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The Yankees most probable route to improvement this offseason will be the trade market. With a roster jam, and a big payroll already, the free agent market is probably not a place they will make a big splash. Let’s take a look at the trade possibilities and impossibilities.

Impossible To Trade

If you listen to any sports radio, these guys are typically the ones you can “trade for Mike Trout”. The reality is their contracts, age, and no-trade clauses mean they aren’t going anywhere:

A-Rod- 41-years-old, no-trade clause and some additional “issues”.

Teixeira- Coming off an injury and a no-trade clause.

Sabathia- Arthritic knee and a no-trade clause.

Tanaka- Torn ligament in pitching arm, no-trade clause, can opt-out after 2017.

Almost Impossible to Trade

I will say their is a small, small chance these guys could get traded, but huge obstacles stand in the way.

Ellsbury- Has a no-trade clause and $110-million on contract. Yankees could possibly eat a huge portion of that to make him go away, but I doubt they would.

McCann- Has a no-trade clause and $51-million left on deal. Considering how much Yankee Stadium enhances McCann’s power numbers, why would he want to be traded?

Beltran- No-trade clause, and limited outfield ability. I can’t see him accepting a trade, nor can I see the Yankees wanting to trade him right now since Aaron Judge isn’t ready to play right.

Those seven guys will make $144-million combined next year. So, unless you can pull off a miracle and trade one of them, let’s start the payroll there.

Tradeable Players with large-ish contracts

Gardner- Here’s the guy who is a prime candidate to be traded because he does not have a trade protection, and he has a reasonable contract ($12M per) for the next three seasons with an option for 2019. I know the Yankees love him, but I could definitely see Gardner being traded.

Headley- Owed $39-million, and didn’t have a lot of success with the glove surprisingly this year, but he is definitely tradeable.

Miller- After the way Andrew Miller pitched this year, I think the Yankees could get a lot for him. I don’t think they would ever trade him though.

Tradeable Players with small-ish contracts

Pretty much everyone else. I don’t think the Yankees would trade a Betances or Eovaldi, but they could. More likely would be someone like John Ryan Murphy, or Ivan Nova. And of course prospects like Refsnyder could be sent away, though I don’t think Bird or Severino are going anywhere.

I would expect at least one trade, and based on recent history, possibly multiple ones in the next few months.

The Realities Of The Payroll And Lineup

The papers are full of solutions for the Yankees’ problems today. Sign Cespedes. Sign a big bat, get more right-handed hitters. Those seem to be the main thoughts. The problem is, they ignore the reality of the Yankees current situation.

If you look at the team as a whole, they have three free agents this upcoming offseason- Capuano, Drew, and Young. I certainly wouldn’t expect the first two back next year, and Young may want to turn this season into a starting job, something the Yankees cannot offer. But that also means that apart from Young, who was a part-timer, the entire starting lineup is under contract for next year, so where would you play a big bat?

Add in this, the payroll currently stands at 184-million. That’s before you address the 9 arbitration-eligible Yankees (Bailey, Santos, Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, Warren, Ackley, Wilson, Gregarious) MLB Trade Rumors, who are pretty good at this thing, project all of them to earn 24.5-million collectively pushing the payroll to almost $210-milliion. So how are you going to pay a big bat?

So I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to charge aggressively into the free agent market. They are at least a year away from that. After 2016, the payroll starts to drop dramatically. What I would expect is for the Yankees to be aggressive on the trade market. We will start unpacking what that could mean tomorrow.

Until Next Year

I hate the fact that Joe Girardi insisted on changing his number from 27 to 28 after the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. To suggest that a season that ends without championship is a failure is an insult to the 29 other teams in baseball and a simply impossible standard to hold yourself to.

This season ended badly, there is no doubting that. But step back from tonight and look at the big picture. This was a team that only the most diehard optimists even thought would make the playoffs. They did, and for the first time in a long time, the Yankees have several young players to look forward to and use in the future. Greg Bird came up and hit 11 homers in 46 games. Luis Severino made 11 starts and pitched to a 2.89 ERA. Didi settled in and hit .294/.345/.415 in the second half. Eovaldi turned a big corner and looked dominant in the 2nd half. Refsnyder and Ackley looked very good, in albeit very small samples. The back end of the bullpen looks to be a huge strength for years to come.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. If the Yankees want to get back to winning World Series there is a lot of work to be done. But that shouldn’t diminish what this season was. The 2015 Yankees were a success, not a huge one, but a success nonetheless.


