Tuesday, October 20, 2020

My Plan for the 2020 Offseason -TheBleacherCreatures

 What I would do if I was the Yankees GM

The Yankees pitching was the biggest thing holding them back in 2020. During the regular season and postseason, when the Yankees starting pitcher has a quality start, meaning giving up 3 or less runs over 6 innings the Yankees have a great chance to win, I would even take 5 innings. But the Yankees starting pitchers rarely give them that, except for Cole. During the postseason, Yankees pitchers not named Gerrit Cole, Zack Britton or Jordan Montgomery had an ERA around 9, which is ridiculous. Somehow the Yankees still brought the best team in the American League to a sudden death, game 5 in the ALDS. I know Brian Cashman and Boone are going to say they were shit out of luck in 2020, their best pitcher before Cole was around had Tommy John Surgery, another solid pitcher who I think profiles very well for a middle relief pitcher decided to slap his wife and everyone’s favorite high leverage reliever needed the surgery that shares the first name with him. If the Yankees had these three guys this year, they would’ve been in much better shape and I think they would’ve beat Tampa Bay. But guess what? They didn’t have them so you can’t use that as an excuse. The Rays are currently a much more well rounded team than the Yankees, they have starting pitching and a super pen. Two things the Yankees can easily obtain. So this brings us to the first moves I would make as the Yankees GM this winter. That’s right, I'm bringing everyone’s favorite MLB personality to the Bronx to pitch alongside his old buddy Gerrit Cole. Actually, I maybe wouldn’t want them to pitch right next to each other, we might have upper nineties fastballs heading towards each other because of their supposedly long term beef. But you want to know what, they are both professionals, who want to win, and are absolute competitors, they just go about it different ways and that is why they don’t get along. Gerrit Cole is your old country hardball, Nolan Ryan esque pitcher who is going to go at you with 100mph fastballs and nasty sliders, unfortunately Trevor Bauer wasn’t blessed with the ability to throw a baseball quite that fast so he opted to go the new school approach of working on his spin and pitch shape and all that kind of stuff. I’m not going to go into gory details, but if you want me to delve into it sometime, I must definitely will. I think Bauer coming on board would be a great acquisition because Gerrit Cole would want to be even better than he already is, he would want to defend his land and keep his spot as the Yankees’ ace. He doesn’t want Trevor Bauer to Connor McGregor strut out onto the mound for Game 1 and 7 of the World Series when he should. I don’t know if Bauer is going to stick to the one year contract thing but if he does, that less risk on the Yankees side, if he somehow forgets how to pitch or loses his right hand in a drone accident, then he will be gone after this year, we don’t have to worry about owing him 200 mill for the next 10 years (cough, cough ellsbury). 

Onto another change for the rotation. The Yankees need work horses, and do you know who is a work horse and would complement Bauer, Cole and Severino well? Our old friend Lance Lynn. We only had him for half a season during the 2018 season and he may not have done very well with the Yankees. But since then, he has become an absolute unit for the Texas Rangers. He has added velocity and sported a 136 and 141 ERA+ the last two years respectively. That’s pretty good. He is a free agent after the 2021 season and he wouldn’t cost too much to trade for. The Yankees are Rangers match up well because the Yankees have a lot of surplus major league hitters and middle tier minor league arms. As well as the Rangers suck. So using basetradevalues.com I have the Yankees trading Andujar (finally!), Johnny Lasagna, Luis Medina, and Everson Pereira for Lance Lynn. I know a lot of you Yankees fans would get upset because you think Andujar still has value because he should’ve won the AL ROY in 2018, but this guy has no spot on the Yankees, he can’t field and the Yankees have no spot to put him. He can go suck at defense for the Rangers. I like Loaisaga but he just doesn’t know how to pitch and he is not going to learn from rocket scientist Matt Blake. Medina and Peirera add value to the trade and I don’t really see them making much of an impact for the Yankees anytime soon. Here’s a screenshot of the trade. 

The Bullpen

Now we move to another problem for the Yankees which was always supposed to be a strong suit. I honestly, with all of my heart do not understand how the Yankees can throw guys like Avilan, Holder, Abreu, etc in high leverage opportunities. It is so easy in my opinion to build a super bullpen. The Rays just found 8 guys who throw kind of funny but throw really hard and have a wipe out offspeed pitch. The Rays scouting department literally did this for like $20. The Yankees have always found diamonds in the rough for offense, but can never seem to develop pitching. Guys leave the Bronx and become players we want to trade for. The Yankees have 3 relievers that make a combined 40 million in their bullpen. I don’t know what to do with Ottavino, I think Boone has to trust him and not baby him so much, he still has nasty stuff. Chapman is still a really good reliever; he just gives up home runs that lead to the Yankees demise. I think the Yankees relievers should have more fluid rolls but I trust Britton as a closer more than Chapman. So my plan for the Yankees is to stop pitching trash relievers. For the purposes of this article I’m saying that Adam Ottavino will not be a Yankees in 2021.  Anyways, I want the Yankees to sign Liam Hendricks, in this market, I’ll assume it would only cost them around 12-16 mill AAV. Also, I would sign either GIles or Colome, Hand or Watson and I would bring back one out of Robertson, Betances or Miller. This is assuming that the rosters are still 28 men next year, and that the Yankees have 5 starters, 9 people in their lineup, 4 bench players and 10 relievers. To go alone with this super pen, I have the Yankees finally making the big splash of trading for Josh Hader. To get Hader the Yankees will have to send a pretty convincing package to the Brewers. I know just the man who would make Brewers fans happy. His name is Clint Frazier (collective moan from Yankees fans). Guys you got to give up value to get value. Hader has been one of the top relievers over the past few years and he is cheap right now. I have the Yankees sending Frazier along with Ottavino, who maybe will be able to pitch well in the NL once again and the Brewers can pay for his 9mill as well as Yankees prospect Nick Nelson. I like Nick Nelson but the Brewers need pitching to replace Hader. Here is the hypothetical trade. 

