40-Man Clean Out-UPDATED

The Yankees are showing the depth of their organization by cleaning off their 40-man roster before things set at 8pm tonight. Nick Rumbelow, Caleb Smith, Garret Cooper, and Ronald Herrera, have all been traded for prospects who don’t need to be protected this offseason, and some additional international bonus pool money. This makes a lot of sense organizationally.

The Yankees clear spots to protect players from their own system. We will hear the names later tonight, but we know one is Gleyber Torres. With the trades, the Yankees have freed up four additional spots to go with the three they already had. Keep in mind that they probably won’t fill them all as someone like CC Sabathia could come back and take one, and it is better to risk exposing a prospect to the Rule 5 draft than having to remove him from the roster with waivers later.

The additional bonus money is interesting because the Yankees already had the second-most in the game. This is almost certainly a way to make sure they can offer Ohtani the biggest contract in the game. Since the money isn’t going to be huge, I am not sure it is a big advantage, but it would be an advantage.

UPDATE

As expected, the Yankees addded six players to their 40-man roster leaving one spot open. Let’s go through the adds who are all now invited to Spring Training and therefore could be in NY in April.

Gleyber Torres- Top prospect in the game. Can hit, can run, can play second, third, or short. I don’t think the Yankees break camp with him, but if he hits in spring they won’t hesitate to let him play.

Domingo Acevedo- Big RHP who lights up the radar gun. Might be a rotation piece or a reliever in the future, but most likely headed to Scranton to start 2018.

Albert Abreu- Half if the return for Brian McCann. Nowhere close to the bigs, but a legitimate rotation possibility down the line.

Thairo Estrada- Middle infield prospect who probably is a utility guy down the road. Still just 21, but not a power threat. Defense and speed are his calling cards.

Billy McKinney- A piece of the Chapman trade. Didn’t do much at AA, but hit like a champion at AAA. Probably nothing more than a lefty bat who can play outfield as a fill in.

Jonathan Loasiga- This one makes no sense to me. Big time arm coming out in 2013, but got hurt and has pitched 35 innings as a Yankee in the last two years with none of those above short season A-ball.

Posturing

Brian Cashman came out yesterday and said he hasn’t asked Jacoby Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause. He also said that the outfield alignment used in the playoffs- Gardner, Hicks, and Judge is going to be the way they go in 2018 but Ellsbury could be a factor at DH depending on what the club does. These two statements don’t add up. Would the Yankees really pay Ellsbury to be a fourth outfielder/ part-time DH?

The answer is no, and these comments are all about painting a realistic picture for Ellsbury while also not damaging his trade value anymore. (Phil Jackson could have used this lesson). The Yankees are making it clear to Jacoby that playing time in NY will be limited and he needs to get on board with the idea of a trade. I suspect the Yankees will gladly subsidize him generously to get him off the roster.

The best time to do that is now. On November 20th clubs have to submit their 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 draft. The Yankees risk losing a lot of talent they don’t have the room to protect, so expect them to make moves in the next few days to clear space. While Ellsbury would be ideal, I could also see guys like Tyler Austin get traded to clear room.

Shohei Otani

If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese star pitcher and hitter, get ready because he is about to burst on the scene here in the U.S. Japanese media reports that Otani will be posted this offseason and thus be eligible to come to MLB next season. But unlike previous situations with Japanese stars, Otani is not eligible for free agency and therefore will be subject to the international signing pool limits in terms of his signing bonus, and regular minimum salary rules in terms of his contract. That means he can get no more than $3.55-million as a signing bonus and will earn the major league minimum until he is arbitration eligible after 2020. That should lead to a feeding frenzy for him. Teams will still have to pay a posting fee, estimated at $20-million, but the winning club would pay around $25-million total for three years of a potential star.

Because the signing bonus comes from each clubs international signing bonus money, there isn’t a lot left. Most clubs stocked up on international players in July. The Rangers, Yankees, and Twins can offer just over $3-million. Pittsburgh can offer over $2-million and Miami and Seattle can only offer over $1-million. Every other club is below $1-million with 18 of them at $300,000 or less.

Otani is intriguing because he is young, just 23, and has been one of the best pitchers and hitters in Japan. He reportedly wants to do both in the majors, which would suggest he signs with an AL team as he probably can’t be a starting pitcher and play defense on his off days regularly. But, it is anyone’s guess where he will end up as he could have waited a few more years and come to the majors as a true free agent. By not doing so, he has forfeited millions, so money is presumably not his motivating factor.

