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A Wish List for the Yankees’ Offseason

Dear Cashman Claus,

My name is PJ, I’m 25 and one-quarter years old, and I’ve been a very good Yankee fan this year. I spend just about all of my free time watching, writing, or reading about the Yankees. Some would say I’m “obsessed.” Anyway, there’s a lot of pressure on you this offseason. The Red Sox just won the World Series, as I’m sure you heard, and we have not been since 2009, as I’m sure you know. So I’ve decided to write you with an extremely well organized wish list for the Yankees’ 2018-19 offseason. If you don’t do literally every single one of these moves, I will freak out.

(OK, I’ll stop writing from the perspective of a man/boy with clear confusion about his actual age, but hopefully you get the premise of the blog now. This is my dream offseason for the Yankees.)

THE GAME AND THE RULES

I genuinely believe that a reinforced yet similarly structured roster to last season can win it all in 2019. Given the Yankees are coming off back-to-back postseason appearances and a 100-win season, they don’t have as many holes as the average team. They already patched up some of those holes by bringing back CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner on cheap one-year deals. Yeah, both of those guys are way past their primes, but they’re the two best veteran presences on the team and both provide valuable depth. They’re gladly welcomed back. But there’s still work to be done in those two areas, especially the starting pitching. The front office isn’t being coy about their intentions to bring in multiple starters, hopefully at least one of the ace variety. (Note: I wrote this part before the James Paxton trade. I still expect the Yankees to pursue one more big-name starter.) With Didi Gregorius sidelined for most or all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, there’s a necessity for infield help too. And considering these are the modern Yankees we’re talking about, bullpen reinforcements are always on the table as well.

I’m aiming to stay grounded here. I’ll try to make every trade a win-win and as balanced as possible, and every free agent signing will be something I could actually see the Yankees doing and will fall within a reasonable dollar range. And while the Yankees achieved their goal of getting under the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season, therefore resetting their penalty rate moving forward, I’m not going to conduct this exercise as if Hal Steinbrenner presented Brian Cashman with a blank checkbook. There’s a chance the payroll will increase by a considerable amount, but I think the luxury tax threat is still in play and I know that the Steinbrenners don’t want to return to the days of having the highest payroll just for the sake of having the highest payroll. I’m going to observe the 40-man roster too. So for every addition to the roster, I’ll remove one of the current occupants.

FREE AGENCY 

  • The Prize: Patrick Corbin for 5 years/$100 million

corbin

For casual fans, Corbin might feel underwhelming as the Yankees’ jewel from a free agent class that has been hyped up for years now. But man, I think he is a PERFECT fit. As heralded as this class has been, it was never particularly strong in the starting pitching department after Clayton Kershaw, who’s already off the market. It really comes down to Corbin and Dallas Keuchel. Figuring that the two southpaws are in line to receive similar contracts, this is an easy decision for me. Keuchel is probably the best groundball and defensive pitcher in baseball, has an amazing track record at Yankee Stadium, and offers less risk than almost any pitcher you’ll find on the free agent market. But he’s been trending in the wrong direction ever since winning the Cy Young in 2015. He doesn’t need to strike guys out to be good, but a K/9 of 6.73 is just absurdly low. He’ll likely get you 200 competitive innings, but I don’t really see him topping out his 2018 WAR of 3.6 by too much over any year on his next contract.

Corbin, on the other hand, posted a WAR of 6.3 in 2018 and couldn’t be trending in a better direction. A surprising All Star in 2013, Corbin had Tommy John surgery the following offseason and missed all of 2014 and half of 2015. He was then one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2016, a solid pitcher in 2017, and then an elite pitcher this most recent season. There’s no two ways around it: Corbin was an ace, and I’m bullish on his chances of repeating that. I absolutely love his style of pitching, and the Yankees surely do too. He throws a four-seam fastball less than 20% of the time, yet he led ALL of baseball in swing-and-miss percentage. So he throws gas, right? Nope! Corbin’s average fastball sits around 91 MPH, already proving that he doesn’t need heat to succeed. So then by getting batters to chase a lot, surely he has issues with walks? Nope, Corbin only walked slightly over 2 batters per 9 innings and finished with the fifth best K:BB% in baseball. So if he doesn’t throw hard or walk a lot of guys, he must give up a ton of homers? Negative, my man keeps the ball in the park. He had the third best HR/9 rate in baseball, and was the only starter to finish in the Top 10 in strikeout percentage and groundball percentage.

I’m framing Corbin like he’s Sandy Koufax 2.0 here. There are some red flags. As referenced, his track record isn’t nearly as stable as you’d like for a guy you’re handing nine figures to. But I’m pretty confident his 2018 wasn’t a fluke. Chase Field is no pitchers’ park, and his fielding independent numbers show that he was even better last year than his standard stats would indicate. There’s also some fear associated with investing in Tommy John recipients, but Corbin is now four years removed from his procedure and has logged nearly 400 innings over the past two years. I’m not worried there. My biggest concern with him is that while he misses more bats than anyone, he gives up a ton of hard contact when batters connect. His hard hit percentage was the second highest in baseball per FanGraphs, and keeping his groundball percentage in mind, he might need a personal third baseman if he comes to New York.

I think my contract estimate is fairly overaggressive, but that’s likely how the Yankees need to play this one. They have such a glaring need for another top-of-the-rotation arm, and in this case they wouldn’t need to move more top prospects to get one. Yu Darvish, the top arm on the market last year, got a sixth year and slightly more average annual value, but his track record was far better than Corbin’s. I’m all in on Corbin at this price.

  • The Bargain: Daniel Murphy for 2 years/$15 million

USP MLB: CINCINNATI REDS AT CHICAGO CUBS S BBN CHC CIN USA IL

I know, I know. I don’t like the guy off the field either. But before we talk about Murphy as a baseball player, let’s make an important distinction. He has some unpopular viewpoints that I’d argue are unacceptable, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are…viewpoints. The Yankees paid top dollar for a player who actually did this, and we’ve been cheering for him for three years now. Just want to get out in front of some fans inevitably jumping ship if the Yankees do in fact sign Murphy.

Anyway, you might say that contract seems low for a player who was an MVP runner-up in 2016. I’d say you are correct, but I think that’s the ballpark Murphy is looking at. The free agent market infamously “froze over” last offseason, and while I do think there were some fishy factors in play, I think the main reason behind it was a league-wide understanding that you can often get similar or better production from young, cheap players than over-the-hill players on big contracts. And guess what? The teams were largely correct. There’s a reason that Lorenzo Cain flew off the market for big money but that power-hitting corner infielders with no defensive ability signed disappointing deals. And while that second group doesn’t exactly describe Murphy, that’s likely how teams will view him too. Murphy will be 34 on Opening Day, is one year removed from major knee surgery, and struggles defensively without a true position. But this dude was born to rake. Despite coming off that surgery and effectively having his Spring Training during the actual season, Murphy still managed to bat .299 in 2018. There’s almost no scenario in the near future where Murphy doesn’t bat between .290-.310. He’s shift proof…it’s freaky how evenly he hits the ball to all fields. With a sure bat and a low strikeout percentage, I think he makes for the perfect platoon to Luke Voit. (There’s a decent chance Murphy would end up as the everyday first baseman. I think Voit’s 2018 was a bit fluky, but he was so good that he at least bought himself some playing time at the start of the season.) Add in that he can play a somewhat serviceable second base until Didi returns and Gleyber Torres moves back, and Murphy makes for an exceptional short-term play for the Yanks.

  • The Familiar Face: David Robertson for 3 years/$27 million

david robertson

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Robertson is great and one of the most consistent relievers…ever? I’m not really kidding. Besides a 2016 season when he was merely “pretty good” rather than “really good,” his numbers during each season from 2012-2018 are virtually identical. (I’m leaving out his 2011 for the sake of this exercise, because it’s one of the best reliever seasons ever that nobody talks about.) He’ll offer some walks and give up some homers, but he’s a high strikeout guy who you can bank on getting the job done 60 times a year. It’s an expensive contract for a 7th inning pitcher, but that’s the cost of reliability.

TRADES

  • The Blockbuster: It Already Happened… Justus Sheffield/Erik Swanson/Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners for James Paxton

paxton

I didn’t get into the details about the Gardner and Sabathia signings because I want to focus more on prospective moves, but I’ll write about this one because Paxton is less of a known commodity for Yankee fans and he cost the organization’s top prospect in Justus Sheffield. For starters, the Yankees were going to trade for a top-of-the-rotation arm in 100% of offseason scenarios. There weren’t many options, and I don’t think most of them stood a chance. I never bought into the Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco rumors for a second. They are both in their primes and have two years left on their contracts for below-market rates. Not to mention the Indians have the best staff in baseball, arguably the sport’s two best contracts in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and play in the worst division by a mile. To get them to voluntarily close their contention window would cost an absolute fortune. I’m fairly certain Gleyber would have to be involved for Kluber, and count me the hell out on that. The same applies to Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, but they’d probably cost even more, so scratch them off too. That leaves Paxton and Zack Greinke.

I mapped out this blog before I actually started writing it, and in my original plan I had Greinke as the blockbuster. There were a few reasons why I went this route. I think you know what you’re getting more with Greinke than Paxton, and I think he potentially fits better into the “beat the Red Sox and the Astros in the playoffs” formula. Still, I’m burying the lede here. The major reason I pegged Greinke was because I planned to include Jacoby Ellsbury in the package for him. I’ll write more about Ellsbury later, but almost more than anything this offseason, I dream of the Yankees getting someone to take his contract. Moving Ellsbury will require the Yankees taking on another awful contract, and Greinke’s league-leading $34 million/year contract constitutes as awful for a Diamondbacks team about to embark upon a rebuild. I thought the Yankees would have to include two top pitching prospects in that scenario, and I thought that Paxton would cost the same. Knowing beforehand that Paxton would only cost Justus Sheffield likely would have changed my entire thought process.