Going back to the point of signing Robertson or Betances or trading for Miller. Their best days may be behind them and injuries have prevented them from being as good recently. Robertson or Betances could probably be signed for around 5 to 7 mill, and Miller would not cost very much to trade for given he’s owed 12 million in 2021. My hope is that any one of those guys could reclaim their glory from their days in pinstripes.


Here is where we get a little crazy. The Yankees offense was one of the best in the league in 2020. Don’t give me the, they choked in the postseason and they need to have more contact guys spiel. I suggest the Yankees get a couple of guys to help with that. The Yankees offense was not their demise, it was completely shut down by the Rays outstanding pitching in game 5 of the ALDS but they scored 36 runs in the first 4 games of the playoffs against very formidable pitchers. The Yankees offense could use a little more consistency and balance and Gleyber Torres is not a shortstop. To help balance the lineup I suggest the Yankees sign Michael Brantley and Tommy La Stella. Brantley would play LF and be the lefty bat the Yankees have so desperately needed over the past 4+ years and La Stella could play a similar role to what DJ LeMahieu was going to do when he signed with the Yankee. Between giving players days off and injuries, La Stella’s lefty bat could find a way into the lineup 5 days out of the week with his versatility. The next thing I’m going to discuss is Gleyber Torres. He looked so uncomfortable at SS and everytime the ball was hit his way we worried. Not only his glove but his throws from SS looked horrible. When he played 2B he played it so smoothly and never had any problems. I don’t know the roots of this problem but I really think he would do a better job at 2B than SS. If he is playing 2B that means that DJ can not play 2B, so what do we do about that. DJ is an absolutely crucial part of this team and has been the MVP of the Yankees the last two years. I really love Gio Urshela and Luke Voit, but there is a redundancy when it comes to this lineup. Two more right handed bats, that aren’t the best at putting the ball in play when it matters. So I decided that you have to trade Urshela, he currently has more value because of his superb defense and his offense onslot. Other than his grand slam he had an abysmal post season and I think he is more prone to deviate towards the mean than Voit. Voit is the heart and sole of this Yankees team, you can not trade him and he was on track for a billion home runs in a 162 game season. Our guy is also a warrior, battling through his foot injury unlike all the other pansies on the Yankees. So who will play SS? There are two answers I have for you and you will be surprised I don’t mention everyone’s favorite SS that plays for Cleveland. I used to be on the Lindor train, but looking further into his numbers, a lot of his value is defensive, but he’s going to be paid like Harper. He just doesn’t bring enough value to the plate when batting barely above league average for the last couple years, the Yankees can not afford to hand him the 300+ million he will demand. So that leaves us with two options. The best option to play shortstop for the 2021 New York Yankees is Corey Seager. Corey Seager is an outstanding offensive player and about league average defensively, but he makes all the plays he has to. He bats lefty and has the perfect all field approach and contact swing build for the Yankees. He would be the perfect 2 or 3 hitter for the Yankees for the next 10 years. Another option is Colorado Rockies slugger Trevor Story. He burst onto the scene his rookie year setting rookie home run records in his first month left and right. The one thing I don’t like about him is that he is a righty and strikes out a little more than you’d like. But Trevor Story is very close to Corey Seager in value to me and he is much better defensively and he is fast. Both of these guys, along with Correa and Lindor are free agents after the 2021 season so if the Yankees do decide to give Gleyber another year at short, the Yankees can give Seager a blank check after next year. I don’t really see the Dodgers trading Seager after him winning the NLCS MVP and helping them win the World Series. So let’s look at what it would take to acquire Story or seager. I think the talks have to start with Urshela and Deivi Garcia. The Dodgers are always looking for young pitching, as well as relievers. Justin Turner is also a free agent for the Dodgers. He is getting old and I don’t know if they want to stick with him long term. This trade would put Gio at 3B, and move Taylor to SS from 2B allowing the Dodgers top prospect Gavin Lux to play his natural position of 2B. I think this matchup would also allow the Yankees to unload Aaron Hick’s contract. He did a very good job in the postseason, but his defense is getting worse, and the Yankees owe him about 10 mill per year for 5 more years with a club option with a 1 million dollar buyout for the 6th. No longer will the Yankees need to worry about Hicks rolling over ground balls to first base and his contract is off their hands. He can replace Joc Pederson and/or Enrique Hernandez for the Dodgers in the corner outfield.  I believe the trade evaluator grossly underrated Corey Seager. Aaron Hicks literally is the negative value of Urshela’s so I added some prospects to help entice the Dodgers because they will need a lot of persuasion.  

For the purpose of this article, I am going to say the Yankees are going to keep Sanchez and see if he can rebound, he has little trade value right now and what we have seen from him in the past is things little catchers can do or have ever done. If I were able to pick one catcher to put on the Yankees, I would pick Will Smith, I love his contact skills and I only think he will get better as he matures. For the offense, people have been wanting the Yankees to trade for him for years, though I think his offense is a little overrated, I think the versatility and contact skills of Merrifield would be a good addition. Initially when I thought about the Yankees trading for Merrifield I would want him to play a role similar to that of LeMahieu when he first came over and what I would put La Stella in. But I would want Merrifield in the everyday lineup and get the incumbent Hicks out of there. The Yankees would trade Ford, along with a few other minor leaguers who probably won’t ever play on the Yankees. I think Ford has a little more value than the simulator suggests as well as King and Cessa having more value but they were worth little to nothing. I don’t think it would take quite this much to trade for Merrifield, I think it over values him a little too much, but this is a trade I would do to finish the Yankees roster.

