Yankees

It Won’t Be Long

Ever since I was a kid, the end of the Super Bowl meant only one thing to me- baseball season was almost here. Back then, the gap was much greater, a month or so, but now it is only a few short weeks thanks to the NFL moving the Super Bowl into February. In fact, pitchers and catchers report next Friday, only 11 days from now.

And while there are still some very good free agents still available, I am going to declare the Yankee offseason over. Which means we can look at this chart, and realize that the Yankees are the only team in baseball that hasn’t signed a free agent this offseason.

I’m completely on board with that, and I think the Yankees had a great offseason mostly. They got a better version of Chris Young, at a much cheaper price. They got a second baseman who is young and a three-time All-Star, and they traded for one of the best closers in baseball. But I wish they had done one other thing- signed some of their starters to extensions.

Luis Severino is the only starter who is guaranteed to be under contract beyond 2017. Nova is a free agent after this season. Sabathia will be either after this one or 2017, depending on if his option vests. Pineda and Eovaldi are under contract through 2017. Tanaka has an opt-out after 2017. I would have liked to have seen the Yankees target either Eovaldi or Pineda for an extension this offseason. Both have faults, but both have the stuff to make a ton of money as free agents.

But ultimately that is a minor quibble about a solid offseason. The Yankees are getting younger and spending smarter. That will pay huge dividends down the road.

The First Injury of 2016

Joel Sherman is reporting that Greg Bird will need labrum surgery and will miss all of 2016.

The good news for the Yankees is that Teixeira is apparently healthy and ready to go. It is very unlikely that Bird was going to be anything more than AAA depth this year. In addition, by happening now the Yankees have a chance to address their depth, or lack of depth at first base. I would expect Ackley to get a lot of time there during spring training.

The bad news is that Bird won’t be available to replace Teixeira when he gets hurt and the Yankees now face the prospect of making him the starting first baseman in 2017 after he has missed an entire season.  It probably won’t deter them from handing him the job, but it injects more uncertainty into it.

The Other Shoe

A few weeks ago I speculated that the trade of Justin Wilson was a precursor for another move. Today, we have found out what that move is- The Yankees are adding Aroldis Chapman to their bullpen.

From a baseball stanpoint, this trade is a slam dunk. The Yankees are giving up four minor leaguers- Caleb Cotham, Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Tony Renda. Cotham is a 28-year old bullpen arm. Jagielo is a former first-rounder, but he hasn’t shown enough defense at third to make anyone think he can stick there. He probably needs to move to first, and the Yankees are going to give that spot to Greg Bird. Renda is a second base prospect who came over from Washington in the Carpenter trade. But he is 24, and the Yankees already have added Castro and have Ackley and Refsnyder. Davis is the biggest potential loss as he could become a good starter, but he is probably at least a year, if not more, away.

That’s a quartet you can easily trade away for one of the best closers in the game and a guy who gives the Yankees a ridiculous 1-2-3 punch of Chapman, Miller, and Betances. The best way to cover for so-so starting pitching is with a lights out bullpen, the Yankees have done this.

But from a non-baseball standpoint, this trade could be troubling. Chapman was involved in some sort of domestic incident this offseason where his girlfriend says he choked her and fired a gun. The police investigated and didn’t make any arrests or file charges because of a lack of evidence. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and I can only hope the Yankees did a lot of due diligence before agreeing to this deal because domestic violence should not be tolerated and character matters. That is the part of the trade I am unsure about.

Another Deal

The Yankees have continued their dismantling of their bullpen by trading Jason Wilson to the Tigers in exchange for two prospects.

It’s an interesting move as the prospects are not likely to help in 2016, at least at the start of it. And losing Wilson weakens the bullpen.

I wonder if the Yankees are thinking about flipping one or two of the guys in this deal for something else? The other way to look at it is that the Yankees are loaded with reliever prospects and not loaded with starter prospects, so they made this move with the idea that Shreve or Lindgren could take over the 7th inning next year.

