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Sale To Boston-UPDATED

The Red Sox have scooped the Nationals and acquired Chris Sale from Chicago. The cost is Juan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, and Victor Diaz.

This is exactly the type of trade a team like Boston should make. They are giving up a ton in prospects, but they are getting arguably the best pitcher on their staff. Sale, Price, and Porcello are a great top-3 and make the Red Sox clear favorites in the AL. Furthermore, while Moncada especially looks like a gem, none of the prospects traded down contributed significantly to Boston’s AL East-winning club in 2016.

From the Yankees point of view I will point out that they could have signed Moncada, but backed off because with luxury tax penalties he would have cost them essentially double what he ultimately received. The front office should remember that as they build for 2017.

UPDATE- Red Sox are also “throwing in” $31.2-million to cover Moncada’s remaining salary. In separate news, Fenway Franks are now $10 each.

The New CBA And The Yankees

Here’s  a good summary of the new baseball labor deal.

For the Yankees, the key numbers are the luxury tax thresholds, actually called the “competitive balance tax” which start at 195 million this year and increase to 210 in the last year of the deal.

There are two keys to the CBT. First, the more times you violate it, the bigger the tax for the excess. 20% then 30%, then 50%. Second, there are additional penalties for going $20-million over, an additional 12% of that amount, and $40-million over, let’s call it 45% of that amount.

So a team that has a $250-million payroll in 2017 would pay a flat 20% on the first $20-million over 195. 32% on the next 20 million and 62.5% on the last 15 million. Add that all up and you have an extra $20-million, not prohibitive. But shift that $250-million to a third-time violator, and you have $36.65-million in tax.

For the Yankees, this presents an opportunity.  Even with arbitration cases, their payroll is “only” going to be around $160-million next season before any potential free agent signings or trades. Next year it gets cut by at least $50-million, and you can add another $22-million to that if Tanaka opts out. So, barring complete stupidity, they should be well under the luxury tax the next two years

And I suspect that’s exactly what they will do.  The post-2018 free agent class will be headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both younger than Aaron Judge, and has lots of depth behind it.  The Yankees can spend the next two years seeing how their prospects pan out and then jump in to free agency with a big splash after 2018.  They certainly may sign a free agent this offseason, they might take on payroll in a trade, they might try to buy out some free agency years from arbitration-eligible guys like Didi, but I bet they won’t spend more than an additional $35-million.

 

Labor Peace

The details are still sketchy, but the owners and players have apparently agreed to a 5-year labor deal. Here are the big items I have read so far:

No international draft

No roster changes, either expanding to 26-men or reducing from 40-men in September.

Luxury tax will start at $195-million next season, up from $189 this year, and increase from there.

The draft pick/arbitration process is “changing”.

I will update this post tomorrow morning when we should have more details.

More details are coming out

As noted in the comments, the All-Star Game no longer “counts”. The pennant winner with the best record gets home field in the World Series.

There will be a hard cap on each teams international spending.

New major leaguers will no longer be allowed to use smokeless tobacco.

Exceeding the luxury tax by $40-million will result in a draft pick reduction/drop

The season will start midweek in 2018 to allow four additional off days to be built into the schedule

THe disabled list is being switched to a 10-day DL, not a 15-day DL. This is a very smart idea as teams won’t be so reluctant to wait and see on injuries.

Sunday Sauce

There is really only one baseball matter to discuss this week and it is the potential for a lock out on Thursday. The CBA expires on December 1st and while we have heard rumors of a deal being close, so far nothing has been signed. If the two sides don’t reach s deal, the owners will probably lock out the players Thursday.  Since there aren’t any games scheduled for almost three months, this would be a largely symbolic move, but it would end any transactions until an agreement was made.

It would be stunning if the two sides didn’t figure out a new deal.  It’s been 22 years since baseball had a work stoppage and the game has been racking up money  Franchise values and salaries are through the roof.  Both sides should be motivated to make a deal.  But will they?

From various reports the sense is an international draft is the major sticking point.  The owners clearly want one as it would provide even more cost certainty.  The players will probably acquiesce to one in exchange for more money since it doesn’t affect current union members.  I would guess that raising the luxury tax threshold and doing away with draft pick compensation could get things done.

For the Yankees, the luxury tax threshold will determine the way the offseason develops.  Currently, they have about $135-million committed to next year’s payroll.  Their seven arbitration cases probably bring the payroll around $160-million.  Under the old rules, the Yankees are taxed 50% for every dollar they spend over $189-million, but that tax resets to 22.5% if they drop below $189-million at any point.  Assuming that condition carries over to the next CBA, you could see them adding salary up to, but not above, the luxury tax limit this offseason.

 

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Cleveland and…?

