the reinforcements came, and whether it quite counts as Even Year Bullshit or not, they’ve made it through.
That alone makes convincing Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans to part ways with their homegrown ace and postseason legend an order taller than Paul Bunyan, before even touching on the more complicated and painful calculus of beginning the slow dismantling of a dynasty.
Evans’ first and arguably only controversial move as GM was to trade 2015 National League Rookie of the Year runner up Matt Duffy to Tampa Bay for Matt Moore at the deadline in 2016. Despite the move being reasonable, if hard to swallow, at the time, you’d still be hard pressed to find a Giants fan who was in favor of it then or particularly now, with Duffy once again healthy and productive and Moore traded to Texas after a miserable 2017.
The Giants, quite simply, do not trade home grown stars. If anything, they find ways to reacquire old friends, bringing back Travis Ishikawa and Conor Gillaspie just in time for their own postseason hero moments, and even welcoming back prodigal son Pablo Sandoval.
Whether you agree with it as a business strategy or not, the front office and fans simply do not have the stomach for it.
The Giants are the relatively rare franchise where you’re hard pressed to find jerseys in the stands of players who aren’t on the field, and when you do it’s largely either the recently retired or a Hall of Famer who is more than passingly likely to be in the stands himself.
The front office has to be aware of the magnitude of the ask they’d be placing before fans, and while it’s hardly a unique conundrum, the Giants have long seemed more sensitive than most to at least the appearance of loyalty, whether that’s always deserved or not. For good or ill, the organizational ethos is and has been better to hold on a little too long than let go too early.
Now, everything has a cost. Even for the seemingly soft-hearted Giants, at a point it’s a fireable offense to turn down an offer.
So what would it take?
As a starting point, look at what the Astros gave up to acquire Justin Verlander last August. Then potentially scale up for Bumgarner being younger and less expensive, the Yankees’ public desperation to acquire a starter, the Giants still being in contention, and it being far, far before when mid-season trades typically happen.
Sabean and Evans couldn’t sell a trade to their own ownership group, much less fans, unless the return was so patently overwhelming that it was impossible to turn down. Brian Cashman’s ninja-like negotiating skills or not, the cost to pull that off would be beyond what even could argue he was worth.
The Giants have all the leverage in this situation, and there’s a limit to even Cashman’s ability to pull a left handed rabbit out of a hat.
If the Yankees were to acquire Bumgarner, the most likely scenario is next deadline, or possibly next offseason if the Giants stumble mightily down the stretch this year for reasons that won’t resolve themselves naturally (e.g. not because Brandon Belt gets abducted by aliens or befalls some other fate befitting someone with the luck usually reserved for those whose homes are built on ancient burial grounds.)
As a rental at that point, he would be far less costly for the Yankees, and the loss slightly less catastrophically painful for the Giants and their fans.
No, it doesn’t magically solve the Yankees’ problems now, but not much will. They’ve already weathered plenty, literally and figuratively; they will just have to make it to the deadline and go shopping someplace more like the “aging but still definitely helpful” aisle populated by Cole Hamels and friends.
It’s not the sexiest option, but neither is prematurely stripping a former New York neighbor for parts.
Series preview | The Rays pay another visit to Yankee Stadium
The Yankees continue an 11 game homestand Tuesday night with three games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx. It is the last time Tampa Bay will visit Yankees stadium.
The Yankees have struggled against the Rays this season, as they have split 12 games so far, going 6-6. The Rays most recently took two of three back in July at Tropicana field. The Yankees received some bad news Monday, with CC Sabathia going to the disabled list with a knee injury.
The Rays starters have not been set yet, as they tend to use openers, and they only have two starters in their “rotation.” One of those starters is Blake Snell, who is a probable starter for the rubber game on Thursday. Snell has taken the leap this year, making the American League All-Star team and a stellar 2.18 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 128 innings.
However, Snell has struggled against the Yankees to the tune of nine earned runs in 8 1/3 innings of work, he walked seven batters in those starts and given up four home runs, the most he has given up against any team. The other possibilities for those two other starts could be Ryne Stanek, Jake Faria, Sergio Romo or Yonny Chirinos.
The Yankees are on track to run out J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka, and Lance Lynn. Happ has been solid thus far for the Yankees, sporting a 3.00 ERA with 0.75 WHIP since coming over from Toronto. He bounced against the Texas Rangers after a bout of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease, going six innings and only giving up three earned runs.
That was exactly what the Yankees signed up for when they acquired him from Toronto on July 26th. Happ has been successful against the Rays, with a 2.53 ERA in two starts, though he walked seven batters in those two starts.
Masahiro Tanaka looks to bounce back on Wednesday from a rough start against the Rangers where he was tattooed for six runs in 5 innings of work, with three home runs surrendered. Tanaka looked like a different pitcher coming out of the All-Star break, giving up one earned run through 19 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts and only one home run against him. The Rays could be a welcome sight, last time against the rays he pitched a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts and only four runners allowed.
