Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Men of No Emotion...

Photo Credit: Getty Images, Corey Sipkin (via NY Post)

Yankees sign LeMahieu and Kluber… 

Hey, Cashman woke me up from my nap. C’mon, man… 

After months of crickets, last Friday turned out to be a very productive day in the Yankees Universe. Getting out of bed on Friday morning, I saw the reports the Yankees and D.J. LeMahieu were nearing a deal. A pleasant way to wake up.  Sure enough, it came to fruition in the form of a 6-year, $90 million deal. Some fans were freaked out about the length of the contract, but there’s no doubt the Yankees are looking at this as a four-year deal and the extra two only served to lower the average annual value. As much as I love LeMahieu and as happy as I am he’s back, there is no way LeMahieu is still a Yankee by Year Six. Well, unless he keeps on hitting like a machine. I think the Yankees probably feel anything they get in the last two years is gravy. If not, they’ll just cut bait and move on.    

I had hoped the Yankees and LeMahieu could find common ground because it certainly seemed like both sides like each other. I did have my fears he’d take his trade across town to join Francisco Lindor and the New York Mets or even head north of the border to play for the looming beast of a team that is beginning to take shape in Toronto. The Los Angeles Dodgers also loomed as a threat and I am sure D.J. entertained thoughts about what it would be like to play in Colorado every year wearing enemy gear. 

The news later in the day that the Yankees had reached agreement on a one-year, $11 million contract with Corey Kluber was hardly a surprise. Given how much the Yankees have coveted Kluber in the past, despite his recent run of injury problems, it seemed like they always had a leg up on everybody else if for no other reason than pitching coach Matt Blake (from their time together in Cleveland) and his long-time history of working with Yankees’ director of player health and performance, Eric Cressey. There are reports Kluber had offers for more money but he chose the Yankees. 

Regardless of how he got here, I am glad Kluber is a Yankee. But it does come at a cost, there are now reports the Yankees are unlikely to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. That makes me sad. He’s been a good Yankee. Sure, he can be frustrating at times and it was evident in the playoffs last year the Yankees didn’t trust him at that point. Yet, I would have gladly accepted his return to be a third or fourth starter.  It kind of sucks to think he’ll most likely be pulling on a different uniform this year. I only hope that he does not sign with an AL East rival. I’d probably feel better if Kluber was a sure thing but he’s not. The Texas Rangers made the investment in Kluber and got almost nothing to show for it other than a few pics of Kluber wearing different versions of Rangers jerseys. I know Tanaka is always a bad pitch away from Tommy John surgery, but he does seem like a healthier option than Kluber at the moment. This of course could change if Kluber shows he is still Klubot.  

After word of Kluber’s signing circulated (hasn’t been officially announced yet), Yankee fans almost immediately began clamoring for Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo. Yes, I’d love to have Castillo in the rotation with Gerrit Cole and Kluber (and eventually Luis Severino), but I’ve learned whenever there is this much noise about a player and the Yankees, it almost never comes to fruition.  Brian Cashman just doesn’t work that way. He strikes quickly and quietly as we know so well. So, the more people talk about a possible Castillo trade, the less likely I see it really happening. 

I do think The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch is onto something with his campaign to bring Trevor Bauer to the Bronx. Unlike Kluber, you can count on Bauer to give you innings. He’ll also be one of the better pitchers in the league which positions him nicely to be the #2 rather than Kluber. I doubt the Yankees spend the money, but they need more than one superstar, a roll of the dice with a former Cy Young Award winner and a bunch of kids.  Sorry, Monty, I know you’re not a kid but…we need more. Which is EXACTLY why we need Kluber's former (future?) teammate.


Photo Credit: AP

It was so fun having certainty in one rotation spot last year. I know, Cole is going to lose from time to time and yes, he’ll give up the dingers like anybody else, but when he was on the mound, you felt confident about the Yankees’ chances. It’s been a very long time since I had that feeling. It would be nice to have the same feeling about two spots in the rotation. So, Hal, please sign Trevor Bauer. It’s only money and you’ll earn it back with the next championship.  Get Greedy! 

I suppose that if it is unlikely Tanaka will be back, there’s a snow ball’s chance in hell that we’ll see James Paxton again. SNY reported earlier today that Tanaka is seeking a one-year deal in the range of $15 to $20 million. If he does sign for that level of money, then it is probably best the Yankees decided to part ways. I personally don’t think he’ll get it, not in this depressed market…I just don’t want to see him sign for an unusually low amount that the Yankees could have easily matched.  

I think the Yankees are not done yet, even if I don’t believe there’s any traction for a Luis Castillo trade. I think Cashman recognizes the team has holes, and there are other teams that have gotten substantially better. I don’t exactly remember how the quote goes, but it’s akin to being unrealistic if you expect a different result when you do keep doing the same thing over and over. The Yankees proved they couldn’t win last October and they do need to do something different to change the outcome. Betting on Corey Kluber is not the smart play. Hence, my belief that Cashman is getting ready to pull his magic act again.  

I’ve seen a few articles predicting a major breakout this year by Clarke Schmidt. While I recognize it could happen, I remain in the ‘I’ll have to see it to believe it’ category. Not trying to diss Schmidt and I certainly feel he can be a dominant pitcher, but he hasn’t done it yet. Until he does, I will carry some skepticism (or maybe realism). I’d love to see him explode in 2021 like nothing we’ve seen since the Summer of ’78. He’ll certainly have his opportunities this year and I truly hope he makes the most of them. 