The bigger question for U.S. fans is how good could he be? Fangraphs took a deep dive on this question last year. Link here, and the short answer is pretty darned good. They suggest he could be an All-Star on both sides of the ball. For about $25-million, a lot of teams will be interested to see if that is true.

My Offseason Plan

We know Tanaka is back, but beyond that the offseason is a blank canvas. Here’s what I would do if I were in charge.

1- Get Sabathia to come back on a one-year deal. Yes, I think Chance Adams should be in the rotation next year, but I also worry about Severino and Tanaka. Severino pitched over 200 innings this year after never pitching more than 160. Tanaka want great in the regular season, and benefits from extra rest. Bringing CC back for around $12-million makes sense to me. You would have a rotation of Severino, Gray, Tanaka, Sabathia, and Montgomery on paper, but Adams ready to step in when needed.

2- Get rid of Ellsbury. This is complicated by the fact he has a no-trade clause and the Yankees owe him $67-million or so over the next three years, but it is doable. The Yankees can make it clear to him that he is a bench player at best next year, motivating him to waive his no-trade. They can pay 2/3rds of his salary in a trade, motivating another team to acquire him. That helps the Yankees in two ways. They can put Hicks, a much better defender at the very least, in center. And they free up a roster spot.

3- Do not resign Frazier or Holliday. Holliday is obvious, but Frazier had his appeal. He was a great clubhouse guy, played great d, and provided some clutch hitting. But, his position is already covered by Headley in the short term and hopefully Andujar in the long term. The Yankees should not bring back a 31-year old player and clog up the DH spot.

4- Give Chase Headley a first baseman’s glove early and often in spring training. Greg Bird could be awesome, but so far he seems like a huge injury risk. The Yankees took a du,b risk entering this season without a backup first baseman. But Headley showed he could handle the position and with Andujar and Torres healthy, they have other options at third.

5- Don’t touch the bullpen. Robertson stays despite his huge salary. Betances stays despite the concerns about him. Green stays right where he is despite his potential as a starter. This is a huge strength. Don’t mess with it.

6- Kick the tires on Alex Avila. Avila can catch and hit against RHP. If the price is right, he could be a perfect compliment to Gary Sanchez, giving them another offensive weapon behind the plate. He can also fill in at first.

7- Whatever you do, don’t trade anymore prospects and don’t sign any big free agents. The Yankees have plenty of youth on the way and they should easily get under the luxury tax this year. Keeping room for the youth, and staying under the luxury tax should be the motivating forces for the franchise this offseason.

Tanaka Stays

The Yankees announced tonight that Masahiro Tanaka will not opt-out of his contract.

This to me is a good news/bad news situation. It’s good news because the Yankees don’t have to worry about filling his rotation spot in 2018. It’s bad news because I would bet he gets hurt sometime over the next three years.

This means the Yankees are projected to have a payroll of around $170-maillion, about $27-million below the luxury tax. That’s room to sign a decent free agent, but I hope they don’t. More on my ideas tomorrow.

Tanaka Time

Now that the World Series has ended, the Yankees will turn their attention to Mashiro Tanaka, who holds the key to their off-season. Tanaka has three days to inform the Yankees if he wants to opt-out of the remaining three years of his contract. If he does, the Yankees will subtract an average of $22.142 million from their payroll over the next three years.

Why is that important? Because the Yankees are trying to reset their luxury tax threshold and this is the year to do that. Heading into 2018, the Yankee payroll is probably around $170-million, about $27-million below the luxury tax threshold. That includes Tanaka, and estimated arbitration for nine players. If Tanaka opt-out, and the Yankees do not pursue him, they would have almost $50-million of room below the luxury tax threshold.

While the perception is that this is a yes or no decision, there could also be a third option. The Yankees add a year or two to Tanaka’s contract, but at a lower salary, thereby lowering the luxury tax implications. For example, the Yankees add a year to the deal, but at a salary of $13-million. I’m not at all in favor of that, but it’s a possibility.

Once Tanaka decides, the offseason becomes a lot clearer. Let’s see what happens.

I’m Going to Want More

Sometime tonight, or tomorrow morning, the World Series will end. That will make me very sad. Call me greedy, but what this great series has made me want to do is watch baseball, and after it’s over I won’t be able to. I will have to atare out the window and dream of the 2018 season.

I don’t think anyone has any idea how this ends. There have been so many twists and turns that momentum seems to shift from batter to batter. Tonight we will surely see both teams throw everything they have at each other and someone will emerge the winner. It reminds me a lot of 2001. I think it will end that way too. We shall see. One final game for all the marbales.