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.

Catcher

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.

Firstbase

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

Secondbase

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.

Shortstop

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.

Thirdbase

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.

Leftfield

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.

Centerfield

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.

Rightfield

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.

DH

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.

It is 1985 All Over Again

About a month ago, I referenced the 1985 Yankees and how the 2015 season was starting to resemble that year with the Blue Jays surpassing the Yankees and taking the AL East. Little did I know how right I was.

Besides the Blue Jays beating the Yankees out for the AL East crown, they are now headed to the ALCS where they will play the Royals- just like in 1985.

In 1985, “Back to the Future” came out. At the end of the movie, the characters travel forward in time to 2015. In the sequel to the movie, we find out that the 2015 World Series winners are the Cubs- the team currently with the best odds to win the World Series.

Spooky isn’t it?

Ok, so maybe it all doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but the playoffs have been must-watch TV.

Start with the Cubs beating the hated Cardinals and clinching their first ever postseason series win at Wrigley. (In retrospect that should not have been a surprise. The Cubs have won one postseason series since Wrigley was opened!)

The Mets-Dodgers go to Game 5 tonight, and I am sure Chase Utley will get a warm reception at Dodger Stadium. I think the slide was legal, but dirty. I don’t think it should be legal, but he was clearly able to touch second on it, so I don’t understand the suspension. Would he have been suspended if he had not broken Tejada’s leg? Why wasn’t the guy who broke the Pirates’ shortstops leg a few weeks ago suspended? Makes no sense to me.

How about the Royals? Six outs away from elimination and down four runs, and they storm back to win Game 4 and then comeback in Game 5 as well.

And then there is Toronto. Start with the fact that they lost the first two games at home, but then consider the 7th inning yesterday  which had about everything you could ever expect to see in a baseball game. Personally, I have never seen a catcher’s throw hit a bat, that was a first. Bautista’s bat flip was perfectly fine in my mind, that was a monster homer, much better than the guys who preen over a meaningless homer in May. The game also made me very, very glad the Yankees never bit on Elvis Andrus, what a terrible meltdown he had.

It’s been a great postseason so far, and another do-or-die game tonight. I can’t wait.

Tradeable/Untradeable

The Yankees most probable route to improvement this offseason will be the trade market. With a roster jam, and a big payroll already, the free agent market is probably not a place they will make a big splash. Let’s take a look at the trade possibilities and impossibilities.

Impossible To Trade

If you listen to any sports radio, these guys are typically the ones you can “trade for Mike Trout”. The reality is their contracts, age, and no-trade clauses mean they aren’t going anywhere:

A-Rod- 41-years-old, no-trade clause and some additional “issues”.

Teixeira- Coming off an injury and a no-trade clause.

Sabathia- Arthritic knee and a no-trade clause.

Tanaka- Torn ligament in pitching arm, no-trade clause, can opt-out after 2017.

Almost Impossible to Trade

I will say their is a small, small chance these guys could get traded, but huge obstacles stand in the way.

Ellsbury- Has a no-trade clause and $110-million on contract. Yankees could possibly eat a huge portion of that to make him go away, but I doubt they would.

McCann- Has a no-trade clause and $51-million left on deal. Considering how much Yankee Stadium enhances McCann’s power numbers, why would he want to be traded?

Beltran- No-trade clause, and limited outfield ability. I can’t see him accepting a trade, nor can I see the Yankees wanting to trade him right now since Aaron Judge isn’t ready to play right.

Those seven guys will make $144-million combined next year. So, unless you can pull off a miracle and trade one of them, let’s start the payroll there.

Tradeable Players with large-ish contracts

Gardner- Here’s the guy who is a prime candidate to be traded because he does not have a trade protection, and he has a reasonable contract ($12M per) for the next three seasons with an option for 2019. I know the Yankees love him, but I could definitely see Gardner being traded.

Headley- Owed $39-million, and didn’t have a lot of success with the glove surprisingly this year, but he is definitely tradeable.

Miller- After the way Andrew Miller pitched this year, I think the Yankees could get a lot for him. I don’t think they would ever trade him though.

Tradeable Players with small-ish contracts

Pretty much everyone else. I don’t think the Yankees would trade a Betances or Eovaldi, but they could. More likely would be someone like John Ryan Murphy, or Ivan Nova. And of course prospects like Refsnyder could be sent away, though I don’t think Bird or Severino are going anywhere.

I would expect at least one trade, and based on recent history, possibly multiple ones in the next few months.

The Realities Of The Payroll And Lineup

The papers are full of solutions for the Yankees’ problems today. Sign Cespedes. Sign a big bat, get more right-handed hitters. Those seem to be the main thoughts. The problem is, they ignore the reality of the Yankees current situation.

If you look at the team as a whole, they have three free agents this upcoming offseason- Capuano, Drew, and Young. I certainly wouldn’t expect the first two back next year, and Young may want to turn this season into a starting job, something the Yankees cannot offer. But that also means that apart from Young, who was a part-timer, the entire starting lineup is under contract for next year, so where would you play a big bat?

Add in this, the payroll currently stands at 184-million. That’s before you address the 9 arbitration-eligible Yankees (Bailey, Santos, Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, Warren, Ackley, Wilson, Gregarious) MLB Trade Rumors, who are pretty good at this thing, project all of them to earn 24.5-million collectively pushing the payroll to almost $210-milliion. So how are you going to pay a big bat?

So I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to charge aggressively into the free agent market. They are at least a year away from that. After 2016, the payroll starts to drop dramatically. What I would expect is for the Yankees to be aggressive on the trade market. We will start unpacking what that could mean tomorrow.

Until Next Year

I hate the fact that Joe Girardi insisted on changing his number from 27 to 28 after the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. To suggest that a season that ends without championship is a failure is an insult to the 29 other teams in baseball and a simply impossible standard to hold yourself to.

This season ended badly, there is no doubting that. But step back from tonight and look at the big picture. This was a team that only the most diehard optimists even thought would make the playoffs. They did, and for the first time in a long time, the Yankees have several young players to look forward to and use in the future. Greg Bird came up and hit 11 homers in 46 games. Luis Severino made 11 starts and pitched to a 2.89 ERA. Didi settled in and hit .294/.345/.415 in the second half. Eovaldi turned a big corner and looked dominant in the 2nd half. Refsnyder and Ackley looked very good, in albeit very small samples. The back end of the bullpen looks to be a huge strength for years to come.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. If the Yankees want to get back to winning World Series there is a lot of work to be done. But that shouldn’t diminish what this season was. The 2015 Yankees were a success, not a huge one, but a success nonetheless.

 

Constanza on Yankees-Astros