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.
The Yankees made manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman available today for their postmortem press conference. Here are the most important storylines:
- Didi Gregorius tore his right ulnar collateral ligament during one of the first two games of the American League Division Series in Boston, and played through the injury for the rest of the series. A recent MRI determined the tear was bad enough to force the shortstop to undergo Tommy John surgery. Cashman told reporters that Gregorius had an “asymptomatic” partial tear of the ligament that came up in his December 2014 physical that was part of his trade from Arizona to New York. “Is it bring him back in June, July, August? I think all depends on how things play out,” Cashman said. “I’d rather not put a timeframe on it. We do expect to get him back, and we do expect to return to the player that obviously we’ve been enjoying for quite some time.” Cashman also said that Gleyber Torres was the “best internal option” to start the season at shortstop, though the Yankees will undoubtedly check in on free agent Manny Machado. Gregorius also tore cartilage in his right wrist on a head-first slide, and missed time with a bruised heel suffered August 19 against Toronto. He has batted .274./.319/.447 with 81 home runs and 299 RBIs in 2,314 plate appearances since debuting for the Yankees in 2015 – all with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
- Sonny Gray will almost certainly begin the 2019 season in a different uniform, as Cashman said the Yankees will “enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation”. Gray was awful for the Yanks at home in 2018, pitching to a 6.98 ERA in 15 home games compared to 3.17 in 15 games away from the Bronx. “Someone, if they trade for him, is going to get the player that we wanted,” Cashman said. “If and when that happens, I fully expect that. But it just hasn’t worked out here.”
- CC Sabathia had another operation on his balky right knee, just like the clean-out he had after last season. “He’s had an amazing career that has a chance to continue — whether it’s gonna be for us or not,” Cashman said. Sabathia owns a 129-80 record and 3.74 ERA in 284 starts for the Yankees since he first signed with the team in 2009.
- Unprompted, Cashman said he has “no regrets” on swinging a trade for 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. “We got one of the better players in the game from the offensive standpoint, period, we didn’t shy away from the opportunity of acquiring him,” the GM said. Stanton hit .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs but also hit just .213/.306/.436 with five homers in September, and had a tough postseason slashing .238/.273/.381 against Oakland and Boston.
A note unrelated to today’s press conference: the Texas Rangers interviewed ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi for their managerial opening today. He managed the Yanks to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017 and spent 2018 working as an analyst for MLB Network.
The offseason news cycle is starting to get underway for the Yankees after their disappointing ouster from the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. The 2018–19 offseason is one that Yankee fans have been anticipating for years, as many expect the team to spend exorbitantly now that they’ve reset their competitive balance tax penalties. A lot of times, stories from the offseason only contain a few sentences of actual news, and I will compile them into posts whenever there’s enough news to put together.
- Jon Heyman of Fancred has already linked the Yankees to one free agent who would definitely help bolster the starting rotation: Diamondbacks’ lefty Patrick Corbin. Corbin grew up in Clay, New York, and told Bob Nightengale that he “grew up a Yankee fan” and said “It would have been cool” to be traded to New York last offseason. The lefty was third among qualified National League starters with 6.3 fWAR, paired with a 11-7 record and 3.15 ERA (2.47 FIP). He was sixth in the NL with a 48.5% ground-ball percentage, and was 11th best at limiting home runs (11.1% HR/FB rate – Chase Field helps too). Both numbers would be top-10 in the American League. At 29, he seems likely to get a contract somewhere in the 3-5 year length.
- If you wanted to see Larry Rothschild or Marcus Thames fired, you’re out of luck. George A. King III of the New York Post broke one of the stories likely to be addressed during tomorrow’s postmortem news conference when he tweeted that all Yankees coaches will be back in 2019. Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman will definitely be asked about the coaching staff as a whole, but King’s report makes it clear the Yanks want to keep this corps together.
- Uh, Scott Boras really has a way with words. He seemed to imply that Bryce Harper could still fit with the Yankees despite Giancarlo Stanton‘s gargantuan contract already on the team’s payroll. “A Bronx opera … The Three Tenors … Hal’s genius, vision,” Boras wrote in an email to The Athletic. “Alone the three were stars … now a galaxy of international popularity.” That would seem to imply a lineup that includes Harper, Aaron Judge and Stanton arranged in some way. That would be something. Boras clarified to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that he “didn’t say specific players,” but his implications were pretty clear.
- The Luis Severino news continues to get weirder. Another Jon Heyman report quoted an unnamed “Yankees person” as saying “The Red Sox had his pitches” in his ill-fated start in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Severino only made it one batter into the fourth, and a viral tweet shows Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts correctly predicting a fastball in the second inning. Before his Wild Card start, Pedro Martínez said Severino told him he pitched hurt in the second half. Severino denied it. The righty also got some less-than-great publicity when Ron Darling of TBS essentially accused Severino and the Yankees of not knowing the proper start time for the game, and accused him of only starting to warm up eight minutes before the scheduled time. Severino and the Yankees denied that.