We will have to wait and see, but we may not wait for long.

Buying Low Again

The Yankees clearly didn’t trust Rob Refsnyder or Dustin Ackley to play second base every day. That isn’t unusual for them, they tend to shy away from youth whenever they can.  What is unusual is that they didn’t do a knee-jerk veteran signing. Instead, they traded for a three-time All-Star who is only 25.

Starlin Castro will be the Yankees’ second baseman next year and for the three after that, since he is signed to an affordable four-year/$38-million deal. (There is a $16-million team option for 2020 the Yankees could also exercise.)

In exchange for Castro, the Yankees are sending Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan to the Cubs. That’s not a huge price for a three-time All-Star, so why am I titling the post “Buying Low”?

That’s because Castro isn’t the player he was when he signed an 8-year/$60-million deal with the Cubs. He no longer appears to have the 20-steal speed, and he has had two bad offensive seasons in his last three years. In addition, his defense at shortstop was bad last year.

But here is what the Yankees see. They see a guy who is one year removed from a .292/.339/.438 season. They see a guy who tore the cover off the ball in August and September last year after moving to second base full-time while playing good defense there. They see a guy who has been durable. And they see a guy who is actually a month younger than their current starting shortstop and is only a year older than Rob Refsnyder. And they see a guy who may have solved some off the field problems.

So, you can’t accuse the Yankees of abandoning their youth movement, or shelling out big bucks. Four years at $38-million doesn’t get you a decent starter in this market. (The impetus of this deal is the fact that the Cubs gave Zobrist 4/56 to take over second. That’s a Yankee move, or former one.)

Adam Warren was a nice piece, but he wasn’t a good starter and the Yankees should be able to fill the fourth arm in the bullpen spot fairly easily.

And Castro solves a roster problem for the Yankees. They can now put Ackley on the roster with no worries. He is their backup at second, left, and probably first. That’s an upgrade for sure. Castro can play short and probably third. If they don’t trade Gardner, they have Hicks to backup the outfield, another upgrade. They still need a backup catcher, but the bench could be quite versatile.

 

 

The Price of Pitching

The Yankees are said to be looking for a young starter with 0-3 years of time in the big leagues. Good luck to them, that is probably the most valuable commodity in the game.

While the recent contract signings of Greinke and Price grab the headlines. Look at some of the lesser deals that have been signed. Mike Pelfrey just got a two-year/$16-million deal from the Tigers. This is a guy coming off of a 6-11 season with an ERA of 4.26. Advanced metrics give him an ERA of 4, but that isn’t much better.

Or consider Darren O’Day, a nice middle reliever. He’s 32, and has 14 saves in his career, yet he is getting a four-year deal worth just under $8-million a year.

Or Ryan Madson, who missed three years, but pitched well in KC this year and just got three years at $7-million each from the A’s. The A’s!

Pitching prices are out of control and that is a reflection of the money flooding the game.

So while the Yankees should absolutely chase young, cost-controllable pitching, they also need to think about their own backyard and some of the pitchers they already control. How about giving them extensions before they hit arbitration/free agency? Three guys come to mind, Betances, Eovladi, and Pineda.

Betances is not even arbitration eligible yet, but after next season he will be and the way he is pitching he will cost a lot very quickly. Could the Yankees buy some cost certainty with him now? Considering he is going to make “only” $507,000 next year, I bet they could, why not try?

Eovaldi and Pineda are tougher cases because they are two years away from free agency and both had injuries in 2015. But, could the Yankees buy out a couple of years of free agency from them right now? It’s certainly worth a shot.

I will be absolutely ok with the Yankees forgoing the free agent market this offseason and keeping their best prospects. But, they need to plan for future costs as well. Locking some of these guys up now can help them do that.

