Sale To Boston-UPDATED

The Red Sox have scooped the Nationals and acquired Chris Sale from Chicago. The cost is Juan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, and Victor Diaz.

This is exactly the type of trade a team like Boston should make. They are giving up a ton in prospects, but they are getting arguably the best pitcher on their staff. Sale, Price, and Porcello are a great top-3 and make the Red Sox clear favorites in the AL. Furthermore, while Moncada especially looks like a gem, none of the prospects traded down contributed significantly to Boston’s AL East-winning club in 2016.

From the Yankees point of view I will point out that they could have signed Moncada, but backed off because with luxury tax penalties he would have cost them essentially double what he ultimately received. The front office should remember that as they build for 2017.

UPDATE- Red Sox are also “throwing in” $31.2-million to cover Moncada’s remaining salary. In separate news, Fenway Franks are now $10 each.

Day 1

If there was any doubt that pitching prices are out of control, the opening day of the Winter Meetings proved that to be the case.

Rich Hill, a 36-year old journeyman who has exceeded 100 innings twice in his career, signed a three-year deal  at $16-million per year.

Then Mark Melancon signed the richest closer contract in MLB history, four years and $62-million. And the contract contains an opt-out after two years when Melancon will have collected over half the value of the deal.

In a related development, Brian Cashman asked about his pursuit of pitching, said it was “less likely” the Yankees would add a starter from outside the organization and that the Yankees “were going to compete to a certain extent” for Chapman. Chapman also said he wanted a six-year deal. I won’t say the Yankees are out, but I don’t think they are going to give Chapman a $100-million which is probably what it is going to take to sign him at this point.

The Red Sox exercised the option on John Farrell’s contract for 2018 while Dave Dombroski confirmed they would like to stay below the luxury tax limit next year. Boston has been linked in some reports to Encarnacion, but their payroll is already at $160-million with another $20-million in expected arbitration awards, so it’s hard to see that happening.

Finally, the Nats are reportedly close to acquiring Chris Sale from the White Sox. Scherzer, Strasbourg, and Sale, wow.

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

With the CBA done and the Winter Meetings about to start expect the hot stove to pop this week. Teams now know what the ramifications are for various payrolls and they can start spending accordingly.

I expect we will start to see relievers coming off the board quickly now. Mark Melancon reportedly has multiple offer of $60-million or more which means Chapman and Jansen are going to get huge contracts.

Carlos Beltran got $16-million and a full no-trade clause for next season in Houston. Encarnacion’s agent announced that he expects him to sign during the winter meetings. 

For the Yankeees a small move this week. They lost Jacob Lindgren to Atlanta. The timing was odd as they non-tendered him after the deadline for Rule 5 protections. He isn’t going to pitch in 2017 after undergoing TJ surgery in August, but he has a big arm and was once viewed as a potential closer of the future. Atlanta gave him a 40-man spot and the Yankees now have an open spot on their 40-man if they want to select someone in the Rule 5 draft Friday.

I will be posting as news breaks at the Winter Meetings.

The New CBA And The Yankees

Here’s  a good summary of the new baseball labor deal.

For the Yankees, the key numbers are the luxury tax thresholds, actually called the “competitive balance tax” which start at 195 million this year and increase to 210 in the last year of the deal.

There are two keys to the CBT. First, the more times you violate it, the bigger the tax for the excess. 20% then 30%, then 50%. Second, there are additional penalties for going $20-million over, an additional 12% of that amount, and $40-million over, let’s call it 45% of that amount.

So a team that has a $250-million payroll in 2017 would pay a flat 20% on the first $20-million over 195. 32% on the next 20 million and 62.5% on the last 15 million. Add that all up and you have an extra $20-million, not prohibitive. But shift that $250-million to a third-time violator, and you have $36.65-million in tax.