There will probably be another one of these posted tomorrow with the information from tomorrow’s news conference with Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. That’s at noon Eastern and will also be aired on the YES Network.
Could we have a second consecutive summer where Brian Cashman swings a reunion trade?
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday that the Yankees were one of many teams in attendance scouting right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who dominated the Mets through seven innings of one-hit ball. The 28-year-old racked up nine strikeouts without a walk.
Of course, Eovaldi had shown flashes of that talent in his 51 games in pinstripes. He went 23-11 with a 4.45 ERA in that time, but the results never seemed to match his stuff. Disaster struck in August 2016, when it was revealed that Eovaldi had a torn flexor tendon and partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.The Rays signed him as a reclamation project, giving him a one-year deal worth $2 million that also had a matching club option for $2 million. He rehabbed throughout 2017, and returned to pitch six no-hit innings in his return from the 60-day disabled list in 2018.
Eovaldi is a rental starter who could be had for much cheaper then someone under years of control. The Yankees have been known to target young starters who are cost controlled so that they can spend big money elsewhere. That would not be the case here but an acquisition of Eovaldi would be akin to the Jaime García trade of 2017. That trade was intended to add depth so that the younger pitchers on the staff could limit their innings.
On the J.A. Happ front, it seems the Yankees’ bludgeoning of the veteran lefty has led to a dispute between the Blue Jays and Yankees about his value. Buster Olney of ESPN reports the teams are having “continued conversations” about Happ, but they are “haggling over the price tag”.
Olney thinks the best course of action for the Yankees is to wait out the Blue Jays and the rest of the trade market to see if any better starting pitchers become available. I agree with Buster here, since Happ really doesn’t seem like the type of arm to be a difference-maker in a playoff series.
Now, I could understand this kind of trade if it would be a García-like maneuver. But Happ can’t be the guy they put all their trust in to deliver in the postseason.
No Yankees baseball again (today was a scheduled off-day), so here are a few notes I’ve gathered throughout today:
- The Yanks didn’t have the best accommodations Wednesday night as they attempted to escape the rain in Washington. According to Newsday’s Erik Boland, the team was forced to sleep overnight inside Dulles Airport outside the capital because of flight delays and hotels being overfilled. “It was an unfortunate set of circumstances,” GM Brian Cashman said late Wednesday afternoon, per Boland.
- Outfielder Estevan Florial, the team’s No. 2 prospect, was lifted from Class-A Advanced Tampa’s contest against the Dunedin Blue Jays with “right wrist soreness”. The 20-year-old had a 32-game on-base streak snapped as he was lifted after going 0-for-2. “I noticed in his first at-bat he had some funky-looking swings,” manager Patrick Osborn said. “And then in his second at-bat, he had another one that resembled those ones from the first. I figured something must be bothering him, so I made the switch to take him out, and later, we got word from the trainer that was working on him that it was soreness in the right wrist.” No further word from the Tarpons at this point regarding the severity of the injury. Florial is slashing .246/.353/.343 through 36 games with Tampa this season.
- Clint Frazier will stay with the big league club for the upcoming three-game series with the Kansas City Royals, with Aaron Boone stating that the outfielder will be a part of the team’s roster puzzle “for now”. With all of the recent rainouts, the bullpen has been extremely rested. That has allowed the team to put Domingo Germán into the bullpen until his scheduled start Tuesday, therefore allowing Frazier to be a fourth bat on the bench.
- The team’s top pitching prospect, lefty Justus Sheffield, has a return date in place after being placed on the 7-day disabled list with left shoulder stiffness May 12. The Yanks’ No. 3 overall prospect will return to the rotation May 23, starting against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Sheffield has a 2.16 ERA in two starts since being promoted to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
- Former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira joined Michael Kay on The Michael Kay Show earlier this afternoon, and had plenty to say regarding the aftermath of former teammate Robinson Canó‘s 80-game suspension for Furosemide. The drug is banned under the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program because it is a diuretic that can be used to mask performance-enhancing drugs. “I don’t really want to get into too much detail, I love Robbie, but I’m not surprised,” Teixeira said. “I don’t want to get too much further but I think a lot of people are trying to say the same thing. (Yankees GM Brian) Cash(man) had to catch himself in an interview a couple days ago, but yeah, not surprised.” Canó is not the only former teammate of Teixeira’s to be punished for PEDs, since the three-time All-Star also shared a roster with Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez. The influence of those two players may have pushed Canó down the path to using performance-enhancing drugs, Teixiera argued in his segment. “Listen, Robbie, look at his situation here: Robbie Cano’s assistant was on the list for Biogenesis. Of course, he has an assistant, you know, buys stuff for him. Alex Rodriguez got popped by Biogenesis. Melky (Cabrera) got popped. They’re best friends,” he said. “When someone gets lumped into that group, it’s because there’s evidence. There’s a paper trail. There’s a smoke trail.” He went on to say that many of his former teammates were able to get away with it, and even went on to say that some of them are already in the Hall of Fame.
