The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees are connected forever, from the iconic 1995 Division Series to the current player connections of Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero. I asked Tanya Bondurant of Pinstriped Bible a few questions about the state of the Yankees for this series preview.
Scott: Ichiro has been a replacement level player this season, yet the Yankees are still playing him every day. Do you think the organization remains committed to him in RF, or will they look to cut his playing time/upgrade the position? If so, do you think it will be internally or on the trade market? If the Mariners trade Mike Morse to the Yankees to replace Ichiro, I may die of laughter.
Tanya: With Curtis Granderson recovering from his second broken bone of the season and Vernon Wells crashing back to Earth at an alarming speed after his early-season success, the Yankees don't have a ton of options but to play Ichiro right now. Once Granderson is healthy, there will likely need to be an odd man out, and Ichiro probably gets to stay in the outfield full-time over Wells for his defensive capabilities. When Ichiro has gone into ugly slumps this year, he has been benched at times, briefly, so I do have some hope that the team isn't going to trot him out there every day, regardless. However, a two-year deal showed commitment to thinking that what he did after the trade last year was legitimate and that looks to have been a very foolish assumption right now.
There are some internal options in Triple-A for the Yankees, such as Thomas Neal
and Zoilo Almonte. Neal has been tearing the cover off the ball down there and no one can quite figure out why, aside from the lack of a 40-man spot, he isn't already in New York. Should the Yankees look to trade for an outfielder, it would probably be of the stopgap variety.
Scott: What has been the reaction to the demise of Jesus Montero (failure to perform, injury, potential PED suspension) from the fanbase?
Tanya: I'm not sure anyone was more upset about the Jesus Montero trade than me. I'd followed Montero his entire career, and desperately wanted to see him get a chance with the Yankees. When Michael Pineda tore his shoulder labrum and it looked like he may never be the same pitcher again, it became a joke around Pinstriped Bible that "Seattle knew", which prompted them to trade Pineda in the first place. Since then, Pineda has been throwing 93-94 mph in his rehab and Montero is in Triple-A, possibly facing a suspension for his connection to Biogenesis. Maybe the new joke should be that New York knew?
Seeing Gary Sanchez develop into a great hitter with the strong potential to stick behind the plate softens the blow, as well.
Scott: What do you expect from Michael Pineda in his return from injury? Do you think he'll join the rotation this season, and if so, who will he replace?
Tanya: I think the Yankees will be careful with Pineda. If everything goes well for him in his rehab, I expect him to hang out in the Triple-A rotation until he's back close to 100%. At that point, if David Phelps
is struggling in the majors, I could see them trying out Pineda in his place. All the commentary on his rehab has been so positive that it's almost too good to be true. If he can come back from labrum surgery and throw 95 with good command, I'll be over the moon.
Scott: How worried are you about Robinson Cano's flimsy link to the Biogenesis clinic? Additionally, what kind of contract do you expect Cano will receive after this contract year, and will it be with New York?
Tanya: The Yankees have said that Cano is not in danger of being suspended for the connection to Biogenesis that his foundation's spokeswoman had, but I'll be a little nervous about it until suspensions, if they happen, are complete. I think the connection is pretty weak, but who knows how much more evidence is hiding somewhere.
Cano is going to get paid very well this offseason. Eight years and $200 million wouldn't shock me, but anything more might. He's, in my opinion, the best second baseman in the game and obviously the best free agent on the market. If a team like the Dodgers
gets involved and wants to throw tons of money his way, they could easily drive the price up to ridiculous levels. My gut feeling is that he will be a Yankee. He's my favorite player and the cornerstone of the offense. I don't want to imagine the team without him, even if it means paying for some declining years on the back end.