Let me get this out there: I’m excited that Paxton is in pinstripes. There’s so much to love here. He’s a tall lefty who throws gas and pounds the strike zone, and he’s the darling of the analytics community too. Just about every forward-thinking baseball outlet already views Paxton as an ace and Top 10 pitcher in the league. Just watch the highlights of his no-hitter and it’s not hard to see why. His K% since becoming a regular starter in 2016 is among the best of the best, his walk rate is low, and his FIP is elite and substantially better than his ERA. But that’s also the thing with Paxton. I feel like people are constantly coming up with reasons to explain why his production isn’t better than it is. Don’t get me wrong; he’s been a really good pitcher over the past three years. But he has not been an ace. He has not once qualified for the ERA title, as his 160 innings from this past season represent a career high. And while the Mariners of late have never been known for their team defense, two of his three season ERAs of 3.79 (2016) and 3.76 (2018) aren’t awe inspiring. Throw in the fact that he had a DL stint for a back problem this past season, one of the highest hard-hit percentages in the league, road stats worse than his Safeco Field stats, and a home run rate that skyrocketed in 2018…and yeah, there’s some reason for concern here. But let’s focus on the positives. Again, he misses bats like the Scherzers of the world. Everything points to him being a 5.0-7.0 WAR pitcher if he can go 200+ innings. And the home run rate from 2018 was so much higher than his 2016-2017 figures that I think it’s safe to assume it’ll regress towards the mean. It’s a misnomer to label Paxton an ace now. But there’s a good chance it won’t be 365 days from now.

In one sense, Paxton is actually extremely similar to J.A. Happ, who is heavily linked to return to the Yankees in the rumor mill. They’re both tall lefties with easy velocity who basically only throw fastballs. But in another and more important sense, Paxton is WAY better than Happ. The two arbitration years remaining on Paxton’s contract should equate nearly identically to the deal that Happ is forecasted to land in free agency, so the financials are a wash. If the cost of upgrading from Happ to Paxton for no additional charge is one top pitching prospect and two fringe major leaguers, then I think you have to take that deal every time. (And I’m saying that as someone who seemingly likes Sheffield more than most. Sure, the kid has shown some command issues and didn’t pitch well in his 2.2 MLB innings – it is BANANAS some people actually care about that. But even with those increased walk rates in the minors, Sheffield still excelled for the most part in both Double-A and Triple-A. Plus…he’s 22 for god’s sake! He’s got a ton of talent, and that wins out a lot of the time.)

  • The Ellsbury Dump: Jacoby Ellsbury/Domingo German/Greg Bird to the Marlins for Wei-Yin Chen/Adam Conley

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins

I teased it earlier, but let’s talk some Jacoby Ellsbury. Believe it or not, it’s already been five years since Ellsbury signed that ill-fated contract. In those five years, Ellsbury had one solid debut season, one bad full season, two pedestrian injury-riddled seasons, and one completely missed season. For all of Brian Cashman’s sorcery, this move was an all-time misfire. As if Ellsbury’s health and ineptitude wouldn’t make him tough enough to trade, he also has a full no-trade clause. So yeah, I don’t think he’s actually going anywhere. But still, this is a blog of hypotheticals, so you better believe I’m shipping his ass.

Like I said earlier, in order to trade Ellsbury, the Yankees would have to receive another bad contract in return AND include another piece(s) to gauge interest. Ellsbury is essentially on a 2 year/$47 million contract (there’s a third year with a $5 million buyout option that will 99.99% be exercised). Since the Yankees would aim to save some money with this trade, we’ll explore other short-term contracts in that $15-20 million/year ballpark. And while the two centerpieces of this trade will be salary dumps, we’ll still trade them to teams that theoretically could use their services. So for the Yankees…we’re eying starters.

Believe it or not, there are actually a few different starters who fit this extremely specific bill. (The 2014-2016 offseasons were the damn Wild West.) Here are the barf-inducing choices: Jeff Samardzija, Homer Bailey, Wei-Yin Chen, and Ian Kennedy. The Giants as a trade partner would actually make some sense, given their dismal outfield situation and likelihood of a total roster teardown. I just really dislike Samardzija, and I get the sense that his camp would have an expectation for Shark to be a full-time member of the rotation. Bailey is truly horrendous and one of the select few contracts in baseball that might be even worse than Ellsbury, so easy pass on him. Kennedy would actually work on the Yankees’ end, but there’s just no chance that the Royals would take on another huge contract for a bad corner outfielder.

So that only leaves Chen, which is good because this fit makes sense for both sides. Chen has never really been a good pitcher and definitely is not one now…I seriously have no idea what the Marlins were thinking with this contract. He’s owed $42 million over the next two seasons and has major injury issues too. But still, Chen is more mediocre than bad, which the Yankees would gladly take in this situation. He threw 133.1 innings last year with a 4.43 FIP. If he could duplicate that, Chen would make for a fine Opening Day #6 starter and mop-up man. Think Jaime Garcia in 2017. And for the Marlins, a healthy Ellsbury (a big if, I know) would probably crack the Opening Day lineup. Given that they are likely to trade their only great player in J.T. Realmuto this offseason and that the only other famous player on the roster is Starlin Castro, a little name recognition honestly might not be a bad thing for an organization that draws fewer fans than some minor league teams.

Now let’s talk the pot sweeteners. There’s no incentive for the Marlins to bring in Ellsbury for Chen straight up. The Yankees need to offer more, but probably not a whole lot more. I think any cheap starter with some talent and multiple years of team control would get the job done, and Domingo German has more than some talent. He has command issues and gave up a lot of runs in his 14 starts in 2018, but German’s stuff is absolutely nasty. He gets batters to swing at pitches out of the zone as well as anyone, and his curveball has the potential to be one of the majors’ best. So why the hell would the Yankees trade him and his five years of cheap team control? There are a few reasons, the first being that German is out of minor league options. While German would almost certainly crack the 2019 Yankees’ Opening Day roster, I can’t see him being anything more than a swingman for this team. So his biggest value to the Yankees might be as a trade chip. For a rebuilding team, he could crack an Opening Day rotation with the upside to be much more than that. Seems like more than a throw-in piece then, right? Correct, but the Yankees aren’t only getting Chen in this trade.

Adam Conley isn’t a big name yet even within baseball circles, but I’d bank on him being one by season’s end. A failed starter who was one of the league’s worst in 2017, Conley was converted into a reliever and became one of the more intriguing bullpen lefties in baseball. His standard stats don’t jump off the page, but his strong K:BB ratio and FIP indicate that even better things are ahead for him. With a fastball that sits around 96 MPH paired with a changeup that is already an elite pitch, I think the odds of Conley developing into 2016 Andrew Miller are higher than 2019 Andrew Miller reverting back to 2016 Andrew Miller. And with three years of cheap team control, Conley would cost WAY less. There’s a reason that the Marlins didn’t move him before the last trade deadline despite interest from around the league. It’s going to take a lot to pry him from Miami, so we’re throwing in Greg Bird too. Bird’s 2018 was such a disaster that I think it would be best for everyone involved for him to get a fresh start with a new team. He still has solid power, a good walk rate, and should be a good defender. But even if Bird never pieces it all together, he would still represent an upgrade at first base for the Marlins. They were the only team in baseball to have their first basemen combine for negative WAR in 2018. Even Bird didn’t sink that low.

  • The Three-Way:

Yankees receive: Jurickson Profar from Rangers, Chad Pinder from Athletics

Rangers receive: Jharel Cotton from Athletics, Luis Cessa from Yankees

Athletics receive: Sonny Gray from Yankees

Giants versus Athletics

(Quick note at the top here: I swear, I’m not plagiarizing from River Ave Blues. In his offseason blog, he also suggested an Ellsbury-for-Chen swap and a three-way deal that brings Profar to the Yankees. As already mentioned, my original plan for Ellsbury involved Zack Greinke, but I don’t think there’s any chance the Yankees trade for another big-name pitcher now. And as for Profar, I’ve loved him as a trade target for a while now. I’d mock a trade for him that’s solely between the Yankees and Rangers, but a goal here is to trade Sonny Gray and I don’t think his one-year deal makes any sense for Texas.)

Sonny Gray is going to get traded. Brian Cashman isn’t beating around the bush about it. He didn’t work out in the Bronx, but he’s still an interesting trade chip for the Yankees. His road numbers were significantly better than his Yankee Stadium numbers, and he has other peripherals that suggest he could return to his 2016 form. I’m not exactly sure how valuable of a trade chip Sonny is, but considering a few teams are already aggressively pursuing him, I think his value might be higher than most Yankee fans would guess. All teams with good/great offenses but no starting pitching like the Brewers and Reds would work as partners, but Oakland fits that mold too and I think a trade-back is in play here. The A’s had back luck with multiple injuries to starters last year, but this is still a team that was forced to resort to bullpenning in the Wild Card Game. I’m sure the A’s plan to stay aggressive this offseason while retooling a 97-win roster, and Sonny fills such a need for them that he would probably be the Opening Day starter.