As always, Go Yankees!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Dissecting Trevor Bauer’s Free Agency Wants & Needs

 


Trevor Bauer is the top available free agent starting pitcher on the market and has vowed to do things differently this offseason in his approach to his own free agency. Rather than doing things like most/every free agent available before him, Trevor and his agent Rachel Luba are trying to control more of the flow of information themselves rather than letting rumors and “fake news” dictate the narrative. Personally, I love this approach because through his social media platforms, Twitter and YouTube specifically, Trevor can engage the fans and keep them in the loop. It is also fun to watch him and Luba replying to Jon Heyman calling out his inaccuracies and falsehoods because who doesn’t like to see that? To take that one step further, who wouldn’t enjoy watching Heyman having to credit me with breaking the news on where Bauer signs, and for how much? You want to do things different, then be different. Chris Cotillo breaking the Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals was different, watching all the national Baseball writers having to credit a High School kid was different. Selling yourself on YouTube and creating your brand is also different, but which one is more different? I guess that’s Trevor’s decision, Day 14 of me asking him to allow me to break his news comes tomorrow on Twitter regardless though.

 

Bauer released a video on his YouTube channel last night outlining what was important to him in his free agency search, as well as what may not be as important as much to him. I took notes and will cover as much as I can here in this article, but I encourage you to check out the video below and I encourage you to subscribe to his channel, even if he doesn’t end up signing with your favorite team. It’s a great follow and it’s the inside information and content that I think we, the MLB fans, have been clamoring for forever.

 


First of all, Trevor wearing a shirt that says “Spin Rate” with a spinning top in the middle was the perfect shirt for the video and the perfect way to get his brand out there a little more, in my opinion. I’m an analytical and advanced metrics guy, plus I make t-shirts on the side, so this one touched me personally as a fan. It made me want to buy one, whether he comes to the Bronx or not, and that, in a nutshell, is what Bauer wants to accomplish with his brand. Kudos to him, it’s working.

 

Trevor wants to build a partnership with his next team. Trevor wants a team that is willing to let Trevor be Trevor, but he also wants a team that is willing to listen to him to garner ideas, philosophies, etc. because he thinks he can bring a lot to any team that he signs with. How can you disagree with that given his history, which is something he also specifically touched on in his video. His performance, his durability, his increase in spin rate, etc. were all specifically touched on in the video, as well as his ability to grow his brand, to be able to vlog to his fans, to be able to help people through charities (HOPE WEEK for the win, am I right?), and to help his teammates get the recognition that they deserve. Trevor used being an inspiration for kids and getting his teammates to their favorite concerts as examples of this. Trevor wants to be a great teammate and grow with everyone, which spits in the face of the narrative that he and former teammate Gerrit Cole being on the same causing a ruckus in the Bronx. Trevor has stated multiple times that he has no issues with Cole and that playing on the same team as the Yankees workhorse would not be an issue for him, or for the rest of the team. Trevor is a genuine guy and I believe him. Could he just be saying that to keep the dream alive that the Yankees and their checkbook are still in the fold potentially? Sure, but again… Trevor seems like a genuine guy. If he had an issue with Cole I don’t think he would go out of the way to trash him, but at the same time I think his responses would have been much different when asked as well.

 

Trevor outlined what is important to him, and what isn’t so important to him, in the video, but stated that he didn’t want his “important” list to be construed as a demand list. Trevor mentioned multiple times that it was a preference of his but continued to stress that this would be a partnership between him and his new team. What isn’t so important to Trevor is geography and the size of the media market that he would be entering via free agency. Trevor knows he can build his brand on Twitter and YouTube whether he pitched in the Bronx or whether he pitched in Bismarck, North Dakota. Trevor has proven this, we are all sitting here talking about him this winter after being drafted by a small market team in the Arizona Diamondbacks before making a name for himself in equally smaller markets in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

 


What is important to Trevor is his happiness. Trevor stated that he has spent a lot of time, both his personal life and his baseball life, unhappy and that he doesn’t want to waste more of his time staying that way. Kudos to him. Life is short, way too short, and every second you spend unhappy is a second that you won’t get back. Trevor also wants a team that is willing to accept the way Trevor goes about himself and the way he goes about getting ready for the game. Trevor mentioned how he was told he shouldn’t throw weighted balls by the Diamondbacks because he would throw his arm out, and how that now most pitchers throw with weighted balls. Bauer wanted to emphasize that this didn’t mean that he was necessarily un-coachable, but instead emphasized the partnership with any potential team he signed with. Bauer is open to ideas from his next pitching coach and organization but wants it to be a two-way revolving door with the organization and pitching coach also willing to listen and potentially implement some of his ideas. I think this is where the Yankees may gain a slight advantage, given that former Indians pitching coach and current Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake know Bauer very well.

 

Trevor knows he has a finite number of years to play at the MLB level and he wants the opportunity to not only compete for a World Series every year, which he would get in the Bronx, but he also wants to win a World Series. In my opinion, the Yankees window to win the World Series is two years, subject to change. After two years the contracts of Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, etc. begin getting expensive through arbitration and that will dictate how long the window stays open. Adding Bauer, depending on the length of the contract of course, potentially extends that window accordingly.

 


Bauer also wants to at least have a discussion about pitching every fourth day, stating that he tracks everything about his body and his performance. Bauer thinks he can be even better pitching every fourth day, which in a lot of ways would work best for the New York Yankees. The Yankees need innings and Bauer pitching every fourth day instead of every fifth day could solve a lot of problems in the Bronx. Bauer specifically touched on how him pitching every fourth day could potentially allow a pitcher who pitches better on five- or six-days rest (check Masahiro Tanaka’s stats with the extra day of rest for an example. We all know he prefers to come back here and could presumably be had for “cheap”) or a pitcher on a team-imposed innings limit (Clarke Schmidt, Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, and eventually Luis Severino come to mind immediately) could benefit from having Bauer pitch more often.

