Thursday, November 2, 2017

Yankees 2018 Free Agent Tracker

CC Sabathia
Matt Holliday
Masahiro Tanaka (opt-out clause)
Todd Frazier
Michael Pineda
Jaime Garcia
Sam Demel
Fernando Martinez

Joe Girardi (fired as manager)

MLBTR's Free Agent Predictions & Alex Avila

A little over two hours ago MLB Trade Rumors released their predictions for the top 50 free agents this offseason, which includes what team they'll sign with and for how much. I think MLBTR does a great job, so I suggest you not only take a look at this post but read them regularly like I do.

First off, if you're looking to see what they think in regards to Shohei Otani don't bother. Not only is there no guarantee that he'll even be in MLB next season, but just about every team will be after Otani due to his skill-set and his cheap price tag ("cheap" for what this guy can do, at least). If we had some idea of his preferred destination then perhaps a guess could be made, but I have yet to see anything like that.

Secondly, you'll see that they predict CC Sabathia will return to the Yankees on a two-year contract worth $24 million. I'm on the fence with Sabathia. On the one hand I think he'd make a fine addition to the team as a solid starter at the bottom of the rotation, along with his veteran experience to share with his young teammates. But on the other hand I'm concerned with his ability to pitch past the 5th inning with any regularity, to go along with whether he even has spot to start in. I mean, let's say Tanaka comes back (either by not opting out, or agreeing to a small extension) and the Yankees get Otani. That would leave the rotation at Severino, Gray, Tanaka, Otani, and Montgomery. And don't tell me about having other arms available in the event of injury, because the Yankees still have guys like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield itching for a shot.

But there will be plenty of talk surrounding Otani and Sabathia to come. What I want to discuss is the prediction about the Yankees signing Alex Avila to a two-year $16 million contract.

Gary Sanchez has taken a lot of flack for his defense. It got so bad that some people thought that he should not be catching. I think that was and still is silly, seeing as how his being a catcher makes his value so much higher, while leaving the DH spot open to rotate players into and out of so that guys like Aaron Hicks can get some well-deserved at bats. But I can't deny that Gary's defense does leave some to be desired, so having a good backup catcher is important. Besides, every catcher needs some rest, and I don't want a guy with an OPS+ of 49 appearing in nearly half of the Yankees games next season (yeah... I'm talking about Austin Romine).

Is Alex Avila on the same level as Sanchez or Buster Posey? Heck no. But Alex is no slouch either. I find it highly unlikely that he repeats his batting line of .264/.387/.447 from this past season, mainly due to an extremely high batting average on balls in play (.382), but I do believe he can provide average to slightly above average offense to the team (I'm thinking of a batting line around .240/.350/.400 with double-digit home runs).

I'm sure as one of the better catching free agents that Avila will be looking for regular playing time, if not a definite starting role, which is something the Yankees can't guarantee him. So I'm a bit cynical of this prediction. But it makes perfect sense, and I would actually like to see it happen.

2018 Free Agency: CC Sabathia – Yay or Nay

Earlier today we discussed the impending opt-out clause written into the contract of Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and in that article, seen here on The Greedy Pinstripes, we compared the situation that Tanaka and the Yankees are currently facing with the situation that the team and left-handed starter CC Sabathia faced back in 2011. The Yankees had an opt-out clause written into CC’s contract and rather than CC opting out the two sides came to a new five-year deal that would run through the 2017 season due to a vesting option. That season is over and so is the contract for the Yankees veteran southpaw and now the team and CC are once again facing the possibility of free agency and a separation. What will CC do, what will Brian Cashman do, and will I be wrong once again this offseason? Stay tuned…. And may I say, damn it is awfully early in the offseason for me to already be getting things wrong.

This one is pretty easy for me, bring back Sabathia. Period. I think the Yankees should bring back one of their team leaders and a veteran in the pitching staff and I think that they will. The team has not been shy about giving big base salaries on one-year deals to veteran pitchers at the end of their careers, see Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda as recent examples of this, and the team will likely do the same this offseason with Sabathia. Giving Sabathia a one-year deal worth $15 million or so is a great insurance policy for the team and is likely enough to keep Sabathia happy and with the team as they continue to grow their young talent in the minors.

Yes, I have heard the arguments that the five best pitchers on the team should break camp with the team before Opening Day 2018 and in most cases I agree with that, but I don’t think I can do that here. Obviously, a lot of this hinges on the Tanaka decision but having a leader and a teacher like Sabathia on the team with players like Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray and eventually pitchers like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams is invaluable. Shout out to Scott Fielder for the word invaluable, as he stated that that veteran leadership was invaluable on the team in the comments section earlier in the week. I couldn’t agree more, and I think that truly fits this Sabathia situation here this offseason.