The player coming back to the Bronx from Oakland is both the one who I am most excited to write about and the least known by the baseball community: Chad Pinder. I admittedly haven’t watched Pinder play a ton, but I’m familiar with his skillset and his stats, and he could not be a more ideal fit for the 2019 Yankees. Pinder, who is going to be 27 on Opening Day and is under team control for four years, is a good athlete who functioned as Oakland’s super utility man last season. He made starts at seven (!!!) different positions in 2018, yet most of them occurred at his best position in left field. Pinder is a capable second baseman, but he is a truly excellent left fielder. He ranked fifth among all leftfielders in Defensive Runs Saved, and he ranked first in UZR/150 among those with 400+ innings. The Yankees are obviously open to the idea of at least platooning Brett Gardner, as evidenced by last season’s trade for Andrew McCutchen. But the roadblock in replacing Gardner is that he’s a master of patrolling the tricky Yankee Stadium left field. Gardner is not a good hitter anymore, but his defense is clearly a priority for the Yankees’ brass because he continued to start in left over Giancarlo Stanton last year even as his offense dissipated. Pinder isn’t simply a right-handed left field specialist though…there is major offensive potential here too. Behind his solid walk rate and power, Pinder posted an eye-opening 113 wRC+ last year. (For reference, that’s equal to Eddie Rosario and Starling Marte.) But the real cause for excitement is that Pinder squares up the ball as well as anyone in baseball, and that’s not an exaggeration. He ranked 13th last year in both FanGraphs’ hard hit percentage and Statcast’s barrels per plate appearance. An adopter of the launch angle revolution, those stats make sense, as does his high strikeout rate unfortunately. Still, there is potential here to trade for a plus offensive and defensive player whose role would be a left field split at an absolute minimum…and he’s currently buried on the Oakland depth chart. Most of these “moves” are total hypotheticals that I could live without, but I adamantly want Cashman to trade for Pinder. Even if that entails a straight-up swap for Sonny because, again, I have zero clue what his true trade value actually is.

Jurickson Profar

The other player coming to the Yankees in this trade is far better known than Pinder, albeit not for the best reasons. Jurickson Profar debuted in the majors as a 19 year-old and spent years as the top prospect in baseball. Yet here we are years later, and Profar just logged his first season with over 100 games played in his career. Plenty of that lack of playing time can be attributed to injuries, but the full story includes Profar not playing near his lofty expectations. But just because didn’t develop into a perennial All Star doesn’t mean that Profar still doesn’t have a ton of talent. His standard stats from 2018 won’t blow anyone away, but they show that he was an above-average hitter. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Profar might be more than that, and with a skillset that the Yankees could desperately use. On top of being a switch-hitter with dead even lefty/righty splits, Profar has an incredibly rare combination of balance at the plate and power. Just listen to this. Profar was one of only eight players in MLB last year with a walk rate higher than 9%, a strikeout rate lower than 15%, and an ISO rating north of .200. The other seven? Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, Justin Turner, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, and Francisco Lindor. So yeah, the guy can deliver some offense. The same cannot exactly be said about Profar’s defense. Like Pinder, Profar was utilized as a super utility man in 2018, making at least 9 starts from every position in the infield. The majority of those starts came on the left side of the infield, which is strange, because he’s bad there. I guess he could offer a slight upgrade at third over Miguel Andujar late in games, but Profar is actually solid at second base and that’s where he’d provide the most defensive value if the Yankees choose to slide Gleyber to shortstop for the season. Profar is currently slated to start at third for Texas on Opening Day now that Adrian Beltre has retired, but Joey Gallo is better than him there and the Rangers could move Gallo back to the infield to make room for Willie Calhoun. So without a firm grasp on a position and with only two years remaining on his contract for a bad team, Profar should be attainable via trade.

Like I just said…the Rangers really suck. They stand no chance of competing for the AL West in the near future, so they should be thinking 3-4 years down the line. And ALL of their attention should center on pitching. Their projected rotation for 2019 is truly nauseating, and right now they have no help on the way either. The Rangers need a couple of arms who provide some immediate upside and multiple years of team control. Luis Cessa fits that description. Yankee fans don’t hold a high opinion of Cessa after years of spot starts from him, but he would be a valuable trade chip. Somehow still just 26 years old, Cessa’s fastball sits around 95 MPH and he posted a respectable 3.74 FIP in 2018. Texas would hold four years of control over Cessa, and honestly he’d probably make 25 starts for them next season. Completing the trade is Jharel Cotton moving from Oakland to Texas. Cotton really struggled in his first full season in 2017 and missed all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery, but he’s still an asset. A former Top 100 prospect with a filthy changeup, Texas could buy low on Cotton and take advantage of Oakland’s pipeline of younger arms. Also under team control for four years, it would be a worthwhile bet by the Rangers on Cotton becoming a top-end starter for them for 2020 and beyond.

THE GOODBYES

  • Ronald Torreyes

I know, I know. We all love Toe. But the Yankees have World Series aspirations, and the fact of the matter is that Torreyes isn’t very good. He has absolutely no offensive upside and his defense isn’t as good as we like to pretend. In this scenario I’m bringing in three other guys who can play the infield, so Ronnie T wouldn’t have a role beyond clubhouse mascot. Ideally he clears waivers in this situation so we could bring him back on a minor league deal (he’s out of minor league options), but anything more than that is sentimentality winning out.

  • A.J. Cole

A.J. Cole is horrific. I still can’t get over how long he survived on the active roster last year. The Yankees could miss out on every single free agent, and I’d still want them releasing Cole.

THE “WHAT IFS?”

I’ll be brief with these, because I have some self-awareness over how long I’ve gone already. But I want to at least address the names linked to the Yankees this offseason that I don’t have them bringing in.

  • Bryce Harper

I guess I shouldn’t be referring to this exercise as my “dream offseason,” because in my dream Bryce is wearing pinstripes. I just really can’t see it happening. Immediately following the Giancarlo trade last offseason, I wrote about how it was the big move that the Yankees spent years preparing for. I still think there is some truth to that, despite the Yankees kicking the tires on Bryce and the opening for a better corner outfielder. Inking Bryce to a deal in the ballpark that he’s expecting would have the Yankees paying around $90 million annually to three slugging outfielders (Judge is going to get PAID) for at least five seasons. I’m a total believer in Bryce and think he could win multiple MVPs for whatever team lands him, but even for the Yankees I’m not sure the financials make sense here.

  • Manny Machado

I don’t view Machado in the same light as I view Harper, but he’s still another potential MVP who might just be entering his prime. But unlike Harper, Machado would provide a better immediate fit. An actual third baseman who views himself as a shortstop, Manny could fill in for Didi for 2019 then kick over to the hot corner if Andujar’s defense doesn’t improve. It’s more complicated than that though. Again, he’s going to be crazy expensive. I also think Machado’s issues with effort and dirty play are valid and totally worth consideration when handing out a lifetime contract. But most importantly, I believe in Miguel Andujar, and to a greater extent the entire young core. Voluntarily breaking that up for one star player with a bad attitude would be reminiscent of mid-2000s Yankee teams that weren’t nearly as fun as some people act like they were. (They didn’t win either.)

  • Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco

I already touched on these guys, but again, their contracts are way too team-friendly and the Indians are way too good to trade either of them to the Yankees without getting at least Gleyber or Andujar in return.

  • Dallas Keuchel

Already wrote about him too…I prefer Corbin.

  • Nathan Eovaldi

For the contract that he’s about to pull, I’m perfectly content letting someone else invest in Nasty Nate. Best of luck.

  • Andrew McCutchen

Cutch played really well in his half season for the Yankees, but Cashman knew he was trading for a rental. Don’t think this would be a good long-term fit.

  • Zach Britton

Britton was shaky but good enough for the Yankees. It would be nice to have him back, but some team is going to pay him closer money, and that’s just not an option for the Yanks.

  • Michael Brantley

I’ve seen a lot of people pencil Brantley into left field for the Yankees, and I do not want them to do this. It’s a really bad fit to me. Brantley is a good player, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and will command a contract for at least three years around $15 million a year. I’d love to have his high-contact bat in the lineup, but with his awful injury history, bad defense, and limited power, I can live without it.

  • J.A. Happ

Another commonly predicted 2019 Yankee, another free agent that I don’t want the Yankees targeting. Happ was excellent after coming over at the trade deadline, and then he was terrible in the playoffs. You shouldn’t use postseason performance as an indicator of a pitcher’s “guts” or any shit like that, but it should open your eyes to the pitcher that Happ has been for the majority of his career. I’ve already called James Paxton a better version of Happ in this blog, but in that case then Paxton is like Happ 4.0. He’s old and is going to cost a lot, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he posts ERAs in the high 4’s over each year of his contract.

  • Yusei Kikuchi

I don’t know anything about his game, but Kikuchi is a 27 year-old lefty starter and the top Japanese free agent this offseason. If the Yankees lose the bidding war for Corbin, then expect them to be active here.

  • Andrew Miller

Fading reliever who’s going to be expensive and is suddenly getting old. Let someone else take this one.

  • Adam Warren

Ugh, I’d LOVE Warren back. I just don’t think that’s on the table after the Yankees traded him for international signing bonus pool space during the heat of a playoff run.

  • Charlie Morton

This one is tough. Morton has been excellent the past two seasons and will probably only sign for a one-year deal. It would be a major high risk, high reward move. I’d be fine with it, but I could also see it playing out where Morton gets paid just short of $20 million just to throw 50 innings.

  • Jose Iglesias

I would be all about bringing in Iglesias on a one-year deal to fill in for Didi. He can’t really hit, but he is an absolute wizard at short. I would love if the Yankees could continue Gleyber’s development at second base, but Iglesias is the only affordable shortstop in free agency who could justifiably start every day. And I wouldn’t bank on a 28 year-old this good at defense taking a one-year deal.

