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.


David Ortiz Is Retiring

As a Yankees’ fan, this makes me happy. In 224 games against them, he has hit .306 and belted 47 home runs. Based on his average home run trot, that probably means Yankee fans spent about 24 hours watching him circle the bases. I kid, I kid, but Ortiz does bring up some conflicting feelings in me.

I appreciate the greatness, I really do. He is clearly one of the best hitters of his generation. He might be the best high-pressure hitter of his generation. But, I also think he got way too much of a pass for failing that drug test in 2003. He blamed supplements and some sort of New York conspiracy, but he has never adequately squared that issue in my mind.

I don’t think that should keep him out of the Hall of Fame though. Perhaps it should mute the celebrations of his career in other ballparks a bit, but his career numbers put him in the conversation for the Hall, and he should get full consideration from the voters. And I hope he has a good year next year, leaving the game more like Mariano than Jeter. The great ones should leave while they are still great. Ortiz has a chance to do that.

Here’s a good take on his retirement from a professional writer.


The 2nd Trade Of The Day

Brian Cashman is busy today, trading John Ryan Murphy for outfielder Aaron Hicks. I like the move because Ryan was a nice to have player, but not a vital one. McCann is clearly the starter. Sanchez is clearly the guy up and coming. Ryan was going to get squeezed at some point in the near future, so why not use him to get something of value? Hicks has value. He is a plus defender, with a cannon for an arm. It will be fun to watch teams try to run on him. He hasn’t hit RHP well in his big-league career, but he mashes LHP and can run, so he easily replaces Chris Young. He is also only 26, and was ranked as high as 19th-overall on the MLB prospect list, so the Yankees are getting a guy who could show upside.

Cashman said the Yankees view Hicks as an everyday player, so this could be a precursor for a Gardner trade. It could also simply be an easy and less expensive way to get a 4th outfielder. One thing is clear, Brian Cashman is going to be aggressive on the trade market again this offseason.


Making Room

The Yankees pulled off  a blockbuster shipping Jose Pirela to San Diego for Ronald Herrera. Ok I lied, it’s a minor move at best.

My guess is this is simply a way for the Yankees to get Pierla off the 40-man roster in exchange for something more than nothing. I imagine their scouts saw something they liked about Herrera and they will see if they can help him harness that into a big-league career. While he is only 20, the results so far have not been promising.

When Brendan Ryan exercised his player option, that pretty much closed the door on Pierla’s chances of getting playing time with the big league club. They have Ackley and Refsnyder as better candidates to start at second, and Pinela hasn’t played short in years.

The 40-man now stands at 38, but remember that the Yankees will need to protect some minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft.

On The Mound

The Yankees have plenty of potential in their rotation, and lots of questions Let’s take a look.

Rotation- Tanaka, Pineda, Severino, Eovaldi, Nova

Backups- Sabathia, Mitchell, Warren

On the 40-man- Whitley (60-day DL right now)

Assuming Eovaldi is healthy (he was throwing in early October) the Yankees have 8 names for 5 spots. The problem is, which 5 names are best suited for the rotation next year, and which are not? I would argue that my listing of names is the best combination, but would the Yankees really leave Sabathia out of the rotation? Will Eovaldi keep maturing? Will Pineda ever develop fully? Is Severino ready to pitch a whole season in the bigs? Is Tanaka truly healthy? My instinct says that Yankees have enough internal options that they won’t go outside the organization to supplement this rotation, but if the right name comes along at the right price, I suspect they will pounce.

Bullpen- Miller, Betances, Wilson are the obvious locks

Backups- Warren (if not in the rotation) Lindgren, Pazos, Cotham, Bailey, Goody, Pinder….you get the idea

The trio of Miller, Betances and Wilson are a dynamic end to the bullpen and I suspect the Yankees would like to add a 4th arm to that group. Warren might be it, if they decide not to try to force him into the rotation. If not, I suspect they might engineer another trade, like they did last offseason for Wilson, to provide fortification for the pen.

And that will probably be it, because the Yankees used a very effective rotation of relievers from Scranton to New York and back again in 2015. I would bet they repeat that process again this year, leaving one or two spots in the bullpen as almost flex spots. They will add a long guy, hopefully not Capuano, and that will be the way they head into 2016.


Around The Diamond-UPDATED

Let’s start our offseason look by examining what the Yankees have in terms of position players under contract and free agents heading into the offseason.


Starter-Brian McCann

Backup- John Ryan Murphy

On the 40-man- Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez

This is not an area the Yankees will need to spend any time worrying about. McCann had a nice season for the Yankees. Murphy hit enough that you wonder if he could play another position occasionally to get his bat in the lineup more. Sanchez raked at AAA and is tearing up the AFL. Romine is nothing more than filler at this point and may get DFA’ed to clear a 40-man spot.