 

What it will come down to is money. Bauer has a pretty good idea what he is worth, and he wants to be compensated fairly for it, not only for his projections into 2021 and beyond, but from his past as well. Bauer noted and recognized that he has had good seasons and down seasons, but his durability and uptick in spin rate, etc. This is where I believe it gets dicey for the Yankees, specifically. Is the mandate to get under the $210 million luxury tax threshold posturing, or is it a real mandate? I am leaning towards the former and not the latter, but unfortunately, I know just as much (or as little) as the rest of us. I do know one thing though, if the Yankees want him here and if Bauer wants to pitch for this club, they can get creative and work something out. Defer money, whatever needs to be done.

 


We learned a lot by listening to Bauer, more than we ever learned from Jon Heyman tweets this offseason, so I compiled them into a PROS and CONS list specifically linked to my favorite team, the New York Yankees.

 

PROS:

 

  • Yankees HOPE WEEK
  • A seemingly fun, young(er) clubhouse based on the love of the game and unity.
  • A media market and fan base that would embrace Trevor’s ideologies on the game in terms of social media, analytics, and the desire to win a World Series every single year.
  • Former Indians pitching coach Matt Blake is the pitching coach in the Bronx

 

CONS:

 

  • I don’t think the Yankees will meet the fiscal needs of Trevor outlined in his video so that he can continue to grow his brand. The $210 million mandate is real, whether they say it out loud or not.

 

Will the Yankees sign Trevor Bauer this offseason? In my opinion, the only thing keeping them from signing him will be his fiscal demands. I think given a two-year championship window that the tax shouldn’t be a concern, especially with the new CBA presumably coming after this season (and all the fiscal unknowns that come with it), but I am not in those war room discussions. I personally would buy a Bauer shirt/jersey day one if he signed in the Bronx and I think a ton of others would, but none of us know what’s going on inside the mind of Hal Steinbrenner. One thing I think we all know for a fact, though, is that the Yankees need pitching and Bauer is the best pitcher available. Bauer would make every single player on that team better and he would make every decision that Matt Blake, manager Aaron Boone, and GM Brian Cashman makes that much easier. It is the perfect storm, and the storm is here, now it’s up to the Yankees to walk into the eye of that storm and grab the most coveted piece on the free agent market… you know, like George would have done.

 


Get Greedy, Get Bauer.

 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Ready, Set, Wait...

 


 Slow-Moving Off-Season continues…

We are now into the new year, yet it’s been nothing but crickets at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees really are making it tough for bloggers. Throw us bone, please!

Yes, we’ve acquired the speedy Greg Allen (Triple A depth) and journeyman starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin  (who kind of feels like the latest iteration of Gio Gonzalez) on minor league deals. No noteworthy news at the Major League level has been transacted or at least anything of substance. The Yankees Universe continues to wait for news on D.J. LeMahieu who continues to solicit offers from other teams before hopefully allowing the Yankees a chance for their final offer. True or untrue, I heard the Los Angeles Dodgers are unwilling to go a fifth year in their bid for LeMahieu which would seem to aid the Yankees. As much as I like D.J., I’d be unwilling to go a fifth year too if for no other reason than his current age.  Sorry, when it comes to baseball, I do have age discrimination. We simply get old and our athletic performance declines. It sucks but it’s life.  As long as the Yankees can get D.J. on a three or four year deal, I am hopeful and optimistic the two parties can come together on a mutually rewarding contract. 



With the drawn-out process for LeMahieu, I did expect the Yankees to be more aggressive in pursuing alternative plans. Sure, I wanted Francisco Lindor and would have loved to have placed him at short in Yankee Stadium, with the move of Gleyber Torres back to second base. But realistically, I never thought it would happen. I am little bummed the Mets grabbed Lindor to give them another star player but if the Yankees bring back LeMahieu, he (Lindor) simply was not a need. Now that he is no longer an option, I hope more than ever the Yankees can come to an agreement with Le Machine. It’s been my preference all along but it just feels like Plan B is starting to dissipate. LeMahieu or bust. I do wonder if LeMahieu does leave, would the Yankees quickly pivot to bring back fan favorite Didi Gregorius? Love Didi, but it does not feel like an improvement.

I remain convinced, despite his personality, Trevor Bauer can be a force for the Yankees if he were to sign. He has the proven ability to be a solid number two behind Gerrit Cole and represent a strong hedge for the return of Luis Severino at some point next season. I appreciate Trevor’s intensity and he is clearly one of those guys you may hate on other teams, you’d love him on yours. I guess it’s debatable if he could co-exist with Gerrit Cole, but if they are fighting for a common goal, you’d think they could find harmony. The idea of placing your bets on a comeback by Corey Kluber seems like a flawed strategy if the Yankees are waiting to see if he has anything left. His injury history in recent years alone is enough for me to say thanks but no thanks. I am not willing to go the ’lightning in a bottle’ approach with a team that has World Series ambitions.

The Tampa Bay Rays might not be as strong in 2021 as they were in 2020, but that does not mean the Yankees should let up on the gas pedal. There are other teams actively getting better. You must beat them if you want the end prize.

It does kind of suck that after waiting for years to get out from under the heavy contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury, we are, similarly, now in waiting with Giancarlo Stanton. It is seemingly always one contract that prevents the Yankees from being the best they can be.