Constanza on Yankees-Astros

Beating Keuchel

The Yankees face a very tall task tonight- beating one of the best pitchers in the game, and a pitcher who has dominated them this year. Keuchel pitched against them twice, didn’t allow a run, struck out 21 Yankees, and only walked one batter. All of that despite the fact that the Yankees tried to stack the lineup with righties against him. In their first start against him, Drew was the only lefty in the lineup. In the second, Didi and Ellsbury were the only lefties.

So what will Girardi do tonight? In the previous starts John Ryan Murphy was the catcher, and got a hit in both games. Considering the fact that Brian McCann is hitting .200 since the All-Star Break, I think Murphy might be in there again. Chris Young seems like a very obvious choice to start, probably at the expense of Gardner. I imagine Refsnyder will get the call at second, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Brendan Ryan start at short. That would leave Ellsbury, who has pretty similar L/R splits, and Bird, who posted a respectable .238/.347/.405 line against LHP this year, as the only lefties in the lineup.

Whatever the lineup, we know the formula on the pitching side. The Yankees will try to get the game from Tanaka to the big 3 in the bullpen. Considering the stakes of this game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them use each of them for multiple innings- meaning you could see Girardi pull Tanaka really early and bring in Wilson if necessary. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, and let’s enjoy this game. It’s been a few years since we have been able to enjoy a playoff game in the Bronx. Play Ball!

How Did I Do?

I make my predictions every year before the season starts, and I review them every year before the playoffs start. This was not a good year for me.

Start with the fact that my World Series prediction– Angels-Nationals has already been eliminated. I also only got four playoff teams out of ten. What went wrong? Let’s go through things division-by-division.

AL East

I am going to give myself a pass of the AL East. My two main predictions at the start of the season were: 1- You could pick these teams out of a hat and 2- Barring a big move at the trade deadline these teams will finish within 10 games of each other. I picked Toronto for second and they clearly made two huge deals at the trade deadline. If that hadn’t happened, would they have won the division and would they have finished 15-games in front of the last-place Red Sox? I don’t think so.

Oh yeah, I missed on the Yankees. I thought they would win 82 games and finish 4th, but I did a lot worse in other divisions.

AL Central

Like this one. I had Cleveland winning it and KC second. I also had Minnesota in last. My lone good prediction, I picked the Tigers to finish 4th despite the hype surrounding them at the start of the year.

AL West

I really messed this one up. I picked the eventual division winner to finish last and I had Houston in third. I did predict that Anaheim would finish ahead of Seattle, so there is that small victory.

NL East

I missed on Washington completely, I am still not sure what happened there. I did pick the Mets for 2nd and got the rest of the division in the correct order.

NL Central

I picked St. Louis for third, but had Pittsburgh and Chicago at the top with Milwaukee in 4th and the Reds in last. Considering that Chicago and Pittsburgh finished with the 2nd and 3rd best records in baseball, this went pretty well.

NL West

I got the Dodgers as the champs, my only division winner,  but picked San Diego to be in 2nd and a wild card team- whoops!

So what do I think will happen now? I think the Blue Jays are going to win the World Series over the Dodgers. I wouldn’t be on it though.


CC Sabathia has just put out a statement saying he is checking into an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

On a non-baseball level, I hope he makes a speedy and complete recovery. Alcoholism is a terrible disease and it is admirable of Sabathia to be so candid about his need for help.

On a baseball level, this will only matter if the Yankees make it to the ALDS. With Pineda pitching yesterday, he can’t start a potential Game 1 of the ALDS. I imagine this means the Yankees would turn to Severino for Game 1 and Pineda for Game 2 with Tanaka pitching Game 3. If there were a Game 4 the Yankees would have to pick between Adam Warren and Ivan Nova. But they have to win a game tomorrow for that to be an issue.