Starter- Mark Teixeira

Backup- Dustin Ackley

On the 40-man- Greg Bird

I am not going to list Bird as the backup to Teixeira because I can’t see the Yankees doing that in 2016. If Teixeira is healthy, he is starting and Bird is probably in the minors to start the season with the way things are right now. If, and this is a huge if, the Yankees can clear some of their DH logjam, maybe Bird could squeeze into the picture, but right now I don’t see it. Regardless, Bird is clearly taking over at first after 2016, and the Yankees won’t sweat this position either


Starter- Steven Drew- FREE AGENT

Backup- Dustin Ackley

On the 40-man- Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder

I really can’t imagine the Yankees bringing Drew back, so this position is up for grabs. While everyone enjoyed the Ackley/Refsnyder platoon down the stretch, it is important to remember that the Yankees did that in September with a swollen roster. In the regular season, the Yankees typically carry only 3-4 players on the bench and platooning becomes much harder. I assume they will bring Ackley back as he can play 1st, 2nd, and the outfield, and Refsnyder has plenty of potential. Pirela could have value as a super-utility guy, but he hasn’t played short in a few years and neither Ackley or Refnsyder has either.


Starter- Didi Gregrorious

Backup- Brendan Ryan (UPDATE Ryan has exercised his $1-million player option)

On the 40-man- nothing

Didi’s 2nd half showed a lot of promise and the Yankees will rest easy knowing they have him this offseason. Assuming they exercise the option on Ryan, he will serve as a backup here and around the infield. The problem is, if Ryan is on the bench it will be harder to have both Ackley and Refsnyder on the team.


Starter- Chase Headley

Backup- Brendan Ryan

On the 40-man- nothing

This is an area the Yankees could consider making a change. Headley had a bad season with the bat and surprisingly with the glove. The problem is, the Yankees would need to find a replacement outside the organization (Ackley has never played 3b btw) and trade Headley. That’s probably not going to happen, so I expect Headley back to third and the Yankees hoping he rebounds.


Starter- Brett Gardner

Backup- Chris Young-FREE AGENT, Dustin Ackley

On the 40-man- Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams

If the Yankees are going to make a big trade and get a little less left-handed, this is the guy they trade. A reasonable contract and solid production give him a lot of value. The problem is, the Yankees and their fans really like him. If they don’t trade him, the outfield will be the same in 2016 as it was in 2015. That could be a good or bad thing.

I think the Yankees will try to keep Young, but he may be looking for a starting spot. Heathcott and Williams both looked good in limited time and can both play all three spots, but both are lefties, so getting a righty bat in the mix is a to do item.


Starter- Jacoby Ellsbury

Backup- Young, Heathcott, Williams

Let’s get this out of the way, you are not trading Ellsbury. To start he has a no-trade clause. In addition, the market for guys who are owed over $100-million and put up an OPS of .663 last year is “small”. The Yankees need him to play more like he did in 2014 next year.


Starter- Carlos Beltran

Backup- Young, Heathcott, Williams, Ackley

And you are not trading Beltran. He isn’t going to waive his no-trade, and he played well last year. After A-Rod and Teixeira, he was their best hitter. Yes, he really isn’t a right fielder anymore. That’s a problem with DH currently taken, but the good news is that this is the last year of Beltran’s time in the Bronx. Assuming Judge is ready, he takes over in right in 2017.


Starter- A-Rod

Backup- Everyone else

This is the biggest quandary for the Yankees, what to do about A-Rod. Fact, they don’t make the playoffs last year without him. Fact, he had his best season since 2009. Fact, he is going to be 41. So what do you do about all of that? Do you close your eyes and hope he can somehow repeat his 2015 performance?

The gutsy move would be for the Yankees to write him a check and say goodbye. The amount is not as outrageous as it once was- $42-mllion or a few million less than they paid Kei Igawa or Carl Pavano. It is certainly an amount they could afford. They could tell A-Rod that they will release him or trade him, and it is up to him to accept the trade. Find a team willing to take him for a bag of balls and a couple of million in salary relief and move on. That would free up the roster logjam and let you do things like Beltran at DH with another person in right, or Teixeira at 1b and Bird on the roster as DH.

I don’t think they will go that way because the projection systems say he can still hit around the league average. Steamer forecasts him to put up a line of .240/.334/.413 with 24 homers.  The average DH hit .259/.333/.439 last year, so he wouldn’t be that far off. I wonder if anyone will ask Brian Cashman point-blank if A-Rod will be back next year. Someone should.

Tomorrow we look at the pitchers.