  • Josh Harrison

I kinda expect the Yankees to sign Harrison. They’ve publicly liked him for a while now and he has that 2B/3B versatility the team is searching for this offseason. He’s been solid offensively as recently as 2017, but I’m bearish on his future with the bat. I definitely wouldn’t hate this move; I just think there are better and cheaper options out there for infield versatility.

  • Neil Walker

What am I missing here? A lot of Yankees writers whose work I respect are hopeful that Walker will return on a one-year deal. Um, he was terrible last year? I know he had some big hits and improved in the second half, but this is still a guy who batted .219 (including .164 as a right-handed hitter) and played suspect defense. Let’s aim higher, people.

OPENING DAY ROSTER

Catchers

Gary Sanchez

Austin Romine

Infielders

Daniel Murphy

Luke Voit

Jurickson Profar

Gleyber Torres

Miguel Andujar

Outfielders

Brett Gardner

Chad Pinder

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Judge

Giancarlo Stanton

Starters

Luis Severino

Patrick Corbin

James Paxton

Masahiro Tanaka

CC Sabathia

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman

Dellin Betances

David Robertson

Chad Green

Jonathan Holder

Tommy Kahnle

Adam Conley

Wei-Yin Chen

OPENING DAY LINEUP

  1. Gleyber Torres SS
  2. Aaron Judge RF
  3. Aaron Hicks CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton DH
  5. Miguel Andujar 3B
  6. Daniel Murphy 1B
  7. Gary Sanchez C
  8. Jurickson Profar 2B
  9. Brett Gardner LF

 

Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej as we journey towards Ring No. 28!

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Excuse Me, Baseball. May I Please Heat Up The Stove?

Wind chills are hovering around -20 degrees. New calendars are up on the walls. Maesters at The Citadel have released the white ravens. In other words, winter is officially here. Now most people probably look forward to spending these dark and cold nights cuddled up by the fireplace. Pshhh. You can find me gyrating next to the MLB Hot Stove. You love the smell of roasting chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carols? That’s nice, but give me technical articles on luxury tax thresholds and quotes of Scott Boras telling teams “YOU WON’T HEAR FROM ME AGAIN UNTIL THAT EIGHTH YEAR IS ON THE TABLE.”

In all seriousness, MLB free agency is usually a glorious shitshow. Every time you refresh Twitter you see that another player just signed for more money than the GDP of some small African nations. GMs are reminded after issuing contracts that they just agreed to pay a player $25mil in his age 42 season. It’s chaos and it’s beautiful…but it’s just not going down that way this offseason. Baseball has been feeling the early effects of the bomb cyclone. The market has frozen over. Usually most of the marquee free agents ink massive deals before the New Year, but right now only 2-3 of the dozen or so best free agents have signed. All fans are bored, and dumb fans are starting to worry that this is some sort of sign for the future of baseball. (It’s not…we are going to see teams spend ungodly amounts of money next offseason.) But what it is a sign of is that teams are getting smarter. There is simply no need to rush into a contract that has the potential to cripple the future operations of a franchise. The players surely understand that, but at the same time the best free agents want the same kind of money that they’ve seen their peers rake in over the past few offseasons. Deals will be signed, but it seems like both sides could use a little bit of a push. Allow me to Henry Clay the shit outta this situation and strike some compromises.

Listed below are the ten biggest-named members of the remaining free agent class, ranked in order of appeal. I pick what I view as the perfect destination for each player given his current/future value and the team’s outlook, and then I come up with a contract that seems agreeable for both sides. But in all likelihood, most of these players will probably get overpaid and will fairly follow that money to whichever team offers it, regardless of fit. So in addition to a section on where each of these free agents should sign, I’ll include one on where I think each of them will sign. Here goes nothing:

  1. Yu Darvish

darvish

I’ll keep this simple: Darvish is the best long-term asset in this market. While JD could produce the biggest immediate impact of the group, Yu is the clear-cut guy I’d most want locked up for six or seven years. Yes, I know that he was horrendous in both of his World Series starts. I don’t know if he was tipping pitches, exhausted, or just nervous, but whatever team lands Darvish should be beyond thankful for that primetime meltdown. His price point has dropped drastically, and writing off his chances of becoming a “big game pitcher” because of two bad games is almost as absurd as the “big game pitcher” label itself. Regular season performance provides us with the best idea of a player’s value, and few starters have been as consistently good as Darvish since his debut in 2012. He had a solid 2017 in his first full season back from Tommy John with 209 strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA, with fielding-independent numbers that are even better. And the crazy thing is…it was probably the worst season of Darvish’s career. But considering his velocity is as high as ever, his K/9 rate finished over 10.0 for the fifth straight season, and he finished in the Top 20 in baseball in soft contact induced, there is absolutely no reason to believe there is a dropoff for Yu coming anytime soon. In fact, I’d argue that his 2017 numbers are probably the worst you’ll see out of him for the next few seasons. In the right conditions, Darvish could return to his 2013 form and safely solidify himself as one of the ten best starters in baseball. Aces don’t hit the open market very often, and when they do, teams almost never have the chance to buy low on them.

Best Deal: 6 yrs/$150mil with the Twins

The smaller-market Twins might be hesitant to take on another huge contract right as Joe Mauer’s deal is finally coming off their books, but this opportunity is too good and makes too much sense to pass up. With their current roster, I’d be pretty shocked if Minnesota returns to the playoffs in 2018. Their bullpen is anonymous, and Ervin Santana will have a tough time duplicating his excellent 2017. But a rotation anchored by Darvish, Santana, and Jose Berrios to go along with a deep and underrated lineup is no joke. Combine the dimensions of Target Field with the Twins’ unbelievable outfield play, and Darvish would be poised to put up his best stats yet. Cy Young potential is there with this fit.

Actual Deal: 7 yrs/$175mil with the Angels

As a Darvish fan and someone who recognizes that Anaheim is where flashy free agent signings go to die, I really don’t want this to happen. It just makes too much sense. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Angels have once again decided to go “all in” this offseason. It’s a long-term play to try to keep Mike Trout around by proving their commitment to winning, but it’s likely that it eventually ends with the unintended outcome of not having enough money to pay him when his time comes (just ask Orioles fans about this strategy re: Manny Machado). Anyway, while the Angels lineup is filled with star power, they have nothing resembling a complete rotation. The thought of pairing Darvish with Shohei Ohtani is probably too enticing to pass up, so I expect the Angels to dig even deeper into their pockets. This totally won’t come back to bite them in the ass in a few years!

 

  1. JD Martinez

National League Wild Card Game - Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks

If there’s anything about the 2017 season that I’m truly thankful for, it’s that we finally put the 2014 World Series between the Giants and Royals in the rearview mirror and started to embrace the value of power again. And when it comes to purely mashing the ball, JD is one of the five best in baseball at it. Already established as one of the premier sluggers in baseball coming into 2017, Martinez put up his best season split between the Tigers and Diamondbacks with a preposterous 45 dingers in just 119 games. For those casual fans who might not be too familiar with JD, his 2017 wasn’t just a fluke either. Among players with at least 2000 plate appearances between 2014 (his first full season) and 2017, he finished second in slugging percentage and third in isolated power (behind Trout in both, and Stanton too in ISO). So if you’re wondering why he isn’t at the top of this list, it’s because he strikes out a ton, doesn’t walk a lot, and already can’t really hold his own in the outfield.

Best Deal: 6 yrs/$150mil with the Red Sox

The Red Sox desperately need power in the middle of their lineup, especially since the already great Yankees lineup just added the best power bat in baseball. They’re also the only team that’s certainly going to shoot past the luxury tax threshold this season, so they’re going to be spending money. And guess what? JD Martinez wants A LOT of it, and he deserves it. A late bloomer, JD is already going into his age 31 season, so the last few years of this contract could potentially look really ugly. But Boston is in win-now mode, and the thought of what JD could do right now aiming for the Green Monster 81 times a year is pretty terrifying.

Actual Deal: 6 yrs/$170mil with the Red Sox

It’s going to happen. But considering this is Dave Dombrowski and Scott Boras at the opposite ends of the negotiating table, this staring contest might take weeks to call off. The Red Sox reportedly offered him a five-year deal, but it’s logical to assume that Boras wants seven. We’ll meet halfway at six years, but we’ll also throw in some extra dough because Boras pretty much always gets what he wants.

 

  1. Lorenzo Cain

lorenzo cain

Cain is one of the few players on this list that I think actually might get underpaid. He’s the best of the available former Royals, and I don’t even think it’s particularly close. Also a late bloomer, Cain is entering his age 32 season with only three pro seasons with 130+ games played under his belt. But in each of those seasons, Cain finished with a WAR above 4.0, including a ridiculous 6.5 WAR season in 2015. He finished THIRD in the AL MVP voting just three years ago! (Seriously, has there been a more undercover Top 3 MVP finish ever? Maybe Michael Brantley in 2014?) While his 2017 wasn’t as spectacular as his 2015, it was still a really good season. He hit .300, popped 15 homers, stole 26 bags, saw his walk rate rise to a career high, and once again finished as a plus centerfielder. Cain doesn’t profile as a player who should quickly drop off either. He has great speed, but he doesn’t rely on it to get on base. And while he has some power, it’s more of a complimentary tool. Cain might have to move to one of the corner outfield spots towards the end of a long-term deal, but there’s massive value here.