Sabathia will be back in 2018 with the Yankees if he chooses to keep pitching and wants to stay in New York. Obviously, the lure of going back to the West Coast will always be in the back of Sabathia’s mind as that is where he is from but ultimately, I feel like Sabathia has set down roots in the New York area and will be back at least through the 2018 season. If Sabathia pitches well in 2018 and can teach the young guns in the Yankees staff how to grow he will make the Yankees back that $15 million ten-fold. If Sabathia doesn’t pitch well in 2018 then the team could always try and trade him or eat the money left on his contract since it is just for one season, it’s a win-win for the Yanks.

2018 Free Agency: Masahiro Tanaka – Yay or Nay

The World Series is officially over and so is the 2017 MLB season which means one big thing for Yankees fans, it means that Masahiro Tanaka is officially on the clock. Tanaka has an opt-out clause written into his contract that he has to exercise or let pass by no later than this weekend and his decision is likely going to shape the Yankees offseason in a big way, either way. What do I think Tanaka will do and how do I think the Yankees should respond to it? Keep reading.

Ultimately I think that Tanaka will exercise his opt-out clause in his contract and will hit free agency for the first time since coming over to the United States from Japan. This would be nothing new for the Yankees but the team absolutely has to learn from their past and not make the same mistake twice. Enter Alex Rodriguez who used the World Series as a stage to announce the fact that he was opting out of his 10-year deal worth in excess of $250 million only for the Yankees to give the then 32-year old an even bigger contract at 10-years and up to $320 million with incentives, milestone home runs hit, etc. The Yankees cannot and should not big against themselves if and when Tanaka opts out, it just shouldn’t be an option.

Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t think the Yankees shouldn’t discuss bringing Tanaka back or ultimately bring him back at all. If the raise that Tanaka is looking for, presumably, is minimal or considered “fair” and the years on the contract aren’t extended an asinine amount, yes I believe 10-year contracts are asinine, then I believe it is at least worth some discussion between Tanaka and the Yankees. Remember, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold to reset their spending penalties and Tanaka is already one of the highest paid players on the team as it stands today. Giving Tanaka more money just doesn’t make fiscal sense for the team right now, period.

One also remember the ticking time bomb that could be Tanaka’s right elbow. Now I know I have been one of the few bloggers and writers that have supported the Yankees and a team of doctor’s decision to forego Tanaka’s Tommy John surgery and all I can say for now is, so far so good, but the Yankees would be foolish to not use that in their negotiation tactics here today and throughout the next three days. That’s business, that’s baseball and everything is fair game. If the Yankees have a legitimate concern about his elbow or a “legitimate” concern about his elbow, it will be brought up and it will be brought up with the thought process of trying to keep the bottom line down for the team. Every team does it and every team should do it, again it’s business.

At the end of the day I can totally see Tanaka opting out of his contract and trying to work out something new with the Yankees. Whether the Yankees budge or not is something I am teetering back and forth with but at the end of the day I like to think that Tanaka likes it here with the Yankees and likes it here in the Bronx. I cannot see Tanaka asking for an astronomical amount of money or years and at the end of the day I can see these two sides adding a couple extra years and a few extra (million) dollars to the contract like the Yankees did back when CC Sabathia faced a similar opt-out in his contract. Or I could just be completely wrong like I was on Joe Girardi, so stay tuned. 

Who Stays And Who Goes?

"Does anyone want me to stick around?"

The Yankees have a handful of problems to fix this offseason. Like pretty much every team in MLB, the rotation is a question mark, and by Saturday we'll have a clearer picture of what the plan should be there (Tanaka has to decide to opt-out or not by Saturday). They have to figure out what's going on with Dellin Betances too.

However, I want to focus on position players.

The Yankees have a good problem on their hands here, but none-the-less it is a problem. They simply have too many players. While Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury are the "regular" outfielders, Clint Frazier is waving his arms around saying "what about me?" Gleyber Torres is unlikely going to be ready for a role in the Majors on Opening Day, but he could force his way into the discussion by June. And Miguel Andujar is ready for the big time as well.

So how do you open up spots for those guys? By getting rid of guys in their ways, of course. That means we're bound to see two or more significant trades this offseason. And with that in mind, I wanted to go over the position players and their chances of getting dealt away.

I'm going to start with the guys that are not getting dealt...

Gary Sanchez - Arguably the #1 offensive catcher in the game making near the league minimum on a team looking to cut payroll? Sure, his defense could use some work, but you're not going to find any catcher as valuable as Sanchez.

Didi Gregorius - One of the most well-liked players on the team, coming off the best offensive season of his career, an excellent fielder, won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season, and the team doesn't have a good replacement for Opening Day (Torreyes is not a good replacement for Didi and Torres will not be MLB-ready on Opening Day or soon after).

Greg Bird - While I'd bet that a number of teams would be interested in a young first baseman with a high ceiling, who won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, Bird isn't going anywhere. That youth, salary, and potential is what makes him so attractive to the Yankees. Plus he'd be a sell low right now since he wasn't great offensively and suffered a significant injury this year.

Aaron Judge - Let's see... an MVP candidate that plays Gold Glove defense, who is not eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season. He has the best-selling jersey in Major League Baseball, and an entire section of Yankee Stadium is named after him (oh, and those that sit in that section wear judge's robes). Aaron, along with Gary, are absolutely not getting traded.