And Now The Offseason

The Royals won the World Series last night in part thanks to a crazy baselining play. I keep watching it, and I am still not sure what I think about it. Part of me loves it, an incredibly aggressive play that forced a bad defensive player to try to make a play. Part of me is horrified, a throw anywhere near the plate nails him and ends the game. While Hosmer is getting heaps of acclaim for it, I imagine the reaction would be completely different if he had been thrown out at home and everyone was heading to Kansas City for Game 6.

Three more World Series thoughts. I can’t remember a more engaging five-game series. Usually those are fairly one-sided affairs, but this one had three really compelling games. Also, the Mets’ loss brings teams that swept the pennant in four games record to 1-7 in the World Series. Atlanta in 1995 is the only team to sweep and then win the World Series. So much for rest and setting your rotation the way you want it. Finally, the Mets should have a rotation next year of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, and Matz. I don’t know what the rest of the team will look like, but that is one talented rotation.

And now the offseason begins. First up is the qualifying offer deadline for free agents which is November 6th. Starting on the 7th, free agents can sign with any club. The qualifying offer is $15.8-million this season, and you can only be made an offer if you were with a club for the entire season, so Ben Zobrist for example will not be eligible. I will outline my ideas for the Yankees in the coming days, starting with a review of where they stand roster-wise tomorrow.


Can A Yankee Fan Root For The Mets?

It fascinates me how Mets fans, at their greatest moment in years, are now turning to worry about what Yankee fans are doing. The generally consensus is that Yankee fans should not be allowed to root for the Mets. Here is a fairly incredible quote from an article in the New York Times the other day:

At Union Grounds in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where the Mets’ march to victory blared from three walls of TVs, Jamie Meyer, 31, a film editor, used a drastic metaphor to make his point. 

“It’s like postwar Germany,” he said. “ ‘Yes, I was a member of the Nazi Party during the war. But sure, I’ll come over to your house.’ No, you can’t. Some really horrible things have happened.”

Two things about that. First, it isn’t. Don’t ever compare anything to the Nazis other than other Nazis. And second, as a resident of Carroll Gardens, we really need another sports bar. Just a note to any local business people out there.

Clearly, that isn’t a reasonable argument, but the sentiment isn’t that different from what most Mets fans have expressed- they don’t want us rooting for their team.

Well here’s the thing, you don’t have a choice, and I will give you three arguments for why Yankees fans should root for the Mets next week.

1-They have a NY on the front of their hats. Now, if you are a Yankee fan in California, stop reading, but if you are a local person, you should root for the city and the Mets are now the best representatives of the city. Yogi Berra once said that he rooted for the Mets to win every game they played unless they were playing the Yankees. That’s a good way of looking at it because this is not a rivalry. Until interleague play, the Mets and Yankees only played exhibition games. Yes, they now play six games against each other every year, but neither one is going to stop the other from winning a title unless they are both in the World Series. That’s very different from the bitter triangle of Rangers-Islanders-Devils hockey or Nets-Knicks basketball. It’s even different from the NFL where the Jets actually beat the Giants in 1988 and prevented them from making the playoffs.

2- As a Yankees fan you simply cannot root for Kansas City or Toronto. Younger Yankee fans don’t get this, but the Royals-Yankees once was the bitterest of rivalries. In fact, it is still the most-frequent ALCS matchup since the series started in 1969. These teams really didn’t like each other and fought a lot, and in playoff games. For example, this makes anything that happened in the Texas-Toronto playoff series look tame.

3- As a sports fan in general, you root for a great story, and the Mets are a great story. In late July they were one-game over .500 and they couldn’t hit worth a lick. They then went and traded for Cespedes, who hit 17 homers in 57 games, and stormed to the NL East crown. They have the hottest hitter maybe ever in Daniel Murphy, and some really great young pitchers in Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard. They also have two guys who you simply can’t root against, David Wright and Curtis Granderson. It’s a fun collection and a team worthy of a title.

So, while I may not be welcomed, I will be rooting for the Mets next week.

Is The Pressure Building?

You can picture the storm that would be raging through the offices on River and 161st, if George Steinbrenner were alive this morning. With the Mets in the World Series and the Yankees sitting at home, no one would be safe from an eruption. Big trades would be in the works and the checkbook would be warming up for the start of free agency.But, George isn’t here, and his successor, Hal, is a very different person than his father. Based on what we have seen of him to far, he doesn’t seem likely to go “George” in response to the Mets’ success.

But, his DNA is clearly Steinbrenner, and he has a team in his very own backyard stealing his spotlight. The Yankees clearly have holes to fill and there will be some very good free agents available in the offseason. I don’t think we are at that point yet, but if the Mets can win four more games, things are going to get very interesting in the Bronx.