Price To Boston

I’m sure Andy will have a post about this later, but I just wanted to post now that the news is out that David Price is headed to Boston. The money is big, as we thought it might be- $217-million over 7 years. It makes gives Price the biggest contract ever for a pitcher and assuming it is evenly averaged over the length of the deal, Price will make about $1-million per start.

Price gets rightfully knocked for not pitching well in the postseason, but he is a wonderful pitcher and solves a big problem for Boston. The money in this deal is astounding, especially when you consider how the Red Sox lowballed Jon Lester, but the ultimate way to judge this deal in my mind is if the Red Sox win a World Series with Price. If they do, great deal. If they don’t, ugh. In many ways this is exactly like the Yankees deal with Sabathia after the 2008 season. Both teams gave a stud lefty a seven-year, record-breaking deal, with an opt-out after three seasons. The Yankees won their World Series and then made the mistake of bringing Sabathia back after he opted-out. We will have to wait to see if Boston gets similar results and makes a similar error.

The Rivalry Ignites Again!

Multiple outlets are reporting that the Red Sox have signed Chris Young to a multiyear deal. Clearly Yankee fans will have a target to boo vociferously when the Red Sox come to town in 2016.

Ok, maybe not. Young was a nice complementary player for the Yankees. He murdered left-handed pitching and played all three outfield spots. But, he was clearly not needed when the Yankees traded for Hicks. And while the details of his new deal are not known, the fact that it is for more than one year makes me a bigger fan of the Hicks trade than before. The Yankees picked Young off the waiver wire in 2014 and brought him back for an economical $2.5-million. I suspect the Red Sox will be paying him a lot more than that.

Interesting Theory-UPDATED

Joel Sherman has a column in the Post about the lack of movement in the free agency market. He points out that at this point last year, Sandoval, Ramirez, Martin, Martinez, and Cuddyer had already signed. Yet, there hasn’t been much of any movement on the free agency front so far.

Sherman speculates that perhaps teams have learned their lesson. He points to the fact that apart from the Blue Jays and Russell Martin, every other team that quickly signed a big free agent last year would probably gladly give him up today for nothing in exchange beyond salary relief. Ramirez and Sandoval for the Red Sox. The Mets with Cuddyer. The Tigers with Martinez. The list goes on, and the anonymous quotes from various personnel directors make you wonder if he is right.

But as he points out, it only takes one team to change the calculus of the situation. If the Red Sox, as Andy has speculated, jump all in on the Price bandwagon, he could get things going. Advanced metrics love Jason Heyward, and he is only 26. Either one of those guys could break the bank and there are plenty of other names out there in line for a big payday. I suspect things will start to heat up this week, and in a year or two most teams will regret the contracts they have agreed to.

11:47- We may have a break in the logjam. Jon Herman is reporting the Tigers have reached a deal with Jordan Zimmerman. No contract details yet.

12:10- Heyman posted a story online about the signing, but no details on the length/money.

Cano For Ellsbury?

There are rumors that Robinson Cano feels he has made a mistake going to Seattle and wants to come back to New York. That coupled with the open spot at second base has convinced some people that a trade of Cano for Ellsbury, an Oregon native, makes sense. It really doesn’t.

Cano is now 33 and he showed signs of decline last year. His OPS dropped to .779. Most advanced defensive metrics had his defense at second below average. He is also signed for eight more years at $24-million per year.

Ellsbury had a terrible year, that is true, but he is a year younger and his contract has only five more years to run at about $21-million a year.  I am not saying the Yankees wouldn’t trade him, they would in a second, but they are certainly not going to trade him for a more expensive and older player. That’s simply not the way they do business anymore. And before you say Seattle could send money to New York to even out the salaries, ask yourself why would Seattle trade the better player and throw money into the deal?

So this is a rumor I would ignore. I would also ignore the Andrew Miller rumors. One thing the Yankees have shown under “The Silent Assassin” is that the trades they do make come out of nowhere. They run a tight ship and don’t leak news. I expect more trades this offseason and I suspect we will be surprised again by the deals they make.