All posts by JP Hadley

Steinbrenner: Machado’s Hustle Comments “Troubling”

“Because that ain’t gonna sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen no matter who it is.”

It seems Manny Machado would have some explaining to do if he were to become a Yankee. The team’s managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that the infielder’s comments about his style of play were “troubling” and would require an explanation.

“If it’s a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling,” Steinbrenner told a small group of reporters. “But that’s really [general manager Brian Cashman’s] job. If we’re interested in any player, sit down with him face to face and ask him, ‘Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?’ Because that ain’t gonna sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen no matter who it is.”

The comments in question, of course, come from the Oct. 16 interview Machado gave to Ken Rosenthal where the 26-year-old said his style of play did not include hustling 100% on every play.

“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am,” Machado said. “Should I have given it a little more effort? One hundred percent. (It’s) my fault like always, I mean that’s just my mentality when I’m in the game. (There are) things that you learn, things that you gotta change. I’ve tried changing it for eight years and I still can’t figure it out but, one of these days I will.”

Machado’s comments combined with a .670 OPS in the playoffs left the star shortstop at a disadvantage heading into free agency for the first time in his career. Players with his talent and youth don’t hit the market often, and he should still cash in with a big contract. But, there will always be questions about his effort and reputation as a “dirty player,” to use the words of Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.

The Yankees have an obvious hole at shortstop now with Didi Gregorius slated to miss the first half of 2019 at the very least. They could stand to upgrade defensively at third base with Miguel Andújar‘s -15.5 defensive WAR coming in at seventh-worst in all of baseball for 2018. The Yankees have been doing their due diligence on Machado, but have to be weighing whether the signing is worth the inevitable media circus that will come with it.

The very “Yankees” thing to do would be to fill Gregorius’s spot with the best (and most expensive) option. I see them making a serious run at Machado, being careful to avoid a bidding war and albatross contract like Jacoby Ellsbury‘s. C’mon, guys who average 128 wRC+ over their last three seasons don’t just grow on trees.

Ohtani Tops Andújar, Torres for AL Rookie of the Year

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America delivered their verdict for AL Rookie of the Year, selecting pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani over Yankees 3B Miguel Andújar and SS/2B Gleyber Torres.

Ohtani won 25 out of 30 first-place votes in what ended up being a surprising landslide decision. Andújar received the remaining five first-place votes, 20 for second-place and four third-place votes. Torres received just three second-place votes and 16 third-place votes.

Working around a few disabled list stints, Ohtani turned in an impressive .285/.361/.564 (152 wRC+) hitting line that was bolstered by 51⅔ innings of 3.31 ERA pitching. The 24-year-old will only hit next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right arm.

Andújar’s rookie season was a bit of surprise to a fan base salivating for the debut of Torres. He hit .297/.328/.527 (128 wRC+) after beginning the season in Triple-A. He ended up playing in 149 of the team’s 162 games, and finished behind just Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton with 21.3 batting runs (offensive component of WAR). The defense, however, was a whole different issue. He was credited with a -15.5 defense WAR rating, which plummeted his overall value to just 2.7 fWAR.

Torres played in 123 of the Yankees games in 2018, hitting .271/.340/.480 (120 wRC+). He injected some youthful energy into the team, even though that sometimes led to poor baserunning and defensive lapses. But, he demonstrated that he will easily grow into one of the best middle infielders in the MLB with more experience.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. beat out finalists OF Juan Soto (Nationals) and RHP Walker Buehler (Dodgers) to win the National League Rookie of the Year.

Keuchel: “I Like Pitching at Yankee Stadium”

The lefty could fit in quite well in the Bronx next year.

Current free agent and former Houston Astros lefty starter Dallas Keuchel expressed clear interest in ditching his trademark beard and putting on the pinstripes in a recent interview broadcasted on Fox Business Network.

The 30-year-old mentioned he’d “happily shave this beard off” for “the right opportunity”. That could come with the Yankees, who have a need for a quality lefty starter heading into 2019. The two-time All-Star and reigning Gold Glove winner owns a 3-2 record and 2.45 career ERA in five Yankee Stadium starts. That doesn’t include a career 2.04 ERA mark against the Yankees in the postseason.

“Everyone’s in play right now,” Keuchel said while promoting a company that makes disposable liners for hats and helmets. “The lure of the city would be really cool. I like pitching in Yankee Stadium.”

Coming off a career year in 2017, Keuchel experienced some regression in 2018. His ERA jumped by 84 points from 2.90 to 3.74, but the lefty put up a career-high 34 starts. Unlike last year, the lefty avoided the disabled list after two stints because of various neck issues in 2017.

Looking at the Steamer projections for 2019, I’d have to think the Yankees would love the 190.0 innings of 3.69 ERA that Keuchel is projected for. That would mark a significant drop in innings from 2018, though the projection is skewed because of previous seasons with a smaller workload. Keuchel relies on 5 pitches: Sinker (41.1%), Slider (18.4%), Cutter (15.5%), Changeup (12.8%), Four Seamer (12.2%).

Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. MLB Trade Rumors ranked Keuchel as their No. 4 free agent this offseason, and predicted he will sign a 4-year, $82 million deal with the Washington Nationals.

Yankees Re-Sign Díaz, Urshela to MiLB Deals

The Yankees have re-signed minor-league catcher Francisco Díaz and infielder Gio Urshela to another round of minor league deals. That information was compiled by Matt Eddy at Baseball America.

