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.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Fall of the Kraken...

Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr / Newsday

Gary Sanchez’s days may be numbered…

Mid-November and we continue to wait for the baseball off-season to kick it into gear. I know, nothing ever really happens until after Thanksgiving and often not until the Baseball Winter Meetings in early December. It’s always fun for something to happen in November if for no other reason than to give us something to write about. I don’t really care about the Chicago White Sox hiring a geriatric manager with DUI issues (other than the safety of others when he is on the road).

With word the Yankees are listening to offers for Gary Sanchez, the realism that he is never going to reach his potential is starting to set in with me. I know many of you gave up long ago, but I always held out the slight hope that the way he burst onto the scene in 2017 was going to set the standard for years to come. I think I was a little overly optimistic on that one. I am still not 100% ready to shut the door on El Gary. I don’t want Kyle Higashioka, sorry, as the starting catcher, Austin Wells (who should be the future) is still a few years away, and I don’t see the Yankees paying the bucks it will take to get J.T. Realmuto to sign on the dotted line. I hope there’s NO fire to the Yadier Molina rumors. I respect Yadi and he’s most likely headed for the Hall of Fame as the best of the Molina brothers. At 38, Yadi has seen his better days. He has had a tremendous career in St Louis. Yet, I do not see him as a potential bridge to Austin Wells. If Brian Cashman does trade Sanchez, he’s going to have to get us a younger catcher with more upside.

I also have no interest in shortstop Andrelton Simmons. A wizard with the glove, sure, but signing Simmons, to me, is a clear signal D.J. LeMahieu will not return. I’d rather have D.J. or if the Yankees do feel strongly about moving Gleyber Torres back to second, then go all-in for an elite shortstop like Francisco Lindor. The Yankees have the pieces to get a deal done. While you could argue Simmons is a better shortstop, I’d probably prefer a reunion with Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal. Yes, a sentimental choice, but I have always felt Didi has as much value in a clubhouse as he does on the field. You cannot underestimate the intangibles Didi brings with his personality, talent, and charm.  I’ve always felt Didi was a team player and not a “me” player. Then, after the 2021 season, go after one of the premium shortstops who will be free agents, including Lindor and Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Photo Credit: Josh Lefkowitz / Getty Images

Back up the truck, Hal, and sign Trevor Bauer. I’d do it if I owned the Yankees. I think he’d be an outstanding #2 behind Gerrit Cole, and would help form an incredibly strong trio when Luis Severino returns next summer.  World Series can be won when you have three elite starters.  I still want the Yankees to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka but as long as he is on the open market, we have to be prepared for anything to happen. The Yankees may have the money but they’ve proven to play hard ball in contract negotiations as we all know too well. They never seem to go after their own free agents with Gerrit Cole-like fervor. If Derek Jeter had taken his late career contract negotiations personally, there is a real chance that he would not have finished his career as a Yankee and that would have been a major disappointment.

Speaking of Jeter, congratulations for the hire of former Yankees assistant GM Kim Ng as the new general manager of the Miami Marlins. I have long felt Kim was the most qualified general manager candidate, male or female, in the game. I had been a proponent to elevate Brian Cashman to President of Baseball Operations, and hire Kim as the Yankees general manager. I am very excited about the move and I think it was a brilliant hire by Derek. He obviously knows Kim from their time together with the Yankees but I know this hire is about the best candidate and not about hiring the first female or first Asian-American general manager.

Photo Credit: Marcelo Maragni / MLB Photos via Getty Images

I am tremendously excited for the NL Manager of the Year Don Mattingly who did a terrific job last season with young talent. Kim will be charged with helping get more talent to Mattingly and that will be so very fun to watch. Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during the Donnie Baseball years, and he has retained my respect in his post-Yankees career. I kind of wonder what the last decade would have been like if the Yankees had hired Mattingly over Joe Girardi after Joe Torre. I know Mattingly’s inexperience worked against him at the time, but he’s grown every year as a manager and continues to get better. I thought the Dodgers were too quick to give him the hook but I get Donnie was not their guy (he preceded the current Dodgers ownership and front office).  I have no qualms with Dave Roberts, fresh off a World Series championship, and perhaps Mattingly is better off with the Marlins for the long term. When Mattingly first joined the Marlins, I had my doubts (the team, not him) and then the previous ownership stripped the team, selling off the All-Star outfield and others after the tragic and untimely death of the great Jose Fernandez. But after Jeter and the current ownership group acquired the Marlins, raided the Yankees of front office talent, they have the team pointed in the right direction. It’s a good time to be a Marlins fan even if I am not. 