I know the Yankees have a plan and I am sure they’ll field a team this year that will be playing in October, but admittedly, my faith and confidence in Brian Cashman is eroding. I do see life after Cash. Not sure who should be the next general manager but it is something I think Hal Steinbrenner needs to consider at some point. In many ways, I think the loss of Hank Steinbrenner was devastating. He may not have been a good “face” for the Yankees like his more diplomatic brother has been, but, with his aggressive, George-like personality, he was a good counter-balance for the conservative, professional bean-counting Hal. You know behind closed doors, Hank and Hal probably had some very spirited conversations. Without Hank’s voice, Hal is free to be as conservative as he wants to be. I doubt the Steinbrenner sisters bring the ghost of their father into a room like Hank did. I don’t know the Steinbrenner family personally, but from the outside looking in, the sisters have never appeared to be very vocal. At least not in public settings I’ve seen.

Not sure what I think about the Gerrit Cole text message issue yet. I need to see more evidence and how this plays out. Cole reportedly sent a text message to fired Angels visiting clubhouse assistant Brian “Bubba” Harkins which stated, “Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole. I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation (winky face emoji). We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold…”.  The text was sent in January 2019 while Cole was still a member of the Houston Astros. It certainly doesn’t show Cole in good light, but Harkins is clearly motivated to negatively portray MLB in his battle with the Los Angeles Angels. I am not going easy on Cole just because he is a Yankee. I’d feel the same if Harkins was echoing the same message about star pitchers on other teams. We need to understand all the facts before we pass judgment. No doubt MLB will be investigating the allegations and they’ll take the appropriate action.

I just saw the Washington Nationals have signed Kyle Schwarber. I was indifferent to his possible signing with the Yankees although I thought he could be effective in Yankee Stadium. However, I still want to see Clint Frazier succeed and there was simply no room for Schwarber on the Yankees. Yet, I am sure many Yankee fans will be groaning about another player lost while the Yankees remain inactive.

Lastly, I’d like to say farewell to one of Major League baseball’s greatest legends…former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. I remember how much I disliked Tommy back in the 1977 and 1978 World Series, yet over time, I began to appreciate and love his personality. I have always enjoyed his stories about the great 1988 World Series year for the Dodgers, and other tales from his career. He was good for the game and he remained such a valued treasure in the Dodgers organization. At 93, it was a good run. Many of us will not make it that far. It was a good life, and he can leave proud of his accomplishments. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Tommy…



As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Trevor Story > DJ LeMahieu in Pinstripes? Maybe - My Offseason Plan

 


I haven’t added anything to the blog lately, so let’s come out with the smoke. If the Yankees were to acquire Trevor Story from the Colorado Rockies in a trade this off-season he will be better in pinstripes than DJ LeMahieu was. There, I said it.

 

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s analyze. The New York Yankees acquired DJ off the free agent market two seasons ago with the hopes of the right-hander filling in as a super utility player for the Yankees in the infield. No one, except me, expected LeMahieu to break out in the way he did in 2019, and again in 2020, and most of the people who saw this headline probably never even made it this far into the article. I’m not worried about if people agree with me or not, most didn’t when I said that Kyle Higashioka not only should, but would, become Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher and I was okay with that too. It’s not even about being right, it’s about what is best for the team. Adding Trevor Story makes this team better, with or without DJ. Keep reading, please.

 


Like I said two years ago with LeMahieu, Story would benefit immensely from making the shift from the NL West to the AL East Division. Now, before we get too upset again, I will admit that Story most definitely benefitted from playing inside Coors Field, like most who have ever played there, but Coors Field did not make Story the exciting player that he is today. His splits will tell you that he does better as a home player versus what he does as a member of the road team, but what it doesn’t tell you is that there are a lot of factors that just don’t get included in those splits posted above. What those splits don’t tell you is how Story potentially was hurt, production wise, by playing inside parks like Petco Park in San Diego, AT&T Park in San Francisco, etc. It also doesn’t show you how Story would actually benefit from not playing 10-15 times in each of those stadiums, while shifting those away games to more hitter friendly environments like Boston’s Fenway Park, Baltimore’s Oriole Park in Camden Yards, the Rogers Centre (or the Stadium up in Buffalo, NY) in Toronto, and Tropicana Field down in Tampa.

 


Dimensions, level of talent on each side (imagine having to play the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers 30 times a season versus playing the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays), and the team around him are all kept out of the splits that we see on Baseball Reference.

 

Coors Field dimensions






Instead of focusing too much on what Story could potentially do as a road player for the Yankees inside these stadiums, I prefer to focus on what he could do inside Yankee Stadium. If Story craps the bed in the Bronx, it probably doesn’t matter as much what he does against everyone else. Agree? While it is hard to predict what he will do, his spray charts mixed with the overall dimensions of Coors Field vs. Yankee Stadium make it a little easier.

 


Story, like DJ, sprays the ball all over the field for average and for power. Story, like DJ, would wreak havoc on the short porch in right field given his tendencies to go the other way for power. Story, like DJ, was actually hurt by this while playing in a much more spacious Coors Field. The ball carries more in Coors Field than possibly anywhere else, but it really carries down that right field line in the Bronx as well. Story, like DJ, will benefit much more in the Bronx than he did in Colorado because a lot of those line outs and fly outs will turn into doubles, home runs and scoring opportunities in the Bronx (in a perfect world). Story would give the Yankees another “professional hitter” on the club, although his strikeout numbers are his biggest flaw in my opinion, while also giving the team something they need possibly more so than hitting, and that is defense. Specifically, defense at the shortstop position.

