Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Would Jacoby Ellsbury Want To Stay A Yankee?

On the surface it's a silly question...

Why would Jacoby Ellsbury want to stay a Yankee?

I'm sure there are plenty of players in the Majors that would never, and have never, wanted to be a Yankee. But I'd bet those players are few and far between. The Yankees are the most storied franchise in Major League Baseball, and quite possibly the most storied franchise in all of sports. From Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter, from Murderer's Row to The Core Five (yes "FIVE"), from the Bleacher Creatures to The Judge's Chambers, being able to say "I'm a New York Yankee" comes with immense pride.

But the question remains... Why would Jacoby Ellsbury want to stay a Yankee?

It's not greed, because no matter where he plays he's going to get all of the money owed him. Contracts in Major League Baseball are guaranteed. Ellsbury will receive every penny of the $153 million deal he signed back on December 13th of 2013.

So what's the deal?

Well, my guess is that he just really likes being a Yankee, and that's something that should be cheered... not booed. But that's exactly what I expect to happen this season, because not waiving his no-trade clause is likely going to keep the Yankees from adding Yu Darvish.

Yu Darvish would turn the Yankees from a good bet to contend for the World Series to arguably the favorite. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, and CC Sabathia make for a very good starting rotation. Place Darvish in there and "holy cow!" A great batting lineup, a great bullpen, and a great starting rotation. Even the biggest Yankee Hater would have to admit the Yankees would be nearly impossible to stop.

I suppose if Cashman and Company decide to stick with the kids at second and third base, and trade away a less expensive piece like Adam Warren, they could afford to sign Yu Darvish and still have around $5 million for mid-season trades and/or pick-ups. But I find that highly unlikely. It's just not enough of a cushion, because the team is clearly going for it all this season, and there's a good chance a mid-season pick-up will be needed, and the last thing management will want to worry about at that point is the cost.

Plus, past experience, and I understand that going by past experience is difficult because the Yankees of today are not at all like the Yankees of a few years ago, tells us that at least one of those infield spots will be filled by a veteran. I think it's very possible that Todd Frazier returns to the Yankees on a team-friendly deal. However, said deal won't be so "team-friendly" that Darvish could still be squeezed in.

To put things bluntly, Jacoby Ellsbury could keep the Yankees from being a better team in 2017 and beyond. And in doing so he's very likely tohear it from the boo-birds at Yankee Stadium.

Should he be booed? I don't think so, but the fact is he will be. And it kind of surprises me that he'd be willing to put up with that instead of going somewhere that he's actually wanted. Should such a place exist.

Why I Am Not Afraid of the Houston Astros in 2018

The Houston Astros are the defending World Series Champions from the 2017 season and the team has the reigning American League MVP on their roster heading into the 2018 season. The Astros have a full season of Justin Verlander heading into this next season, the team got younger and more versatile with the retirement of Carlos Beltran and the team also acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates just a week or so back. Many Yankees fans are shaking in their boots right now and are actually scared of the defending World Series Champions, but me… I’m not… and here’s why.

Justin Verlander. I really cannot believe everyone suddenly fears Justin Verlander. First of all, let’s remember that before Verlander joined the Astros and went on that impressive 5-0 run with a 1.06 ERA, neither of which are sustainable even if he did magically figure something out or the change of scenery in Houston from Detroit mattered that much, Verlander was just 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA with Detroit. Now while those numbers, especially given the state of the Tigers offense at the time, are respectable they did not show the absolute dominant force that was Verlander in September and beyond in 2017. Verlander could be and likely will be good once again in 2018 with the Astros but there is no way he can replicate those numbers from the 2017 season like many are thinking or worried that he will. Science, history and not being able to predict baseball say that the soon-to-be 35-year old righty will regress, not get better.

Gerrit Cole. As much as I wouldn’t have minded Cole in Pinstripes I didn’t ever see Cole as a need for New York. A luxury, sure. Someone who made the team better, more than likely. The dominant force that many Astros fans are making him out to be? I’m not so sure about that actually. Cole’s numbers are trending in the wrong direction for a player that is leaving the spacious National League park in Pittsburgh to an American League Park in Houston. Cole has seen his numbers rise every year from his best season in 2015 and has struggled with nagging little injuries that as you age you find harder and harder to deal with and play through. Cole gave up 1.4 home runs per nine innings last season to go along with a 4.08 FIP, 31 home runs allowed, 1.251 WHIP and a career-high 55 walks allowed. The scariest part for Houston is this, these numbers are generally better, but not by much, than his worst season which occurred in an injury-riddles 2016 season. Maybe Cole is getting unlucky and will return to the dominant force that the righty once was in 2018? Sabermetrics courtesy of Fangraphs paint a different picture. Cole’s BABIP from 2017 (.298) was actually lower than his BABIP in 2016 and 2015, his career best season in the Major Leagues where Cole won 19 games, while every other stat (line drive percentage, contact % etc.) all relatively remained the same. Cole is throwing less fastballs and more changeup’s and curveball’s than ever according to Fangraphs which leaves you to wonder if his shoulder and/or arm are bothering him. It’s hard to say but the trends over the past three seasons wouldn’t give me the warm and fuzzy feeling if I were an Astros fan and gave me those similar feelings when I thought he was going to be a Yankee.

Jose Altuve is Jose Altuve, and the scariest part is that Altuve is just now entering his prime, not leaving it. The Yankees plan going forward? Limit the pitches that Altuve sees and take your chances with the rest of the lineup. It really is all you can do at this point and it is the ultimate respect. The same can be said for Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is awesome and a Yankee-killer, everyone knows it. The Yankees just have to get what they can off of him and move on to a new day, a new game and a new series after they see him. Again, the ultimate respect. These two players are great ball players, gamers and they love to step up when the spot light is on. When are these two free agents again?

The Astros bullpen is good, but I wouldn’t call it dominant. I’d say the Yankees have a much better bullpen than the Astros with former closers everywhere. We all know how fragile relief pitching can be from year-to-year, with the obvious exception of closers, and I just don’t trust the Astros bullpen to be as good as they were in 2017 again here in 2018. It helps that the Astros play in a weak division where they get to beat up on other teams 20 times each a season, and don’t get me wrong I think the Astros are a hell of a team and can hold their own against the best teams in the Major Leagues again in 2018, but this team just doesn’t strike the fear in me that it does others. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. Call it being a homer, call it being optimistic or call it just flat out being stupid but I am just not worried. I’m not.

This is all before I mention how Masahiro Tanaka had a down season in 2017, the Yankees have a full season of Sonny Gray in 2018, before Jordan Montgomery has a full season of experience and innings under his belt for the 2018 season and some dude named Giancarlo Stanton takes his turn at the plate four times a game against this Astros pitching staff. It isn’t going to be easy, it is going to be frustrating at times and the Yankees aren’t going to exactly run away with anything, but it doesn’t mean I am scared either. In fact, I look forward to it.