Excuse the pun, the Mets have made their pitch.
NY Post Baseball Columnist Joel Sherman reported Yoshinobu Yamamoto had dinner at Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen’s house Saturday. Mets President David Stearns, Manager Carlos Mendoza and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner were all there as the Mets are making their best efforts to sign this pitcher.
Met fans have been impatient with Cohen because this has been a relatively slow off season for the team, but he appears to be taking a page from George Steinbrenner’s book.
When the Yankee owner wanted a player, he would do whatever it took to get that player’s name on a contract. Whether it was flying miles and miles to meet the player at his home, or taking the player out to a lavish New York restaurant or wooing his family, Steinbrenner was relentless in his pursuit of a player.
Cohen flew to Japan earlier this month to meet the 25-year old on his home turf as a precursor for his visit to the United States. Now, this dinner tells you the Mets mean business when it comes to fortifying their starting rotation with a coveted free agent.
Sherman reports the bidding process is expected to “intensify” this week. SNY’s Andy Martino reported Yamamoto requested and met a second time with the Yankees, so the plot thickens.
Yamamoto has to be signed by January 4th, the date his window expires, or else he returns to his Japan Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Orix Buffaloes.
One thing that’s not being said about this whole pursuit of Yamamoto. Why is Pete Alonso’s status being kept on the “back burner?” The Mets don’t appear to be in any hurry to address it
Now that Juan Soto is on board, it’s up to the Yankees to structure the batting order the best way possible to maximize its potential. Whether it’s Aaron Judge at two and Soto three, or vice versa, the person who bats in front of that duo will be pivotal to the success of this lineup.
Yankee Manager Aaron Boone favors a lineup that alternates right handed and left handed hitters.
If Anthony Volpe is the leadoff hitter, Soto could be the two hitter with Judge at three. If Alex Verdugo hits leadoff, Judge could hit second with Soto at three. Anthony Rizzo would likely hit cleanup, followed by Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres (provided he’s not traded before next season) for the first six.
The Yankees did not take advantage of the new stolen base rules that came into play last season, because they didn’t want to take the bat out of Judge’s hands by opening up first base.
Soto’s mere presence provides that “scare factor” for opposing pitchers, particularly at Yankee Stadium. It’s an ingredient that’s been missing and really came to light last season when the Yankees were one of the worst offensive teams in the sport.
Soto’s left hand bat adds much needed balance to the lineup but the Yankees need to find more of a balance between the power game and the ability to manufacture runs. The Yankees need to employ the stolen base as, at the very least, a threat which could make opposing pitchers make mistakes.
Volpe is the Yankees biggest stolen base threat. I know about the low batting average, I know about the low on base percentage but the Yankees should not give up on the talented 22-year old as a top of the order option.
Volpe’s poor numbers was more a result of his uppercut swing that got worse as the season went on and the pitchers exploited that. He needs to return to the more level swing that he was using in spring training last year when he won the job. It’s nice that he hit 21 home runs, but Volpe will become a much more efficient offensive player if he can get on base more and have more than 24 stolen bases.
Soto is a corner outfielder, preferably in right field. The plan is to use Judge more in centerfield, but there is concern over him wearing down because of the position that demands more physicality than the corner spots. This is where Trent Grisham comes in.
In the early 1960s, the Yankees had the same concerns with Mickey Mantle in centerfield. The great Mantle, who was already playing through pain, was starting to feel the effects of playing all those games in centerfield to that point.
There was no DH option available so from 1961-1963 outfielder Jack Reed was used as a defensive replacement for Mantle. In fact, Reed’s nickname was “Mantle’s caddy.” If the Yankees had a late lead, Reed would replace Mantle in centerfield.
Grisham should be utilized in this role. If the Yankees have a lead late in the game (9th inning), Judge should move to right field for Soto and Grisham would man centerfield. He can also spell Judge, who could move to the DH spot on that day.
Two seasons ago, Grisham had a moment (4 for 8, 2 HRS, 3 RBIs, 5 runs scored in three games) and keyed San Diego’s win against the Mets in the Wild Card series, but anything the Yankees get offensively from the former first round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers will be a bonus.
Judge is going to be a Yankee for a long time so an eventual move to first base would not be out of the question.
Look for the Yankees to pursue another potential closer.
Brendan Kuty of the Athletic reported the Yankees have interest in Jordan Hicks but Josh Hader may be on their radar. If Michael King had remained with the Yankees, he would’ve been a starter and I don’t feel like the Yankees totally trust Clay Holmes as the closer, so they would like another option.