The rubber game on Thursday should feature Lance Lynn. Lynn was another deadline acquisition for the Yankees in a trade with the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Austin. Through 16 2/3 innings, Lynn has given up one run and struck out 22 batters against four walks. Lynn has already surpassed his WAR total with the Twins in 3 games with the Yankees, as he has been worth .8 WAR since coming to New York.
He has taken Sonny Gray’s spot in the rotation and has not looked back. If Lynn can continue to provide steady 5-6 inning starts with limited damage, much less the performances he has provided thus far, then the Yankees will be in good shape.
The top performers for the Yankees offensively out of the All-Star break have been Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius.
Stanton has hit five home runs in the last seven days and is slashing .313/.382/.750 in August, picking up the slack with Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge on the disabled list. Gregorius has hit well against the Rays, with a slash line of .318/.362/.614 and three home runs with 13 runs batted in.
The goal for the Yankees? Come out of the series healthy and hopefully with a series win as they try to right the ship against the Rays.
Mets 8 Yankees 5 | Severino falters again
Luis Severino struggled yet again and failed to reach the fifth inning for the first time this season as the Yankees lost to the Mets on Monday night. The Yankees were able to scrape three runs out against Jacob DeGrom but Severino gave back four runs on two home runs. DeGrom struck out 12 Yankees in 6 2/3 innings of work. The Yankees look to bounce back tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx.
The sixth inning, when A.J. Cole gave up three home runs and allowed the Mets to stretch their lead to four runs. The Yankees had kept it close against DeGrom and would have had a shot if Cole had kept the deficit to just one run.
1. Severino struggled to get batters out with his four-seam fastball. Five of the seven hits came on four-seam fastballs with only three swinging strikes. He got 10 swinging strikes on his off-speed offerings. Whether he is tipping pitches or not, it seems like hitters are looking for his four-seamer and leaving his off-speed pitches alone, as he only got four called strikes between his change-up and slider.
2. A.J. Cole is having a rough August, he gave up three home runs in two innings and has given up six earned runs in only 7 innings this month. Two of the home runs came against lefties in the Mets lineup, which is the norm for Cole, as lefties are slashing .338/.421/.708 this season. He came into the game down one run and left the Yankees trailing by four runs in the seventh inning.
3. Gleyber Torres’ bat has gone dead in August, to the tune of .146 batting average with six hits and thirteen strikeouts in 41 at-bats. Torres has struggled since the All-Star break, with a .164 batting average and a .278 on-base percentage. Obviously, he is still working back from his injury before the all-star break, but he was a big part of the early year success and will need to get back to improve for the stretch run.
Player of the Game
Aaron Hicks scratched out two singles against Jacob DeGrom and drove in the first run for the Yankees. He reached base three times overall as he drew a walk in the eighth inning. The singles were not particularly hard-hit balls, but against DeGrom you take what you can get. He has a .402 OBP since the all-star break and is on pace to set a career high in WAR.
The Yankees are still dropping the ball regarding social issues
Last Tuesday, SNY.tv reported that the Yankees are planning to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with events in 2019. There have been no confirmations for the 2019 promotional calendar but SNY.tv states that several sources confirmed internal discussions to finalize the details of the events.
The Yankees later announced that they were reinstating their relationship with Papa John’s late Friday night, according to NJ.com. The move comes less than a month after suspending the relationship after finding out the face of the brand and CEO, John Schattner, used the n-word during a conference call in May.
A source with knowledge of the situation told NJ.com that there will be a rebranding of some Papa John’s logos in Yankee stadium, specifically to emphasize that the locations at the stadium are “locally owned and operated.”
Here’s the statement the Yankees released:
“As a result of the significant steps recently taken by Papa John’s, including the removal of their founder from all facets of their business, the Yankees have agreed to resume their relationship with the company,” the Yankees said in a statement late Friday night.
As we stated last month, we found the remarks made by the Papa John’s founder to be reprehensible, and our feelings on the matter have not changed.
The Yankees have had a longstanding relationship with 120 Papa John’s local franchise locations within the tri-state area, and we feel strongly that this incident does not represent their principles, values or their responsibilities to the communities they serve.
Papa John’s is implementing important and sincere measures to restore customers’ faith in their brand, including the launch of a diversity and inclusion committee, and a third-party audit of their company’s practices. We are confident the company will continue to take the appropriate measures to show their commitment to preventing such an egregious incident from happening again in the future.”
The move is disappointing and unfortunately, not surprising. The Yankees continue to prioritize their business opportunities and money streams over showing their fans that they do not support a business founded by a man who felt comfortable saying the n-word in a meeting. The move is indefensible and at this point, fans can only hope that there is enough negative feedback that the team will eventually consider severing all ties to the company.
Even with this small step forward to connect with the LGBTQ+ community, it came after backlash that the Yankees were one of two teams to not hold an event in 2018. It is a positive step and hopefully, it is not the last that the Yankees take to honor and work with the LGBTQ+ community. Still, with social issues even when the Yankees take one step forward, they find another way to take two steps back.