In Summary the Yankees 28 Man Roster


Cole, Bauer, Severino, Lynn, Montgomery


German, Schmidt, Robertson/Betances/Miller, Hader, Hendricks, Colome/Giles, Watson/Hand, Green, Britton, Chapman


C Sanchez, 1B Voit, 2B Torres, SS Seager/Story, 3B LeMahieu, LF Brantley, CF Merrifield, RF Judge, DH Stanton


C Higgy, OF Tauchman, UTL La Stella, 2B/SS Estrada




Via Free Agency







La Stella

Via Trade





Via Free Agency





Via Trade



















Yes I want the Yankees to go all in. Yes, the pitching depth of the Yankees system will be next to nothing. But the Yankees will still have German, and Kahnle returning. They also keep Dominguez, Schmidt, and Wells three of the Yankees most important prospects. This is not what I think the Yankees will do, I may write another article telling what I think they will do, spoiler alert, next to nothing. The Yankees have said that they are going to get under the 210 million dollar luxury tax threshold because money doesn’t win championships and they want to model themselves after the Rays. But there is no way the Yankees can improve this team without going over the threshold. About 20 mill will go to Lemaiheu, the Yankees have to keep him and that leaves them with about 10 mill to spare. Some changes need to be made in the pitching department for sure, hopefully the Yankees will win the World Series in 2021.

P.S. Once MLB Trade Rumors comes out with the projected salaries for this year's free agents, I will create a spreadsheet and figure out what the projected payroll would come out to. But right now, I have no idea what people are going to sing for given teams said reluctance to spend money this offseason.

Thank you for reading. -@The_Bleacherss on Twitter

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Waiting Until Next Year...


Baseball is no fun without the Yankees…

I miss the Yankees.

 As the AL and NL Championship Series play themselves out, we, the fans of the greatest franchise in the history of baseball, can only sit around and wonder what could have been. Or, like many of the self-appointed GM’s on Twitter, we can deconstruct the Yankees for an imaginary rebuild. 

What rebuild? This team doesn’t need to be rebuilt but they do need to make some changes. I know that many called for the head of Manager Aaron Boone, but even before Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner proclaimed that Boone would be back next year, it was apparent Boone has a long leash. I was disappointed with some of the manager’s moves in the playoffs, but I am convinced he can and will get better. I am not ready to close the door on Boone’s career with the Yankees. Unlike some Yankee fans, I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi. Look, I liked Girardi when he was the Yankees manager and I had been hopeful the team would have re-signed him when his contract expired after the 2017 season. But they didn’t and I trust the decision-making process in the Yankees’ hierarchy, and I’ve moved on. I wish Girardi well, and I hope his stay in Philly cements his legacy as good Major League manager, but you won’t find me looking for a reunion. My desire for manager reunions lived…and died…with Billy Martin.  

Maybe you can say GM Brian Cashman has been on his job too long. Perhaps. If I was Hal Steinbrenner, I’d probably re-structure the front office and basically kick Cashman upstairs. In other words, make him the team President and send Randy Levine on his way. Then, appoint a new GM to work with the analytics team and serve as the face of the organization. I don’t know if I have a specific candidate in mind. It could be an insider like Tim Naehring, a former insider like Billy Eppler, or maybe a fresh, new voice from the outside. I am a little disappointed that Kim Ng has never gotten an opportunity to be the first female GM. The last part of that sentence, in my mind, is irrelevant. Kim deserves an opportunity because she knows baseball and will be an elite general manager if she is ever given the chance. Maybe the Phillies hire her to replace the fired Matt Klentak, but I’d love to see her come back to the Yankees. It won’t happen as Hal Steinbrenner seems devoted to Cashman in his current role. “Obviously, I’ve known Brian forever, and the way he goes about doing things in a very objective way,” Steinbrenner said recently. He went on to say, “He listens to everybody—pro scouting and analytics and anybody else that wants to get into his hear. I know the people that work under him respect him, and Boone respects him, and it’s been good. We’re just going to have to keep plugging away.” It is Hal’s money.  As long as Hal is happy, it doesn’t really matter what you or I think.

The first order of business must be re-signing DJ LeMahieu. I love DJ as a Yankee, and I was a big fan of his when he played for the Colorado Rockies (I lived in Denver at the time). But for as much as I’ve called for the Yankees to re-sign him (almost with each post), the talk of a five-year contract does put me off a little.  I am completely fine with a three-year deal but five years seems to be pushing it a little too far. LeMahieu will be 33 next July. Maybe he ages well, but the thought of a 38-year-old second baseman bothers me. If the Yankees have proven anything in recent years, they’ve generally avoided extended-length contracts (unless your name is Gerrit Cole, of course). I think a three-year deal is fair for both player and team. You can build the necessary dollars into the contract to provide long-term financial security for the player, while keeping the team’s options open should the player regress with age, or if the Yankees were to go five years, I’d want to see some options in those latter years so the Yankees would have an ejection button without the contract becoming an albatross.  So, now that some dollars are being tossed around as ideas, I’ll modify my position to say I want the Yankees to re-sign LeMahieu as long as it makes financial sense to do so. I’d be devastated if he leaves, but I do believe the team needs to protect its flexibility to make future roster enhancements without the dead weight of bad contracts. 

Exercising the team option to bring back Zack Britton is a no-brainer and a must move. I’d be in favor of moving Britton into a co-closer’s role with Aroldis Chapman. Chappy seems to be getting more vulnerable with each passing year. Unfortunately, not everyone…well, in fact, no one…is Mariano Rivera.  But to make Britton the co-closer, the Yankees must make bullpen improvements. I honestly do not know what to expect with Adam Ottavino. I’ve always thought he was a great player, even when he had his struggles in Colorado, but it was difficult to have any trust in him after last year. Can he rediscover himself like he once did in Colorado? I wouldn’t bet against him, but like LeMahieu, he is older now. It gets harder.  Given Tommy Kahnle will miss the 2021 year, the Yankees have to find an elite replacement.  This isn’t a job for the young arms in the farm system. Team Cashman needs to find their next gem with a reliever that is ready to explode. The next Josh Hader is preferable. I don’t know who that is, but I am sure the Yankees have a board of non-Yankee prospects they rank for target acquisition purposes. The Tampa Bay Rays have had great success with their seemingly shot-in-the-dark acquisitions which have turned out to be brilliant discoveries. 

