The 2019 season came to an exciting and last night with the Washington Nationals taking the World Series from the Houston Astros. The offseason began this morning at 9 a.m., with teams now having 72 hours to make option decisions and five days of exclusive negotiations with their own free agents.
Here’s the Yankees news so far from the first two days:
Chapman Will Opt Out Without Extension
As has been widely expected, closer Aroldis Chapman will opt out of the two years and $34.4 million remaining on his contract should he be unable to reach an extension with the Yankees, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports.
Like the tweet says, the 31-year-old would prefer to remain in the Bronx. The Yankees would give Chapman a qualifying offer should no extension be reached, and that’s something he’d almost certainly decline as it offers a modest $600K raise.
Chapman had another strong year and showed himself to be a different pitcher than in the past. He became a true two-pitch pitcher with increased slider usage. He finished with 37 saves in 42 chances and a 2.21 ERA (2.28 FIP). He was named 2019 American League Reliever of the Year.
Cole Refutes Assertion He’ll Only Play on West Coast
“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
The idea that Cole would only play on the West Coast has long dominated the opinions of those estimating the Yankees chances at acquiring the pitcher.
In comments to the Houston Chronicle, Cole fulfilled the second paragraph of Martino’s article almost like it was some kind of prophecy:
“Cole also refuted the assumption that he would prefer to play for a West Coast team. Before the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, Astros outfielder Josh Reddick had mentioned that Cole, a Southern California native, ‘probably wants to be closer to home,’ and ‘it’s definitely going to be west of Nevada.’
‘No, that’s not a fair assumption,’ Cole said Thursday. ‘I never said that.'”Hunter Atkins, Houston Chronicle
That could be Boras-instructed negotiating leverage in order to keep his options open. Teams like the Yankees and Phillies would obviously love to be in the hunt for Cole and not excluded for reasons of geography.
Yankees Decline Encarnación’s Option
The Yankees had a $15 million decision to make on Edwin Encarnacion for next season, and the team declined his 2020 option as most expected them to do.
Acquired midseason for minor-league pitcher Juan Then, the veteran slugger provided the Yankees with 44 games of .249/.325/.531 (121 wRC+) production with 13 home runs. Encarnación missed most of August with a right wrist fracture, and then suffered a left oblique strain in late September that made him questionable for the postseason.
On the subject of “questionable” and “postseason,” that pretty much sums up how Encarnación performed in eight games. He slashed a weak .161/.278/.258 (48 wRC+) with no homers and a brutal 36.1% strikeout rate.
It seemed obvious the Yankees were not going to pay Encarnación $20 million next year, and his postseason performance essentially confirmed that. I do not expect the Yankees to extend him a qualifying offer.
Hicks’ Elbow Surgery Goes “As Expected”
In the same tweet where the team announced Encarnación’s departure to free agency, the Yankees also announced that center-fielder Aaron Hicks underwent elbow reconstruction surgery Wednesday morning.
The surgery took place in Los Angeles and was performed by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Hicks had posted a picture of him in his hospital bed yesterday thanking supporters “for all the prayers and support”.
The Yankees expect Hicks will need 8 to 10 months to fully recover from the procedure. In the first year of his 7-year, $70 million extension, Hicks played just 59 games and slashed .235/.325/.443 (102 wRC+) with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.
He, of course, famously told reporters he expected to be ready for the second series of the regular season after being diagnosed with chronic back problems in Spring Training. In reality, he would miss 42 games and return May 13.
Japanese Slugger Tsutsugo Attended ALCS at Yankee Stadium
File this under a Thing To Watch: soon-to-be-posted Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo attended “a couple ALCS games,” per NJ Advance Media’s Randy J. Miller, at Yankee Stadium this October as he prepares to be posted by the Yokohama Bay Stars.
Tsutsugo, a 27-year-old whose defensive homes have been mostly left field and first base, slashed an impressive .272/.388/.511 with 29 home runs for the Bay Stars in what one might consider a down year for him. He has not hit fewer than 28 home runs in a season since 2014, and has always had an on-base percentage that hovers around .400.
With the Yankees having question marks at first base and at-bats available in left field, Tsutsugo presents an interesting combination of on-base ability and power that could uniquely benefit the Yankees. They have not yet been connected to Tsutsugo by any reporters, though that could change as the Nov. 1 posting date approaches.