For the Yankees, this presents an opportunity.  Even with arbitration cases, their payroll is “only” going to be around $160-million next season before any potential free agent signings or trades. Next year it gets cut by at least $50-million, and you can add another $22-million to that if Tanaka opts out. So, barring complete stupidity, they should be well under the luxury tax the next two years

And I suspect that’s exactly what they will do.  The post-2018 free agent class will be headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both younger than Aaron Judge, and has lots of depth behind it.  The Yankees can spend the next two years seeing how their prospects pan out and then jump in to free agency with a big splash after 2018.  They certainly may sign a free agent this offseason, they might take on payroll in a trade, they might try to buy out some free agency years from arbitration-eligible guys like Didi, but I bet they won’t spend more than an additional $35-million.

 

Labor Peace

The details are still sketchy, but the owners and players have apparently agreed to a 5-year labor deal. Here are the big items I have read so far:

No international draft

No roster changes, either expanding to 26-men or reducing from 40-men in September.

Luxury tax will start at $195-million next season, up from $189 this year, and increase from there.

The draft pick/arbitration process is “changing”.

I will update this post tomorrow morning when we should have more details.

More details are coming out

As noted in the comments, the All-Star Game no longer “counts”. The pennant winner with the best record gets home field in the World Series.

There will be a hard cap on each teams international spending.

New major leaguers will no longer be allowed to use smokeless tobacco.

Exceeding the luxury tax by $40-million will result in a draft pick reduction/drop

The season will start midweek in 2018 to allow four additional off days to be built into the schedule

THe disabled list is being switched to a 10-day DL, not a 15-day DL. This is a very smart idea as teams won’t be so reluctant to wait and see on injuries.

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.

 

More

Sunday Sauce

I thought I would try something new and throw together a bunch of different musings into a somewhat coherent article, so welcome to Sunday Sauce. I will try to do this weekly.

Let’s start with the new CBA, which isn’t here yet and the deadline is December 1st. No real worries yet about it not getting finalized, but an interesting note from Ken Rosenthal this week. Rosenthal reports that MLB and the MLBPA are negotiating over changing the rules for September callups. The current system, with everyone on the 40-man roster eligible to be called up is nuts as you play a completely different game over the last month of the season to the first five months and games become endurance affairs as managers mix and match to their heart’s content. Well that may change.

Rosenthal reports that September rosters may be capped at 28 in exchange for a roster expansion to 26 during the entire season. This argument is all about service time for players, so the MLBPA would be exchanging the opportunity to get multiple players a month of service time in September, for the chance to get one player a full year of service time. That part makes sense, and I like the idea of a 26th man on the roster to bring back things like pinch hitters, but I fear that most teams will simply add another arm to the bullpen and call it a day. With MLB fighting for quicker games, they can’t allow that to happen. So my solution would be that teams need to have an active roster containing at least 13 hitters at all times. Keep an eye on this one.

The Yankees shuffled their 40-man roster as expected and the two notable moves were saying good-bye to Ackley and Eovaldi. Well, Ackley is probably really gone since they requested release waivers on him, but Eovaldi was simply DFA’ed. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Yankees work out some minor league deal for this year with a major league component for next year with him. It would allow him to rehab and allow them to have a potentially useful arm on the staff next year. Remember, Pineda and Sabathia are free agents after 2017 and Tanaka can opt out, so the rotation is a huge question mark going forward.

Great sign for the Yankees that Gleyber Torres was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Torres was the key to the Chapman deal and has been as good as advertised since coming over. He is now the youngest MVP in Fall League history and will open the season at AA.

Brett Cecil got a four-year/$30-million deal from the Cardinals yesterday. This is a guy who was a lefty specialist last year, throwing 36 innings and posting a 3.93 ERA. Yes, he has good strikeout numbers and yes, he has had a couple of good seasons out of the pen in the past. But this guy gets $7.5 million a year?  Add in the $7-million a year the Astros are going to pay Charlie Morton, and you can see that pitching prices this offseason are going to be insane. If you have a youngish starter or reasonable ability, the smart move would be to trade him.

Finally, today is one of my favorite types of Sundays in NYC. We have all three teams home, which means we get a MSG-doubleheader with the Knicks at 12pm and the Rangers at 7:30pm sandiwching a Giants game at 1pm. Should be a great sports day. Enjoy your Sunday!

McCann is Gone

The Yankees have traded 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.