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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 3/8/22

Yankees’ president interviewed about lockout; Rays pursued Freeman in free agency; Waldichuk and Wesneski impressing in minor league camp; one-on-one with prospect Wells

NY Yankees Randy Levine & Brian Cashman Press Conference In Tokyo Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images

NJ Advance Media | Randy Miller: Yankees president Randy Levine appeared on Michael Kay’s ESPN Radio show on Monday, and made his case for owners and players to solve their issues and get back to the field. “This is a horrible, horrible situation,” he said. “The Yankees and everyone in Major League Baseball share the blame — players, owners, executives — for where we are. It’s a really bad look, especially what’s going on in the world, and we all have to try really a lot harder to try and fix this.” (Of course, one would think that as a team president who has the ears of one of said owners close by and longstanding connections throughout the game, Levine would be able to do more than present a generally owner-friendly grovel on a radio show, but we digress.)

Aside from commissioner Rob Manfred and his deputies, Levine is the first executive to discuss the lockout in the media. If owners and players don’t come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) soon, more games will be canceled. The first two series of the season have already suffered that fate.

NY Post | Dan Martin: MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the Tampa Bay Rays (!) made an offer to free agent slugger Freddie Freeman before the lockout. It goes to show that all MLB teams have the financial power to pursue stars and improve their roster, and the numbers back that up.

If the Rays somehow land Freeman, who happens to be a Yankees target, after the lockout, it would be quite a coup for them and they would be instant favorites in the AL East, if they aren’t already. Freeman hit .300 with 31 home runs, 120 runs scored and 4.5 fWAR in 2021, a season that culminated with the Atlanta Braves lifting the World Series trophy.

MLB.com | Jonathan Mayo: Pitching prospects Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski are already turning heads in the Yankees’ minor league camp, as told by the team’s farm director Kevin Reese.

About Waldichuk, Reese told Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com: “I think most people that saw Waldichuk last year would say, ‘Hey, he’s got a big fastball, the breaking ball is decent, he may need to develop a third pitch in order to be a starter.’” He also added that Wesneski is “a really good competitor whose velocity continues to trend up.” Waldichuk and Wesneski were both taken by the team in the 2019 draft class, and have moved swiftly through the ranks. They’ve both got an opportunity to become one of the organization’s top pitching prospects this year.

MLB.com | Jonathan Mayo: Mayo also had the opportunity to grab a one-on-one conversation with catching prospect Austin Wells, who hit .264/.390/.476 line across two levels of Class A ball last year and had a brilliant showing in the Arizona Fall League (1.034 OPS in 79 plate appearances).

He talked about many topics, including his desire to be a catcher for the New York Yankees and his ability to stick at the position. He also discussed how he handled advanced competition in the Fall League, and some of the strides made by Waldichuk and Matt Sauer on the mound.