But back to the original point, congratulations to Kim Ng! I am so very happy for her and I look forward to the stamp she’ll put on the greatest sport in the world. The NL East may have a new billionaire owner sitting in Queens, a great Yankees manager in Philly, a one year removed World Series champion in Donald Trump’s soon to be former neighborhood, but I like the Marlins’ chances on a go-forward basis. Derek Jeter always did kinda like playing in October.

It is looking like former Yankees prospect Caleb Cotham may be close to getting a new job with his first MLB manager, Joe Girardi. Girardi, the Philadelphia Phillies manager (did I really need to tell you that?) lost his pitching coach when Bryan Price retired after the season. Cotham retired after playing with the Cincinnati Reds a few years ago. Cotham is apparently the favorite to land the job as Price’s replacement. Good for him. It’s always wonderful to see former Yankees get good opportunities. I half expected the Yankees to lose bullpen coach Mike Harkey, a good friend of Girardi, so Cotham’s hire would be a nice block to keep Harkey with the Yankees. 

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe.

As always, Go Yankees!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

My New Offseason Plan

Yes, I already did an offseason plan post, but I can't help but keep thinking about how the Yankees could do things this offseason to get ready for another run at a World Series in 2021.

Besides, I'm not a prospect person at all, so I can't write about that. I could write reactions to news, but nothing has happened that I can't sum up my reactions to on Twitter (@Bryan_TGP). I'm allowed to change my mind, after all. Right? 

So let's jump right into this.

In my previous plan, I talked about bringing back DJ LaMaheiu and signing Michael Brantley and Trevor May Rosenthal. I'm sticking with those signings, and if you want to read about those things then check out my previous article. I talk about the future of Clint Frazier in that article too, which is still apropos to what I'm doing this time around.

I'm going to start things off with something that may not be very exciting, but can pay off big-time due to injuries or resting players... the bench. More specifically, the backup infielder. Remember that Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada combined for 157 at-bats last season, and hurt the offense a hell of a lot more than they helped. I really don't want to see something like that again in 2021.

I like the idea of getting Tommy La Stella for the same reason that the Yankees signed DJ LeMaheiu a couple of years ago, but I don't see that happening. One, Tommy is coming off two really good seasons where he hit to a 118 OPS+ and a 127 OPS+. Whereas, before signing that 2 year $24 million contract, LeMaheiu's previous two seasons saw OPS+s of just 93 and 88. So La Stella would likely cost more than the Yankees are willing to spend for a utility player. Besides, I'm sure many teams will be willing to not only give Tommy more money but also regular playing time.

But I don't think any of us want to see either Thairo Estrada or Tyler Wade as the backup infielder next season. To be fair to Thairo, I'm not giving up on him, but he certainly has some work to do before getting any more MLB at-bats. On the other hand, I'm ready for the Yankees to give up on Wade. Tyler's speed is a great weapon, but how many times next year would we say "I wish we had Tyler Wade right now"? Not many.

So no La Stella, no Estrada, and no Wade. Then who? I say, Jonathan Villar.

Villar is coming off a poor season in 2020, where he was a below-average hitter for the Marlins and a very below-average hitter for the Blue Jays. However, he wasn't a bad hitter in the previous two seasons, and I'm banking on him getting back there in 2021. For any of you that would miss Wade's speed off the bench, you'll be happy to hear that Jonathan isn't a slouch on the basepaths, either, as he stole 40 bases in 2019. And Villar is also a switch-hitter, which Aaron Boone could add to the lineup, helping more with an unbalanced lineup.

As for his versatility, Jonathan Villar has played a ton at both shortstop and second base in his career. The Marlins even had Villar play 10 innings in centerfield last season. Mind you, he's no wizard at either position, but he's solid enough that I wouldn't get anxious whenever a ground ball was hit in his direction.

So the Yankees have signed LaMaheiu, Brantley, May, and Villar. Not bad so far, but there's more work to do. The starting rotation is still full of question marks, and the bullpen could use a bit more oomph as well. 

We've heard a lot about signing guys like Trevor Bauer, Charlie Morton, and other top of the rotation pitchers. Recently there have been rumors that the Yankees have been talking about reuniting with Masahiro Tanaka. I actually like a lot of those ideas, and wouldn't be upset them happening. But I have other ideas.

The first thing I'd like to see happen is trading for Joe Musgrove.