Best Deal: 5 yrs/$75mil with the Giants

Cain is the rare Giants’ free agent target that actually makes a ton of sense for them. (I have absolutely no clue why or when the Giants, who won three championships through homegrown development and shrewd acquisitions, decided to become reckless spenders). San Francisco’s current outfield situation is a complete disaster, and their lineup isn’t much to look at either. Cain would be an immediate steadying presence for both. Still, I have little faith that this match comes to fruition. For starters, the Giants are one of the big-market teams making a concerted push to get under the luxury tax threshold for this season, and a contract for Cain in this ballpark would makes things extremely tight. With that being said, the Giants outfield is so bad that they are locks to spend on it in some fashion. I think they’ll concentrate on corner outfield options with more power, especially since they just moved on from Denard Span who they probably view similarly to Cain. That is beyond stupid if true, but these are the present-day Giants we’re talking about.

Actual Deal: 4 yrs/$65mil with the Mets

The Wilpons from the clouds!!! Mets fans have endured years of lies from ownership that they will eventually spend big at the right time, but if there’s anything that we definitively know about them, it’s that they’re always searching for a good bargain. This deal for Cain would fit the bill, and he’d change the outlook for this team overnight. The Mets desperately need a rock at the top of the lineup, and a healthy Cespedes/Cain/Conforto outfield would rank as one of baseball’s best. Would this turn the Mets into contenders? Probably not. But the Triple C outfield would justifiably give Mets fans something to look forward to.

 

  1. Jake Arrieta

arrieta

Timing hasn’t proved to be the best friend to Jake Arrieta. He had one of the best pitching seasons ever in 2015, followed that up with great 2016 regular season and postseason, but then produced just an average 2017 in his contract year. There is still a lot to like when it comes to Arrieta. He’s still striking out about a batter per inning, generates a ton of soft contact, and hasn’t logged as many innings on his arm as most starters entering their age 32 season. But on the other hand, he has now regressed by almost every metric in back-to-back seasons, he’s become more erratic, his home run rate has skyrocketed, and his fastball velocity is down big time. I’d argue the ace potential is still there, but there’s probably an equal chance of a total collapse. Arrieta is about as polarizing as a free agent can be.

Best Deal: 4 yrs/$110mil with the Orioles

These are reportedly the exact terms that the Cubs offered Arrieta, and I am stunned that he didn’t cut off Theo Epstein to take that deal. It’s a major overpay for the direction that Jake is trending towards, but I guess Boras has actually convinced him that he’s going to collect 6 yrs/$200mil. Still, this is the hypothetical section, and I think a contract like this should’ve be more than enough to lure Arrieta back to his old stomping grounds. The second half of this deal would probably be rough on Baltimore, but their window is quickly closing. As I referenced before, all of this money, Chris Davis’s money, and Mark Trumbo’s money should’ve been piled together and offered to Manny Machado years ago, but that ship has sailed. Manny Machado will not be a Baltimore Oriole in 2019, but that doesn’t mean that Baltimore can’t make one last push to make a run with him in town. I’m of the opinion that you don’t trade players like Machado under almost any circumstances, because he is one of the elite few that can singlehandedly get a team over the hump. The Orioles offense is still good with enough talent to be great, but their rotation is so bad that the team still managed to finish seven games under .500 last year. Even Arrieta in his 2017 form could place the O’s in the Wild Card discussion. If he managed to return to his 2015-2016 form, then they could contend for a lot more. You might not think that’s possible, but there aren’t many competitors like Jake and I’m sure he’d want redemption for those ugly seasons he had the first time around in Baltimore.

Actual Deal: 5 yrs/ $125mil with the Cubs

Again, I can’t believe Arrieta is getting offers of this magnitude, but clearly the Cubs have serious interest in keeping him around. There was speculation that the Cubs were one of the teams trying to avoid paying the luxury tax, but that initial offer to Arrieta likely indicates that they’re comfortable paying it for this season. They could definitely use another starting pitcher, even with the deal they already handed out to Tyler Chatwood this offseason. With a deal like this, you couldn’t help but think that it’s partially a reward to Jake for his popularity amongst fans and direct role in delivering a championship in 2016. I subscribe to Theo Epstein being a genius, but this one would be a head-scratcher.

 

  1. Eric Hosmer

hosmer

Deep breaths, PJ. So I’m an Eric Hosmer hater, as this ranking probably indicates since most similar lists have him first or second. If you’re looking for further proof, a simple Twitter search would suffice! I think he’s arguably the most overrated player in baseball, and I legitimately believe the deal he’s about to get has the potential to be one of the worst of all time. I’m pretty sure most fans have no idea how the Royals made it to back-to-back World Series, so they just assume Hosmer is way better than he actually is. He’s an average overall player who peaked as a simply good player in 2017, yet he’s about to get paid like a superstar. I don’t even think he was the best first baseman in this free agent class. That honor belongs to Carlos Santana, who signed a 3 yr/$60mil deal that I love for the Phillies. Most “experts” think the Phillies splurged on Santana, yet they’ll stay silent once Hosmer inks a deal for 4-5 extra years and more average annual value. It all makes no sense.

So what specifically is it about Hosmer that drives me insane? Take a seat! His four Gold Glove awards are quite literally the least deserving pieces of recognition that I have ever seen in sports. Of the 19 qualified first basemen between 2015-2017, Hosmer ranks 18th in ultimate zone rating, 19th in defensive runs saved, and 19th in total defensive rating. He’s by most definitions the worst defensive everyday first baseman in baseball. (For what it’s worth, Santana checks in at 4th, 10th, and 3rd in those respective metrics.) So he must be an unreal hitter, right? Wrong! He’s played seven full seasons for the Royals, and in three of them he was objectively bad at the plate. Yes, he had a great season with the bat in 2017, hitting .318 with a .333 RISP that led to 94 RBI. But that’s pretty much his peak ability, and he still has some of the lowest walk rates and isolated power stats among first basemen over the past few years. In this “breakout season” of his, he posted a 4.1 WAR…also exactly what Lorenzo Cain just posted in an “average season” of his. As recently as 2016, Hosmer was a NEGATIVE WAR player. There’s a reason Scott Boras keeps hyping up his “intangibles” and “prestige value.” It’s because there’s not a single piece of tangible evidence he can point to that proves Hosmer’s worth.

Best Deal: 7 yrs/$140mil with the Padres

Obviously, I don’t think teams should be offering Hosmer anything remotely close to this type of contract. But it will happen, so we’ll stay realistic here. The Padres apparently made Hosmer an offer close to this, and it’s the only fit that doesn’t make me want to rip my hair out. Petco Park would be the perfect home for Hosmer, since he sprays the ball evenly to all fields and wouldn’t be expected to hit many homers. But more importantly, landing a “marquee” free agent like Hosmer could change the culture and public perception of the Padres. It would be eerily similar to when the Nationals wildly overpaid for Jayson Werth. Werth’s on-field performance didn’t live up to his contract, but his arrival turned the Nationals into a reputable free agent destination and swung their reputation around the league. Hosmer wouldn’t turn the Padres (or any team for that matter) into winners next year, but he could be the veteran clubhouse presence in a few years for a team that has a really promising farm system.

Actual Deal: 8 yrs/$170mil with the Royals

The Royals should stink next season and the few seasons after that, yet it isn’t the “Royal Way” to tear it all down and tank. They’d rather keep a fan favorite at an exorbitant price than commit to a rebuild, even though a contract like this would completely handcuff all future efforts to improve the team. But hey, at least they’ll sell more tickets and still lead in All Star Game fan voting!!!

 

  1. Todd Frazier

todd

Frazier is the last of the few whose expected contract would actually be a great value to whatever team lands him. I like the Toddfather a lot and will be hyping him up here, so I’ll start with the glaring negative: he batted .225 in 2016 and .213 in 2017. There is no nice way to slice that…it is very bad. HOWEVER, Frazier is a good-to-great player when it comes to just about all other facets of his game. Even with that dismal 2017 batting average, he posted a respectable on-base percentage of .344. And while his home run total was the lowest it’s been in four seasons, he still popped 27 of them and hit 40 as recently as 2016. So you know the patience and power are there for Frazier, but he’s also got some decent speed and is excellent at the hot corner. He was an all-around great player for the Reds in 2014 and 2015, and I guess he’s just fallen off the radar a bit after 1.5 pretty anonymous years with the White Sox and a half-season spent near the bottom of the Yankees lineup. Still just 31 years old, I think whoever gets Frazier for 2018 will be stealing him at his anticipated price point.

Best Deal: 2 yrs/$30mil with the Yankees

Frazier and the Yankees are two middle schoolers with a crush on each other who are standing on opposite ends of the dance floor when “Time Of Your Life” comes on. They want it to happen…someone just has to make the first move. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Frazier is from New Jersey and grew up a Yankee fan. In all seriousness, he meshed incredibly well with the team and they would love to have him back in New York. On one hand, it’s likely that Frazier will be seeking a shorter-term deal. The market for third basemen is terrible right now, and if he returns to his 2014-2015 form (entirely possible) then he will be in line for a way bigger payday in his near future. But on the other hand…

Actual Deal: 1 yr/$12mil with the Yankees

…the Yankees can’t afford Frazier at that price and would likely only entertain bringing him back for a single season. The Yanks are adamant about getting under the luxury tax threshold, and by most estimates $12mil is near the max they can offer another free agent with the current state of the roster. This deal would surely complicate their salary situation, but that’s how badly I think they’d like Frazier back. As for Todd, he’d be leaving some money on the table with this deal, but I get the feeling he’d do it to return to the Bronx and chase his first ring.