 

Acquiring Story allows the Yankees to move Gleyber Torres back to the position he is better suited for defensively, the second base position, while allowing Story to slide into the shortstop position. The infield defense is instantly better, but does this mean that this would leave DJ on the outside looking in for the 2021 season? Not necessarily, this is where the “Get Greedy” part comes out of me. In my plan, you acquire Story to allow him to play short and you move Gleyber back to second, but you also sign DJ with the intention of being an “every day” first baseman. Yes, he would move around and wouldn’t be containted to only first base, but that would be his position on Opening Day. What does that mean for Luke Voit? Well, listen, I love Voit as much as the next guy, but if the Yankees are looking to trade away from their core in order to keep costs down and fill the gaps needed on the field, he makes the most sense to move on from. Why? Because he has tremendous value right now, his defense at first base is atrocious, and if the Yankees have to choose one strength to trade from it should be from the power department and not from the average-first/professional-type hitters. If the Yankees trade Voit they could still hit 270-280 home runs this season, maybe more with Story if he has a big season, but the team would be more balanced, better defensively, and better overall.

 


Having an infield defense of Gio Urshela, Story, Torres and DJ behind a pitcher like Luis Castillo or equivalent (Voit included in the trade to keep the prospect cost down) is much better than having an infield defense of Gio, Gleyber, DJ and Voit behind “#2 pitcher” Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery, or whatever dumpster fire pitcher that Yankees GM Brian Cashman tries to sell us on here in about or so. The Yankees could also try and entice the Rockies to include Kyle Freeland (or less likely German Marquez) in the deal by including Louis Vinwood Voit III.


EDIT: Here is a mock trade I threw together rather quickly. While this isn't the trade I necessarily see happening, something similar could go down if this were to come to fruition. 




 

Standard Batting - Trevor Story
Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
201926COL145656111173385358523858174.294.363.554.917119
202027COL59259416813411281532463.289.355.519.874118
162 162 162 1626831011713963610121657195.277.343.535.877114

Standard Batting - DJ LeMahieu
Year Age Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
201829COLNL128581901473221562653782.276.321.428.74988
162 162 162 162 1626589218229512671264897.305.357.430.787102

Now, since this post has basically turned into a Story vs. DJ post, which was not intended since I planned on bringing back DJ with or without this potential trade, let’s take a look at DJ’s final season in Colorado vs. Story’s 2019 season with the Rockies (we are leaving 2020 out due to sample size for Story). As you can see, Story outplayed DJ in many key categories during this comparison. While you can’t bank on lightning striking twice in the same spot with former Rockies coming over to the Yankees, you can predict it a little better when you know what type of player each player really is. Story, like DJ, uses the entire field and hits for average while taking an ample number of walks. Story will strike out too much and the Yankees faithful will hate that, but that’s where the comparison ends. DJ is a lead-off type hitter that loves to jump on a first pitch fastball. Story does his best work if he see’s a pitch or two first. Story would hit towards the middle of most lineups, but probably around 6th here in the Bronx. He should hit second and Aaron Judge should hit third, in my opinion, but manager Aaron Boone (or is it Cashman here too?) seems obsessed with keeping Judge in the two hole. Judge has a higher career OBP than Story (Judge’s .390 OBP vs. Story’s .343), but again we are stuck in a place where one stat doesn’t tell the whole story. Judge has seen the likes of Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner hitting behind him in the 3rd slot just for the sake of having a lefty up there, and while that’s not the sole reason for his OBP advantage, it certainly helps. Why pitch to Judge with Brett Gardner on deck? Especially with RISP. You don’t. In fact, you should never. Judge can change the game with one swing of the bat, Gardner and Hicks generally don’t do that.

 



My Yankees lineup, not the Yankees lineup that I think would be put out every day, would be this if the team were to acquire Story, re-sign DJ, and trade Voit for pitching:

 

1B – DJ LeMahieu

SS – Trevor Story

RF – Aaron Judge

DH – Giancarlo Stanton

CF – Aaron Hicks (for the sake of a lefty)

2B – Gleyber Torres

LF – Clint Frazier

3B- Gio Urshela

C – Gary Sanchez

 



Let me be frank, I don’t think this is what the Yankees are going to do. This is merely what I would do as the GM of the New York Yankees. I am not sure what the Rockies would need or want to include Story, or Story plus Freeland/Marquez, but with the Padres and Dodgers stranglehold on the division for a while I would lean towards the team being ready for a “total rebuild.” I say that with parenthesis because I find it unlikely that the team will be able to move Arenado in this current economic climate, but at the same time I also don’t think the likes of Frazier or other top talent and MLB-ready talent would need to be included beyond Voit. If the Rockies are interested in what many Yankees fans perceive as fringe players on the roster, Miguel Andujar, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade immediately come to mind, then naturally that deal could change, but I am thinking of everyday players only when I say that.

 

Adding a defensive-minded shortstop that can hit over .300 with 20+ home runs and 90+ RBI a season to an already potent lineup seems unfair. Making the defense exponentially better while allowing the Yankees to trade Voit (and not miss much production, because remember Story’s production would somewhat offset what was lost by the exit of Voit) and add the cost-controlled young #2 or even #3 pitcher to match up with Cole… now that’s just being Greedy… and I love being Greedy.

 


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Looking for Mr Cashman...

 

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Yankees remain silent this off-season…

 'Twas the night before Christmas…

That’s it, sorry.

There is your recap of the Yankees Universe since the team cleared out their lockers in October. Alright, there has been some activity but nothing of the variety that gives bloggers something to talk (write) about. I didn’t expect any activity in November but I was certain there would be some movement in December. Well, for other teams maybe but not the beloved Pinstripers.

