Karpin’s Korner: Yanks Shouldn’t Get Left Out, What’s the Deal With McNeil

The Yankees have dedicated much of this off season to improving their pitching staff, both starting and relieving, but are they making a mistake by ignoring the lack of balance in their offense.

With the addition of Adam Ottavino, the bullpen shapes up much better than at this time last year, while you have to say the starting staff is improved but offensively, the Yankees need more. Despite the consensus that the Yankees are set on offense, I don’t see it that way. Yes, the Yankees have a lot of power throughout their lineup but they also have a lot of strikeouts, which lends itself to a lack of production at the most crucial times of a game. The Yankees lack of clutch hitting last season was as much a culprit in losing to Boston as their pitching was as they lost a pair of one-run games. (1 for 12 with RISP in those two losses)

D.J LeMahieu is the kind of contact hitter that the Yankees need to lessen their strikeout totals but he is another right handed hitter. LeMahieu is a good sign and he provides insurance in case Troy Tulowitzki does not work out. If that happens, the Yankees could move Gleyber Torres to shortstop and play LeMahieu at second on a consistent basis, but the better lineups are balanced and the Yankees need more left hand hitting.

The Yankees claim they have no room in the outfield. After Aaron Judge and on a part time basis, Giancarlo Stanton, does the combination of Aaron Hicks in center, and either, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier or Jacoby Ellsbury in left, spell a division title and make the Yankees a better team than the Red Sox.

Frazier, who I’ve always felt can be a productive major league player if he stays healthy, was medically cleared by doctors for spring training and has the most upside of those three candidates. Gardner is on the downside and is not an everyday left fielder and lead off hitter anymore. Ellsbury’s contract has been a near disaster (can’t say I didn’t warn you) and there’s a left handed hitting free agent out there named Bryce Harper.

I would not blame the Yankees for not going after one of the big name free agents on the market but if they were to spend big money, I’ve felt all along that Harper would be a better fit than Manny Machado. Go back through Yankee history and when did they ever win a championship without significant left handed hitting.

Harper is a player who has already won an MVP award, is just really entering his prime and would love to play for the Yankees. Harper does strikeout a bunch, which may sound contradictory to some of the previous statements, but he would also provide protection and take some pressure off of Judge and Stanton. Harper in-between Judge and Stanton in the middle of the lineup. How does that sound for an opposing pitcher? I’m sorry, Hicks or, someone else in-between Judge and Stanton just doesn’t scare the opposition. Frankly, I don’t get why the Yankees have not pondered adding Harper, who would certainly narrow the gap (which is not really that large) between themselves and the World Champion Red Sox.

Speaking of right handed hitters, SNY’s Andy Martino cited Major League sources as saying the Yankees could potentially trade for Rockies third-baseman Nolan Arenado, either in this off season or during the season. Reportedly, Colorado is feeling like they won’t be able to re-sign the impending free agent third baseman and would deal him before he hits the market after this upcoming season. If I’m the Yankees, why trade players for him when you could sign him after this upcoming season, and what if Miguel Andujar does improve defensively and shows he’s going to be a consistent major league hitter. That could happen you know.

The Yankees are reportedly nearing a deal for Sonny Gray. When Luke Voit burst on the scene at the end of last season, the Yankees bragged about how their analytical department found the burly first baseman but I wonder if the analytical department also recommended the acquisition of Gray, who was never able to adapt to playing in New York.

I’m curious to see if Jeff McNeil can succeed as an outfielder. The 26 year old was just getting used to playing second base, but with the addition of Robinson Cano, McNeil became the odd man out in the infield. The Mets are planning to give McNeil (who puts his bat on the ball) at-bats as an outfielder but he could be used around the infield to spell guys every now and then.

With Jed Lowrie on board, the Mets have talked about moving Todd Frazier to first base with the idea of giving Peter Alonso a little more time at their AAA affiliate which moves from Las Vegas to Syracuse this season. It would also give the Mets a little more control with the youngster’s service time, although Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen says that won’t be an issue if Alonso can win the job in spring training. Van Wagenen said Alonso will get that chance but it doesn’t hurt to have an alternate plan.

Van Wagenen has put a bulls-eye on his team with declarations of “Come get us” for his divisional opponents. It’s a refreshing approach as long as you can back it up. The Mets will be under enormous pressure to get off to a quick start and make it stick. Last season, that 11-1 start fizzled in a matter of no time and the season never stopped slipping away until it was too late.

The Diamondbacks are planning on using Wilmer Flores as their everyday second-baseman while moving Ketel Marte to center field on a full time basis. Marte has played two major league games in center field when he came up with the Mariners in 2015 and nine games in the minors. The 25-year old has the tools to become a solid center fielder. Whether Flores can handle an everyday role remains to be seen.

Next Tuesday, the BBWAA will reveal the results of the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I do not have a vote as I am not a member of the Writer’s Association but a number of people have asked me what my ballot would look like if I did have a vote. Allow me to provide a disclaimer for this hypothetical vote. I am “old school,” a very “tough marker” when it comes to enshrinement and I don’t buy into the analytical formulas to determine eligibility.

With that in mind, here goes:

I would vote for 4 players on the current ballot. Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Fred McGriff and I’ve “come around” to Mike Mussina. Rivera and Halladay are “no brainers,” and McGriff’s consistency has been terribly undervalued by most of the writers. I always thought Mussina was just short but being 117 games over .500 and having pitched in 18 seasons has helped sway my opinion.

HKLooking: Last April, Major League Baseball set a record for postponements as the weather wreaked havoc with the early schedule. Teams got backed up with double-headers and it could happen again this year. The season is scheduled to open in Japan on March 20th and 21st as Seattle will play Oakland in a two game series. All 30 teams are scheduled to open on Thursday, March 28th. MLB is keeping their fingers crosses that it will be different this time around…..Machado’s pursuit of a new contract has led to a number of inaccurate reports about any offers for the coveted free agent. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the White Sox offered Machado a seven year, $175 million dollar deal. That set off a firestorm of social media posts to implore other teams to be in the mix for that kind of price. Machado’s agent Dan Lozano came out with a statement disputing the report and stating that there is a lot of misinformation floating around. Lozano’s response is unusual but it shows just how contentious the whole free agent process can be…..Speaking of free agents: Dodgers may be ready to make a move on A.J. Pollock. With the trade of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the Reds, LA’s lineup is predominantly left handed. Atlanta would reportedly like to sign Pollock but giving up a draft pick may squash those plans. Arizona tendered an offer for Pollock so any team that signs him would have to yield a pick…..Look for a potential reunion with Nick Markakis and the Braves to fill their need for a right fielder. Don’t be surprised if Markakis is linked to the Yankees who, as mentioned above, need left hand hitting…..Red Sox Manager Alex Cora has stirred the pot with his remarks at the Boston Baseball Writer’s Dinner. Cora said, “If you guys thought last year was special, wait till this year.” the World Series winning Manager told the Boston chapter of the BBWAA as he accepted their Manager of the Year Award. Cora knows how difficult it is to repeat and has fired the first salvo towards New York. The Sox may be fighting the odds, just as much as the Yankees. Coming off a record setting win total, the Red Sox figure to drop off a bit but it doesn’t mean they can’t win a second consecutive title. Very few teams have had extraordinary win totals in one season and have come back to match that total in the next season. That could apply for the Yankees as well who will have a hard time winning 100 games again.

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