Musgrove has turned into a heck of a starter for Pittsburgh, raising his strikeout rate last year to a very impressive 12.5 per nine innings. Joe also throws a lot of ground balls, which is always a welcome sight in Yankee Stadium. He doesn't throw his fastball very hard, but the spin rate of that pitch is very nice. And when you combine that with killer breaking pitches, I think he'd make a very fine addition to the starting rotation. Oh, and Musgrove will turn 28 next month, while still being two years away from free agency.

So what would it take to get him? Well, it won't be cheap. Mind you, the Pirates have made some poor trades recently (the Chris Archer deal may go down as one of the worst in history), but I'm going to use the analyzer at Baseball Trade Values.

In that case, I see a trade of Clint Frazier and Luis Gil for Joe Musgrove.

The addition of Musgrove alone would make for a fine starting rotation, but I don't want the Yankees to take any chances this coming season and beyond. I've seen way too many injuries, and way too many poor performances in big games, to do anything close to settling. And I'm not going to trust Luis Severino returning from Tommy John surgery around midseason, and being a top of the rotation starter right away. That's not typically how pitchers come back from that procedure. As much as I like Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia, I'm not ready to lean on them that much in 2021, either. And after missing all of this past season, who knows how Domingo German will look when he returns?

Okay, I'm cheating a bit here. I talked about acquiring this pitcher in my last prediction post, but when it comes to who I'm trading for him I changed things up. 

The Yankees trade Miguel Yajure and Oswald Peraza for Lance Lynn.

Clint Frazier for Lynn was a massive overpay. I honestly don't know what I was thinking on that one. That doesn't mean Lynn hasn't been among the better pitchers in baseball for the past couple of years. But he is 33, only has one more season under contract, and is coming from a team that clearly wants his $8 million ($10 million AAV) off the books next season. It's not like the Texas Rangers are going to contend in 2021, so keeping Lance around would be a stupid idea. I suppose they could hold off until the trade deadline, but I think Texas would be much happier moving him and his salary sooner than later.

I spoke about reasons for acquiring Lance Lynn in my previous article, so I'm again going to ask you to go there if you want to check that out. 

For the longest time, the Yankees have had one of the better bullpens in baseball. That changed in a big way in 2020, when the Yanks had the third-worst bullpen in the American League (going by fWAR). And we watched that bite them in the ass over and over again. 

I'm not giving up on Adam Ottavino, but I don't want to go into next season leaning on him for any big outs. The previously mentioned addition of Trevor May could very well be enough to make the Bombers bullpen a force again but like the rotation... I'm not risking anything. It's time we go for the jugular. 

Trade Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, and Roansy Conteras for Josh Hader.

Since Hader's MLB debut in 2017, he's thrown 223.2 innings with an ERA+ of 171. His strikeout rate in his career is a silly 15.3 batters per nine innings. And his career ERA is 2.54. I'm not going to get into reasons for wanting to have Josh Hader on the Yankees, because there's not a baseball team on this planet that wouldn't want to acquire his services.

For that reason, trading for him will not come cheap. Especially since Hader is not eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, meaning the Brewers may want to hold onto him since they could contend within the next few years. But I think he can be gotten, as I'm sure the Brewers would be interested in cutting his approximate $6 million salary from their payroll.

Milwaukee has plenty of holes in their lineup, and having among the worst farm systems in the league isn't going to help fill them much at all. So they're surely going to need some help from other organizations in order to rebuild. And the three players I'm sending to the Brewers, who will help in the infield, outfield, and on the mound, would definitely catch their attention. 

I don't think I have to defend adding either Florial or Conteras to this deal. I'm sure both men have their fans, but neither of them will be greatly missed. Andujar, on the other hand, may get some resistance for being dealt. Many fans, myself included, believe Miguel will bounce back next season and end up having a fine career. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in a handful of All Star teams in the future. But the emergence of Gio Urshela, as well as a packed outfield, and the designated hitter spot mainly being filled by Giancarlo Stanton for the next seven years, leaves no place for Andujar. I've even mentioned first base as a possible position for him, but I'd rather keep the reigning AL home run champ over there.

So here's a summary of the moves I'd like to see made...

1. Sign DJ LaMaheiu - 5 years $90 million
2. Sign Michael Brantley - 3 years $51 million
3. Sign Trevor May Rosenthal - 3 years $21 million 2 years $14 million
4. Sign Jonathan Villar - 1 year $5 million w/ club option
5. Trade Clint Frazier and Luis Gil for Joe Musgrove
6. Trade Oswald Peraza and Miguel Yajure for Lance Lynn 
7. Trade Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, and Roansy Contreras for Josh Hader

Those moves would leave the Yankees with the following active roster...

