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. 


  1. No way I take Bradley over Frazier.
    Tanaka's post season games this year was a monsoon in one and an umpire against the Yankees in his second game.The walk on a pitch that could go either way was terrible because the runner was out easily at 2B and then Tanaka upset left one Kiemaier. Yes he had trouble but pitchers pitch off emotion and if he had gotten out of that inning with that play maybe all the other innings change.
    We had Lynn once and he was horrible, not a NY pitcher and it showed.I would tray and package a Hicks , Wade and Loaisiga for a top reliever.
    When you talk about Sanchez 2019 being a good season he was horrible after the All Star Break in 2019.
    Though I think Sanchez could be traded but he also could fetch a good deal.

    1. You wouldn't take one of the best pure hitters in baseball to add to a lineup that features way too many low average/high power hitters? Okay. Besides, I said I really liked Frazier, but out of possible moves, Clint for a starter works best. He's under team control for 5 more years, still only 25, showed improved defense this year, and matured. That kind of guy gets you a #2 starter.

      BTW, I'm perfectly fine with those that don't want Lynn. But still... Frazier for a starter is the best move.

      Frame it however you want, Tanaka gave up 11 runs in 8 innings. Sure, the rain delay hurt, but he still pitched bad. Oh, and not blaming officials for losses or poor performance is weak.

      While Gary had a bad July in 2019, in August and September of that year he hit .242/.364/.576. I wouldn't call that "horrible" at all.

      I gotta say... I laugh when people talk shit about a player then turn around and talk about trading him. As if those involved with the Yankees are the only ones that watch a guy play, or can watch video of the guy play. Basically, if you think he stinks, so do other teams. Therefore expecting a good return in a trade is ridiculous.


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)