The Yankees did bring back a couple of familiar names this month. Reliever Adam Warren, making his fourth return to the team, is back and ready to resume his career after a Tommy John sabbatical. He’s not glamorous but Warren has always been a trooper when called upon. Historically, he’s done better with the Yankees than some of his other teams, but whatever works. I like him and I’m glad he has an opportunity for another run with his original team. The other comebacker is Nestor Cortes Jr., who was sleepless in Seattle last season. Depending upon how things shake out, there’s potentially a role for either guy. Worst case, they represent depth although I doubt either wants to see the bright lights of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA. It will be fun to see and hear their thoughts on camera when the guys assemble in Tampa in a couple of months.


Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports

I have to say I was disappointed to see Tommy Kahnle leave. It was inevitable when the Yankees attempted to send him outright to Scranton at the end of October and he elected free agency. He won’t pitch again until 2022, thanks to Tommy John surgery, but I still hated to see him leave. I liked him when he was a Yankees prospect, hated it when he got plucked away by the Colorado Rockies, was happy when he returned, and although I was disappointed with his 2018 season, I was still glad the huge Eagles fan was a Yankee. He’s always just been one of those players I like through thick and thin. I guess all things considered, I was happy to see him land with the Los Angeles Dodgers if he was going to leave the Yankees. The LA Angels would have been fine too as I can walk to Angels Stadium but Dodger Stadium is a quick ride up I-5 (I can lane split, legal in CA, with my motorcycle). I am on record as saying the Dodgers are my favorite NL team and they have been ever since Donnie Baseball was their manager (not sure why I didn’t fully embrace them when Joe Torre was their manager). Tough for a Yankees fan to say, but I probably own more Dodgers caps (to go with my Mookie Betts jersey and other Dodgers paraphernalia).  You have to understand that while I love the Yankees, I love Los Angeles. I don’t mean specifically the Dodgers…I just love the city. I was away for four years in Colorado but I’ve been back in the greater Los Angeles area since March and I am thankful for every day back home despite the pandemic. I kind of wish the cost of living were less and that not so many other people loved it here, but that’s okay, I find my happiness here. So, welcome to Los Angeles, Tommy! I know the Dodger fans will appreciate your enthusiasm for the game and the talent you possess in your arm. 



I know the Yankees inactivity is based largely on the ongoing negotiations with DJ LeMahieu. I get it, but it always strikes me as odd that a team which employs so many people in the front office, they simply cannot multi-task.  When GM Brian Cashman said that Gleyber Torres was a better second baseman than shortstop (not those exact words but the meaning was there), I did wonder if he was setting the stage for LeMahieu’s departure and to express his desire to bring in a shortstop over an encore performance by Le Machine. What shortstop? I don’t know. I don’t really expect a Francisco Lindor trade, and although I recognize Andrelton Simmons as a premier glove, he just doesn’t excite me.  I’d probably rather see the return of Didi Gregorius, even if he isn’t the defender Simmons is. Didi has the “it” quality. He brings so many intangibles to a team and he’s very cohesive in the clubhouse. Team chemistry is so important and Didi is certainly a glue.  He can also bring it with the bat when necessary. I know he’s getting older but he is also distancing himself from Tommy John surgery and I think he can be a solid contributor for a World Series champion…if LeMahieu leaves. The Yankees can’t let DJ leave for Toronto or the Mets, can they? That would be heartbreaking either way.

While I think Brian Cashman will bring a formidable starting rotation to camp, the present assignment of Gerrit Cole (great), Jordan Montgomery (good) and the bevy of Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German (nice potential) just doesn’t strike me as a rotation that can compete with the best of the best. The Yankees clearly need a solid #2. Luis Severino can be THAT guy but he won’t be ready until mid-season at the earliest and you always have to recognize the early return after TJ surgery can be a bumpy road. In my mind, Sevy is not the Sevy of old until 2022 at the earliest. In other words, if I am trying to determine the guys I need to make a championship run in 2021, Sevy is just not one of the chess pieces I’d count on. Anything we get from Sevy should be considered gravy. Hopefully, he’ll be a beast in 2022 but that doesn’t help this season.

Now that the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals, it will hopefully end some of the Luke Voit trade talk. I’ve already seen the ‘let’s trade Ford to Pittsburgh because they need a first baseman’ tweets. Not that I’d be opposed to trading Mike Ford or trying to acquire Pirates starter Joe Musgrove, but I recognize if we are thinking about it now, Brian Cashman has thought about it and has moved on to other ideas.  The one thing we’ll never see in our lifetimes is Brian Cashman looking at Twitter and saying, “Oh geesh, I should have thought about that!”. 

Put me in the category of those who say do whatever it takes to make Luis Castillo a Yankee. I don’t think it will happen but, man, a front two of Gerrit Cole and Luis Castillo would be sweet.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I haven’t formed my thoughts on the 2021 season yet, but I don’t think, today, the Yankees have the roster to make 2021 the first championship year since 2009. I think they have the team, with pending enhancements and modifications, to be the last team standing. But it is a matter of when (if?) the Yankees make the necessary moves to bring the championship back to the Bronx.  I do expect some movement in January but ultimately who knows. This is a weird year, unlike any we’ve ever experienced. I look forward to a day when the COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for all of us and we can return to some sense of normalcy. Bumping elbows at a baseball game has been missed. Pour your beer on me when we return to stadiums…it’s all good. I’ll take the bad with the good because baseball, and baseball live and in person, is better. I look forward to it.