I don’t like Mark Teixeira’s idea of trading Luke Voit to move LeMahieu to first, Gleyber Torres back to second, and re-sign Didi Gregorius to play shortstop. I wouldn’t be opposed to Didi coming back but I don’t want LeMahieu pushed to first to make it happen. Conversely, I’d hate to see LeMahieu leave in order to bring Didi back. I think all of us were disappointed with Gleyber’s results at shortstop this year but like Aaron Boone, he will get better. Gleyber has proven to be a player who puts in the time, the commitment, the work to get better. He’s not just living the high life as a wealthy young man…he is dedicated to his craft and I think he will be successful. I get Teixeira’s belief that Luke Voit’s value has never been higher, but I am hopeful the next Yankees championship includes Voit.

Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein, Icon Sportswire

With the disappointment of Masahiro Tanaka’s October starting performances starting to fade, I think the Yankees bring him back. They almost have to given the current state of the rotation. I’d love to see the Yankees sign a guy like Trevor Bauer despite the baggage he brings, but I don’t think they’ll spend that type of money in free agency this year. They’ll spend the money on guys in-house, and they’ll use potential trades over making any big splashes in free agency. Luis Severino offers hope but of course we won’t see him until next summer and then there’s always the caveat that it takes some guys a year to get back to their previous level. If he could provide at least the stability of a #3 starter when he returns, I’d be very happy.  It will most likely be 2022 before we can talk about him being second only to Gerrit Cole. By then, I am hopeful Clarke Schmidt and/or Deivi Garcia have fully blossomed into Major League starters.  Through all this, Tanaka offers some glue (stability) so I am convinced he’ll be back. 

I wish I had a crystal ball to see the state of Yankees’ catching in 2021. I am not sure Gary Sanchez is long for life in Pinstripes. I had hoped the new catching coordinator, Tanner Swanson, could work some magic with Sanchez, but the results were less than ideal to say the least. Losing the trust of his manager and the team’s best starting pitcher does not bode well for Gary unless he has a miraculous off-season and comes into Spring Training on a mission to awaken the Kraken. I am starting to give up hope we will ever see it happen. I am not ready to hand the keys to Kyle Higashioka yet, so I really hope this is an area the Yankees figure out this winter. I want Gary to succeed and I want him to do it as a Yankee. But if Cashman has made the determination it is not a salvageable situation, then I’ll trust him to make the decisions to make catching a strength once again. This will certainly be something I’ll be watching closer as we move into the final months of the year. 

J.A. Happ, please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I don’t have a grand map for how the Yankees can improve. I trust Cashman and his team to make those decisions. It will be interesting once the World Series is over and off-season planning begins to take shape. Early November moves can often be a precursor to the team’s off-season blueprint. I think at that point, we can start to make better projections for potential moves. I think the Yankees WILL be better next year. I certainly don’t think they will tear it down a year after signing Cole to the monster contract. They need to maximize the potential of the team during the best years of Cole’s contract. There is talent on the roster and there must be a focus to address the team’s weaknesses. With the right moves, the Yankees, on paper, will be among the greatest teams in MLB. Throw in the right chemistry, and 2021 could be a very special year for Yankee fans…the year we’ve been waiting for.

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Trading Clint Frazier

Readers have had a lot to say about my offseason plan post, which was published yesterday. While most of the criticism I've received doesn't faze me, or make me second-guess myself, there is one part that I've been willing to admit could be better.

No, it's not trading Clint Frazier, although many don't like that idea. Heck, I admitted in that same article that I don't like dealing the kid away. As well as Clint did with the bat this season, his improvement on defense and maturity is what made me a fan of his. But when it comes to acquiring someone that could go a long way in balancing the Yankees' lineup (signing lefty-hitting, high batting average, Michael Brantley), Red Thunder (sorry, "The Wildling" is not going to happen) is the guy to take the hit.

Think about it... Clint Frazier is by far the best, realistic, trade bait in order to get a strong second starter to pair with Gerrit Cole. I had to put "realistic" in bold/italics because that word is key. Sure, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Jasson Dominguez, could all fetch that type of starter. But trading away any of those names makes little to no sense. I mean, I suppose a team could blow away the Yankees with an offer they can't refuse, but how likely is that to happen?

Urshela, Torres, Voit, and Judge are key pieces to the current team, and are all very cheap in comparison to what the team gets out of them. Garcia and Schmidt could be key pieces of the starting rotation as early as next season, and like the hitters I just mentioned, will be cheap for many years. And Dominguez... well, come on. The guy has been called the next Mike Trout!

By the way, the Yankees are not going to sign Trevor Bauer. Even if Trevor does only take a one year deal, he's looking at least $30 million, putting him financially out of reach for a team that clearly wants to lower payroll.

So I won't give in when saying the team should trade Frazier. Even if the team can't sign Brantley, I'd take a strong #2 starter and Brett Gardner in LF over Clint Frazier and a questionable #2 starter heading into a postseason series. However, I'm willing to back off on the Yankees trading Clint for Lance Lynn.

That isn't to say I don't think Lynn can fill that role in the rotation. Since he debuted for St. Louis in 2011, the guy has an ERA+ of 116. He strikes out nearly nine batters every nine innings, has a career ERA of 3.57, has experience playing for the Yankees, and is cheap (no way in Hell would the Yankees, or anyone else, have a chance to sign a guy as good as Lance for 1 year and $10 million... what's left on his contract). 

The one thing I meant to include in that article, which out of all the mistakes I could have made in there I regret the most, is that Texas would have to kick in a prospect in their top 20 or 30. Even if Lynn has a 2021 season like he had in 2019 and 2020, meaning the Yankees may want to re-sign him to get more "bang for their buck", there's no guarantee. So at least getting a prospect that could help in the future would be necessary.

But if you're still not sold on Lance Lynn... fine. I don't agree, but I'm not going to wave off that opinion. There's no problem in thinking a guy with Clint's potential, and being under team control for four more years, can fetch more than a 34 year-old starter (no matter how good) and a team's top 30 prospect. 

