Yes, Out on Machado

While the Machado rumors from the other day haven’t amounted to anything yet, the Yankees have made a move that shows they won’t be signing Machado- adding DJ LeMahieu on a two-year deal. LeMahieu is a second baseman primarily, but the Yankees plan to use him everywhere in the infield except for short according to Jack Curry. The deal is for $12-million a season according to multiple sources.

There are a lot of ways to look at this deal, and while LeMahieu’s overall numbers away from Coors Field aren’t great, there could be some hidden value here in the way he makes contact. Furthermore, he is a defensive whiz at second, which should transfer well to other infield spots. The Yankees don’t really know what Tulo is going to be, but they can easily jettison him now if he doesn’t work and put Torres at short with LeMahieu at second. That could also be the plan in 2020 if Didi leaves as a free agent.

And, they have added a bat who isn’t a huge step down if they want to replace Andujar for defense in a close game. It’s not the big, sexy move a lot of fans wanted, it it is a smart one. The depth is better, and that means the team is better.

Out On Machado?

Various reports on the web tonight that the Phillies and White Sox are the two remaining teams in the Machado sweepstakes. No one is officially confirming that the Yankees are out, but Jon Heyman is among the writers reporting that the Yankees haven’t made a formal offer to Machado and won’t come close to the $300-million plus he is seeking.

I’m more than ok with this news. Machado is a luxury the Yankees don’t really need and a ten-year contract for him would be a mistake. However, what I won’t accept is the Yankees sitting on gobs of money that could be deployed in smart ways. For example, Aaron Hicks, is 29, a free agent next year, and the best internal replacement candidate for him is at least two years away. How about signing him to a three or four-year deal this season instead of going to arbitration? That’s just one example, and the Yankees have plenty of them. Locking up some guys into their early 30’s instead of letting their values explode year after year makes a lot of sense to me.

Was This Smart?

Here’s an interesting nugget I read the other day. The Yankees are the only team in baseball with five starters under contract who pitched at least 150 innings each last year. I’m not saying that means the rotation is a strength, but it does suggest it isn’t as weak as we have thought.

I bring this up because the Yankees just gave $13-million a year to Zach Britton to put the monster bullpen back together. They now have the established quartet of Chapman, Betances, Britton, and Green to finish games with and they could have a wealth of choices if Holder continues his development and Kahnle bounces back.

So the deal Britton got strikes me as unnecessary. For one thing, the Yankees will be paying Chapman and Britton about $30-million combined for around 120 innings of work in 2019. Using that math, they probably should have just signed Corbin and made their rotation stronger. After all, a baseball team needs to plan to pitch at least 1,377 innings a year and putting a huge chunk of your payroll to a tenth of that seems like a bad idea.

But that also ignores leverage and the Yankees can use the likes of Chapman and Britton in the highest-leverage situations to greatly improve their chances to win. That would make the investment look much better. This is pretty much what they did with David Robertson last year and it was a big reason they won 100 games. So I think usage is the biggest factor in evaluating this deal down the road.

But there is one more, under the radar detail that makes this a good deal for the Yankees. Chapman has an opt-out following the 2019 season and Betances will be a free agent. If Chapman exercises that opt-out, the Yankees can avoid chasing him knowing they have a guy who can close games ready to go. That’s a nice luxury to have and makes this a solid move for the team. Let’s just hope they don’t go overboard and add another reliever at these prices.

Don’t Fall For It

Much is being made in the press tonight about Brian Cashman anointing Troy Tulowitzki the Yankees starting shortstop in his conference call to announce the signing today. Don’t believe it for a minute.

First of all, this is the same GM who once said Bubba Crosby was the Yankees starting center fielder and then signed Johnny Damon to a big deal. But more importantly, consider the “investment” the Yankees have made in Tulowitzki- nothing! He’s a no-risk signing. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, the Yankees can easily move on.

That doesn’t mean you should expect Manny Machado to materialize in the Bronx. Unless he is willing to play third and take a lower offer than he can get elsewhere, I wouldn’t expect him to join the team, but Tulowitzki isn’t guaranteed anything once spring training starts. If he shows the Yankees he can still play, then yes, he is the shortstop. But if he looks washed up at 34, there is no way the Yankees bring him North. No matter what Cashman says.

Tulo Time

Troy Tulowitzki is coming to the Yankees. While I predicted this on my other site, it’s not a big move, or one to get very excited about.

There is however no real down side. Tulo is being paid a lot by Toronto, so the Yankees are going to pay him the major league minimum. He hasn’t been healthy, or even good since 2016, so don’t expect much. But with Didi sidelined, the Yankees need a shortstop and Tulo was once a great one. He gets to come to camp and show what, if anything, he has left.

Will They?

Manny Machado made his visit to the Bronx today. Apparently, it lasted 90 minutes and that’s about all we know. My question is should they sign him or not?

On the side for signing him is the fact that the need is obviously there, at least until Didi comes back, and he is one of the best players in the game. As they say, “flags fly forever” and adding Machado to this club would put them in a great position to win a World Series. And you can’t discount the fact that Machado would draw crowds and sell tickets, important factors for the Yankees brand.

On the other hand, he is going to cost a lot and apart from the cost, he is going to sign a long-term deal. The years scare me much more than the dollars because players simply aren’t aging like they did on PEDs. Machado is 26, near his peak value, but superstars tend to stay at or near peak for longer than other players. However, time is undefeated and the chances are that in about six years the team that signs him will regret it. And the Yankees already have one of those contracts in Stanton.

