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Brian’s Song

I do not envy Brian Cashman this week. He made a great trade, but he needs to make more, and indications are that ownership isn’t on board with that.

I understand Hal’s reluctance. Since they bottomed out at 9-17, the Yankees have gone 43-32, that’s almost half a season of playing at a 92-win clip. The problem is that the record is a mirage. Look at their runs scored vs. runs allowed. Even while playing .573 baseball, they only scored 4 more runs than they allowed. This is not a team that can win 92 games. It is much more likely that this is a team that can win 82 games. And their playoff odds, currently 11.1%, reflect that. Brian has to somehow convince Hal that the season is lost and the best thing the Yankees can do is cash in on some of their current assets. Primarily, that means Beltran and Nova must go now. But, it also means they need to listen on everyone. You don’t trade Miller unless a team is offering more than you got from the Cubs for Chapman, but you listen to everything and see what can happen.

The problem is that second wild card is out there, not too far away, tempting Hal and Randy to chase it. If they ultimately determine the Yankees need to stay in the race, that will be a missed opportunity, but one definitely mitigated by the Chapman trade. What I hope for is a bad weekend of baseball leads the Yankees to realize the futility of chasing the title this year and puts them into full sell mode. Beltran and Nova get moved, but more than that, the Yankees really commit to tearing it down for now. Done correctly, they can be back and much, much better very soon. Right now I don’t think that is going to happen. I think it is far more likely that they simply don’t trade anyone. I hope I am wrong.

A Great Start-UPDATED

Jon Heyman is reporting that the Cubs have acquired Chapman from the Yankees for three or four players- Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, and “perhaps” an additional player.

Let’s dispense with the guy we know. Adam Warren is having a bad season in Chicago, but we know exactly what role he is going to fill in New York- 7th inning guy. If he can pitch like he did last year, the Yankees will be happy to have him back. And remember, he is still only 28 and under team control through 2018. We could see him back in the starting rotation down the road as well.

The really great part of this trade for the Yankees are the two prospects Torres and McKinney, ranked #1 and #5 in the Cubs’ system and both in the Top-100 of all prospects by MLB. Some Yankees fans seem upset that they Torres is a shortstop, but shortstops are the Swiss Army Knives of baseball. If you are good enough to play short, you can probably handle almost any other position. McKinney is a left-handed hitting outfielder who profiles as a left fielder in the future. He doesn’t have the speed of Brett Gardner, but is pretty similar in every other way.

So the Yankees add two very good prospects and Warren, in exchange for a few months of Chapman. This is the type of deal a team would only make if it was trying to break a string of 107 years without a championship, because it is a serious overpay. Good for the Yankees for getting them to do it.

However, this can only be the start of this process. It concerns me that Joel Sherman has tweeted about the Yankees trying to sign Chapman to a contract extension. That is the last thing this team should have done, and if it is true, it is an indication that ownership is still dithering about this rebuild. That needs to stop and the Yankees need to put Beltran and many others on the block next. They probably won’t come close to this haul, but the more prospects the better at this point.

UPDATED 3:35PM- Yankees just officially announced the deal. It is as quoted above with the addition of Rashad Crawford, a lottery ticket type player, to the deal.

UPDATED 5:35PM- Prospect lists are notoriously flaky, but most assessments I read agree with this one. Torres is now the Yankees best prospect and McKinney is their 4th-best.

Time To Sell

Give the Yankees credit. No matter what happens today, they will complete this four-series stretch against top teams with a winning record. In fact, if they win today, they will complete this stretch with a record of 9-5. That’s pretty impressive.

The problem is that it doesn’t wipe away the mediocrity of the first three months, or the reality of where the team current,y stands- 7.5 out of the division and 4.5 out of a wild card spot. And while some might seize upon the wild card as a legitimate playoff route, there are three other teams closer to that spot than the Yankees. Add it all up and Baseball Prospectus puts the Yankees playoff odds at 6.4%. That translates to a chance of about 1-in-15. And while predictions are liable to be wrong, even if you halve their odds, they are still long, long, shots to make it.

Plus, they are facing a great opportunity. They have a combination of potential free agents, and desirable commodities, that could net them a significant return on the trade market.