This much we know, Tuesday will be a pretty magical night in Cleveland. Not only will the World Series start on the banks of Lake Erie, but the Cavaliers will raise their championship banner when they open the NBA season against the New York Knickerbockers.

But which NL team will be there as an opponent?  Before last night I think the smart money was on LA. Now it has shifted to Chicago, but should it have?

Jon Lester is a wonderful pitcher, especially in the postseason, but Kenta Maeda has had a great “rookie” year. And the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw looming for a Game 6 start and you can bet a Game 7 relief appearance.

So don’t punch that Cubs World Series ticket just yet. But one thing is for sure, the next two or three games of the NLCS should be a lot of fun.

A Tale of Two Seasons

If you are going to evaluate the Yankees’ season, you have to divide it into two parts. The first part is everything that happened before August 1st, and the second part is everything that happened from that point forward. Some will quibble that July 25th, the day they traded Chapman, should be the line. But I would argue that the team didn’t embrace a full rebuild until the 1st when they traded Miller and Beltran. By sending those two away for prospects, the Yankees truly committed to a new way of doing business.

Now if you compare the two “halves” you will find the Yankees actually did better once they started their rebuild. They went 52-52 before it with an offense scoring 4.03 runs per game and a pitching staff/defense allowing 4.35.  Afterwards they went 32-26 with an offense scoring 4.83 runs per game and a pitching staff/defense allowing 4.63.

So, you could say the offense got better while the pitching got worse and the overall result was better. If you think about what happened, that makes sense. The Yankees found a hotter hitter than Beltran. Lost a terrible hitter in A-Rod and added some sparks here and there throughout the lineup. On the pitching side they subtracted two huge bullpen pieces, lost Eovaldi to injury, and had to start rookies a lot over the final few weeks.

Now if the Yankees could play next year at the same clip they played since August 1st, they would win 89 games, putting them right in the thick of the playoff race. (It would have earned them the top wild card this year) But of course you can’t just extrapolate things like that. Furthermore, the Yankees have a lot of more work to do if they are going to take this team and turn it into a perennial contender again. Let’s talk more about that tomorrow.

24 Years

Since getting swept in Tampa, which allowed the Yankees to finish their sell off, the club has run off a 13-9 streak. That puts them at four games over .500 again, the best they have been all season, and leaves them 16 wins short of another season at .500 or better.

You have to go back to the 1992 Yankees to find the last time they finished below .500. That was the 4th year of a brutal stretch of baseball- the 1989 to 1992 Yankees were really bad. They lost 90 games twice in that stretch, something the franchise had only done twice before since 1912. But 1992 marked the turning point. Buck Showalter was hired. Bernie Williams came up from the minors and things got better from there. It’s a fun walk back in history for me to look at that team after so many years. I remember going to Opening Day that year and sitting with the guy from the other side of this blog as the Yankees beat the Red Sox. I had to listen for hours to how Phil Plantier was going to be the next great Red Sox after he hit a homer. (Nice call Andy!)

It’s a good time to look back at that team for some of the names that held such promise then, but didn’t pan out. Sam Militello was a top pitching prospect, but injuries derailed him. Pat Kelly had hit the cover off the ball at Columbus and was considered the second baseman of the future. Hensley Muelens, Bam Bam, never hit at all. One day we will look back at this 2016 team and I wonder which guys will be the Bernies and which guys will be the Kellys? Time will tell.

Thinking About The Next Trade

The Yankees have clearly fully committed to the youth movement over the past few weeks and it makes me wonder which veteran will be traded next? The popular idea is to trade Brian McCann because Gary Sanchez clearly seems ready to catch and to hit, so what’s the point of keeping McCann around? I couldn’t disagree more.

Now, I will preface the following argument with the caveat that if a team wants to seriously overpay for McCann, by all means the Yankees should let them. But, assuming rational trading partners, the Yankees have no reason to give McCann away or pay a cent of his salary right now for three reasons.

1- McCann is still a good defensive catcher.

2- McCann still hits RHP well.

3- You need some veterans around the team to show the younger guys how to survive in this league.

Having McCann as a DH against RHP and backup catcher in 2017 isn’t a bad thing. The Yankees will be overpaying him for that role, but they should get solid production. For the first time in years, they don’t have a guy who is an obvious DH every day type, so why not let McCann take the bulk of the AB’s there, at least against RHP, and catch 1 game a week? Additionally, consider that the almost all of the guys the Yankees are bringing up right now are righties. Lefty hitters are going to be a rarity in the 2017 lineup.

Furthermore, the logjam the Yankees are facing defensively really lies in the outfield. Judge is clearly the right fielder of the future. I believe Frazier will be the left fielder of the future. Austin is a guy who can play the corners. Hicks can play all three spots. You also have Mason Williams and Ben Gamel lurking in the minors. That leaves Gardner and Ellsbury as the two guys who it would benefit the Yankees the most to trade. The problem is Ellsbury is untradeable at this point with about $90-million and four-plus years left on his deal. So Gardner is the guy who has to go.

