Trade Coming?

The other day I posted this: Think about the Yankees. Matt Holiday was a pretty solid signing at $13-million for one year, but what would you say if they had signed Chris Carter for much less than that?

Well I guess I need to say something now because the Yankees just signed him for the bargain basement price of $3-million.

The price is great, but I don’t think this is a good fit with the way the team is presently constructed. Holliday and Carter are too similar. They are both righties and they are both best suited for a DH role.

But, if you had to, you could put Carter at first. The problem is that is where Greg Bird should be. So maybe you put Holliday in left, but then where does Brett Gardner go? The Yankees could simply be adding Carter as righty power on the bench. But if you carry 13 pitchers, you only have four bench spots. A guy who can really only play first doesn’t make a lot of sense in that scenario.

Perhaps the Yankees are just taking a flier for spring and will see if they can flip Carter for something towards the end of camp? Or they have another trade in the works? Because absent that, I don’t get this. Yes, the price is great, but the fit is poor.

Can Free Agents Be Free?

According to this story by Buster Olney (subscription required) on Wednesday 65 free agents remained out of an original pool of 139. Considering that we are ten days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, I find that amazing. And there are some big names out there. Chris Carter, who hit 41 homers last year. Mike Napoli, who hit 34. Matt Wieters and Jason Hammel are available. At what point do these guys take an incentive-laden one-year deal and try to reestablish their value for next season?

And this will have big implications for next offseason as Olney points out. Not only will there be a bevy of players coming off of one-year deals, teams will be patient based on this year. Think about the Yankees. Matt Holiday was a pretty solid signing at $13-million for one year, but what would you say if they had signed Chris Carter for much less than that?

It seems like we have entered a new world in baseball and the players are not catching onto it. Old and expensive is out, young and cheap is in. If you are a superstar, you will get superstar dollars. But if you are not, you had better be very careful how you negotiate because you might be fighting for scraps at the start of spring training. We may start to see rosters comprised of a handful of guys earning $20-million or more and then the rest earning less than $5-million. In short, we are might be witnessing the destruction of the “middle class” in baseball. (I know, I don’t feel sorry for any of them either.)

And all of this drives up the value of prospects. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees, a team loaded with prospects right now, manoeuvres in this new environment.

This Is Better?

I think the Yankees are smart to try to get more fans into the ballpark, but the changes they are making, detailed here, really don’t impress me.

I mean I love going to the playground with my 3-year old, but it’s not something I want to do at the ballgame. And while I understand these changes are directed at a younger generation than mine, I think they completely miss the reason why people aren’t going to the games.

Start with the most obvious problem with the new stadium, its lack of history. Yes, it is much more comfortable and convenient to get around, but the Yankees lost the magic of the old place. You could once look out at a field that had been the home to some of the greatest players and moments in baseball, that’s been lost. So the Stadium no longer has that draw and if you don’t have that draw, and you don’t have a great team, things get tougher.

Now that would probably matter less if the new place was remotely affordable. I don’t drive to the games, but I understand parking is ridiculous, like $40 or more. Add on a decent ticket in the upper deck is $30 and by the time you eat, a single fan has spent close to $100. For a family of four, a trip to the park could easily total $300 or more. And for $300 you can get a pretty nice HDTV these days which lets you watch all the games.

The other problem, and this is not a Yankee-centric problem, is the game of baseball is not a good fit for the modern attention span. Try having a conversation with someone under 30 and see if they can keep eye contact for the duration. I bet they can’t. And while I pick on younger people, I know plenty of people my age and older who can no longer pay attention to things the way we used to have to. I’m not sure what the solution is, but umpires who enforced the real strike zone and kept batters from leaving the box after every pitch and catcher from meeting on the mound three times an inning would help.

I keep wondering if the era of live sports is drawing to a close. The owners of all the major sports have surrendered control to the TV networks while the stadiums they build are really geared to the ultra-wealthy. To me, this is a short-sighted strategy because the big spenders of tomorrow need to get hooked today, but we will have to see what the future holds. Maybe the jungle gyms will be enough.

Three In The Hall

Congrats to Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez on making the Hall of Fame.

I still don’t get these voters.

Bagwell gets in, but Edgar Martinez and Vlad Guerrero don’t?

Manny gets 25% and Bonds gets 53% while Sosa gets 8%? Remove PEDS from this equation and I would say you have three clear HOFers so why the vote differences?

Schilling loses a bunch of votes for what reason? I get it, the guy is a jackass, but plenty of those are already in the HOF and it just makes the writers look small.

Perhaps transparency will improve this process next year  For now, I am still scratching my head.