I'm not going to put as much time and energy into looking for alternatives, but a quick glance at Fangraph's pitching leaders (according to WAR) from 2018 through 2020 gave me a handful of other options.

1. German Marquez -Colorado Rockies

Marquez, who will turn just 25 in February, is under contract for three more years at a little over $8 million per season. He is coming off a very strong 2020, which saw him throw to an ERA+ of 140, bringing his career mark in that stat to 118. It does concern me seeing that his strikeout rate has gone down in each of the past three years (10.6 to 9.1 to 8.0 K/9), but he does induce plenty of ground balls, and unlike many saw his home run rate go down significantly (1.3 HR/9 between 2017 and 2019, to 0.7 in 2020). 

2. Marco Gonzalez - Seattle Mariners

Marco is a lefty that will turn 29 in February. He didn't blow anyone away in his first two full seasons in MLB (2018 and 2019), as he was only slightly above average (106 ERA+), but his 2020 was very nice. That ERA+ jumped to 136, to go along with eight strikeouts per nine innings, and a very nice walk rate of just 0.9 per nine innings. Gonzales is also signed to a team-friendly deal for four more seasons (team option for a fifth), that'll see him make only $7.5 million a year. While it won't be easy for Seattle to overcome Oakland and Houston the AL West, they may want to hold onto their best starter from 2020.

3. Joe Musgrove - Pittsburgh Pirates

Unlike the two previous guys, Joe's only real attraction comes from his 2020 season. Before this past season, he was a slightly below average pitcher (ERA+ of 94). I wouldn't put too much stock into a very good strikeout rate of 12.5 batters per nine innings, but he has shown strikeout ability in his pro career. 

Oh... I can't continue with that. I would not be happy if the Yankees traded Frazier for Musgrove.  Honestly, I probably wouldn't be very excited about either Gonzalez or Marquez, either. Look at it this way... if any of those three aforementioned pitchers was named the Game 2 starter of a postseason series, would you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? No way. And while not everyone would feel that same way should Lance Lynn be that guy, assuming he doesn't stay quite as dominant as we've seen him in Texas the past two years, I think more of us would be cool with it.

And that's the point. Lynn is more of a sure-thing than any other realistic (there's that word again) option. I mean, if the Mets would be willing to trade Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees, then Frazier (plus a little more) would certainly be enough. But I can't imagine the two New York teams getting together on that big a trade. Who knows? Perhaps Brian Cashman could pull something off that's totally off my radar (wouldn't be the first, second, third... you get the idea... time).

If any of you have another idea, I'd love to hear it. Maybe your idea would make me look back at my Lance Lynn proposal and scoff at my idiocy. But until then, Lance Lynn is part of my offseason plan.

Monday, October 12, 2020

How Will 2021 Look?

"You're losing faith from a lot of Yankees fans, Mr. Cashman. How are you going to earn it back?"

I'm not one for long introductions. That's not to say I can't be long-winded, but since I hardly ever read the intros to articles, why should I expect you to? Plus, if you just want to see a summary of what I'd like to see happen this offseason you can scroll to the bottom. But if you do that, don't come at me on Twitter with things I already explained before that summary.

So let's get started...

It's crazy to think that I'm going to talk about the Yankees acquiring starting pitching this offseason, and it doesn't involve bringing back anybody that was with them this past season.

J.A. Happ is the easiest to let go. Happ's ERA+ as a Yankee was 106, which... while unspectacular... isn't bad. This season he actually had the second best ERA+ on the team (123). However, if you look at his game log he actually only started one game against a playoff team, and that was the Blue Jays. And his pitching performance in Game 2 leaves a lot to be desired. If the Yankees needed a #4 or #5 starter then Happ might be the guy. But that's not the case at all. And I didn't even mention his comments about his role with the team this year. He's not made for the Yankees.

At the beginning of the season I wanted the Yankees to bring back James Paxton over Masahiro Tanaka, but after he went down with yet another injury I changed my mind. James has not thrown more than 160.1 innings in one season, and counting on him for more than that would be naive. Not that he can't do it, but I would not feel comfortable at all if the Yankees were to do so. It's really too bad, since Paxton is a good to great pitcher when healthy. If he would accept a one year deal, then perhaps I'd be interested, but his injury history would still give me pause.

The toughest to let go is Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka has been solid the past few years, but after watching him in the postseason he's lost his luster. I just wouldn't be able to trust him to start another postseason game, and I can't bring myself to be okay with paying him what he deserves unless we could count on him in October. If he'd sign a one year contract worth around $12 million I'd be all for it. But I see him getting around $15 million a year for three years, and I just don't think it would be a good decision for the Bombers.

Moving on to happier things that I'd like to see this offseason, I'm 99.9% sure the Yankees will bring back DJ LeMahieu. In a vacuum I can understand fans thinking DJ is worth a huge contract for a very high average annual value. But we have to keep in mind that it's 2020, and for years now salaries have been lower than normal. Plus, LeMahieu is 31 years old, so we shouldn't expect him to be offered a long-term deal, either. Therefore, while I could see him signing for as little as three years, I will conservatively say he gets a deal worth five years. And he could be looking at an AAV as low as $16 million, but I'll say $18 million to be safe. That comes out to five years and $90 million.

Bringing back LeMahieu is something the Yankees need for their offense, however, the lineup is still too unbalanced. Outside of a couple of good to great batting average guys (DJ and Urshela), there are too many low average/high power hitters. Furthermore, while a lot of their righty batters don't suffer from large splits when it comes to what hand the opposing pitcher uses, the Yankees could use another left-handed batter (Hicks is the only guy they have that can bat left-handed, but he is actually a switch-hitter). Looking at the free agent market one name stands out... Michael Brantley.