Furthermore, the Yankees have a lot of their own players who are going to start getting expensive. Severino is at his first arbitration year now and considering the price of pitching, he is going to do very well over the next three years. Didi, Hicks, and Betances will be free agents next year while Judge and Sanchez enter arbitration. Unlike many teams, the Yankees can afford this, but plug a Machado salary in at $30-million a year or so and it becomes a lot harder to do so.

And finally it’s worth remembering that we are talking about how to improve a 100-win team. The thing working in the Yankees’ favor is the fact that most of those wins came from the efforts of players on the right side of 30- ie you can expect those guys to get better and not regress. That’s not a team that cries out for a huge move to improve their chances at a title.

That’s why I hope the Yankees pass on Machado. He’s an all-world talent and adding him today probably makes them the favorites in 2019. But building a sustainable, competitive, team requires long-term planning. Take the Machado money and buy out some arbitration years and find some players who can improve you marginally in certain areas. It’s not the sexy move many are clamoring for, but it’s the smart one.

Happ’s Back

The Yankees have finally made a move and that is bringing JA Happ back on a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third year. The average salary is an amazing $17-million.

If you pencil in Happ for around 170 innings a year, that works out to $100,000 an inning. At that price, I really wonder how long it will be before we see expanded rosters that allow teams to take advantage of a minimum MLB salary for relievers that works out to about $9,000 an inning?

But until then, this is an acceptable deal. Lance Lynn just got 3-years and $30-million guaranteed from Texas. Momma’s let your babies grow up to be starting pitchers.

It’s Quiet

Not surprisingly, Noah Syndergaard is still a Met. More surprising, Andrew MCCutchen got a three-year/$50-million deal from the Phillies. The Yankees clearly made a shrewd move signing back Gardner for one year at $7.5-million in this market. We have heard a bunch of rumors about the Yankees, but for now nothing much is happening. Let me run down some of the rumors out there now.

The Syndergaard trade was supposedly going to cost Andujar as the big piece, but no word on what else.

I still don’t buy it Syndergaard isn’t coming to the Bronx and I also saw Buster Olney saying Happ has multiple two-year offers and seems content to wait until a team gives him three, so if the Yankees were trying to get him to decide, it failed.

Someone pointed out that the logjam in the meetings probably comes from a standoff between Harper and Machado’s agents. Neither wants to see the other get a better deal. Not sure how that gets resolved.

The Yankees were apparently never close to getting Corbin because his agent told them the starting bid was 6/126 and they said no thanks. Good for them for sticking to their plan.

The Red Sox are said to be looking to cut payroll, maybe by trading Porcello. Makes sense as they are probably right at the threshold for the biggest luxury tax penalties, including seeing their draft pick drop ten spots.

Craig Kimbrel wants six years. Good luck with that!

That’s all for now. Remember that the meetings are in Vegas, so plenty could happen tonight after all of the East Coasters like me are in bed. Back tomorrow.

Leverage

Let’s say you run a baseball team and you want to sign a free agent pitcher. You’ve made a competitive offer for two-years, but the pitcher wants three. What can you do short of caving in and giving the third year to get the deal done quickly?

What if you float a rumor that you are in hot pursuit of a much, much, better starter? If the free agent pitcher finds that out, he might suddenly decide to take the two years from you and not run the risk that you will complete the trade and yank your offer to him.

This is the scenario I thought of when I heard the Mets, Marlins, and Yankees were in talks ok a trade where Noah Syndergaard ends up in the Bronx. This is a way for the Yankees to try and force Happ’s decision so they can move on down their shopping list.

My reasoning is simple, what would motivate the Mets to send one of their aces across town? I understand they have a new GM, but Syndergaard is going to bring back a good return wherever he goes and if he goes to the Bronx and pitches like he is capable of, the new Mets GM looks pretty bad. The risk for the Mets is really, really, high in that trade.

So before you head to sleeep with visions of Thor dominating for the Yankees dancing in your head, just stop and think it through. Then again, these are the Mets we are talking about, and I probably shouldn’t discount that part of it.

Yankees Over Country?

I’m very, very conflicted about the news that Randy Levine is in the running to be the next White House Chief or Staff. The Yankee fan in me would be thrilled to see him go, as I have never been much of a fan. But as an American, I worry that Levine’s addition to the White House would not be a great move for the country. I think I may have to choose what’s best for the country here. (And for those of you who laughed at this rumor, here are a couple of dots to connect. Levine was deputy Mayor under Giuliani who is obviously a big supporter of the President and his lawyer. In addition, the President used to hang out with George Steinbrenner and know most of the Yankee execs pretty well. This isn’t a crazy notion.)

In actual news, the Winter Meetings have started and as of 6pm the Yankees haven’t done anything, with the exception of Brian Cashman swatting down the notion of Bryce Harper coming to New York. When asked, Cashman somewhat chastised reporters for asking and said the Yankees already have six outfielders. (Hmmm….that means he is counting Ellsbury) and that Harper playing first is not something the Yankees would do. I suspect that the Yankees would happily take Harper at a price much lower than he is going to get, but that upon hearing he rejected $300-million from Washington, they quickly decided to move on.

Cashman did say that he has had multiple meetings about Manny Machado and that makes some sense. Didi is hurt and a free agent after this season. Andujar is a a great hitter, but his defense is suspect at third. Machado could play short and then move over to third. I’m not endorsing a Machado signing, but I can see the argument for it. Personally, I would sign one of the many second base options out there for a one-year deal and move Gleybar to short. I would also use the money you could have spent on Machado to lock up some of the guys in arbitration and close to arbitration.

Anyway, more as news happens.