Yankees

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?

An Opportunity

Nathan Eovaldi announced today that he will need Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of this season and most likely all of 2017.

It’s awful news for him and bad news for the 2017 Yankees. They were hoping that Eovaldi would provide them with a solid rotation presence next year. In the immediate future it probably means that both Green and Cessa will be in the rotation. In the future, it may mean Adam Warren will be part of the 2017 rotation.

The question is can the Yankees and Eovaldi find a future together?  The easiest thing for the Yankees would be to non-tender Eovaldi at the end of the season and get out of his contract. But instead of doing that, I think the Yankees should offer him a three-year, incentive-laden deal. Pay him a minimal salary next year and then give him a chance to make significant money, health permitting, in 2018 and 2019.

For the Yankees, they get a pitcher besides Severino under contract beyond 2018. For Eovaldi, he gets a big league contract for next year and a chance to rehab in a place he knows. That seems like a good opportunity for both sides.

Youth Movement

Alex is gone and the Yankees have called up Austin and Judge. It’s pretty exciting and even more so is the lineup for today’s game which features both of them and only two players over 30.

48 Hours

Two more days. That’s all we have left of A-Rod and it won’t be a quiet two more days thanks to a mistake Joe Girardi made on Sunday and the NY media.

Sunday Girardi said A-Rod could play in all three games at Fenway if he wanted. Tuesday he didn’t follow through, admitting he made a mistake and was human. That’s not good enough for the media and they are going to absurd lengths to portray A-Rod as a victim.

Start with their attempt to equate A-Rod not playing to Jeter hitting second in his final season. Yes, Jeter should not have hit second, but think about the differences between Jeter and Alex for a minute. Never, and I mean never, did Jeter do anything to embarrass the Yankees. By contrast A-Rod has done plenty and also sued the club a few seasons back. Girardi didn’t want to embarrass Jeter and while it wasn’t his best move, it was an understandable one. Alex doesn’t deserve that benefit of the doubt and Girardi can’t pretend he is trying to win games and use Alex as a regular this week. That’s the bottom line there.

Next go to this notion that the Yankees owe A-Rod something. They owe him the remainder of his contract, about $26-million, that’s it. They will have paid him almost $400-million for his 13 years in the Bronx. They don’t owe him a majestic farewell or a spot in the lineup, but they are going to give him that tomorrow. That’s fine, but its also enough. These same writers defending A-Rod will be the first to attack him when he signs with another club next spring. You can count on that. Let’s get that distraction out of the way now. Alex doesn’t owe the Yankees anything either. He played and they determined he wasn’t useful anymore so they cut him. That gives him the right to go and find another team to play for and he should not be criticized for a lack of loyalty if he does that.

Finally, let me add my own conspiracy theory to what happened this week. Yankee management is not thrilled with having to cut A-Rod, but they know it is the right move for the future of the franchise. They orchestrated the Friday sendoff to sell a few more tickets instead of doing it on Sunday like they should have. They also realized that the less they let Alex play this week, the more he will want to play for someone else in the future. While it won’t cut the bill they owe him by much, a season on another team’s roster means $500,000 the Yankees save. I would bet they would be happy to save it.

The circus closes in 48 hours. I won’t miss it.

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

 

 

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.