Then we come to Brett Gardner...

While I'm on the fence when it comes to trading Gardner, I lean towards "no". This time last year I was all for trading him, particularly because I saw no way the Yankees could deal away Jacoby Ellsbury, and they needed to open up an outfield spot for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier. But after seeing what he did this year, both as a player and as a role model for his teammates, I hope Brian Cashman can find a way to keep Gardy and make room for Hicks and Frazier.

Which leads me to the guys that I can see being traded this offseason...

Jacoby Ellsbury - 2011 was a very long time ago, and Ellsbury has proven that he's not the player we
saw then. That year he hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs and 39 stolen bases, but he never again hit that well. He may have had a solid season in 2017, but teams are not going to be fooled by it. Sorry... GMs are not dumb. He's owed a little less than $64 million over the next three years, which means the Yankees would have to include nearly $30 million to facilitate a trade. But saving $10+ million a season (the difference between what they'd be paying to trade Jacoby and Frazier's salary) would be a big deal next year, so I hope Cash can find a taker.

Chase Headley - While it seems like the Yankees overpaid for Chase, if you look at Fangraphs Dollar Value for the guy you'll see how untrue that is. $13 million is just not as much as it once was. Headley's value last season was $15.3 million. Now, would the Yankees get a top 100 prospect in return for him? No. Would the Yankees get a good prospect in return for him? Probably not, unless they included some money in the deal. But here are two reasons why this really should happen... 1. I'd love to bring back Todd Frazier (more on him later), and 2. it'll make room for Gleyber Torres.

Starlin Castro - If Cashman can not find a taker for Chase Headley, then this is the next place he should look. The reason I'd move Headley first is because Castro is a slightly better hitter, and Starlin will make about $2 million less than Chase next season (not to mention he's on a team-friendly deal for 2019 as well). Either way I'd be happy to see either man go, though. Castro's defensive woes and poor at bats during the postseason drove me and many other Yankees fans crazy. The big downside to trading Castro instead of Headley would be that Todd Frazier wouldn't have a spot on the team. But having a spot for Gleyber Torres should be the main goal.

Before I wrap this up I should mention Aaron Hicks.

I believe Hicks has earned the right to play regularly. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen with the Yankees unless both Gardner and Ellsbury were traded away (don't count on that). But I'm not broken up about that. Yes, Aaron's batting line of .266/.372/.475 with 15 home runs (in only 301 at bats, mind you) was very good, but I can't ignore how bad he was the previous four seasons. Could those years have just been growing pains? Absolutely they could have, and the Hicks we saw last year (at age 27) was the real one. But the development of Clint Frazier takes precedence over Aaron's playing time. Besides, there's a good chance that the DH spot will be a revolving door next year, meaning Hicks will still get plenty of playing time. And sadly injuries will happen.

And some of those injuries are sadder than others.

I know what I want to see happen, and chances are I'm going to let you know about all of that relatively soon, but I'd like to hear what you guys think.

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions...

Credit:  Wally Skalij -- LA Times
2017 World Series
Astros 5, Dodgers 1...
Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it's not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge's post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier - LA Times
This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.  

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them...first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston's George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger's throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game's first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.  

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game's key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game's critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word "run" when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros' early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij - LA Times
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers' night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn't go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve's head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij - LA Times
After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder's choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij - LA Times
Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.  

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center...a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn't move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco - LA Times
I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran's career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.  

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America
George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG
For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.  

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends...

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he'll opt out of his contract. So, we'll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post
It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo's former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long's contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I'd like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he'd be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don't buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they'll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we'll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports
Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

So it Seems… Happy Birthday to Me!

Good morning everyone. I know it’s been a while since we last spoke, and for that I once again apologize, but life is just crazy right now. Life is crazy, work is even crazier and I just needed a day to myself. Today. Today is my birthday and against my better judgement I took the day off to recharge the batteries. I’ll pay for it when I return to work but I’ll worry about that when I get back. So Happy Birthday to me, the big 32, and thank you for all your continued support of me, the blog and the team we all share a love for.

Have a great day everyone. Especially you my lovely wife who took the day off with me to spend with me on my birthday. You’re the best and I loves you, because loves is plural and is so much more than just love. 

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/2: A Legend is Born!

On this day in 1985 a great Yankees fan Daniel Burch was born in Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx, New York. He would go on to co-own and create the "greatest Yankees blog ever" in his own very humble and biased opinion. Hey it was a slow day in New York Yankees history, sue me.

Also on this day in 1964 the Columbia Broadcasting System becomes the first corporate owner of a Major League Baseball team when they bought 80% of the New York Yankees. Dan Topping and Del Webb sold the stake in the Yankees for a staggering $11.2 million at the time. The Yankees would reward CBS with a sixth place finish in the American League and a second place finish in the American League East in their first year of ownership with a 77-85 record.