Category: News

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.

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, Sabathia Finalizing 1-Year, $8 Million Deal

Sabathia will retire after 2019 as a New York Yankee.

The second-longest tenured Yankee will be back for another round next season, as Joel Sherman (New York Post) and Mark Feinsand (MLB.com) report CC Sabathia has agreed to a 1-year, $8 million deal. This will be Sabathia’s final season pitching, according to a source close to Feinsand.

The deal contains no incentives, and is pending a physical. That physical will take place tomorrow, per the Post’s George A. King III. The lefty is currently appealing a five-game suspension levied for purposely throwing at Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesús Sucre in retaliation for a pitch thrown at Austin Romine‘s head.

In his age-37 season, Sabathia was a solid starter, throwing 153 innings of 3.65 ERA (4.16 FIP) baseball across 29 starts. He saw his strikeouts-per-9 increase while keeping his walks steady, though he allowed slightly more hits per inning. The veteran very likely will return tentatively to the No. 5 spot as the Yankees certainly look to add “multiple” arms, per Brian Cashman.

Since joining the Yankees in 2009, the lefty has gone 129-80 with a 3.74 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 284 starts.

Yusei Kikuchi Posted to MLB by Seibu Lions

The lefty has a 2.57 ERA since 2015.

It’s no secret that the Yankees are pursuing left-handed starting pitchers in an attempt to revamp their starting rotation for the 2019 season. The team has already been connected to Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, but another interesting option has emerged from Japan: 27-year-old Yusei Kikuchi.

The lefty was just posted by his Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Seibu Lions. He is now free to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams under a new posting policy that got rid of the exclusive negotiation period that teams would bid for previously. Instead, teams now pay a percentage of the overall guarantee to the original team that posted the player.

Kikuchi made 23 starts (163⅔ innings) in 2018 around a disabled list stint for left shoulder stiffness. He went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA and 8.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. The ERA was his highest since 2014, when he pitched to a 3.54 ERA in 139⅔ innings.

Reports indicate Kikuchi has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter in the MLB, with a fastball that usually sits between 92 and 94 mph with the occasional pitch around 96 mph. His other pitches are a slider, curveball and change-up.

In 2009, Kikuchi considered bypassing the Japanese amateur draft and signing directly with an MLB team. He reportedly met with the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Mets and Mariners before ultimately deciding to sign a contract with Seibu. He was the Pacific League’s leader in wins and ERA in 2017, and was an NPB All-Star in 2013, 2017 and 2018.

Of course, the Yankees are no strangers to using the posting system to acquire talent from Japan. They signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million deal in January 2014. They signed Hideki Matsui to a three-year, $21 million contract in 2002.

Baseball America Ranks Yankees Top 10 Prospects

Could be a few future Baby Bombers on this list.

The Yankees are using the off-season to plan for 2019 and beyond as they look to contend for their 28 World Series title (and hopefully more) over the next couple of years. Baseball America (subscription required) has unveiled their list of the top 10 prospects in the Yankee system who will help the team bring some more titles to the Bronx.

Here’s the list:

All scouting grades and arrival projections via MLB.com. Asterisk indicates 40-man roster player.