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

Kyle Higashioka - C
Jonathan Villar# - 2B/SS
Michael Tauchman* - OF
??? (revolving door)

Gerrit Cole
Lance Lynn
Joe Musgrove
Deivi Garcia
Jordan Montgomery*

Aroldis Chapman*
Zack Britton*
Josh Hader*
Chad Green
Trevor May Rosenthal
Adam Ottavino
Jonathan Loaisiga
Luis Cessa

Luis Severino

*left-handed batter/pitcher

-Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German stay stretched out while starting in AAA
-Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Ben Heller non-tendered

Since the Yankees care about money these days, I can't wrap things up without talking about how much that team would cost. 

I mentioned in my previous article that, after the Luxury Tax, the Yankees would have paid a total of $282.1 million for their players last season. That includes players on the 40-man but not on the active roster, player benefits, etc. This season, after those things as well as $2.5 million for Brett Gardner's buyout (I suppose he could be brought back again and put into that one bench spot) and $3 million from Miami for Stanton since he didn't opt-out, the total after the Luxury Tax in 2021 would be about $252 million. That would be around $30 million less than in 2020, which would hopefully be enough to keep Hal and the other owners happy.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

MLB Focus Begins to Shift to 2021...


Life after the Pandemic and the Cheating Scandal…

Now that it has been a few weeks since baseball ended its strange, shortened season, it is time to look forward to the upcoming season next Spring. There’s probably reasonable doubt the regular season as we knew it until this year is probably still a couple of seasons away. I am not really expecting a full unaltered schedule in Spring Training and the regular season. Granted, we probably won’t have any specific details until early next year, but I truly hope we have more than 60 games. My general expectation at this point is at least 154 games but that’s assuming we can get a handle on the pandemic sooner than later. Although it is possible, I am not sure we’ll make it to a full 162 games with adjustments that will need to be made. Maybe I am totally wrong and next season returns business as usual. Not likely in my opinion but certainly possible.  Realistically, I see somewhere between 120 to 154 games, plus or minus. Or to better hedge my bet, somewhere between 1 and 162 games.

I figured that A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora would find jobs one day but admittedly I did not think it would happen so quickly. From the moment Alex Cora was fired as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, I felt strongly he’d be back. I never once thought Ron Roenicke was anything more than a one year “fill-in” even if the interim tag was pulled off his title early this past season. I’ve seen Red Sox fans upset that the team rehired a cheater. True. But with all honesty, from the moment the Detroit Tigers hired A.J. Hinch, it was only a matter of time until Cora got his next gig. While I don’t like Alex Cora, I do think he is a good manager and I say that with sincerity despite his active role in the Astros cheating scandal.  

As for Hinch, I guess you can probably say that his crime was knowing about the cheating tactics and doing nothing about it, versus Cora’s active participation. Is that better? Not sure as both men broke the rules and disgraced the sport. Yet, here we are, and both men hold jobs in Major League Baseball again after serving their respective one-year suspensions. Apparently other men adversely impacted by the Astros scandal have short memories. Hinch just hired former Los Angeles Dodgers coach George Lombard to be his bench coach with the Tigers. Lombard was coaching for the Dodgers in their World Series loss to the Astros in 2017.

There was a time I didn’t think former Astros general manager Jeffrey Luhnow would ever get a job in MLB again but now that Hinch and Cora were able to return so quickly, I think it is only a matter of time until some desperate MLB owner comes knocking on Luhnow’s door to help with a rebuild.

My hope is both Hinch and Cora have genuine regret for their prior indiscretions and cowardice, and they have recommitted themselves to preserving the integrity of the sport. Any future violations should result in immediate lifetime bans. They should literally be walking into the land of zero tolerance, not even a whisper of crossing the ethical line. If they prove they are worthy of redemption, they should get it. We are the land of second chances. I hope they do not abuse the privilege handed to them as members of Major League Baseball.

This is a big week for MLB. Rookies of the Year will be announced tomorrow (Monday, November 9th). Managers of the Year will be November 10th (as much as I dislike the Rays, I’d say Kevin Cash has to be the easy AL winner). Wednesday, November 11th will be the AL and NL Cy Young Award winners, while Thursday, the 12th will be the MVP’s for each league. November 11th also represents the deadline for players, who received a qualifying offer, to accept or reject the offer. DJ LeMahieu is expected to reject the offer to dip his toe into free agency.

