Friday, October 19, 2018

But, But, But, We Need Pitching, not Machado or Harper!!!

Someone call the damn waaaaambulance, because New York Yankees fans are at it again (just a joke, having some fun with it). This week I have touched on two main topics, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. I have detailed why both players are luxuries in the 2019 Yankees lineup, but I have explained in depth why both would help the Yankees going forward on the field. The responses have been great on Twitter, Facebook and on the blog, but some of the responses have just been downright ignorant. Now, before you get your panties in a bunch go look up the definition of the word ignorant. It is not and was not meant as an insult, but it really annoys me when 2/3 of the comments say, “Don’t sign Machado/Harper, we need pitching.” Or this gem, “Can Haper/Machado pitch? I’ll wait.” Well, Mr. condescending Yankees fan, they probably could… Austin Romine did, and did quite well actually. The thing is though, and the thing that a LOT of Yankees fans are missing, is that the Yankees could sign BOTH Machado and Harper, and STILL have money and prospects left over to address the pitching.

As it stands right now, pre-free agency and pre-arbitration, the Yankees have $86,342,857 in total payroll for the 2019 season. Alex Rodriguez’s deferred payments eat up $4 million of that while Giancarlo Stanton ($26 million), Masahiro Tanaka ($22 million), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21,142,857 million), and Aroldis Chapman ($15 million in salary, $2.2 million signing bonus) use up the rest. That leaves roughly $114 million in salary before the team even goes over the luxury tax threshold, something the team did not do in 2018, thus resetting any penalties for going over in 2019.

Now, of course the Yankees have an expensive arbitration period coming up this winter with nine players eligible for arbitration this season. Those nine include Didi Gregorius ($12.4 million), Sonny Gray ($9.1 million), Dellin Betances ($6.4 million), Aaron Hicks ($6.2 million), Luis Severino ($5.1 million), Austin Romine ($2.0 million), Tommy Kahnle ($1.5 million), Greg Bird ($1.5 million), and Ronald Torreyes ($900K). Using the MLB Trade Rumors projected salaries in parenthesis, which are usually scarily spot on, the Yankees would end up spending $45.1 million, bringing their grand total to $131,442,857. Adding in pre-arbitration players like Miguel Andujar, Luis Cessa, AJ Cole, Clint Frazier, Domingo German, Chad Green, Ben Heller, Kyle Higashioka, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Tyler Wade and that brings the total up another $7.215 million, totaling $138,657,857.

Let’s just throw a number out there and say that Bryce Harper gets $30 million a season for however long. That would bring the Yankees salary to $168 million and change. Adding Patrick Corbin for another $20 million a season (I don’t think he will cost that much, but it’s just a number to throw out there) brings the total to $188 million.

The Yankees, according to reports, would have another $20 million to spend on one or more of JA Happ, Matt Harvey, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zach Britton, David Robertson, Adam Warren, and a slew of other relievers. That’s before mentioning the possibility of, although all are extremely unlikely, players like Clayton Kershaw, David Price (LOL), Carlos Carrasco, Cole Hamels, Jason Hammel, Ervin Santana, and James Shields joining the free agent frenzy.

Oh, and did we mention that the Yankees still have all their top prospects at their disposal in any trade this winter? Not to mention the fact that Justus Sheffield and others could also make their way to the 25-man roster this season at any point.

The Yankees could, and will certainly look to, trade away the salaries of Sonny Gray and at least some of Jacoby Ellsbury’s current salary, thus opening up more money, while the team could also, although I personally advise against it, non-tender Didi Gregorius after his Tommy John surgery and sign him to a new deal. Didi being non-tendered is unlikely, but it is still a possibility if his rehab from the ulnar collateral ligament surgery does not go according to plan. If the Yankees keep trading away salaries they could easily make more money to add a player like Machado, if they wanted.

The payroll is wide open right now for the Yankees, and signing either Harper or Machado, or both, will not prevent the Yankees from solidifying their starting rotation and pitching needs. So, stop saying it, and stop waiting to hear if Machado and Harper can pitch. It doesn’t matter.

Yet Another Unofficial World Series...

Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century. 

Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it.  I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.

I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media.  For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.  

My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done.  I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.

I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York.  He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine.  I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.

Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)
I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player.  But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere. 

Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too. 

For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field. 

Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)

Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball.  He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.

Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.  

But as always (and a lot more), Go Yankees! 

Is It Okay to Jump on the Bryce Harper Bandwagon?

Another beard bites the dust...

The New York Yankees enter this offseason in a place where the team is not really used to being. The team is entering the offseason with money to spend after getting under the luxury tax threshold, and it seems like the owner and GM are willing to spend a lot this offseason as well. The Yankees have already been linked to top-notch free agents like Manny Machado and Patrick Corbin, among others, but one free agent I have kind of been skeptical about is Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. Is it okay for me to now jump on the Harper bandwagon?

I will preface this by saying the same thing I said about Machado when I wrote about him. Harper, I feel, is a luxury for the team. The New York Yankees don’t NEED Harper, but I truly think the team could benefit from his services next season and beyond. It is not every day that a 26-year old hits the free agent marker, and it is even more rare to see one with such immense talent as Harper has hit he free agent market, period.

Look mom, I hustle...

Harper checks a lot of boxes for the Yankees. He bats left-handed, something that the Yankees are suddenly lacking with the loss of Didi Gregorius to Tommy John surgery, and he plays a position, outfield, that the Yankees could look to upgrade this offseason. Brett Gardner is a free agent at the end of the World Series and may not be back with the club for the 2019 season. I can remember the Yankees were ecstatic about having Gardner in left field because of his speed and ability to play center on any given day. The team stated that having a center fielder in left field inside Yankee Stadium was ideal, and the team would have that once again if Harper were to be signed. Harper’s defense is more than adequate with the ability to play all three outfield positions. Plus, the left field position is not completely foreign to the left-hander. Harper has only played 194 games in left field out of the 911 games he has played in the outfield, his last time coming in 2014, but I don’t think the transition would be that difficult for him to make.

It doesn't hurt that I already have two #34 Yankees jersey's. 

One major box that Harper checks for the Yankees is his offensive capabilities. Harper’s batting average may have plummeted to .249 in 2018, down from .319 in 2017, but he almost doubled his walks taken from 68 in 2017 to a whopping 130 in 2018, which lead the National League. Harper’s 162 game average, according to Baseball Reference, has him drawing 102 walks per season with a .388 OBP. That’s all before you mention his slugging percentage, OPS, and 30-40 home run per season power.

To put these walk numbers into a comparison, the Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge walked 76 times in 2018, albeit in a partial season, after walking 127 times in 2017. Having Judge hitting second, Harper hitting third, and presumably having someone like Aaron Hicks hitting leadoff (90 walks, .366 OBP) the Yankees would, by the numbers, have someone on base for Giancarlo Stanton and/or Miguel Andujar in the cleanup spot pretty much every single game in the first inning. That is how you extend innings, that is how you keep the line moving, that is how you make starting pitchers work, and that is how you get into the opposing team’s bullpen earlier. These are all recipes for success, and all things that the Yankees struggled with at times here in 2018.

I'm going to be here one day...

And if that doesn’t work, having Hicks, Judge, Harper, Stanton, Andujar, etc. etc. etc. means you can just slug your way to a few victories along the way as well.

I say again, Harper is still a luxury and not a need for the New York Yankees, but he is a luxury that makes a whole lot of sense for the Bronx Bombers this offseason, and beyond. Even more so than signing Manny Machado, if I am being honest. Get Greedy… Get Bryce. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it could likely result in a ring at the end of the 2019 season.