Saturday, November 20, 2021

Frazier, Odor, and Wade, You're Fired! ...


Trio designated for assignment, while Nelson and Sands head to Philly…

With so much buildup and anticipation among the Yankees Fan Base, yesterday’s Rule 5 40-man roster deadline was a bit underwhelming.

I think while many of us expected potentially huge deals to clear roster space, none came to fruition for the Yankees or anybody else. Trades can still happen, but the upcoming week (Thanksgiving) tends to be fairly quiet due to the holiday. The following week brings the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement and, as most experts predict, a lockout by the MLB owners. So, potentially, there may not be any major trades for the Yankees until a new CBA is in place. If the two sides cannot come to agreement until next Spring, it makes you wonder how much time the Yankees will have for roster construction.

For me, I would like to see resolution of the shortstop vacancy prior to any lockout. There is so much to do, yet so little time. I guess we will have to be patient and wait to see how GM Brian Cashman can bring more athleticism and diversity to the team despite the upcoming challenges and roadblocks.

The players cut were Clint Frazier, Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade. Wade probably surprised me the most. As one of the few shortstops on the roster, it seemed he was safe. Speed and diversity are generally strong traits for roster protection. As we have learned with Cashman over the years, no move is made without an eye toward another deal, so he most likely made the decision to part with Wade with a future deal or two in mind.

I wanted Clint Frazier to succeed in New York. When he was announced as the starting left fielder last season, it felt like he had finally arrived. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another lost year, and the concussion issues continued to play a huge part in his inability to get back on the field. A polarizing player, I now feel he will benefit playing in a lesser pressurized environment if he is able to overcome his health challenges. It is tough to see what his future holds. He could become a consistent MLB player, or he may be facing the end of the road. With such extremes, there was no point in saving a 40-man roster space for him. It is clear his time as a Yankee had ended. I am hopeful the Yankees can get something, anything…like a low-level minor-league prospect…for Frazier rather than an outright release. Same with Wade.

While designating Odor for assignment makes all the sense in the world, I will miss the energy he brought to the team. It is always nice to have that ‘Nick Swisher’ type of guy on the team, in terms of outgoing personalities. Considering the Texas Rangers will continue to pay Odor’s large salary in 2022 except for MLB’s minimum salary, you would have thought Hal Steinbrenner would have been a huge proponent to keep the Odor in the Yankees Clubhouse.

I half expected the Yankees to cut LHP Zack Britton since 2022 will be a lost year due to Tommy John surgery, much like the way the Yankees parted ways with Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda. There is some belief that Britton could be back by the end of the year. Not sure if that saved him or the impending free agency of Aroldis Chapman next off-season. If I had to guess 2022 will be Chapman’s final year with the Yankees.

To clear space, the Yankees also traded RHP Nick Nelson and C Donny Sands to Club Joe Girardi for a couple of not-highly-regarded, low level prospects (3B T.J. Rumfield and LHP Joel Valdez). Losing Nelson did not surprise me, but Sands did. As a recent addition to the 40-man roster, he seemed primed to fill the Triple A shuttle depth behind Yankees backup catcher Kyle Higashioka after a breakout season. Now, he gets a chance to fill a Major League role behind Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Many fans were surprised the Yankees protected Miguel Andujar, but his trade value may benefit if the NL adopts the designated hitter rule. While he certainly would not be a centerpiece, first baseman Chris Gittens could be a player in a potential trade to Oakland for first baseman Matt Olson. Or if Luke Voit is traded, he would become the backup depending on how the off-season plays out.

The Rule 5 eligible prospects added to the 40-man roster were SS Oswaldo Cabrera (who potentially becomes the new Tyler Wade); OF Everson Pereira (who almost went to Texas in the Joey Gallo trade); RHP Stephen Ridings; RHP Ron Marinaccio; and LHP JP Sears. Of the players, only Cabrera (eighth) ranks among the Yankees’ top ten prospects according to Baseball America. Cabrera only ranks 16th on the Yankees’ Top 30 list of prospects, according to Pereira is 13th on the list.

The biggest surprises of players not protected were C Josh Breaux (18th best prospect, according to and OF Brandon Lockridge (19th). You can probably add RHP Matt Sauer (27th) to this list.

Yankee prospects are chosen in the Rule 5 Draft every year and this year, if there is Rule 5 draft, should prove to be no different. The odds of sticking with another MLB club are low. The Garrett Whitlock success stories are exceedingly rare, but I always fear the teams that decide to tank and have open roster spots to fill. If MLB passes a minimum salary floor to protect against tanking, maybe it will help. I would hate to lose Breaux. I know he has not performed as expected and remains a project at age 24, but catching depth is important. At this point, 20-year-old Antonio Gomez is probably more important than Breaux, but he has not played above A ball. Anthony Siegler, drafted ahead of Breaux, has really fallen off the map. Maybe 2022 is the year the 22-year-old can re-establish some prominence in the Yankees’ farm system. I guess like pitching, you can never have too much catching, especially when the big-league starter is a disappointment.

It has been reported that the Yankees offered RHP Justin Verlander a one-year, $25 million deal (according to Jon Heyman of Verlander subsequently got the second year from the Astros which lead to his return to Houston. I am glad he did not take Hal’s money. I am sure that Verlander will make a successful return from Tommy John surgery despite his age, but c’mon, there are simply some players who should never wear the famed Pinstripes. If Verlander is not at the top of the list of guys who should not pull-on MLB’s greatest jersey, he is near the top. The Yankees need another strong starting pitcher, but there are other, better options.

Despite all Yankee fans love of Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, this will probably be another one of those years where GM Brian Cashman goes with an under-the-radar trade to bring in young, talented starter on the verge of blossoming.

I wish former Angels GM and Yankees Assistant GM Billy Eppler all the best in his new role as general manager for the New York Mets. For as many people who passed on the job, the Mets did surprisingly good with hiring Eppler. I always liked Eppler and before he left the Yankees, I had really wanted the team to promote Brian Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and make Eppler the GM. Kind of makes me wonder if that is how it plays out in Flushing Meadow after Cashman’s contact expires after the 2022 season. I fully expect Hal Steinbrenner to bring Cashman back, but if the 2022 season does not meet minimum expectations, you never know what might happen.

As always, Go Yankees!