 

  1. Lance Lynn

lynn

It’s hard to find a more boring player in baseball than Lance Lynn, and I actually mostly mean that as a compliment. After five incredibly similar seasons in St. Louis, whatever team signs Lynn should know exactly what they’re getting. And considering that 2017 was Lynn’s first season back from Tommy John, that should be comforting for all of the teams targeting him. Yes, there were some minor disparities in his performance last season. His strikeout rate was down a bit and his homer rate went up more than a bit, rising so much to the point where it’s natural to assume it will come back down to earth moving forward. At the same time, his .219 average against and 1.23 WHIP both marked career bests. His velocity remained about the same and he still pretty much only throws fastballs. Lynn has the ceiling of a #3 starter and the floor of a #4 starter. There are more than a few teams out there that would kill for that kind of stability.

Best Deal: 5 yrs/$80mil with the Mariners

No team in need of starting pitching stability comes to mind before the Mariners, and we all know how much they love to stay active in the offseason. I’m usually not a fan of Seattle’s moves, but pairing Lynn with his former Cardinal teammate Mike Leake would provide them with the rotation reliability they’ve been seeking for years. If a healthy James Paxton and a somewhat effective King Felix joined them, then I’d finally concede that the team is balanced enough to make a strong push to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Actual Deal: 5 yrs/$90mil with the Brewers

A lot of teams have expressed interest in Lynn’s services, and I think the Brewers will be the one with the most sizable bid. Milwaukee surprised people with an 86-76 record last year, and now they’re looking to spend some money to build something sustainable. They’ve already added a couple of starters this offseason, but they’re more fringe rotation guys in Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo. Lynn would sit atop their rotation until Jimmy Nelson’s return from shoulder surgery, and a Nelson/Lynn/Chase Anderson/Zach Davies/Chacin rotation definitely doesn’t suck. While I think the Brew Crew would benefit more from a more dynamic arm, Lynn is still a decent fit here. With a good pro roster and an even better farm system, the Brewers won’t be going away for a while. Lance Lynn would only help out.

 

  1. Mike Moustakas

moustakas

I’ll start with this: I don’t think Moustakas is particularly good. His free agency outlook is pretty much a less severe version of Hosmer’s. He’s going to make way too much money when he probably isn’t even the best available player at his position (I’d prefer Frazier and Zack Cozart too, if you count him). But what Moustakas has going for him is that he had his flashiest season in his contract year. He hit 38 homers out of absolutely nowhere, with a career high of 22 prior to the season. He hit 25 of those dingers in the first half too, which earned him a Home Run Derby invite that only further raised his public profile that was probably already too high from the Royals’ World Series runs. Still, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this power surge was probably a pretty big fluke. While most hitters with sudden boosts in home run totals can accredit a shift in launch angles, Moustakas elevated the ball with the same regularity that he had in previous seasons…more just happened to leave the park. Combine this with pitiful on-base percentages, rapidly declining defense, and horrific baserunning, and Moustakas is an average-at-best asset.

Best Deal: 3 yrs/$60mil with the Royals

I know I ripped on them for this philosophy when discussing Hosmer earlier, but I’d actually understand if the Royals really wanted to keep around one of the familiar faces from their recent glory days. A little bit of appeasement for the fan base is never a bad thing. If this is indeed their goal, then I’d suggest Moose as their target (well, besides Cain, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that he’s leaving). I think $20mil a year for a player who’s most famous for batting .215 during their championship run is laughable, but it’s a helluva lot better than giving Hosmer seven or eight years.

Actual Deal: 5 yrs/$80 mil with the Braves

I’m aware that this deal offers Moustakas less average annual value, but like I’ve repeatedly said: he’s not a very good player. He should be taking the longest-term offer he can get, and I think something in this range will be it. Atlanta has a ton of money to spend and could be competitive sooner than people might expect, so they’ll be a factor this offseason. Considering they’re currently pulling off the nearly impossible feat of scheduling to start a player I’ve never heard of, I’d recommend that third base is where they should choose to place their attention. (Apologies to Rio Ruiz and his .193 average). As harsh as I’ve been on Moustakas, he’s only 29, so it would be a safe bet for Atlanta to assume that he produces at his mediocre-to-average level for all five years on the deal. And considering the Braves aren’t exactly known as the most progressive team when it comes to sabermetrics, there are probably a few people in that front office salivating over Moose’s 38 longballs. I surely wouldn’t offer this deal if I were running the show in Atlanta, but honestly it kinda makes perfect sense.

 

  1. Jay Bruce

jay bruce

I pretty much feel the same about Jay Bruce as I do about Moustakas. They’re both middle-of-the-pack players. While Bruce has more consistent power, he also struggles to get on base and strikes out way more often. And while he had a commendable defensive performance in 2017, I sure as shit wouldn’t want to pencil him in to guard right field for my team for 3-4 years. After getting traded at the deadline in back-to-back seasons, Bruce is undoubtedly looking for a multiyear deal. He probably wants to play for a contender too, but I wouldn’t bank on too many of them answering his phone calls. This might develop into a “take whatever you can get” situation.

Best Deal: 3 yrs/$45mil with the Blue Jays

Bruce should absolutely be in the American League. I’d guess that within two years he’d offer his most value as a regular DH that can hold his own in the outfield. Toronto feels like the ideal fit for a few reasons. First, they are slated to start some character named Teoscar in right, so the immediate need is there. Second, there is something in that bagged milk north of the border that helps hitters meet their potentials. For god’s sake, if the Blue Jays can turn Justin Smoak into an All Star, then they can teach Jay Bruce how to finally pop 40 dingers. And while Toronto struggled last year, they had miserable luck with injuries and offensive underperformance. They could potentially contend this year with better fortune, but this is probably their final chance with Josh Donaldson likely to bounce following the season. I’d endorse them pushing the chips in one last time before tearing it all down, and Bruce seems like the best move for them.

Actual Deal: 4 yrs/$55mil with the Giants

There are rumblings of this match in the rumor mill, and I can’t reiterate enough how little sense it makes for both sides. The Giants know they were nearly the worst team in baseball last year, right? I guess that Bruce, like Evan Longoria, provides some immediate assistance, but not nearly enough to reverse the team’s 2018 general outlook or improve their future whatsoever. If Bruce actually does end up in San Francisco, I’d pretty confidently say that he’ll never hit 30 homers in a season and that he’ll fall off a defensive cliff trying to man that cavernous rightfield at AT&T Park. This would be a team that struggles mightily to reach .500 despite a Top 5 payroll. So naturally, I’m expecting the Giants to actually make this deal happen.

 

  1. Alex Cobb

MLB: San Diego Padres at Tampa Bay Rays

Just about every offseason there’s a pitcher that teams obsess over, not because of the eye test or any stats. It’s because pretty much every team expresses interest and that snowballs to the point where you forget why anyone loved him in the first place. This year, that pitcher is Alex Cobb. I do not at all understand the fascination here. Sure, it’s cool that he went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 2013 before a liner to the dome ended his season. But I’d prefer to focus on how he missed both the 2015 and 2016 seasons then returned with an incredibly average 2017 performance? Only four starters in all of baseball regularly allowed hard contact more often than Cobb’s 36.9% of batters faced. Two of them are strikeout machines in Robbie Ray and Chris Archer, and the others were two of 2017’s worst pitchers in Rick Porcello and Ricky Nolasco. I’m not at all suggesting that Cobb belongs in that latter group, but he certainly doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Ray or Archer either. Cobb’s 2017 strikeout rate of 17.9% is so alarmingly low that it more than offsets his impressive walk rate. It’s good to see that he was comfortably able to throw 179.1 innings…but that also marked the most he’s thrown in a single season in his career. That wouldn’t be concerning for a starter early in his career, but Cobb is already 30 years old. For the amount of money that he is bound to make, I wouldn’t want Cobb in the short-term or the long-term.

Best Deal: 4 yrs/$70mil with the Red Sox

I’ve already expressed how I think the Red Sox will spend borderline offensive amounts of money once the first major domino falls in January, and I think Cobb will be a major part of that. He has Boston ties, and he’s already spent the entirety of his career pitching in the AL East. As for the Red Sox, you know that the thought of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez batting in order is keeping them up at night, and something tells me that they don’t want Rick Porcello as the only righty in their rotation ready to face them. Ironically, Cobb reminds me a lot of Porcello. They’re both curveball-dependent and don’t really make much of an effort to miss bats. If the Red Sox could bring in Cobb and also turn him into the least deserving Cy Young winner in MLB history, then this deal would obviously be worth it. But something tells me that…um…won’t happen.

Actual Deal: 4 yrs/$70mil with the Red Sox

Yup, I think that’s actually the way it’s gonna go down. Shoutout to all the Yankee fans who are already praying that a JD/Cobb splash goes just about as well as that Hanley/Sandoval splash from a few years back.

 

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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Stray Bullets: Giancarlo Stanton

“Stray Bullets” is a recurring series of blogs I’ll be doing, choosing to list off a few bullet points on a breaking topic instead of writing an organized feature. Today’s subject is the reigning NL MVP and now New York Yankee, Giancarlo Stanton.