1. LHP Justus Sheffield*
  • Drafted: 2014, 1st (31) – CLE | Traded to NYY in July 2016
  • 2018 stats: 7-6, 2.48 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 (MiLB) | 0-0, 10.12 ERA, 0.0 K/9, 10.1 BB/9 (MLB)
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2018
2. OF Estevan Florial
  • Signed: March 19, 2015 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: .283/.377/.422, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 48 BB, 92 K
  • Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 70 | Arm: 65 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2020
3. RHP Jonathan Loáisiga*
  • Signed: Sept. 13, 2012 – SF | Feb. 2016 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: 6-1, 2.89 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 (MiLB) | 2-0, 5.11 ERA, 12.0 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 (MLB)
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2018
4. OF Everson Pereira
  • Signed: July 2, 2017 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: .263/.322/.389, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 15 BB, 60 K
  • Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2022
5. C Anthony Seigler
  • Drafted: 2018, 1st (23) – NYY
  • 2018 stats: .266/.379/.342, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 14 BB, 12 K
  • Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 45 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2022
6. RHP Mike King
  • Drafted: 2016, 12th (353) – MIA | Traded to NYY in Nov. 2017
  • 2018 stats: 11-5, 1.79 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2019
7. RHP Deivi García
  • Signed: July 2, 2015 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: 5-4, 2.55 ERA, 12.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2021
8. RHP Roansy Contreras
  • Signed: July 2, 2016 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: 0-2, 2.42 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2022
9. OF Antonio Cabello
  • Signed: Dec. 22, 2017 – NYY
  • 2018 stats: .308/.427/.522, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 27 BB, 40 K
  • Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 65 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2022
10. RHP Albert Abreu*
  • Signed: Aug. 5, 2013 – HOU | Traded to NYY in Nov. 2016
  • 2018 stats: 4-6, 5.20 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
  • Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
  • Projected arrival in MLB: 2019

Hot Stove Notes: Gardner, Harper, Machado, Robertson

Our first round of Hot Stove Hot Takes are here.

With the World Series (painfully) behind us, free agency and Hot Stove are both officially underway. As of 9 a.m. yesterday, all players eligible for free agency are officially on the market. Players can only negotiate with their old team until Friday at 5 p.m. before the real madness starts. Teams must also decide whether they will extend the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to those eligible free agents by that same deadline. Those that get offered the qualifying offer will get 10 days (until November 12) to decide whether they will accept or decline. Teams that sign a player who declined the qualifying offer receive compensation in the form of draft picks and/or international bonus pool money from that player’s new team.

It’s been one day, and there’s already some headlines swirling around Yankees Universe:

  • The Yankees have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to determine the fate of Brett Gardner and his club option for the 2019 season. The team will either pay $12.5 million to pick him up for 2019, or decline the option and pay him a $2 million buyout. “I’d love to come back here, man,” Gardner said after the season-ending loss to Boston in the ALDS. “I’ve been here for a long time. My agent [Joe Bick] and I have a great relationship with Cash and the rest of the front office. I’m sure when the time is right, we’ll sit down and talk about that.” The 35-year-old saw his offensive production drop to a .236/.322/.368 (90 wRC+) line but also proved he can still play elite outfield defense. If I had to guess, I think the Yankees decline the option but look to retain Gardner as the team’s fourth outfielder.
  • The Bryce Harper headlines are here, folks. Andy Martino of SNY reported the Yankees are “not expected to pursue free agent Bryce Harper” because “The early feeling is that Harper simply doesn’t fit”. On the surface, that seems to torpedo the offseason plan of backing up a dump-truck for Harper and Manny Machado (more on him to come). But, remember what I wrote above. The Yankees would be clearly tampering if they expressed interest in Harper during the exclusive negotiation period. Also, it would kill the Yankees’ negotiating leverage to come out for Harper this early. This reminds me of how Cashman handled Johnny Damon‘s free agency in 2005: where he claimed Bubba Crosby would start in center field… until he didn’t.
  • Now, to the Manny Machado news. Also from SNY’s Martino, the Yankees are apparently “lukewarm” on the idea of a Machado pursuit. The optics and results of Machado’s postseason apparently “cost him some enthusiasm in the offices at Yankee Stadium,” per the report. I can see how that would be true, especially since Machado clearly cleated multiple first basemen on purpose and was called a “dirty player” by multiple players and analysts throughout the playoffs. As with Harper, this is some early-offseason posturing for a team that’s not even allowed to negotiate with the player in question. With Didi Gregorius slated to miss most of next season, I think the Yankees are going to have significant interest in Machado. But, this is a business based on negotiation and Cashman has to play his cards properly.
  • David Robertson, who officially became a free agent yesterday, wrote a short guest post for MLB Trade Rumors about his decision to represent himself without an agent during his second foray into free agency. Namely, he decided he knew his desires for a contract best and also indicated the decision did not stem from a disagreement with his agent. The whole statement is definitely worth a read.
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