I really hope the Yankees re-sign LeMahieu. Even with the talk the Cleveland Indians have opened the bidding for Francisco Lindor, I’d prefer LeMahieu’s return. Lindor would be great, no doubt, but he will cost much in talent and dollars. LeMahieu is not as costly and I am not a proponent of moving him to first base. I do firmly believe Gleyber Torres will get better at shortstop. I am confident he is putting in the work as I type this post, and he’ll be better prepared for the starting shortstop role in 2021 than he was this past season. Maybe he is not the elite player Lindor is but I am perfectly fine with Torres and LeMahieu at shortstop and second base, respectively. If anything, I want dollars and talent to help improve the pitching staff behind Gerrit Cole and eventual return of Luis Severino. So, as much as I like Lindor, I do not feel he makes sense for the Yankees this point in time. 

Honestly, I think if the Yankees go after Lindor, it means LeMahieu won’t be back.

The Yankees should take a flyer on Corey Kluber if the price is right. There’s huge risk, no doubt, but great upside potential if he is healthy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I know he is not the pitcher he once was, but even the great Pedro Martinez subscribed to the Toby Keith song with the lyrics, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once, as I ever was”. That “once” could easily be a big October moment.

I am not really expecting any major trade acquisitions or free agency signings this month. It could happen. James Paxton was a November trade a couple of years ago but I think this off-season will be slower to get started. It might never pick up with any acceleration as teams count their pennies after 2020’s lost revenues.  I think even this year’s Winter Meetings next month will be more somber than usual.

I guess I don’t follow the relationships of Yankees farm teams very closely. I was shocked to hear yesterday the Yankees had abandoned the Trenton Thunder as their Double A affiliate and have moved on to the Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey.

The Thunder will be offered the Patriots’ spot in the independent Atlantic League while the Patriots will move to the Eastern League replacing the Thunder. The move caused bitter reaction from Thunder ownership so there were obvious tensions between them and the Yankees throughout this process. Thunder owner Joseph Plumeri released a statement which included “While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset”. Trenton had been the Yankees’ AA team since 2003. For some reason, I thought of the Boston Red Sox when I first heard the name “Somerset Patriots”. It must just be the team’s New England sounding nickname since they have no affiliation with Boston and of course Somerset is in New Jersey, not New England. The Patriots play their games at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.

The Yankees also gave the axe to Charleston, South Carolina, ending their relationship with the Class A River Dogs. They will be replaced by Hudson Valley Renegades. The Renegades play their games at Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls, New York. The Renegades also replace the Tampa Tarpons as the Yankees High-A affiliate. The Tarpons are still in the family but move down to Low-A.  The moves certainly put the three most critical Yankees farm teams in close proximity to the greater NYC area. Maybe that’s the grand design. The Renegades were most recently the Class A Short Season affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Welcome to the new cities joining the Yankees family! While we will miss Trenton and Charleston, it will be fun to see players create new memories in Bridgewater, New Jersey and Wappinger Falls, New York as we move forward.

Congratulations to DJ LeMahieu for winning a 2020 AL Silver Slugger Award after a season with a .364 batting average (.364/.421/.590, 1.011 OPS). Yet another reason we need to keep this guy as if we really needed a reminder.

Thank you to Erik Kratz. After his long career, spent mostly in the minor leagues, the mini-Yankees celebrity this past season has announced he won’t be playing in the 2021 season. The 40-year-old Kratz almost certainly has a very bright coaching career ahead for him if he decides to stay in the game. I can easily see him as a MLB manager one day.

I am relieved that J.A. Happ is no longer a Yankee. He had some good moments as a Yankee and I appreciate his time, for the most part, in Pinstripes but I was so ready to move on. Of course, the Yankees need to ensure that they find suitable replacements for the loss of Happ and possibly Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton but giving Happ’s spot to Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia is an easy call. Not sure that I want to go into 2021 with both Schmidt and Garcia as starters but at least one should make the cut. I prefer experience for the other open spots.  I expect Jordan Montgomery to be better in 2021 as he further distances himself from Tommy John surgery and the Yankees should get Luis Severino back by next summer. I’d love to see the Yankees bring in Trevor Bauer if they choose not to bring back Tanaka and/or Paxton.  I think some question if his personality would fit with team chemistry but there should be no question he carries major talent in his right arm. I think he’s one of those guys you hate when he’s not on your team but you love when he is. 

This has been a weird year and I hope everyone has managed to stay healthy. One of my former employees, only in his 40’s with young children at home, lost a month-long battle with the coronavirus this past week. It’s a reminder it can happen to anyone so please be safe.

As always, Go Yankees!