Since 2018, which covers 1455 plate appearances, Brantley's batting average was .309, while his on-base percentage was .368. Having someone like that in the Yankees lineup would go a long way in balancing things out. Not to mention that Michael is a lefty, which will help that balance even more with the Yankees righty-heavy (possibly righty-ONLY) lineup.

The problem is position. Brantley has played almost exclusively in left field since 2016. And as of right now I have Clint Frazier pencilled into left in 2021. This leads to a tough decision... Go with Clint Frazier, who I think could do a lot of good things next season, or bring in Brantley who would be a better fit for the lineup? It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I have to side with signing Brantley.

As for his contract, Micheal is 33 years old, so we're not looking at a lot of years. He will also be coming off a two-year deal worth $32 million, which he earned after coming back strong in 2018 following shoulder surgery (two, actually, for the same shoulder injury) that shortened both his 2016 and 2017 seasons. Therefore, another two year deal may work. But I'll play it conservative and guess a three-year contact worth $51 million would work.

That would mean it's time to part-ways with Frazier. I really like the kid as he's matured so much this season, but there's no place for him now except for the bench. And he's simply too valuable to leave on the bench. So it's finally time to do what people have been expecting for years... trade him. 

I'm not very good at figuring out good trade scenarios, but I gave it another shot. I looked at the top pitchers since 2019 (going solely by 2020 would be silly, as this season was too crazy to lean on), and one guy that stuck out was Lance Lynn.

Lynn is in his final season with the Rangers, and since they finished dead last in the AL West, I don't think they'd mind parting with their top starter from 2020. Lance threw to an ERA+ of 141 in 2019, and followed up that effort with another strong 2020 (ERA+ of 136). Lynn actually had the 5th highest fWAR since 2019 as well. And in these last two seasons Lance struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings, which is 16th in MLB during that time. 

Lynn is in the final year of a 3 year $30 million deal, so his salary for next season is far from steep, which will please a front office that seems to value money more than winning.

Another big problem with this team in 2020 was the bullpen. Now that Adam Ottavino is no longer a member of the Circle of Trust, along with the loss of another really good reliever in Tommy Kahnle, I can't see them going into 2021 without getting another elite reliever. Maybe Adam was victim to another strange season that lacked a true Spring Training. Or maybe if Ottavino drops the changeup he added this year, and goes back to the cutter more, he can get back on track. Either way, though, an addition is needed here.

So what do the Yankees do about it? They sign Trevor May for 3 years and $21 million.

Yankees relievers were in the bottom 10 in league when it comes to fWAR, which for them is unheard of. This team has had a strong bullpen for a very long time now, and seeing how much a struggling bullpen hurt them this year it's easy to understand why. I'm sure there are Yankees fans out there that would rather they went after Liam Hendricks or Brandon Workman, but the fact is both of those guys a closers, and closing equals more money. However, May is not a closer, so I could see him coming to the Yankees to be a middle reliever... unlike Hendricks and Workman.

Trevor has very good strikeout ability (14.7 K/9 in 2020), and a good walk rate (2.7 BB/9 in 2020). He was a hit homer prone this season, but seeing that his home run rate was much better in 2019, I believe he can improve that in 2021.

As for my contract estimate, May wasn't quite as good before free agency as Adam Ottavino was. Ottavino got a 3 year deal worth $27 million, so I can see this being about right, if not slightly less money per year.

Before I get into the team payroll, which... by the way... I only bring up so that we can see that my proposed roster is within the realm of possibility, I wanted to go over a couple of things. One, I calculated the payroll based on the Luxury Tax, not actual dollars being spent. Secondly, I understand that there was talk of the Yankees going under the tax threshold again in order to reset their tax rate, but I can't see it happening. Getting down to $210 million (next year's tax threshold) would probably mean weakening an already iffy starting rotation, not improving a bullpen that needs to be improved, and going into next season with the same unbalanced offense. And we have to remember that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement will be replaced at the end of next season (the current CBA runs through December 1, 2021). And I'm almost positive the current Luxury Tax will either be amended to allow for higher team payrolls (and more money for players) or could be replaced with a whole new plan. So taking a chance on weakening your team to abide by something that may be gone a year from now would be silly.

It's hard to estimate how the Yankees will do in arbitration, especially since MLB Trade Rumors have yet to do their's. The Yankees actually have 12 of them (Judge, Urshela, Torres, Voit, Sanchez, Andujar, Montgomery, German, Green, Cessa, Holder, Heller). So in my rough estimate the team's payroll, which includes money Miami is kicking in for Stanton since he opted in, $5 million for Jacoby Ellsbury, non-active roster members (the Luxury Tax is based on the 40-man roster), Brett Gardner's buyout of $2.5 million, and player benefits (also a part of the Luxury Tax), the team payroll will be around $234.5 million. 

For comparison, last year's total was a little over $265 million. If you figure in the Luxury Tax payments (they will pay 30% this season, but 50% next year for going over for the third straight year) the Yankees total for 2020 comes to $282.1 million while it would be $246.75 million in 2021 (barring mid-season additions). That means the Yankees would actually pay about $35.5 million less in 2021. Perhaps not as much as they'd like, but a pretty damn good savings if you ask me.

Now, for a summary of the predictions, along with the final active roster, here you go...

