It’s disappointing to be writing about the offseason while the World Series rages on between two non-Yankee squads. A few Yankees-related news pieces have bubbled up on the periphery of the Fall Classic:
Bird Returns to Game Action in Dominican Republic
After yet another lost season, Yankees first baseman Greg Bird finally returned to the diamond for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.
Bird’s time in the Dominican Republic represents his first consistent game action since April 13. The Yankees placed Bird on the injured list with a left plantar fascia tear three days later and he would not suit up again for New York. He posted a feeble .171/.293/.257 (54 wRC+) line with a single homer and a 39% strikeout rate in his 10 games.
Bird’s return is significant since the Yankees first base job is yet again unsettled heading into 2020. DJ LeMahieu received the bulk of the playing time there in the postseason while Luke Voit sat out the entirety of the playoffs. The Yankees also seem destined to decline Edwin Encarnación‘s option for 2020, choosing to buy him out at $5 million rather than excercising it at $20 million.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Bird to get a modest raise to $1.3 million, and it’s safe to assume that Bird’s showing for the Gigantes could determine whether he is tendered a contract for next year. It seems the .261/.343/.529 (137 wRC+) version of Bird from 2015 may never return.
Martino: Yankees Will Pursue Cole
It felt like all Andy Martino did last offseason was throw cold water on the desires of fans to sign any and all high-quality free agents. That’s why I find it particularly interesting that he has already reported that the Yankees will engage with Astros ace Gerrit Cole as he hits the free agent market.
The prelude to Cole’s free agency is lining up just like that of the last ace the Yankees pursued so many years ago:
“But even though the Yanks will surely speak with Scott Boras about Cole, and maybe even bid for the pitcher, observers see several obstacles. For one, it’s not yet clear what the team’s luxury tax guidelines will be.
It’s also long been the assumption in the industry that Cole, a California native, will favor a West Coast team. That tempers the hopefulness of any eastern powerhouse hoping to land him.
But the prediction here is that Cole will not want to limit his market, and that he or Boras will soon downplay any notion of a regional preference.”Andy Martino, SNY
There’s obviously a lot to like about Cole, and the Yankees have been essentially left at the altar twice by the 29-year-old. Despite growing up a Yankees fan, he spurned the Bombers when they took him 28th overall in the 2008 draft. According to the New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner, the team planned to offer him a $4 million over-slot signing bonus.
The Yankees then attempted to trade for Cole before the 2018 season, but the Pirates (not known for being great at trades) refused to accept a package that didn’t include Miguel Andújar. Cole was traded to Houston for a four-player package and the rest is history.
Martino also noted in the same piece that the Yankees are extremely unlikely to pursue Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon when he hits the market. The plan at third for the Yankees appears to be a competition between Andújar and Gio Urshela.
Hicks Out 8-10 Months With Elbow Surgery
It was just a few days ago that Aaron Hicks told reporters that his plan was to avoid reconstructive elbow surgery after working his way back from a right elbow flexor strain in time to return for the American League Championship Series.
That hope will not match the reality as Hicks will go under the knife to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow Oct. 30. The procedure will be performed by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
The surgery follows the recommendation that Hicks recieved from Dr. ElAttrache, whom the Yankees enlisted to provide a second opinion after Hicks was unable to start a throwing program.
“[Hicks] played a great force in the postseason, but once it ended [for us], there was the feeling of, ‘There’s something here that’s still not right,’” Cashman said at the postmortem press conference, per Bryan Hoch. “The follow-up doctor exam led to the ultimate decision that we’ve got to get this thing fixed or it’s just going to blow in February, March or April.”
It was a rather heroic return for Hicks in the ALCS, as he clubbed a three-run home run against Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the series that forced it back to Houston. In 17 postseason plate appearances, Hicks hit .154/.353/.385 (104 wRC+) with that big home run and a 23.5% walk rate.
Rothschild Connected to Phillies
An interesting note from Thursday’s press conferences is that the team has not decided whether the entire coaching staff will return for the 2020 season. Of course, an interesting coincidence is that the Philadelphia Phillies just hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former national scouting crosschecker Brian Barber to be their director of amateur scouting.
That made a tweet from Jim Salisbury, a reporter for the local NBC affiliate, all the more interesting when he mentioned two possible pitching coaches for Girardi in The City of Brotherly Love. The less interesting candidate is Dave Eiland, who coached with Girardi in New York from 2008 to 2010.
Salisbury also mentioned current Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild as a possible fit with the Phillies despite having another year under contract with the Yankees. There’s definitely a significant portion of the fanbase that would love to see Rothschild head down I-95 to join Girardi. It remains to be seen which direction the Yankees will go with their coaching for 2020.
Tanaka & Voit Undergo Surgeries; Will Be Ready for Spring
Two players who will be important pieces of the 2020 Yankees underwent surgical procedures and are expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Masahiro Tanaka had an arthroscopic procedure on his right elbow to remove bone spurs. Brian Cashman told reporters that it wasn’t an injury that Tanaka had been managing throughout the year and that everything was “status quo” with his partially-torn UCL.
Luke Voit had a procedure to repair the core muscle injuries that sent him to the injured list twice. I would imagine the surgery repaired the sports hernia that forced him to miss time. It seems obvious why he was left off the ALCS roster since he struggled down the stretch and might have been managing pain.