Start with Chapman who could transform a playoff contender  Add in Beltran who is having a much better season than I thought he would.  But don’t stop there.  If the Yankee are going to sell, they need to do it correctly.  They need to look at everything on the roster and think about whether or not it will still be useful when they can contend again. Realistically, that is 2018 at the earliest, so guys like McCann, Gardner, Eovaldi, Pineda, and Tanaka must be considered in deals.

Done correctly, the Yankees can build up a solid arsenal of future assets.  They can get significantly younger and put themselves in a position  where free agency is used to supplement, not build, a pennant contender.

It’s been 27 years since the Yankees were truly sellers. Back then they waited too long to rebuild, constantly trying to throw new players on top of a bad foundation. The Yankees have a chance to avoid the fate now by selling and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them this week. Let’s hope they do so.

A Weird Weekend

I won’t go so far as to say I am actually rooting for Boston to win this weekend, but I am not rooting for the Yankees to win either. I want this series and the upcoming ones to remove any doubt in any head that thinks this is a contending team and let Brian Cashman get to work selling like Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd in Trading Places.

I have to apologize to any readers expecting me to analyze these games this weekend, I haven’t watched a single pitch.  I can’t, I’m too depressed.  If the Yankees win right now it will provide short-term gain and long-term pain, so I can’t root for it. We need to accept our fate and plan for the future. I will outline my thoughts on that soon, but for now I am watching things like the Cubs-Rangers instead of the Yankees. In short, I feel yucky



We’re Not Watching

I adore baseball.  I love going to games and I love watching them. It is quite simply my favorite sport. As a kid, that adoration reached its apogee with the All-Star Game. While I watched the World Series religiously, no single game was ever more fiercely contested, with as much star power,  than the All-Star Games that I grew up on. Sadly, those are a distant memory.

Interleague play was bad enough, but I think it was the sight of Bob Brenly and Joe Torre negotiating an ASG tie that forever soured me on the game. What happened to the days when players went all out to win this game?  When did we have to rely on stupid ideas like home field being determined by it, to want to watch this game?

At some point the players stopped caring about this game. They worried too much about injury and not enough about entertaining the fans. Jose Fernandez took a lot of heat Monday for saying he would groove fastballs to David Oritz, but why?  This was Ortiz’s last ASG and why wouldn’t a baseball fan want to see him go deep in an exhibition game?  Fernandez was just open to giving the fans what they wanted and I can’t fault him one bit. The problem is baseball doesn’t agree. They want to use the phony home field gimmick to make us care. It doesn’t.

I’m not alone in feeling this  Look at the TV ratings and the game is bleeding away viewers. (Last night’s ratings just came in as I was finishing this, a record low- 8.7 million viewers)  I don’t know what the fix is, but I would love to care about this game again.  I really miss it


At The Break

Yesterday’s game was the perfect metaphor for me in regards to the season so far. The Yankees looked great at times, they looked terrible at times, and it wasn’t overly enjoyable. But, the Yankees won and hit the break at 44-44, 7.5 behind the Orioles, and 5.5 out of a wild card spot. That really doesn’t tell the full story though. For one thing, they are 10th in the AL in wins, so 9 teams are better than them. For another, their run differential sits at -34, and even that may be overstating their performance as advanced stats suggest it should be worse with the Yankees record about three-games below .500. 

Most prediction sites give the Yankees around an 8% chance of even making the playoffs, so hopefully this past weekend’s burst of success will not distract ownership from what they need to do- sell, sell, sell. The danger is that the Yankees could come out of the break and take say four-of-six from the Red Sox and Orioles. That would make the sell case a much harder one to implement. I will try to outline my plan for selling and going forward in the next few days.

Halfway There

The Yankees reach the halfway point in the schedule at 40-41 with a -30 run differential and only six players-Beltran, Betances, Chapman, Miller,  Sabathia, and Tanaka- truly having good seasons. Because of the overall mediocrity of the AL, they are only 3.5-games out of a wild card spot. However, picturing this team in the playoffs requires a big imagination.

That’s why the Yankees need to make sure that they operate over the next few weeks using the principal of doing no harm. They must resist the temptation to add pieces to a flawed foundation, or to subtract from their future assets. That doesn’t mean they go into full sell mode now, it’s still a bit too early for that, just that they don’t become buyers.