Backing In

Thanks to Paul Goldschmidt, the Yankees are hosting the wild card game. They certainly don’t deserve to, getting swept in Baltimore this weekend after dropping three-of-four to Boston earlier this week. But none of that matters now. Now the Yankees have to figure out how to win the wild card game.

Just as the September expanded rosters are ridiculous, so are the rules for the wild card game. It is viewed as a singular event, which means you only need to set a 25-man roster for that one game. So, here are my ideas for a roster.

Catchers (3) McCann, Murphy, Romine- Since you don’t need 12 pitchers, get an extra catcher in there in case you want to pinch-run for McCann.

Infielders (7) Bird, Ackley, Refsnyder, Pirela, Ryan, Headley, Gregorius- Pirela is your 2nd pinch-runner.

Outfielders (6) Beltran, Ellsbury, Gardner, Young, Noel, Heathcott-Young is a defensive caddy. Noel is your 1st pinch-runner and Heathcott can come in and hit against a RHP, or pinch-run if needed.

DH (1) A-Rod- duh

Pitchers (8) Tanaka, Severino, Miller, Betances, Wilson, Warren, Sabathia, Pazos- You have Severino in case Tanaka blows up. Sabathia is there for that as well, but also to face a lefty in a key spot. (Nobody else I would trust with that role at this point. Miller-Betances-Wilson-Warren are my 6th-9th innings guys and Pazos has done the best of the multiple arms left in the pen.

This week has been a bummer, but the key thing is that the Yankees are returning to the playoffs again. That’s worth celebrating.


The Wrong Strategy

The Yankees had a three choices headed into today’s doubleheader.

  1. Play to win right off the bat. Put all your best players in Game 1 and your best starter (Severino) and hope you win the game. If you don’t regroup and go from there.
  2. Play to win the nightcap. Save your best players and starter for Game 2 and let the chips fall where the may in Game 1.
  3. Play it halfway in both games. Put some starters in the first, some in the second and spread out the bullpen.

Some will accuse me of Monday Morning QB’ing here, but my conviction is that Girardi chose the wrong strategy by not picking 1 or 2. Think about it this way. The Yankees had those choices to make, but they also knew that if they didn’t succeed today, they had a chance to succeed tomorrow. However, failure today meant you had to succeed tomorrow.

Under that scenario, why wouldn’t you pick a game today to go all-out for a win, while realizing you had tomorrow to fall back on? You could pick either game, the point is you picked one of them and used your best lineup, your best pitchers and went from there. If you lost, you had tomorrow to regroup and try again.

Keep in mind the other factor in all of this, the Yankees didn’t play Friday. They were rested coming into today and they could get two days of rest by winning a game today. Instead, they half-assed it on both ends and now they have to try to win a game tomorrow.

Playoff Bound-UPDATED

The Yankees are in the wild card game. Now the two questions are where will it be played and who will be their opponent?

The Yankees have full control over the first question. Win one of their three remaining games and the game is in Yankee Stadium. They might not even need to do that as one loss by Houston produces the same result. To that end, I disagree with Joe Girardi’s idea to put all his bench players in the game tonight (if there is a game tonight) I would rather win tonight, and take the rest of the weekend off than rest tonight and then possibly have to crank it up later this weekend.

The opponent may take a little while. Minnesota and Anaheim both trail Houston by one game. Of the three, Anaheim may have the easiest schedule as they are playing Texas who clinched the AL West last night and can’t change the fact that they will open the ALDS on the road. (Thanks to BL for pointing out that last night’s celebration was simply about clinching a playoff spot, the magic number is 1 for the division.) Houston is in Arizona, a team eliminated a long time ago, but with some dangerous young players. Minnesota hosts Kansas City, winners of the AL Central, but locked in a tie with Toronto for the best record in the AL. If all three teams end in a tie, a massive two-day tiebreaker would commence. That’s what you root for as a Yankees’ fan.

I’ll have more as the weekend develops. One cool thing baseball is doing on Sunday is starting all the games within a ten-minute window of each other. Everything launches around 3:05pm, so we could have some exciting and simultaneous finishes in the race for the final playoff spot.