Díaz, 28, is a switch-hitter from Punta Cardon, Venezuela, who played in 74 games for the Yankees from High-A all the way to Triple-A. Across those levels, he hit .275/.381/.333 with one homer and 28 RBIs in 74 games. Díaz played at least 19 games at each of those levels, as he moved around the minor-league ranks as a depth player. He’s playing winter ball in Venezuela, batting .275/.367/.275 in 16 games for the Bravos de Margarita.

Urshela came to the Yankee organization August 4, 2018, in a cash trade from Toronto. He went straight to the RailRiders, and hit .307/.340/.475 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 27 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He played mostly shortstop and third base for the RailRiders, though he also made one start at second base. It seems the 27-year-old is also picking up a first baseman’s glove, having recorded five starts there for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. He’s hitting .242/.242/.485 so far in nine Dominican Winter League games.

These two join catcher Ryan Lavarnway as the players who have already signed minor league deals with invites to Major League Spring Training.

Infield Rumors: Harrison, Profar

The Yankees are looking for versatility in their search for an infielder.

Didi Gregorius is set to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery on his right arm. It sucks. It seems likely the Yankees will find a player who can man either shortstop or second base and then transition into a bench role once Gregorius becomes healthy. They’ve been connected to two such players so far: one a free agent, and the other seemingly available via trade.
  • For, like, the millionth time, the Yankees have checked in on former Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Josh Harrison, reports Jon Heyman. They’ve been connected to Harrison during every conceivable offseason and Trade Deadline. Harrison got bought out of his $10.5 million club option for $1 million and became a free agent. He had a brutal offensive season in 2018, batting .250/.293/.363 (78 wRC+) with a career-high 18.2% strikeout rate. His calling card has always been defensive versatility, but he didn’t make a single start at a position other than second base in 2018. But, he’s just one year removed from a 104 wRC+ season and, at 31, likely still has the athleticism required to play second, third and the corner outfield spots. His only recent injury history is a fractured metacarpal bone in his left hand that caused him to miss time from September 3, 2017 until May 20, 2018. I could see the Yankees signing him to a contract like the one Neil Walker signed.
  • After checking in last offseason, the Yankees are back in contact with the Texas Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar. Joel Sherman reported the Yankees attempted to swap Sonny Gray for Profar, but the Rangers wanted more because Profar has an extra year of team control compared to Gray. Profar was a can’t-miss prospect who… missed. He has turned into a valuable role player, however, hitting .254/.335/.458 (104 wRC+) while making at least 10 appearances at each infield position. He’s also turned in a few innings of left field, and was a +4.0 BsR baserunner. The Yankees will likely create a package around Gray if they attempt to pry Profar loose from Texas. Profar is under arbitration for two more seasons (projected at $3.4 million this offseason) before becoming a free agent in 2021, and those are the type of players that are expensive in trade negotiations.

Gary Sánchez to Undergo Left Shoulder Surgery

This might explain Sánchez’s brutal 2018 at the plate.

Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez is set to undergo a left shoulder debridement operation, and will miss three months to recover. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day. The shoulder injury apparently has been bothering Sánchez since 2017.

Brian Cashman made the announcement to reporters from the GM Meetings taking place in Carlsbad, California. The surgery will take place sometime this week, and will consist of team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad removing damaged tissue from Sánchez’s left AC joint.

Cashman noted that he would be comfortable with Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka catching in case of a setback to Sánchez. The team also picked up veteran Ryan Lavarnway on a minor-league deal and will likely sign more catchers to similar deals.

“It may very well be something that affected him performance-wise,” Cashman said. “I can’t rule that out. Now is the time to take care of it.”

Sánchez had a terrible 2018, hitting just .186/.291/.406 (89 wRC+). He saw his infield fly ball rate and soft contact rate increase. This injury could explain the significant difference in his quality of contact. It’s admirable that he tried to play through the injury, but it’s better for the 2019 team that he shows up in the healthiest condition possible.

Aaron Judge had surgery on his left shoulder last offseason, and showed now ill effects during the 2018 season. Now, it’s Gary Sánchez‘s turn to power through a procedure like this and get back to his MVP candidate form from 2017.

Yankees Sign Ryan Lavarnway to MiLB Deal

The 31-year-old veteran will serve as upper-level catching depth.

The Yankees added veteran catching depth to their ranks Wednesday, reportedly inking 31-year-old Ryan Lavarnway to a minor league contract. That deal also carries an invite to MLB Spring Training, as well as a likely ticket to playing time with the Triple-A SWB RailRiders.

Lavarnway has always been a part-time big-leaguer, appearing in a career-high 46 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2012. He’s also played for the Baltimore Orioles (2015), Atlanta Braves (2015–2016), Oakland Athletics (2017) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2018). He is a career .208/.268/.326 (59 wRC+) hitter with seven home runs and 43 RBI.

In 2018, he hit .288/.375/.485 (145 wRC+) for Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates organization. He went 4-for-6 in a six-game cameo with Pittsburgh as a September call-up.

Just like the Erik Kratz trade and subsequent signing last year, Lavarnway is around to provide a veteran presence in Spring Training and help shoulder the workload in Triple-A. The Yankees upper-level catching depth is thin with Wilkin Castillo and Francisco Díaz both set to become minor-league free agents.

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