Giancarlo Stanton is officially a Yankee, and put on the pinstripes for the first time in front of the media at a press conference from the Winter Meetings in Florida. It’s crazy, and completely unexpected, to have a player with the pedigree of Stanton in pinstripes. A lot was said, and I have some thoughts following up on the introduction of the Yankees’ newest slugger.
- I did not realize how unhappy Giancarlo was in Miami. From his Instagram post before the press conference to comments made at the conference, this “breakup” between Stanton and the Marlins was long overdue. Stanton cited the lack of direction in the Marlins organization while at the lectern. He said he was “very excited to be a part of the Yankees, and this winning environment and culture.” Stanton really did not hold back in his criticisms of his former team. He also did not seem to have much of a filter in speaking with the media. It will be important for him to be honest with reporters, but hopefully he will steer clear of trashing or insulting other teams or players.
- In a breakout session after the formal press conference, Stanton’s agent Joel Wolfe said the 28-year-old has “no desire to opt-out” of his contract after the 2020 season. This seems to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. As written, Stanton is under contract until 2027 at the earliest, with a $25 million team option ($10 million buyout) for the 2028 season. Stanton would be 37 years old by 2027, and in a perfect world, would still be a productive designated hitter for the Yankees. But, as was the case with Alex Rodriguez, players will decay over time. I think it’s premature to talk about Stanton opting out when he hasn’t even gotten in a full Yankee uniform. Should we reevaluate the opt-out next season? Probably. Now? Not necessary.
- I still have some questions about how Stanton, Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner all fit into the same starting lineup. Luckily, Stanton expressed today that he was willing to move around in the field in order to help the team. He told a panel on the YES Network that he would be willing to play left field, where he has not played since five starts there in 2010 with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns. Stanton certainly has the athleticism to tackle left field, and will likely get looks there along with Judge during Spring Training.
- Starlin Castro might just be the unluckiest player in baseball. He gets traded out of Chicago right before they win the World Series, and then gets shipped out of New York as part of the transaction that turns them into a huge juggernaut. Castro likely never dons a Miami Marlins uniform, but rather will be flipped to another team that needs a quality middle infielder. Castro was an All-Star in 2017, and has experience at both shortstop and second base.
- Hal Steinbrenner said that the Yankees are not done making moves this offseason. But, I don’t expect them to make any moves near the magnitude of this trade. They are looking to shed a little bit more payroll by trading veterans Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley. Headley is an easier sell, given that he is a free agent after the season and owed just $13 million. The Yankees would have to eat substantial money to trade Ellsbury and his albatross contract. Plus, Ellsbury has a full no-trade clause in his deal, just like Stanton. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Ellsbury is “unlikely” to waive that no-trade clause. There are also rumors that the Yankees are seeing what returns they could get for trading promising young outfielder Clint Frazier. Frazier was the Yankees No. 2 prospect until he graduated by breaking the 130 at-bat plateau.
- Brian Cashman would not name a starting second baseman at this point in time. The Yankees will either try to sign a veteran for cheap, or allow one of their Younger players to win the position out of Spring Training. I think some combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade will man the keystone to start the season. Cashman also mentioned Gleyber Torres and Thairo Estrada. Torres is obviously the more attractive choice, but he managed only 96 plate appearances at Triple-A before injuring his elbow. I predict he’ll start the season in Scranton so that the Yankees are sure he’s fully recovered. Plus, the Yankees can gain an extra year of control over Torres if they wait to start his service clock like the Cubs did with Kris Bryant. If Torres debuts like Bryant did, the Yankees will be absolutely ecstatic.
Todd Frazier, one of the key pieces of the Yankees’ 2017 postseason run, expressed his interest in a return to the Bronx in an interview broadcasted on MLB Network Radio.
The 31-year-old came to the Yankees as a piece in the trade that also brought Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to the Bronx ahead of the 2017 Trade Deadline. Frazier solidified defense at third base, and contributed 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 66 games down the stretch. He was, however, a rental player, and became a free agent following the conclusion of the World Series.
Frazier conceivably fits in the Bronx next season, but only on the right deal. A one-year deal with a value around $15 million would let Frazier hold down third base and some designated hitter at-bats in 2018. But, Frazier is likely to be enticed by multi-year deals and a higher annual value from a team looking for power and solid defense.
Embed from Getty Images
Plus, Frazier does not really fit into the Yankees long-term plans. Miguel Andújar (No. 5 NYY, No. 91 MLB) has shown an MLB-ready bat, with defense starting to round into shape. Gleyber Torres (No. 1 NYY, MLB) looks to recover from his elbow surgery last season to claim a spot on the big league roster. Chase Headley, who moved to first base part-way through 2017, is still signed for $13 million in 2018 and showed he can still contribute (1.9 fWAR).
As important as Frazier was, a reunion between him and the Yankees seems unlikely because their third baseman of the future (or his placeholder) is already with the team.
Prospect rankings via MLBpipeline.