It is Christmas and I wish a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours. We’ve suffered a great deal this year. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones and we’ll certainly never forget them. I am glad you are here and I want you…and your family…to be happy and safe. Setting the Yankees aside, the most important aspect of this blog is you, your health and the health of those around you. There are challenging times ahead before it gets better but together we are strong and together we’ll get through this. Much love to all of you...

Merry Christmas, my friends.


As always, Go Yankees!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The German Indifference Factor...


Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press

Domingo German preparing for whatever comes his way…

I am not sure how I feel about Yankees pitcher Domingo German. Character is an important quality, nearly as important as talent and ability in my mind, and he lost my trust with the incident that led to his suspension. Granted, none of us know the exact details, but the severity was evident with the length of the suspension (one year). It is hard to simply embrace him because he has served his time. Aroldis Chapman served a 30-day suspension for his episode of domestic violence. I don’t want to underplay Chapman’s domestic violence, which was wrong…so very wrong, but a year-long suspension illustrates the greater severity of German’s actions. For his part, I do feel Chapman has earned his redemption. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no further reports of domestic violence for the Yankees closer. Redemption for losing last year’s final playoff game? I’ll have to get back to you on that one. For the record, I don’t blame him, but I want to see his return to late inning dominance.

The ultimate decision-maker on the topic (German), Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, is quoted as saying, “I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did, and I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around. Those two things for sure.” I am sure German deeply regrets and is sorry for getting caught, but I am not so sure about his feelings for his actions. If someone is prone to domestic violence, it is not exactly like they roll out of bed one day and become Mr. Rogers. 

German can help the Yankees, sure, but is it worth it? That’s the question he’ll have to answer in the days and months leading up to next season. If the Yankees make the decision to trade German, I would not object. If he stays, I will try to support him. Either way, I trust Yankees management for having the full details and making the decision (does he stay, or does he go?) based on the facts as they know them.

The reports of German’s strong performances in the Dominican Winter League are inspiring but he’ll need to do more than just throw the ball well if he wants to be a Yankee again.

I’d rather see the Yankees give either Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia a shot in the rotation and make a trade for a solid #2 starter to slot in behind Gerrit Cole.

George A. King III of The New York Post floated the idea this week the Yankees could bring Didi Gregorius back. Didi is unlikely to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the 31-year-old shortstop will be looking for a new home. I respect George and I always loved Didi’s time as a Yankee (I can never say enough about the great job he did taking over for Hall of Famer Derek Jeter), but I do not see the Yankees bringing him back. I say this regardless of what happens with DJ LeMahieu. Personally, I think there are better options. I know, my dream of Francisco Lindor is equally unlikely, but there are other roads the Yankees could take. I still believe Gleyber Torres can and will improve as the team’s starting shortstop, but I would not be opposed to his return to second base if DJ does leave. 

I am pleased to see MLB has re-scheduled the Field of Dreams game for August 2021. After last season’s cancellation of the game to be played in Dyersville, Iowa, near the site where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed, I thought the opportunity had passed. Born in Iowa, I was/am excited to see my favorite team set foot on my native soil. I was a little disappointed last year when MLB tried to replace the Yankees with the St Louis Cardinals in effort to play the game during the pandemic shortened 60-game season but plans for the game were eventually scuttled. MLB could have stayed with the Cardinals as the opponent for the Chicago White Sox next season, but I am glad they returned to the Yankees as the team of choice. Of course, we are not out of the pandemic and it’s not 100% certain the game will actually be played, but I am cautiously optimistic the tide will turn early next year when the coronavirus vaccines start to make their way into the general population.


The game is tentatively scheduled to be played on August 12, 2021. If the regular season is shortened from 162 to 120/130 games, it is unknown how it would impact a ‘nice to have’ game like the Field of Dreams game.

My reaction to reports the Boston Red Sox are interested in free agent J.A. Happ…go ahead, sign him. I am done with Happ, regardless of where he goes. I generally do not like Yankees signing to play for the Red Sox, but it is not like I ever really considered Happ a true Yankee despite spending several years in Pinstripes. It hurt much more to see guys like David Cone and David Wells sign to play in Beantown after their successful tenures in the Bronx.  Happ is not and will never be in their category as elite Yankees. He pitched well at times and I am thankful for his contributions, but I moved on months ago.  

I cannot say I am disappointed the Tampa Bay Rays are losing players. Speaking of the earlier topic (character), their post-season hero last year, outfielder Randy Arozarena, was recently detained in Mexico after allegations of domestic abuse were made by his ex-partner. Arozarena will most likely be back next year unless he is suspended, but his presence on the Rays roster stains the clean image the Rays try to project. Given how MLB reacts to domestic abuse allegations, it is probable Arozarena will miss at least part of the season.

The Rays recently cut outfielder Hunter Renfroe, the slugger they acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Tommy Pham trade last off-season. Renfroe underperformed in Tampa which led to his release, but he’ll get another chance elsewhere. I wouldn’t be opposed to the Yankees making a minor investment in him. We always need back up support for Aaron Judge and I am not sold on Mike Tauchman despite his versatility. Clint Frazier, yes, but I think he should be the team’s starting left fielder.

The biggest loss for the Rays so far is starter Charlie Morton who signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. The Rays remain solid up front with Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, but now there’s talk the Rays could trade Snell. It is inevitable they eventually will move Snell for monetary reasons, but I think we’re probably still a season or two away before it happens. Snell signed a 5-year, $50 million contract with the Rays in March 2019 so the issue will be how long can they continue to carry Snell’s contract. Success is a double-edged sword. It means the Rays will have to spend more money elsewhere to keep the team competitive. The Rays will be expecting a healthy return for Brent Honeywell to help fill Morton’s shoes. 