  • This all hasn’t really set in for me yet. It’s pretty impossible to process. The Yankees’ plan for years was to mostly ignore free agency and avoid big contracts, get under the luxury tax threshold, then go all in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after the 2018 season. It was an extremely public blueprint that just about every Yankee fan bought into. But when the best slugger in baseball chooses you as one of his only desired destinations and then his asking price hits rock bottom, sometimes you have to make a move. And that’s exactly what Brian Cashman did.
  • Make no mistake about it: this was highway robbery by the Yankees. A power-hitting rightfielder was probably the last thing the Yankees needed to acquire, but Cashman knows better than to pass up an offer as opportunistic as this one.
  • The prospects that the Yankees are giving up for Giancarlo are…um…far from their best. Jorge Guzman has a big arm and immediately becomes one of Miami’s top prospects. But he was also the second best prospect the Yankees received in their Brian McCann trade, and Guzman is only the fourth best…right-handed pitcher in the Yankees system. As for the other kid, Jose Devers, I’ve never heard of him and I spend more time actively following the Yankees than most people my age spend actually working at their jobs. Even with the Marlins’ barren farm and their total lack of leverage in this situation, I’m stunned that this is all they pulled in prospects.
  • Losing Starlin Castro isn’t ideal, considering he’s somehow only 27 with a pretty solid contract. But he’s also a free swinger who I’m pretty sure doesn’t know that you can reach base after taking four balls. His profile doesn’t fit in at all with a lineup that’s filled with righties and bound to strike out a ton, especially considering mega-prospect Gleyber Torres was bound to take his job at some point during this season anyway. I’m sure most fans would’ve rather seen Gleyber supplant Chase Headley instead of Starlin, but I’m not so sure I subscribe to that. Headley’s potential is severely limited and he’s not exactly a Gold Glover, but Starlin would occasionally blow games with his play at second and he’s a remarkably inconsistent hitter. For someone who’s bound to bat 8th or 9th in this lineup, I’ll take the switch-hitting third baseman.
  • Now let’s discuss the main reason why people tune into baseball…the financials! Real talk, I’m not gonna go all Darren Rovell here, but it’s important to consider the money since the Yankees have such a specific financial plan that Stanton’s league-leading contract surely complicates. As expected, the Yankees are taking on the bulk of Giancarlo’s massive deal: $265mil of the $295mil that he’s owed through 2028. That $30mil that the Marlins are chipping in might seem like chump change compared to what the Yankees are paying, but it’s actually crucial. The Yankees are on the hook for $25mil towards Giancarlo for 2018, but he actually only costs $22mil towards the luxury tax threshold since it accounts for average annual value and that $30mil is spaced out over ten seasons. (The Yankees don’t get that money from the Marlins if Giancarlo opts out after 2020, but that’s unlikely and for the sake of this exercise we’re gonna assume that he won’t.) Even though A-Rod and other big contracts finally came off the Yankees’ books, they still have a big payroll and their pursuit to get under that threshold is gonna be extremely down-to-the-wire. An extra $3mil goes a looooong way. (First-grade explanation of the luxury tax to those confused: while baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, a team is penalized if their payroll exceeds a certain amount. The penalty exponentially increases for repeat offenders, so for a year-after-year big spender like the Dodgers, they end up paying more in the luxury tax than they pay to Clayton Kershaw. But getting under the threshold for just one season completely resets the scale for a team, which is why the Yankees badly want to achieve that before the impending free agency bonanza of next offseason.)
  • What this means for the rest of this offseason: money is gonna be pretty tight in the Bronx. Unless he takes a huge hometown discount, Todd Frazier is as good as gone now. While it’ll suck to see the Toddfather go, starting pitching has always been the biggest need for this offseason, and that’s still the case. I don’t think our rotation is in dire need of an upgrade like a ton of fans are suggesting, since a healthy Severino/Gray/Tanaka/Montgomery is a really solid Top 4. Still, we could definitely use some more depth and a veteran arm to eat up the innings that our young arms won’t be allowed to pitch. CC Sabathia is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need, but following his resurgent season he’ll probably field a few short-term offers from contenders. Although I think it’s foolish to assume that CC will pitch like he did in the playoffs over the course of an entire season, here’s to hoping the fat man comes back for one more chance at his second ring. I also wouldn’t rule out Cashman flashing his creative genius some more, especially since some increased financial flexibility would be huge towards bringing back CC and maybe another piece. Jacoby Ellsbury is the obvious name who needs to get the fuck off the roster, especially since he is now a $21mil pinch runner and the SIXTH outfielder with Stanton in town. No team in their right mind wants any part of Ellsbury and his contract, but if the Yankees promised to eat most of the deal and throw in a top prospect like Clint Frazier, I think a rebuilding team with pitchers to offer could pounce on that. (I hate the notion that Frazier is an expendable player now. Yeah he’s an imperfect prospect and probably wouldn’t crack the Opening Day roster, but he could make things happen way sooner than most people expect. Injuries also happen, and regression from Aaron Hicks or a complete breakdown at the plate for Brett Gardner are both entirely possible.)
  • What this means for next offseason and beyond: the Bryce Harper in pinstripes dream is pretty much dead. With Stanton around, I just don’t see any way that Hal Steinbrenner would approve bringing in another rightfielder for something in the ballpark of $35mil per year. The Yankees’ master plan was to spend big on an absolute superstar to turn a great roster into the best roster in baseball. I’m not saying they’ve already achieved that, but let’s be clear…Stanton is that absolute superstar. Any perception of him as a one-dimensional player who just hits bombs is total crap. Yes, his ability to hit 50+ homers year after year is what’s most impressive about him, but last year he also raised his walk rate while his strikeout rate dropped dramatically. (Compared to the other great power hitters in baseball, he really doesn’t strikeout that) To put it simply, he’s one of the ten best players in baseball, and he immediately becomes the best player on his new team. Does this mean the Yankees will just sit out on next year’s free agency party? Of course not, but I think it means the Yankees are no longer the clear favorite to land Manny Machado. While Harper was always the goal for 2018, I think Machado became the more realistic target for the Yankees this year with Aaron Judge’s emergence. He is a vacuum at third base, and that just so happens to project as the Yankees’ biggest need going into next offseason (unless they shift Gleyber or actually give fellow Top 100 prospect Miguel Andujar his fair chance). And even though Machado should still sign for something absurd like 10yr/$300mil, the crazy thing is that would make him a significantly cheaper option than Harper. But with Stanton and his contract in the fold for the next decade, I wouldn’t be shocked if a big-market team looking to make a splash makes Machado an offer the Yankees choose not to match. Josh Donaldson is in that free agent class too, and he’d make a pretty ok consolation prize.
  • I’m not too concerned about Giancarlo’s health moving forward. His injury history isn’t pretty, with this past season being the first in his career with over 150 games played. He’s had a few short DL stints because of hamstring problems, but it’s not like he has chronic knee or back issues. I mean, his most serious injury came when he got drilled in the face with a fastball.
  • I am mildly concerned that this is how he eats Kit-Kats though.
  • Among players who hit at least 18 homers last season, within the Top 10 in average longball distance are…Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez. There will be innings this season where pitchers have to face all three of them. I can’t stop laughing at this.
  • I’ve seen some hypothetical lineups for the Yankees next season, and in just about all of them Stanton is slated at DH with Judge at RF. Um…I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case. Look, Judge had a good year in the field. But I’m pretty sure most fans think he’s way better with his glove than he actually is, especially with plays like his ALCS Game 7 home run robbery fresh in mind. He was never projected to be anything more than a competent fielder, and his play was downright sloppy at times during last season. Giancarlo isn’t perfect in the field himself, but he’s been solid out there for a few seasons and has way less ground to cover now that Yankee Stadium is home. I think it will mostly be a rotation, but I also think it’s safe to call Stanton our rightfielder. And no, this is not a “Jeter didn’t move to third for A-Rod” situation. I love Aaron Judge, but he is not Derek Jeter.
  • Let’s talk some more about Mr. Jeter. No doubt it’s super fishy that one of his first moves as Marlins co-owner is selling the franchise player to his former team for a minimal return. But c’mon, this is not Derek Jeter doing the Yankees a solid out of loyalty. The Marlins are in crippling debt thanks to their scumbag ex-owner Jeffrey Loria, and with Giancarlo in line for a huge pay bump this year, they simply couldn’t afford to keep him around. Jeter had to trade him, and the Yankees were the only one of Stanton’s approved destinations that stepped up to take on the majority of his contract. Still, I am not about to blindly defend Jeter’s approach to this whole situation…he fucked it up. How the first step in this process wasn’t finding out where Giancarlo would approve a trade is beyond me. Jeter came up with frameworks for trades with both the Cardinals and Giants, and considering how badly both teams wanted him, it’s safe to assume they would’ve taken on the entire contract while giving the Marlins a few good prospects and/or young pros. The only thing is…Giancarlo didn’t want to play in St. Louis or San Francisco. All leverage went out the window for the Marlins once those trades broke down and everyone figured out that Stanton only wanted to play for one of four teams. The Cubs and Astros didn’t express real interest, and Giancarlo’s hometown Dodgers apparently weren’t psyched to pay him that much without offloading a few of their bad contracts. That left the Yankees as the only real option. Even with all of that factored in, it’s insane that Jeter couldn’t negotiate a better haul from one of the most loaded farm systems in baseball.
  • All day I’ve seen non-Yankee fans dreading the return of the Evil Empire and saying shit like “RIP likable Yankees.” I get that the Yankees are just a naturally hated franchise, but I don’t really get how this move drastically shifts public opinion on them overnight. Yeah, it’s probably annoying to fans of small-market teams to watch Giancarlo go to New York just because they can afford him, but the Yankees have been openly prepping for a gigantic move for years now. They just improvised and made it happen sooner than everyone expected. Giancarlo is also insanely popular, which is especially impressive considering he’s spent his whole career with what’s probably the least popular franchise. His contract makes him stand out compared to his new teammates, but he’s just like a lot of them in the sense that he’s a Yankee because of a shrewd move by Brian Cashman. Pretty much the entire Yankees’ core is a homegrown talent, an affordable free agent signing, or the product of a trade. The Yankees haven’t handed out a contract north of $100mil to a free agent since they gave deals to Ellsbury and Tanaka in 2014. Hell, even the Mets have paid a player like that since then. And don’t even begin to compare this to the trade for A-Rod in 2004. Yes, they both resulted in the Yankees taking on the biggest contract in the league, but in that first deal the Yankees traded a stud and one of the most beloved players in New York in Alfonso Soriano. Even with Stanton on the roster, this isn’t close to a reincarnated version of the mid-2000s Yankees, let alone their 2009 team. They aren’t trying to buy their way into the World Series just because they have the deepest pockets. This is them putting the cherry on top of their plan to rebuild the team from the base up. If you just despise the existence of the Yankees, then you can go right ahead and hate on this team. They’re gonna be really fucking good for a long time. And douchey Yankee fans are going to be especially douchey. But say what you want…you don’t hate this team because they’re the best team that money can buy. You hate us ‘cause you ain’t us.
  • THE. BRONX. BOMBERS. ARE. BACK.

