Read

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!

Read

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