1. Let James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Masahiro Tanaka go in free agency
2. Re-sign D.J. LeMaheiu for 5 years and $90 million   
3. Sign Michael Brantley for 3 years and $51 million
4. Trade Clint Frazier for Lance Lynn
5. Sign Trevor May for 3 years and $21 million

Active Roster
* - left-handed hitter/pitcher
# - switch hitter

Starting Lineup
1. D.J. LeMaheiu - 2B
2. Aaron Judge -  RF
3. Aaron Hicks# - CF  
4. Giancarlo Stanton - DH
5. Luke Voit - 1B
6. Michael Brantley* - LF
7. Gio Urshela - 3B
8. Gary Sanchez - C
9. Gleyber Torres - SS

2B/SS/3B Tyler Wade*
OF Mike Tauchman*
C Kyle Higashioka
LF/3B Miguel Andujar

Starting Rotation
1. Gerrit Cole 
2. Lance Lynn
3. Jordan Montgomery*
4. Deivi Garcia
5. Domingo German

Aroldis Chapman*
Zack Britton*
Chad Green
Trevor May
Adam Ottavino
Jonathan Holder 
Luis Cessa
Jonathan Loaisiga

-Clarke Schmidt will go to AAA, so that he starts and is stretched out. He would be the first man called upon should the Yankees need a starter.
-Luis Severino will most likely return around June (14 months after Tommy John surgery).
-I would like to see the Yankees take a shot on Robbie Ray, who would likely come cheap. He still strikes out a lot of batters, and I think he's better than what we saw in 2020. I didn't include this move because I think the team would rather save the money.
-I like the bullpen, but I wouldn't mind seeing them make another move to make it even better. Perhaps trade Sanchez for someone like Freddy Peralta, then sign James McCann. But Sanchez did have a decent 2019 thanks to 34 home runs, so I don't think he'll necessarily be a negative for us.
-I really like Clint Frazier and think he has a bright future ahead of him. But I think trading him is their best bet to get a strong #2 to go along with Cole. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Eleven Years and Counting...


Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Rays cast Yankees aside, ending Pinstriped aspirations…

Well, that sucked.

If the Yankees had gotten any help from good health this year, they would be in the AL Championship Series, preparing to host the Houston Astros tonight in San Diego. I think the biggest disappointment is to miss the ALCS by one bad pitch. The path to the World Series this year might be the easiest it ever would have been for the Yankees. I don’t say that because I think the window is closing but the promising younger teams will only get better, increasing the competition so that you don’t have a team with a losing record and a history of cheating playing, sitting in the ALCS right now, for the right to advance to the World Series. The Yankees had a golden opportunity to exact revenge on Astros for their unethical play but sadly we must put our trust and faith in the Rays to do it.

Clearly, the Yankees must do SOMETHING about starting pitching. It will be an on-going Achilles heel unless there can be stronger and more reliable arms behind Gerrit Cole. Starting Deivi Garcia in Game 2 was a clear sign the Yankees simply did not have better options. After the high of Gerrit Cole pitching Game 1, I was deflated when I heard Garcia would get the ball in Game 2. Garcia has been a bright spot this season but the moment was too big for even him. Still, falling behind 2-1 in the series but winning the crucial fourth game, you had to like the Yankees’ chances for the fifth and final game with Cole on the mound. Unfortunately, the bats could not deliver and Year 1 of the massive Cole contract is in the books.

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

As much as I’ve wanted the Yankees to bring Masahiro Tanaka back, he didn’t have a good post-season. If he had performed like he has in past Octobers, it is very possible the Tampa Bay Rays would be the team sitting at home right now.  The disappointing playoff starts have reduced my optimism the Yankees will or should bring back Masa. With the talk the Yankees will reduce spending, like all teams, after the lost revenue of the 2020 season, it is a near certainty the Yankees won’t make a big splash to land a number two starter like Trevor Bauer. Instead, it will be an off-season of looking for hidden gems ready to blossom.  It is clear Gerrit Cole needs help. He cannot do it by himself.  Whether it is Deivi Garcia and/or Clarke Schmidt or other young Yankee prospects, they need to take it to the next level. But the entirety of improvement in the starting rotation should not fall solely on the young arms. It needs to be a combination of veteran influence and exciting youthful talent and enthusiasm…just not as veteran as someone like J.A. Happ. 

I don’t have a grand plan for the off-season. The Yankees pay Brian Cashman and his henchmen a lot of money to make those decisions. However, I do know the Yankees must re-sign DJ LeMahieu. As one of the team’s best players the last two years and the 2020 AL Batting Champion, the Yankees cannot afford to let the superior defender and consummate teammate depart.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

I’ve heard many fans call for the head of Aaron Boone. While I feel he regressed in 2020, the fact is there is not someone better out there. I respect Boone’s clubhouse skills and I think he will show the improvement evident in 2019 in future years. 2020 was just a weird, freaky, ridiculous and deadly year. Except for maybe the wave of the ten-game winning streak, there was never truly a time that I felt the 2020 Yankees had that “it” quality in terms of championship aspirations.  So, as disappointed as I was to see Mike Brosseau and the Rays beat the Yankees, I cannot say I was surprised. 

I don’t want to point fingers at the Yankees’ bench coach, Carlos Mendoza, who served as Boone’s right-hand man for the first time this season. Perhaps former bench coach Josh Bard was more valuable than what we could observe from the outside looking in. Maybe Mendy is not the right guy to offer choices to Boone in the heat of battle. I like the coach and I am not asking for his firing but maybe a different role is in order. I’ve always felt Boone would be better served by having an experienced manager as his bench coach. Not that I think Buck Showalter would accept that type of position, but he’s the type of guy I have in mind. Okay, maybe I am pointing my finger at Mendoza but I do believe the Yankees need to make the tough decisions to put Aaron Boone in the best possible position to succeed. 

As for Brian Cashman, he is not going anywhere unless a team like the New York Mets throw an overabundance of cash to Cash. I kind of like the idea of maybe bringing back former assistant GM Billy Eppler who was fired after the season as GM of the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) by owner Arte Moreno. I thought Eppler did a decent job despite the handcuffs placed on him by Moreno. He could never get the pitching to support Mike Trout but I put that more on Moreno than Eppler. The obstacle for Eppler coming back is the apparent stranglehold on Eppler’s old position by trusted Cashman lieutenant, Tim Naehring. Eppler would most likely have to take a lesser role so I think he’s probably bound for another organization, maybe somewhere closer to his Southern CA home.

There are lots of decisions to be made if the Yankees intend to rebound with a vengeance in 2021. It will be another interesting (and strange off-season) with the pandemic continuing to rage across the globe and an impending battle for the White House next month. Although unrelated to baseball, these are factors that can influence significant financial decisions and commitments by all MLB teams.

