Yankees

Yanks Sign Holliday

According to multiple reports the Yankees have signed Matt Holliday to a 1-year deal for $13-million.

This is the kind of free agent signing I can absolutely support. He doesn’t cost a draft pick and he is only signed for next season. Assuming he doesn’t have a no-trade clause, he might even be a useful trade chip at the deadline.

Holliday can still hit.  He probably shouldn’t be in the outfield anymore, and started playing first last year . Joel Sherman actually suggested this and a signing of Luis Valbuena this morning.

Best of all, this probably means that Encarnacion is headed elsewhere.

Payroll is now about $173-million.

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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McCann is Gone

The Yankees have trade de Brian McCann to Houston for two minor league pitchers. The Yankees will send $5.5 million to the Astros each of the next two years meaning they save $11.5-million each of the next two seasons.

The two prospects they get back are interesting, but a ways away from the majors. Albert Abreu is ranked #7 in the Houston system with a fastball that touches 99. He struck out 104 in 90 innings at low A ball, but walked 49. Jorge Guzman has reportedly thrown 103, but is still in rookie ball.

Whats most interesting to me is that the Yankees took two lower-level pitching prospects for McCann because it signals that they are looking long-term. Between these two arms, and some of the other ones they have drafted and acquired, they are trying to build a rotation for 2018 or 2019, not next season.

 

On Offense

The Yankees goal on the offensive side of things should be to continue to free up as much playing time as possible for the younger guys and to use that time to figure out what they have. Let’s go around the diamond.

Obviously, Gary Sanchez is the primary catcher and he needs to get a full season behind the plate.

At first Greg Bird should be the starter, but Tyler Austin should mix in here and in right.

Starlin Castro did enough at second, especially in the second half that the Yankees don’t need to go looking for a replacement. Same thing with Didi at short. Plus with Mateo and Torreyes on the horizon, no need to do anything here.

Third base is a position the Yankees can start to think ahead about. Ideally, Miguel Andujar progresses to AAA successfully and merits a late season call up. If not, perhaps one of the shortstop prospects mentioned above can slide over.  For now Headley recovered enough from a bad start to earn the bulk of the playing time in 2017

While the infield is set, the outfield needs some more roster pruning. Try as they might, the Yankees are not going to get rid of Ellsbury. So they need to hope he hits and be prepared if he does not. That may mean turning him into one of the more expensive platoon players ever, but his 2016 numbers showed a serious split between his performance against righties and lefties.

That leaves Gardner as an ideal trade candidate. Again, I would much rather trade Ellsbury, but Gardner’s contract is reasonable (two more years and $26-million in guaranteed money) so he could be moved.  The Yankees need to do that, because they want to free up the outfield so they can start Judge and Hicks as much as possible. Judge is obvious. Hicks is a guy who looked lost until he got regular time late in the season. The Yankees need to find out if he is the player he was until the end of July, or the guy after that. And, don’t forget that hopefully Clint Frazier will be forcing his way into the mix some time during the 2017 season.

And that leaves DH, where the Yankees can currently pencil in McCann, but if they can swing a trade, they could do a myriad of things. For instance, with Austin and Ackley able to cover multiple positions while hitting from different sides, how about a platoon?  Or simply use it as a spot to rotate through different guys?  For the first time in ages, the Yankees don’t have to give one guy 500 AB’s at DH, they should keep that flexibility.

Friday is the deadline for teams to make their Rule 5 protections and the Yankees have a full 4o-man roster and guys like Andujar and Mateo who must be protected. Expect a wave of DFA’s in the next 48 hours.

The Offseason is Here

Congrats to the Cubs who made many of my family members happy, some of them even living. And with the end of the World Series we can now look forward to the GM meetings this upcoming week and the start of free agency on Tuesday. For the Yankees, this should mean a focus on pitching and then more pitching.

Consider the 2017 rotation,  You have Tanaka. And then you have Tanaka and maybe more Tanaka. Ok, it’s not that bad, but do Sabathia and Pineda inspire a lot of confidence? Severino, as a starter? Cessa or Mitchell? See what I mean here?  Now I certainly wouldn’t back up the prospect truck for Chris Sale, but swapping out Brett Gardner or Brian McCann for a solid, if not spectacular, starter makes a lot of sense. Also buying low on an injury-prone guy like the Dodgers McCarthy, wouldn’t be a bad idea either. He was great in his New York audition and the Yankees could probably get him at a reduced salary for a middling prospect. The idea is to add some stability to a rotation where two or three spots will be left open for the younger guys to show what they can do.

As for the bullpen, I would not under any circumstances sign Chapman. You know who has led the Yankees in saves for the last five year?  Five different guys- Soriano, Rivera, Robertson, Miller, and Chapman,  Betances is perfectly capable of making it six-different guys in six years. For another thing, relief prices are out of whack.  Chapman will probably sign for $15-million per, which on a per-inning basis should make him the most expensive pitcher in baseball.

What I would rather see the Yankees do is sign guys who haven’t been closers, but get lots of strikeouts and see what they can do.  Remember, Andrew Miller wasn’t a closer when he came to town. You also have a lot of intriguing arms coming back from injury-Lindgren, Barbato, Rumblelow- and guys like Holder and Heller, that the Yankees should throw into the mix in 2017. So don’t spend on a closer.

