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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.

Goodbye Joe UPDATED

In a somewhat stunning move, the Yankees have decided not to keep Joe Girardi as manager. He leaves after ten seasons with 910 wins and a championship.

I find the way this move happened curious. The Yankee season ended Saturday. Girardi was at the Stadium yesterday, but today come word that he is being let go? I think there is more to it than they are telling us.

But that isn’t as important as the actual impact of this move. The Yankees now have to find a manager, after most teams have filled their empty managerial spots, and that person is going to have to step into some big expectations. It’s not unlike 1995 when they pushed out Buck Showalter and brought in Joe Torre. That worked out ok, so let’s not get into a panic yet, but this is a bold move by the club. Girardi was overly defensive with the media and seemed to get tense in big spots, but he never had a losing season and apart from Game 2 of the ALDS, had a great year as manager.

The role of manager has changed dramatically over the past ten years. It’s not about the x’s and o’s anymore. Advanced scouting and data analytics have taken a lot of the decision making power out of a manager’s hands. The biggest thing you need is someone who can handle the clubhouse and keep a team focused and calm.

Who will that be? My initial guess is Rob Thompson, the bench coach, who has been part of the organization in multiple capacities for over 20 years. But, the Yankees will also probably look outside the organization too, and the smart money is to bet on an ex-catcher getting the job.

One last note. This will be the first time the Yankees select a manger without George Steinbrenner calling the shots since Ralph Houk named himself manager in 1966. Considering Steinrenner’s penchant for firing managers, it’s amazing that his last two hires combined to manage more than 3,500 games for the club.

UPDATE- I just realized the Yankees probably made the decision yesterday, but didn’t announce it because of the World Series. Today was an off day, so that’s why we found out.

I Love LA!

I’ve often wondered which team I would have grown up rooting for if I had been born in New York City in the 1940’s. I grew up in Manhattan, so maybe I would have rooted for the Giants? Maybe tHe “Great DiMaggio” as Hemmingway called him, would have swayed me to the Yankees? Or would “The Duke”, Jackie, Peewee and the rest have made me root for Brooklyn? And while I cried when the Dodgers won the 1981 World Series, I never felt anger towards them about it.

So I’m rooting for LA in this series. For one thing, I think it is horrible that Houston is representing the AL. (Nothing to do with the ALCS, I will feel the same way if Milwaukee ever represents the NL in the Fall Classic) But beyond that, the Dodgers appeal to me. If you’ve never been to Dodgers Stadium, you are missing a treat. And as a fan of baseball on the radio. I used my XM radio subscription to tune in Vin Scully in countless nights and let his poetry send me to sleep.

So good luck LA. Let’s see if you can bring home your 7th title.

A Wonderful Year

I’m a Yankee fan who doesn’t subscribe to the mantra that it’s championship or bust. For me, this season was an enormous success. Not only did the Yankees find an ace in Severino, a stud hitter in Judge, and much more, but they advanced to the cusp of the World Series. If you can’t celebrate that, you are never going to be happy.

What happens next is the biggest question facing this team. They won’t sneak up on the league next year and the expectations will be huge. This squad was a unique one in terms of being an underdog. The 2018 Yankees won’t have that luxury.

Game 7

I hate to bring this up, but the last time the Yankees faced a Game 7 was in 2004. Before that there was 2003 and 2001. And then you have to go back to 1964. So, this isn’t a frequent occurrence around here these days.

Last night reminded me a lot of 2001 against Arizona. Huge amount of momentum going the Yankees way coming into Game 6, and then the other team battered the Yankees. We know how that ended.

What this really comes down to is the offense. The Yankees haven’t hit in Houston and it is killing them. Will that change tonight? It better if the Yankees are going to have any chance.

Wow

One of my favorite sports quotes is from Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The Astros punched the Yankees in Games 1&2, but they haven’t been to answer the counterpunches since then.

Tonight it was the Yankees slaying the beast that is Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel has always been a great pitcher, but he seemed to be even better against the Yankees in the playoffs. He shut them down in the 2015 wild card game and did the same in game 1 of the ALCS. But he didn’t do it tonight and the Yankees will head to Houston with a 3-2 lead.

I think I am correct when I say that the last time the Yankees won a Game 6 or 7 on the road was the 1978 World Series. Verlander is going to be very tough and the Astros should get a energy jolt from their crowd. See you Friday night.