David Price

Reports are swirling that Dave Dombrowski has made the signing of free agent starter, David Price, a top priority with one report saying Dombrowski is all in.

The Red Sox do need a front line starter and Price certainly fills that role, but there are a few red flags that will come with Price.  First off, his age, he is 30 and starting pitchers, with very few exceptions, rarely age gracefully.  In addition, Price owns a 5.12 career postseason ERA.  That’s not what you are hoping for with your ace.  Consider this, had the Red Sox instead re-signed Jon Lester last year, they would have signed a 30 years old starter (31 now) who owns a 2.85 postseason ERA in far more innings (98 for Lester vs. 63 for Price).  Alas, the Lester decision was made by the former administration and is in the rearview mirror now.

Price would help immensely, and allow the Red Sox to line-up their other starters behind a dominating regular season pitcher.  Price has struck out 200 batters 4 times in his career and owns a great career ERA, WHIP and K/9.  The cost for Price is going to be overwhelming, something Boston has been loath to do in the past with its starting pitching.  Get ready fans, if Price does come onboard, it will be $25m or higher per season for a minimum of 6 years…staggering numbers to tie up in one player, albeit a starting pitcher.

Having traded a fair amount of prospects in the Kimbrel trade, Dembrowski has only one avenue to acquire his ace, free agency.

As a Red Sox fan, I obviously want Price but really worry about the last half of the contract like the one he’ll sign.  Look at the Yankees dealing with expensive contracts for Sabathia, Ellsbury, ARod and Texiera (the latter 2 having bounce back seasons but always a major risk for season ending injury/suspension).  Big market teams like Boston and New York can absorb a bad contact like this but when they start piling up, it can get ugly.

This I know, the Red Sox need starting pitching.  Go get it Dave.

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.

 

Mongo Like Kimbrel Trade

Peter rightly asked me to post about tonight’s Red Sox trade, even if I just said “Mongo Like.”

Well, Mongo Like the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel, with apologies to the late Alex Karras.

As I look back over the last 12, maybe even 24 months, there hasn’t been a signle Red Sox transaction that has me as excited as this…other than maybe the Red Sox announcing Hanley Ramirez would be shut down for the rest of the 2015 season.

Speaking of Ramirez, when he was signed, when Pablo Sandoval was signed, those moves wreaked of an overreach, an overpay and both players disappointed greatly, almost predictably.

The Red Sox bullpen was a train wreck last year and Red Sox President, Dave Dembrowski, has addressed it.  By signing Kimbrel, the Red Sox either have insurance should Koji Uehara falter, or they have the luxury of moving Koji to the set-up role and moving Junichi Tazawa to a 7th inning role.  The Red Sox just added major depth in hopes of nailing down leads late in games.

The Red Sox gave up 4 prospects but none were knocking on the 2016 roster save for perhaps Margot.  It’s about time the Red Sox started to use the surplus of highly touted prospects and turned them into major league talent.

Now onto the rotation, right Dave?  The rotation isn’t good and needs improvement, right Dave?  You now have 4 fewer prospects to trade but could consider free agency along with trading prospects.

This, however, is a very good start.

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.

MLB Has A Chance To Lead

Roger Goodell has done a terrible job handling domestic violence incidents in his sport. He originally gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension for knocking his fiancee out cold in an elevator and only amended it when video surfaced of the actual punch. Meanwhile, he gave Tom Brady a four-game suspension for supposedly knocking around some footballs. Ugh. This weekend we got to see the horrific pictures of the victim of Greg Hardy’s assault in July 2014. He was actually convicted by a judge in a bench decision and eventually suspended by the NFL (amazing). But he returned to the field early this year, made misogynistic jokes about Tom Brady’s wife, and was called a “leader” by his team owner. Double ugh.

It looks like Rob Manfred is going to get a chance to show that MLB can handle things better than the NFL. News came this morning that Jose Reyes was arrested on Halloween for “abuse of a family or household member” after attacking his wife. Under the new rules governing this, Manfred can basically set the tone for this type of punishment- no minimums or maximums are set and punishment does not depend on a conviction in court. I hope he sets a very harsh penalty because the sad truth is that as long as an athlete can still perform at a good level someone will excuse his past behaviors and give him a chance.

Look at Ray Rice.  He apologized, completed a pre-trial intervention program, actively speaks out against domestic violence, and does good things like this,  yet he is still trying to get even a tryout from a NFL team. That’s probably because his yards-per-carry dropped from 4.4 to 3.1 in his last season of play. Hardy can still rush the passer effectively, so he gets a second chance.

Domestic violence is a problem that isn’t confined to sports, but sports has an outsized ability to influence our culture in positive and negative ways. Let’s hope that MLB uses that power for good.

Over-Qualified?

According to Hardball Talk, here is a list of the 20 players who have been given a qualifying offer from their current club.

Brett Anderson, Dodgers
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
Chris Davis, Orioles
Ian Desmond, Nationals
Marco Estrada, Blue Jays
Dexter Fowler, Cubs
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers
Alex Gordon, Royals
Zack Greinke, Dodgers
Jason Heyward, Cardinals
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
Ian Kennedy, Padres
John Lackey, Cardinals
Daniel Murphy, Mets
Colby Rasmus, Astros
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox
Justin Upton, Padres
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Some are clearly no-brainers, Greinke, Upton, Hayward, Zimmermann…these guys are going to get huge contracts somewhere and it is worth protecting them.

Others are hard to understand. Ian Kennedy for example. A 9-15 record and a 4.28 ERA in the NL merits a salary of $15.8-million next year?

But the bottom line is that if your club signs one of these players, you forfeit your first-round pick, unless you are the Phillies, Reds, Atlanta, Rockies, Brewers, Marlins, Padres, Tigers, or White Sox, they will forfeit their next pick if they sign one of these guys. (Note to Red Sox fans, if you had lost two more games, you would have made this list.)

Three notable players are not on the list because they were traded mid-season- Price, Cespedes, and Zobrist. Jon Lester cashed in last season thanks to that, I imagine Price will start his bidding around 6/150 and go from there.

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.