Next, I’ll tackle the offense.

Perfect!

If the Red Sox were going to clinch the AL East at Yankee Stadium, you could not come up with a better way for that to happen than tonight’s events.

And for Mark Teixira I wonder if that will be it for him? That was the first time he ever hit a walk off in the regular season  (I was there when he did it in the 2009 ALDS) A walk-off grand slam is a pretty good way to end a career

And best of all, we still could have a five-way tie for the last wild card. Dare to dream folks.

My Wish List For The Final Ten Games

People keep mentioning how the Yankees are “only” three games out of a wild card spot. That statement is factually true, but it ignores two important details. 1- There are only ten games left in the season. 2- There are three teams closer to that wild card spot than the Yankees right now. So, the Yankees have to play incredibly well over these final ten games and hope that multiple teams stumble. And don’t forget their one good starting pitcher is missing his next start. There is a chance it could happen, but I wouldn’t expect it. So, here are the things I would like to see over the final 10 games out of the Yankees and MLB in general.

1- Two more wins. Two more wins gets them to .500 and means they haven’t had a losing season since 1992. That’s an impressive streak.

2- A couple of home runs from Mark Teixeira and 3 additional hits beyond that. It’s been an awful season for Tex, but I would like to see him end his career on a good note. Those homers and hits would get him to 15 for the year and should squeak his average up to the Mendoza Line.

3- More of Gary Sanchez. Really doing anything at this point because it is fun to watch.

4- Applause for David Ortiz on Thursday. I still think Ortiz got off lightly for failing that drug test, and he takes way too long to run around the bases, but he is the last guy standing from when this rivalry was an amazing spectacle and he is one of the greatest clutch players I have ever seen.  The fans should show him some respect in his final game at the Stadium. Cheryl Miller’s little brother got cheered at MSG in his final game there. Ortiz deserves a similar reception.

5- A start for Sevrino this week in place of Tanaka. The Yankees have a rotation hole and Severino has been touted as a rotation solution. Let’s give him one last chance in 2016 to show that because I fear the Yankees are going to Joba Rule him to death next year.

6- Some good wild card races. I’m afraid the division races are settled. The Cubs have clinched. The Rangers and Nationals can clinch tonight. The closest division race is the AL East where Boston has a 5.5-game lead. If there is going to be excitement over the final week, it is going to have to come from the wild card. Greg posted a comment with some crazy tie scenarios for the wild card, I’m rooting for those.

7-Labor peace- Ok this doesn’t have to happen now. It doesn’t even have to happen in October. But being a child of the 80’s, I always get twitchy when MLB’s CBA is expiring like it will in December. I hope we hear an announcement of a new deal very soon.

Crusher

thats all I have to say abou that.

It’s Been Awhile

The Yankees and Red Sox are about to play some meaningful games late in the season for the first time in a number of years. You probably have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a series this late in the season with these implications. That’s because the Yankees find themselves four games out of first with four games against the first-place Red Sox. Now, I am not suggesting that the Yankees are going to sweep this series. Considering the state of their starting pitching, and the fact that they signed Billy Butler yesterday because they think he can help, indicate how long a shot this is. But, if the Yankees somehow take 3-of-4, they will remain in the think of the playoff race- something inconceivable on August 1st.

Again, I don’t think it will happen, I would actually be pretty happy getting out of town with a split. But as a Yankees’ fan I am playing with the house’s money over these final 17 games so I can dare to dream.

Summer Reading

Sorry for not posting in awhile, but I went on vacation and took a break. But not all of my vacation was devoid of baseball, among the good books I read while away, “The Arm” by Jeff Passan definitely made an impression.

If you have a child who is thinking of pitching, I strongly encourage you to read it. Passan does an amazing job of looking into arm injuries and trying to find the smoking gun behind all of the Tommy John surgeries that are plaguing major league baseball.  He doesn’t come up with a definitive answer, but his data on kids who throw more than 8 months a year is eye-opening. (Synopsis- don’t let your kids do that) He travels to Japan and tries to understand their pitching culture and also presents the history of TJ surgery. He details the Red Sox negotiations with Jon Lester, and explains how MLB is trying to stem the flood of injuries. Part of it is a system-wide computer database of every injury across all levels, to get an idea of the scope of the problem and look for patterns. And part is an organizational study of a few systems, the Yankees included, focusing on the pitchers and analyzing not only their pitch counts and usage patters, but also their biomechanics. It will be interesting to see what results all of this study provides, but the conclusion I drew from the book is that the seeds of these injuries are planted long before a player even gets to college. Youth baseball is poisoning the health of future pitchers. Again, if you are a parent with a kid pitching, read this, but even if you are just a fan, it is worth your time.

*****

I find myself back in NYC and surprisingly back in a pennant race. Let’s face it, the Yankees making any playoff push is the cherry on top of the sundae this year and if they actually made it- wow. I don’t think they will. For one thing, they are still only given about a 10% chance from the sites that forecast these things. For another, they have a ridiculously hard schedule, especially after they finish with Tampa this weekend. But they are playing meaningful games in September and that is great for not only this year, but for the development of all the young guys on the team. I think Joe Girardi deserves a lot of credit for keeping everyone focused when it would have been easier to just throw in the towel and focus on 2017.