 

The Payroll Takes Shape

The Yankees have settled three arbitration cases today so far- Didi ($5.1M), Warren($2.29M)

Long ago, the site MLB Trade Reference pegged those three to almost exactly those numbers. In fact, they missed by a sum of $120,000. In total, they estimated the Yankees to have just about $22M in arbitration awards. With the payroll at about $166M, that puts them right around $188M if they continue to be right.

But, luxury tax thresholds are calculated by the average annual value of contracts, not the actual dollars earned. For example, A-Rod will earn $21M from the Yankees this year to stay home (or $20.5M if he signs with another team for the ML minimum) but his AAV figure is $27.5M.  You also need to figure in the guys who are on the 40-man earning either the major/minor league minimum. And, player benefits count.  Add it all, up and the Yankees are probably around $210M, or $15M over the luxury tax for 2017.

2018 looks a lot better. Right now, the Yankees are probably about $70M under the threshold assuming Tanaka doesn’t opt-out. If he does, that’s another $22M you can add to their space. They will have many of the same guys in arbitration, so they probably will spend at least $30M of that space there. They will also have to retain/replace the following free agents besides Tanaka- Pineda, Sabathia, Holliday, and Clippard. Together those guys are about $53M in AAV.  But, it looks very likely that the Yankees will be able to duck under the threshold in 2018 and therefore reset their potential penalties to the minimum if they go on a free agent binge before the 2019 season.

Sunday Sauce

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be right-handed. That’s how that song goes right? The latest proof of that “adage” is the contract Mike Dunn signed with Colorado for at least three years and $19-million.

Yankee fans, do you remember Dunn?  Big lefty, limited control and a guy traded to the Braves for Javier Vazquez.

Ironically, the other guy the Yankees got in that trade was Boone Logan, another lefty like Dunn, who got almost the same contract three years ago when he left the Yankees, and is currently a free agent reportedly seeking at least $8-million a year.

Perhaps it is time to sign Betances to an extension?

That’s Probably It

Brian Cashman said that “the heavy lifting was done” after signing Chapman. He held out the possibility of a minor free agent move, or a trade of Brett Gardner, but he said Chase Headley will be at third when the season starts.

That means a couple of things. First and foremost, there are two open spots in the rotation and a bunch of young arms with an opportunity to grab them. I expect the Yankees want Severino to take one of them, but I think it will really be based on how he and everyone else does in camp.

Second, it means the offense is a bit of a mystery. The Yankees were weighed down last year by Teixeira and A-Rod, who are both gone, but plenty of questions remain.  Can Bird and Sanchez replicate their debut seasons?  Can Judge adjust to the majors? Is Hicks a useful player? Will Didi and Castro continue to progress. When you think about the possibilities for the season, the questions on offense are probably the greatest variables.

Finally, we can see the outlines of the bullpen. Put Clippard, Betances, and Chapman at the end of it. Add Warren, if he isn’t a starter. Throw in a long guy from the young group of rotation candidates. That leaves 2 spots. I would expect one to go to a lefty and the other to be the one to be a transitory spot that the Yankees use to keep a fresh arm around.

One last note. In bad news that you can also take as good news, the Yankees lost four players in the Rule five draft.  It’s a lot of talent leaving the organization, but another indication of how deep the farm system is as only one other club even had two players selected

 

Chapman’s Back-UPDATED

Ken Rosenthal reporting Chapman is getting five years and $86-million.

Let me preface this by saying I would not have made this move. But, I also understand the Yankees’ thinking which I assume was this:

1- We need stars to get those expensive seats sold.  Chapman and his freakish 102-mph fastball puts asses in seats.

2- We need to stay somewhat competitive to keep those expensive seats filled.  Chapman and Betances at the end of games should help us there.

3- We didn’t want to give up a draft pick and sign a free agent- Chapman does that.

4- Chapman is 28, hardly a geezer and our youth movement can continue.

5- We know this guy and we know he can handle New York.

Maybe I’m the geezer, but a world where a guy gets $17-million to pitch 60 or so innings doesn’t make sense to me.  It’s a huge inefficiency, but that could change if we see Girardi use Chapman more than he did this year.

And while the money is ridiculous, it only really matters if it prevents the team from making moves down the road,  Since they are shedding payroll in huge way again next season and the spending caps reign them in almost everywhere else, free agency is probably the place they should invest some money.  Let’s just hope they do it intelligently this time. Despite my objections, I cannot argue they were stupid here.

UPDATE- A couple of contract details on Chapman

1- He has an opt-out after three years

2- He has a full no-trade for three years

3- After three years, he has a no trade to teams in California

Apart from not understanding what Chapman had against California, these contract details are fine. While opt-outs are viewed as bad, they are great IF the team is smart enough to walk away when they are exercised.  We may get a sense of that with the Yankees next offseason if Tanka opts out.

UPDATE- The opt out is not as favorable, because they are paying an $11-million signing bonus.  So if Chapman opts out after three years he gets $56-million for his works.

 

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.