That would clear the way for the eventual promotion of Frazier- sometime in 2017, but also allow the Yankees to get long looks at guys like Austin, Gamel, Williams and even Jake Cave to see what they have. I suspect Gardner passed through waivers, so the Yankees should try and make this happen now, before August 31st and the second trade deadline. That would put them in a position to field an every day lineup with six-of-nine guys under 30 in 2017. How’s that for a change?

Thoughts on A-Rod

If you had told me back in 2004 that Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees would go to only 1 World Series together, I would have bet you anything that you were wrong. The Yankees had just lost the 2003 World Series, but it was their sixth appearance in the last eight Fall Classics. Adding the best player on the planet seemed like a guarantee for plenty of more Octobers in the Bronx.

But we didn’t know that baseball was changing and A-Rod was a major jerk. Team like the Red Sox were better than the Yankees at exploring new ways to win. A-Rod alienated most of his teammates immediately by doing things like requiring the clubhouse attendants to put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Those Yankee teams of the mid-2000’s were more talented than the results they produced and I think that has a lot to do with how divided they were.

Alex kept making himself look bad while putting up enormous numbers. He preened and pressed for attention and then committed the cardinal baseball sin of trying to upstage the 2007 World Series by opting out of his deal during the final game. Yet all was forgiven when the Yankees weeks later not only took him back, but gave him a raise. His ten-year contract guaranteed him $275-million and additional money for the milestone home runs he was going to hit as he pursued the record.

Brian Cashman was absolutely right yesterday when he said that the Yankees don’t win the 2009 World Series without Alex, but that was a heck of a price to pay for the 13 years he was under contract. Some people feel sorry for Alex which is hard for me to fathom. He became fabulously wealthy playing baseball, yet cheated the very sport he professed to love multiple times. He was benched because he simply didn’t add any value to the team, not because of some vendetta by management against him. Give credit to Hal for not only swallowing a big check in releasing Alex, but taking the high road. It would have been very easy for the Yankees to simply cut him yesterday without another thought. Instead, they gave Alex a way to leave with some dignity.

I hope Alex takes advantage of the opportunity. He can head back to Miami next weekend and then pour his efforts into helping younger players grow. If I were him, I would play the long game doing everything I could to bolster my image for a shot at the Hall of Fame. Alex could follow Mark McGwires path and coach, staying involved in the game he loves and helping other player succeed.

But I don’t think that will happen.  I suspect he will start working out and leaking stories about it. He will work out at first base to gain some competency there and Loria and the Marlins, looking for another gate attraction after Ichiro, will bring him into camp next March. So think of this only as a good-bye to the Yankees, not baseball.

*****

With the subtractions of A-Rod and Beltran, the Yankees no longer have a permanent DH. This has big implications for the future.

First off it means that Brian McCann stays a Yankee unless someone absolutely backs up a truck for him. (Remember he has the most home runs as a catcher since 2014 and is still very good defensively). The Yankees can shuttle him and Sanchez between DH and catcher, giving Sanchez a chance to grow into the job while learning from a really good source.

Second it means that someone else is going to come up and play. I suspect it will be Tyler Austin and the Yankees will give him every chance to show what he can do, but Aaron Judge won’t be far behind. And if Austin and Judge show they are ready over the final months of the season, you can bet that the Yankees trade Gardner or, if they somehow could, Ellsbury, this offseason.

The A-Rod Press Conference

A few minutes before the start and nothing has leaked. The only possible hint of what might be coming is the news that Tyler Austin isn’t in the Scranton lineup today. If Alex as being removed from the roster, Austin would make a lot of sense as his replacement. I’ll update as events progress

11:01- Jack Curry who usually has a great read on the inner workings of the team says this is going to be some form of good-bye but he expects Alex to stay in an advisory capacity

11:02-The Yankees have scooped themselves, issuing a press release stating that Alex will play his final game on August 12th and then become a special advisor to the club through 2017

11:04- Alex will be reporting directly to Hal Steinbrenner under his advisory contract

11:05- Alex can barely speak while holding back the tears.

11:08- Choking up multiple times, A-Rod thanks a number of people

11:10-Hal apparently reached out to A-Rod to facilitate this

Reading between the lines Hal gave A-Rod a choice: do this or we will cut you

11:14- Alex asked Hal for the chance to play one last game in front of the fans and his family

11:24- Alex has been told he will have a few at bats on Friday, but nothing has been guaranteed beyond that

11:28- Cashman says he wasn’t part of the conversation in regards to this deal.

11:33- Cashman says Alex will get everything he is owed money wise.