The next 20 games are all against opponents better than .500, and includes some of the best teams in the league. Unless something really surprising happens, this stretch should prove to everyone that this team isn’t a legitimate contender and the best course of action is to build for the future. And since it ends right before the trade deadline, the Yankees can open for business when it concludes.

Door Number Three

Joel Sherman has a good article today about how the Yankees are boxed in with A-Rod and his lack of roster flexibility. Read it here. I agree with the argument, but disagree with the solution. Instead of cutting him, why not try a stretch with 11 pitchers?

Here’s the truth, the Yankees don’t use their 12th pitcher very often. And, when they do turn to him, they have enough arms on the 40-man to exchange him for a different pitcher. Consider Anthony Swarzak who was called up in the first week of June. Since then he has appeared seven times and pitched nine innings. He hasn’t pitched since June 22nd. The Yankees brought Richard Bleier up a month ago and he has pitched a grand total of eight times and contributed eight innings. Why do the Yankees need a 12th pitcher if this is how they are going to use them? Because here is the thing. Alex is still hitting LHP. He has a line of .275/.327/.510 against them this year. As a team, the Yankees have only managed a .252/.314/.386 line agains them, so Alex is contributing.

But I doubt the Yankees will ever feel comfortable with 11 pitchers and if that is truly the case, then it is getting close to the time to let Alex go or figure out a way for him to get back into the field. With only four spots on the bench, the Yankees cannot afford to give one of them to a 40-year old platoon player. Joel Sherman is right about that.

Free Markets 101

The Yankees love to claim that they support the free market when it suits them, and then turn around and violate the basic principals of free markets when it doesn’t. A great case in this was their acrimonious relationship with Stub Hub. Because the Yankees weren’t getting a cut of the fees Stub Hub collected for reselling tickets, the Yankees stopped doing business with them and launched their own ticket exchange. On that exchange the Yankees got some of the fees and got to set a minimum price for any resold ticket, violating a core principal of free markets. They further violated those principals earlier this year when they eliminated print at home tickets in an obvious attempt to stifle competition.

But now they have made peace with Stub Hub and a new deal is in place. It doesn’t allow print at home tickets and it sets a minimum price floor. I will assume that it also gives the Yankees a nice chunk of the 25% fees Stub Hub collects on any ticket being sold via the platform. It’s just another depressing example of how the Yankees, and pretty much every team, soaks the fan while trying to convince them they are doing them a favor.

What’s The Rush?

There seems to be this sudden urge amongst the fan base and the columnists in the New York area for the Yankees to trade everyone and anyone to cash it in and look to next season. I get it, this season does not look like a promising one. But, I still wouldn’t do it.

Now let me be clear. I think there is probably about a 0.5 percent chance the Yankees somehow win the World Series this year. I think there is only a slightly higher chance they make a significant run in the playoffs. But, the standings tell me they are only four games out of a playoff spot and the calendar tells me it is only June, so I wouldn’t sell just yet.

Now if a team wants to overwhelm the Yankees with prospects for the likes of Beltran or Chapman right now, I would jump at that, but barring that type of offer, what is the harm in waiting until we are close to the trade deadline? That may actually increase the value of the some of these players as desperate teams make stupid moves.

What I would do now is make sure that I don’t disrupt the future in any way. No trades to try to upgrade this flawed team first of all, but more than that I would look to maximize the future assets and minimize some of the ones heading out the door.

First, why is Ivan Nova in the rotation at the expense of Severino? Nova is a free agent after this season and has an ERA over 5 and a FIP just under 5. He is the past, Severino is the future, bring him up and let him learn to pitch in the bigs.

Second, until Teixeira returns, Refsnyder is the first baseman, and after that he gets to play a utility role around the diamond so the Yankees can see what his bat can do.

Third, when/if Teixeira returns you play him as much as possible to see if you can find anyone to trade for him, or if he will hit enough to make a qualifying offer, and therefore a draft pick, a good idea. But, if he keeps going the way he was going previously, you start phasing him out in August.

Finally, you minimize A-Rod at DH and put Beltran in there more frequently. That will allow the Yankees to see Hicks more, and decide what he is, 4th outfielder or potential starter, and protect Beltran as potential trade bait in July.

And here’s the most important thing. If they do go the sell route, they need to do it right. That means not trying to compete next year, but solidifying a decent prospect base with plenty of more assets and looking to 2018 as a realistic timeframe to compete again. But more on that later.