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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Carlos Beltran Is Not A Hall Of Famer

Carlos Beltran just retired the way that probably every MLB player dreams it up. After 20 seasons that were mostly all healthy and productive, Beltran walked away on top after finally grabbing that elusive ring with the Astros. Almost the second after Beltran definitely published the announcement himself on The Players’ Tribune, the pro-Hall of Fame thinkpieces were everywhere and they might as well have included a line that suggested reading with Jergens and Kleenex. This is hardly surprising, given that Beltran is one of the more respected players ever and the Twitter climate where every good athlete gets his/her chance to be the G.O.A.T. But allow me to break up this circle-jerk by blasting whatever music makes baseball writers go soft (probably any rap), because the doors of Cooperstown aren’t just opened to all nice and sometimes great players.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is the hardest one for players to get into and it isn’t particularly close. People have been professionally playing this game for like 150 years and only 220 former MLB players are in Cooperstown. That is CRAZY exclusive when you stop to think about. It’s well known throughout the baseball world that the Hall wants voters to loosen up a bit to better represent the modern era of the game, especially with so many statistical leaders probably shunned for life because of steroids (I’ll tackle that beast of a debate another time). But count me out for this cause. I love how fucking hard it is to get in. It’s reserved for the best of the best (and Bud Selig). Give me the Baseball Hall any day of the week over the Basketball Hall, where Tracy McGrady was elected on the first ballot and Mitch Richmond (!!!) got in. I’m still unsure if I’m on board with Tim Raines getting in on his tenth and final year on the ballot, and that’s a dude who won a batting title and is fifth all time in steals. Even though I’m a total dickhead when determining who would get my hypothetical Hall of Fame vote, my qualifications are actually pretty simple: the player had to have been among the elite of the elite during any point in his career, and he had to have a solid streak of sustained greatness. I’m not sure Carlos Beltran meets either of those requirements.

Before I get overly negative here, it needs to be acknowledged that Beltran’s career totals are wildly impressive. Among the 60 players with more than Beltran’s 2725 hits, only 17 of them hit more than his 435 homers. Of those 17, only FOUR of them surpassed Beltran’s 312 steals (Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, A-Rod, and Andre Dawson). PEDs aside, those are three of the best players ever and Dawson is a Hall of Famer in his own right. In summation, Beltran was really good at being the total package, better at it than a ton of guys already in the Hall.

Still, the closest to the top of any statistical leaderboard you’ll find Beltran is in games played. He didn’t have a particular tool that he showed off at a legendary level. He never had 200 hits in a season. He topped 40 homers in a season just once with 41 in 2006. He batted .300 or better in only three seasons, topping out at .307 in 2003. He never had a season with an OBP of even .390. He was really good defensively in the first half of his career, but in his second half he should have been a full-time DH. I don’t hold falling off a defensive cliff once he got older against him, but even at his peak he wasn’t in that top tier of contemporary centerfielders like Jim Edmonds or Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones. And while he had a strong arm, there were never “oh shit don’t run on Beltran” moments for baserunners like there were for soon-to-be Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero.

And when we get into the hardware, Beltran’s argument gets worse. WAY worse. 9 All-Star appearances and 3 Gold Gloves looks really nice, but given today’s propensity for mindless fan voting and defensive stupidity, it’s like having 9 Schrute bucks and 3 Stanley nickels. Winning Rookie of the Year in 1999 is a legit bullet point on the resume and for some reason Hall voters love that shit. But this is the same award that was also won by Kaz Sasaki, Eric Hinske, Angel Berroa, and Bobby Crosby in the five years following Beltran’s win. While the MVP and Cy Young voting processes are definitely imperfect (you don’t need to remind me that Rick Porcello won a Cy Young), they’re still probably the best barometer for measuring if a player was elite and how he stacked up against the best players of his time. Beltran had two Top 10 MVP finishes, coming in fourth in 2006 and ninth in 2003. Compared to the vast majority of players in the Hall, that is…not good. At all. He never received a first place MVP vote. Francisco Lindor, who just turned 24 a few days ago, has already put together pretty much the exact same MVP campaigns. Being the key player on a championship team can rightfully provide a huge boost to candidates with borderline statistical cases, like it did for Barry Larkin (for what it’s worth, Larkin also won the 1995 NL MVP). And while Beltran finally got his ring, let’s be real, he was a glorified hitting instructor on these Astros.

To be fair, Beltran probably would’ve finished in the Top 5 of the MVP voting in 2004 had he played the entire year in one league. He split the season between the Royals and Astros, a season where he finished just two homers shy of becoming the fifth member of the super exclusive 40-40 club. 2004 is the highlight of Beltran’s career, specifically his postseason performance that year with the Astros. He was unconscious at the plate for pretty much all 12 playoff games (first 3:30 of the video). His 8 moonshots are tied for the most ever in a single postseason, and unlike the two guys he’s tied with who each played in a seven-game World Series (Bonds and Nelson Cruz), Beltran’s Astros that year were knocked out in the NLCS. While it’s definitely good to share a record and have a specific moment in time for voters to reference, we’re talking about a postseason run where his team didn’t even reach the World Series as the pinnacle of his career. This is probably dumb, but I deeply consider what team’s logo a player could justifiably wear on the cap of his Hall of Fame plaque. In the case of, say, Mike Piazza, you can make worthy arguments for both the Dodgers and the Mets. But for Beltran, can you make any case whatsoever? He peaked as an Astro and won a World Series there, but he only played in Houston for 1.5 years. He was his most consistent as a Royal, but those teams were AWFUL and never reached the postseason. He played more games for the Mets than any other team and accumulated his most WAR there, but his most enduring memory in New York is undoubtedly striking out looking with the bases loaded in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. The correct answer is Beltran would probably go in with a blank cap, but that’s lame as shit and also speaks volumes to his legacy on each team.

I want to compare Beltran’s case with that of another relevant Hall of Fame candidate, Roy Halladay. The uncomfortable and oft-unmentioned reality behind Halladay’s case is that he was probably an on-the-fence candidate too before his plane crash, but now he is receiving the shoo-in treatment. Still, even had Halladay not suddenly and tragically passed away, he absolutely would have had my hypothetical vote. The major limitation in Halladay’s argument is that his tenure as a full-time starting pitcher essentially lasted only 11 years from 2002-2012, so roughly half the length of Beltran’s career. Still, he was truly one of the elite starters during that entire time frame, including multiple stints as the best starter in baseball. He has the single-season numbers and the hardware to back that claim up. Halladay lead his league in wins twice, innings pitched four times, strikeout/walk ratio five times, and complete games seven times. And for each of the seven seasons where Halladay made 30+ starts between 2003 and 2011, he finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting in EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Oh, and he happened to win the award in 2003 and 2010, throw a perfect game, and become the second pitcher ever to throw a postseason no-hitter. His career totals might not stack up to most starters in the Hall, but Halladay was dominant for a long time. If Beltran ever was, then it definitely wasn’t for long.

Even though this blog has been whatever the opposite of a puff piece is called, I’m pretty confident that Beltran will eventually get into the Hall of Fame. Like I mentioned earlier, baseball writers love him and they’re going to give a boost to anyone from the past 20 years who was never mentioned in the same sentence as steroids. (Especially with every 60-year-old’s favorite childhood player Joe Morgan just sending Hall voters an old-man-yells-at-the-sky note to reaffirm that PED suspects should be kept out.) Another argument from writers that you should prepare for to back Beltran’s candidacy is “X outfielder has a lower career WAR than Beltran and he is already inducted.” I fucking HATE this logic. So just because there’s some guy with unspectacular numbers who played before both World Wars and the advent of minority players enshrined in Cooperstown, we should double down and let in another undeserving guy who was slightly better?

And despite how you probably think I feel about Beltran at this point, I’d be psyched for him if he gets in. I’ll always have a subjectively high opinion of him for following up his bad first two years with the Yankees with an out-of-nowhere and somewhat deserving All Star season at 39 years old. For all of the unbridled rage and frustration I felt when I saw Brian McCann celebrating the Astros’ title, I felt the polar opposite for Beltran. How could you not be filled with happiness for this guy at this moment?

carlos-beltran-crying

But before the baseball world prematurely solidifies its lasting take on Beltran, may I recommend that image as Beltran’s legacy instead? Because Hall of Fame plaques are made of bronze, and that shit lasts a LONG time.

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej