Yankees

Good Idea/Bad Execution

The Yankees are taking a lot of heat for getting rid of print-at-home tickets this season. Part of that is because of the terrible optics of the deal- more on that in a minute. Part of it is because of the absurd defense they have used for the idea- more on that too. But overall, this is a good idea. In fact, I would say the idea hasn’t gone far enough. They should get rid of all physical tickets.

Physical tickets were a necessary evil for years, but they are obsolete in the 21st century with the advent of the cell phone. Between smart phones and basic cell phones, the technology exists to get rid of paper tickets entirely. Just like airlines have, stadiums can provide apps with barcodes for people to get into games. And if someone doesn’t have a smart phone, how about a text message with a unique string of characters to allow entry at some sort of kiosk? With a little thought and planning, teams could easily get rid of physical tickets.

And that would be a good thing because it would eliminate the easiest way for people to defraud potential buyers- scalping fake tickets. With the printing capabilities out there today, people can easily create very authentic looking fake tickets at home and scalp them outside a stadium easily. Here’s an example from 2015 in Indianapolis. Eliminating this kind of fraud is a worthy idea.

But the Yankees have done a terrible job of making the case for it. For one thing, the crackdown on paper tickets appears to be an attempt to stop reselling of tickets on Stub Hub. The Yankees have opened their own ticket exchange and they don’t want Stub Hub taking away from that action. They can pretend otherwise, but that is the real reason they don’t want print-at-home tickets.

And they should stop with their bizarre defense that this has something to do with the free market. A free market is one without regulation, yet getting rid of print-at-home tickets is obviously a regulation. Furthermore, baseball is rife with violations of the free market. The Yankees Ticket Exchange sets a minimum price floor for tickets where a free market would allow supply and demand to determine prices. MLB allows teams to have geographic monopolies where a free market would never allow that. I could go on and on, the point is there is nothing close a free market in baseball.

So get rid of the paper tickets, but work with all secondary markets to figure out how. That’s a win-win for everyone.

 

The Chapman Conundrum

The Yankees have brought someone with serious character questions into their clubhouse. That’s a responsibility they cannot evade.

The Yankees should be honest. Chapman isn’t in camp with them without his electric fastball and dominant numbers. If he wasn’t a great pitcher, the Yankees would never have bothered with him considering the allegations he faces. That hardly makes the Yankees unique. Sports figures are given way too many chances because of their natural abilities. Organizations make these moral compromises all the time. It would be nice if they were more honest about them.

As for Chapman, he clearly doesn’t seem to get it. He maintains that he did nothing wrong, yet he does not contest the police report which states that he used a gun to fire eight shots from his garage. And while seven of those shots didn’t leave the garage, one of the shots landed in an empty lot near his property- meaning it could have killed someone who was simply standing outside of his house.

I in no way condone violence against women, but the sad truth of this case is we will never know what really happened that night in regards to the allegations that Chapman choked a female. The police couldn’t sort out the conflicting stories, and the DA refused to charge Chapman because they didn’t feel there was enough evidence. (I am dismayed that you can apparently fire a gun eight times recklessly in Florida and not commit a crime.) That doesn’t mean Chapman is innocent of the choking charge, but it also means he will not be found guilty by a court of law. Our justice system is based on the presumption of innocence and we have to accept that in regards to the choking allegations.

But that still doesn’t excuse the gun play and this is where I would like to see the Commissioner and the Yankees take a stand. Chapman should be kept away from guns in my opinion. He should be ordered to seek some counseling (acceptable under the CBA) and he should get some sort of suspension. It should also be made clear to him that any additional incidents will not be tolerated. MLB gets the first crack at this, but the Yankees should be ready to act if MLB doesn’t. They took responsibility for Chapman the minute they traded for him.

 

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.