If there is one guy on the roster who must improve headed into next season, it is Gleyber Torres. I am not advocate for trading him or, at this point, moving him back to second base despite the availability of so many talented shortstops. I guess I’d change my opinion if the Yankees let LeMahieu get away, but until then, I like DJ at second and not the rover he played during his first season with the Yankees. Gio Urshela has proven his worth as the starting third baseman and same with Luke Voit at first. I will always be enamored with having a guy like Francisco Lindor at short, but realistically, it will never happen. I’d rate it more likely the Yankees would go after a guy like Andrelton Simmons.

Not sure what I think about Gary Sanchez. I’ve always given him my support but after this season, given how he was first cast aside by Gerrit Cole and then later in the post-season by Aaron Boone, I don’t think he has a future in Pinstripes anymore. I certainly do not want Kyle Higashioka as the starting catcher (sorry Higgy fans). Options do seem limited, however, especially if the Yankees are looking to cut payroll. A move away from El Gary may not bring in a J.T. Realmuto to serve as his replacement. Keep expectations low seems to be the theme this year with the monetary constraints expected as a result of the pandemic.

I’d buy out Brett Gardner. Sorry. I can’t say enough about how great of a Yankee he has been. In his final game against the Rays a few days ago, he made a magnificent catch in left. But it is time to pass the baton. Clint Frazier should be the undisputed left fielder next season, with support by Mike Tauchman (or someone else if the Yankee can find an upgrade). Time to give Gardy a gold watch, pat him on the back, give him his day at Yankee Stadium and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am hopeful and optimistic for the 2021 despite my concerns noted above. I do think the Yankees will make the right decisions. I don’t see any team going hog wild in free agency this year and I trust the Yankees to find the undiscovered gems. The monster teams growing in San Diego, Chicago (White Sox), and Toronto concern me but the Yankees are a resilient organization with an eye for talent. There are more Gio Urshela’s to be found…the Yankees just need to move quicker before an intelligent team like the Rays can snatch them up.

As for the 2020 playoffs, it sickens me to think the Houston Astros are a series away from the World Series. I hate the Tampa Bay Rays so the ALCS is truly about the lesser of two evils. I’d rather see the Rays (ugh) advance than the pathetic Astros. The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team so the decision of which team to support is easy. So, win or lose, this is the order of teams I’d support for winning this year’s World Series:

1.       Los Angeles Dodgers

2.       Atlanta Braves

3.       Tampa Bay Rays

4.       Houston Cheaters

The NLCS should be a classic. The Dodgers have a great team but so do the Braves. I think this is the National League’s year to win the World Series so in my opinion, the winner of the Dodgers/Braves series will be the World Series champion. As long as the season ends with no celebrations by the Rays or Astros, I will be happy.    

Before I go, I’d like to say a final farewell to the great Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford.  The Chairman of the Board, one of the all-time greatest Yankee Legends, passed away on October 8th at age 91. He suffered from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. He was apparently at his Lake Success, NY home watching the Yankees play when he died. No jokes. This is a sad time for the Yankees. I recall my feelings of disappointment when the 2019 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium did not include Ford. I had feared we were nearing the end of the road for the ten-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion. I never got to see Ford pitch but as a Yankees fan, his historic accomplishments are why the Yankees are such a wonderful collection of Legends who stand above all other teams. Rest in Peace, Whitey. We thank you and we will miss you…

Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, REUTERS

As always, Go Yankees! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Why I'm Not Afraid of Tyler Glasnow Tonight

Notice I didn't do one of these for Blake Snell? There's probably a good reason for that. While I wasn't necessarily afraid of Snell, I know how tough he can be against this team with his devastating breaking stuff, so my confidence was probably as low as it has been all postseason before last night's game. A Yankees 9-3 victory later and I feel much more confident about the rest of this series, even with the Rays second best starter in Tyler Glasnow taking the mound for Tampa Bay. 

Glasnow is a great pitcher and I could not, and would not, ever take anything away from him, but that doesn't mean I have to be afraid of him tonight. The Yankees tend to do better against a pitcher that they have seen at least once, and the Bombers offense have seen the Rays right-hander three times already this season. A fourth time only sways the momentum in the Yankees offense's hands, in my opinion. The Yankees still have to go out there and do what they have to do, I am not overlooking Glasnow by any means and I am far from guaranteeing a victory, but this is most definitely not mission impossible tonight inside Petco Park. 

Glasnow has faced the Yankees three times this season, but only one of those times were when the Yankees offense was THIS healthy and firing on all cylinders. With that said, I refuse to focus on the August 31st start against New York where Glasnow fired six innings of shutout baseball, and instead I will focus on his start on August 8th inside Tropicana Field where the Yankees tagged the Rays right-hander for four runs in just 2.2 innings pitched. 

Here is what the Yankees offense has done against Glasnow career, via ESPN: 

New York Yankees Career Statistics Vs. Tyler Glasnow
Mike Ford82001202.250.250.625.875
Clint Frazier81000003.
Brett Gardner70000035.000.300.000.300
Aaron Hicks31010001.333.3331.0001.333
Aaron Judge52000001.400.400.400.800
DJ LeMahieu91000004.
Gary Sanchez82000005.
Giancarlo Stanton42001210.500.6001.2501.850
Mike Tauchman50000003.
Gleyber Torres62000113.333.429.333.762
Gio Urshela71100311.
Luke Voit61001133.167.444.6671.111

Listen, I'm not taking anything away from Glasnow. He is a great pitcher and he is absolutely filthy when he is on, but he isn't the first great pitcher that is absolutely filthy when he is on that the Yankees have faced during the 2020 postseason. This offense knocked around the presumptive AL Cy Young Award winner for 2020 in Shane Bieber, they beat Carlos Carrasco who isn't who he once was, but is still a strong starter for Cleveland, and they've beaten Blake Snell as well. In my opinion, Glasnow will be just another ace-type starter that went down to a healthy, and clicking on all cylinders New York Yankees offense.