I always like to get on the other side of Thanksgiving. Not that I am purposely disregarding today’s holiday. I am grateful, but the arrival of December is generally the opening of the active news for the Hot Stove League. This year’s Winter Meetings in a few weeks will be different, certainly, as Zoom meetings won’t have quite the same impact as in-person meetings but there will still be a few free agent signings and trades. Will the Yankees play? I guess we’ll see on that one. I haven’t heard or seen anything that makes me hopeful the team will be able to retain any of its free agents, most notably DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka. Then again, I haven’t seen anything that points to their respective exits. I guess we’ll know in the coming weeks.


I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving!


Next week opens the door to potential news about our favorite team as they look to arm up for the 2021 run. I can’t wait to see breaking Yankees news again. It’s been too long, and I am ready to see how Brian Cashman intends to overcome last season’s October disappointment. I am ready to close the door on the 2009 World Series Championship and celebrate a new one just like the Dodgers erased 1988 last season.

As always, Go Yankees!

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Pros & Cons of Lindor vs. LeMahieu


Let me start this off by saying that I don't believe the Yankees would be able to pull off a trade with the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor. Sure, Brian Cashman could very likely put together a package that would be interesting to the Indians, but with the Yankees already having a "meh" farm system I don't think Cashman would want to do something to make it worse. That's especially true since DJ LeMahieu would only cost the Yankees money.

On that note, I'm almost 100% sure the Yankees would not trade for Lindor and sign LeMahieu. I'm not among those fans that believe the Yankees will shoot for a team payroll below the Luxury Tax threshold, though. I'm sure that Hal Steinbrenner would love to avoid the Luxury Tax, I just don't see how they can put a better team on the field in 2021 than they had in 2020, while lowering the team payroll that much*. I won't argue that George cared more about winning than Hal does now, but I don't believe Hal would be okay with having a worse team next season than the one that barely made an expanded postseason this past season.

*the Yankees team payroll last season would have been around $265 million (pre-coronavirus), while the tax threshold for 2021 is $210 million. 

I've actually gone back and forth on which move I'd prefer the team made... sign DJ or trade for Lindor? But when it comes down to it I found that really didn't care which way the Yankees went, as long as they actually did one of those two things. Then again, they may be able to trade for Trevor Story, which would also be fine with me. No matter what, though, I'm just not comfortable riding the fence like that. 

So I made a list of pros and cons to help me finally come to a definitive conclusion. And here goes...

Pros to trading for Francisco Lindor
1. Lindor just turned 27, while LaMahieu is 32. So it's fair to say that Francisco is still in his prime years while DJ may be on the downside of his own career.
2. Lindor is a switch-hitter, which could help the Yankees balance their right-handed heavy lineup.
3. Although the Yankees already have plenty of power, the fact is Lindor is a bit more powerful than LaMahieu, and along with being able to bat left-handed, he could really take advantage of the short porch in right field.
4. Lindor is faster than LaMahieu. Not that DJ is a bad runner, but Francisco is better at stealing bases and taking an extra base.

Cons to trading for Francisco Lindor
1. Lindor would cost two or more good to great prospects, taking away from an already weak farm system.
2. Piggybacking off of #1, unless the Yankees can figure out an extension as part of the trade, it's possible the Yankees would give up a big package of prospects for just one year of Lindor. Putting them back in the market for a middle infielder again next offseason.
3. Trading for Lindor, money-wise, would be more expensive. Whether the Yankees extend Lindor or shop for a new shortstop next offseason (Corey Seager and Trevor Story could also be free agents), the Yankees will be paying a middle infielder a lot more money from 2022-2025 (assuming 5-year contract for LeMahieu). More money in the middle infield leaves less money for other parts of the team, which could be big if Hal is that worried about the team payroll.

Pros to signing DJ LeMahieu
1. DJ has a better career batting average and on-base percentage than Lindor.
2. LaMehieu likes the Yankees and the Yankees like him. While Lindor seems like a good guy, and could absolutely fit in well with the team, you just don't know how someone will react to New York until they get here.
3. Signing DJ will only cost the Yankees money, while trading for Lindor... as I've already shown... would cost prospects that the team can't really afford as well as cost the team more money after 2021.
4. Since his MLB-debut, Gleyber Torres has actually been a better defender at shortstop than he has at second base (UZR/150 of -14.5 at 2B and -10.7 at SS). So, defensively, the middle infield combination of Torres and LeMahieu would be better than Lindor and Torres.

Cons to signing DJ LeMahieu
1. DJ is a right-handed hitter in an already righty-heavy lineup.
2. Players typically start to decline as they enter their mid-30s, so it's very possible that we've already seen the best from LeMahieu and will be watching him decline.

That last con to signing LeMahieu, in comparison to trading and extending Lindor (or paying Seager or Story), is a little unfair. Because, while the Yankees could be paying DJ $20 million a year during his decline years, the team could be paying Lindor/Seager/Story more than $30 million a year during their decline years. 

And while LeMahieu hits better against left-handed pitchers (.325/.381/.475), it's not like his batting line against right-handed pitchers is bad (.298/.348/.414). Actually, DJ's career batting average and on-base percentage against same-sided pitching are better than Lindor's overall numbers.

So this exercise came to a surprising conclusion... the Yankees should clearly sign DJ LeMahieu instead of trade for Francisco Lindor. Would I get upset if they passed on bringing back DJ and did deal for Lindor (or Story)? No. But it feels better not riding the fence.