Category: Thoughts

Thoughts Following Giancarlo Stanton’s Introductory Press Conference

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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: “It’d Be Great to Come Back” to Yankees

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.

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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.

Shohei Ohtani’s Agent Gives All 30 MLB Teams Quiz to Test Suitability

Teams looking to land Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani have to do a little bit of homework, as his agent distributed a memo to all 30 Major League Baseball clubs asking them to explain why they would be the best fit for the 23-year-old.

From the Associated Press:

The memo from Nez Balelo, co-head of CAA Baseball, was distributed to all 30 teams by the commissioner’s office late Friday along with materials for the Dec. 1 vote on a new posting agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. If the deal is approved, the 23-year-old is expected to be put up for bid later that day or the following day.

Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.

Each team was asked to provide its answers in both [English and Japanese] as soon as possible. Clubs were told not to include any financial terms of a possible contract.

The Yankees obviously will get this information back to Balelo and Ohtani in short order. They already planned to use former outfielder Hideki Matsui to help recruit Ohtani, as well as current RHP Masahiro Tanaka.

Ohtani has expressed interest in continuing to be a two-way player after he completes his move to the United States. This would, presumably, give an American League team an advantage in signing him since they could give him a proportion of at-bats as the designated hitter. In his five seasons in Japan, Ohtani played 62 games in the outfield, primarily in right field (57 games).

Both corner outfield spots are occupied for the Yankees. Brett Gardner is signed through the end of the 2018 season (with a $12.5 million club option for 2019) in left field. Aaron Judge will be renewed at league minimum, and won’t be eligible for arbitration until the 2020 season in right field, barring an extension. Ohtani has no experience in center field, and Aaron Hicks (who won’t taste free agency until 2020) has already been named the starter there.

That makes Ohtani’s place on the Yankees roster obvious: starting pitcher and designated hitter. If the Yankees are able to get Ohtani, they should continue to pursue a starting pitcher like CC Sabathia. Ohtani is used to pitching once a week in Japan, and a six-man rotation would help ease his transition to pitching once every five days.

The Yankees also do not have an obvious candidate for the everyday designated hitter. Matt Holliday most likely will not return after his .202/.300/.371 line in the second half. Using Ohtani as a DH would be less intensive than playing him in the already-crowded outfield. The team is likely planning to rotate players through the DH spot if Ohtani signs elsewhere.

New York has the second highest amount of available international signing bonus pool money to sign Ohtani at $3.5 million. The Texas Rangers lead them by a slight margin at $3.535 million. Each has had success signing a Japanese player in recent years, with the Rangers signing Yu Darvish and the Yankees inking Tanaka.

Because of his age, Ohtani is considered an amateur and must be signed to a minor league contract. That means he is a cheap commodity with a very high upside. The team that signs him will get control of six major league seasons if they do not agree on an extension.

Across his five seasons in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani is batting .286/.358/.500 with 48 home runs and 166 RBIs. As a pitcher, he has a 42-15 record, 2.52 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate. He is expected to be posted shortly after the Dec. 1 vote by MLB owners to ratify the new posting agreement between MLB and NPB.

Tyler Austin’s Last Stand

At age-26, and ranked as the team’s No. 14 prospect, Tyler Austin may be running out of opportunities in the Bronx.

Austin was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 Amateur Draft, and debuted in 2016 (hitting the first of back-to-back home runs with Aaron Judge). He came up as part of the youth movement that captivated the league once the Yankees decided to become sellers at the deadline. Greg Bird was hurt, Mark Teixeira was retiring and Austin had his best chance to nail down the job.

He seemed primed to compete with the returning Bird for the starting first base job in Spring Training. Disaster struck next. On Feb. 17, 2017, Austin fractured the navicular area of his left foot, and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees then signed veteran Chris Carter to a 1-year deal, and we know how well that turned out.

Austin dropped deep on the first base depth chart while injured. It took the team three weeks to promote him after his rehab assignment ended. His stock dropped so much that Carter and Matt Holliday started over him in those three weeks.

Despite hitting .300 after his rehab assignment ended, Austin struggled to a .154/.200/.385 line in four games before injuring his right hamstring. He missed a month, and found himself back in the minor leagues because the Yankees acquired Garrett Cooper from the Milwaukee Brewers. Cooper himself got hurt in August, and Austin returned.

He homered against Boston’s Chris Sale August 19, which endeared him to Yankees fans again. But, his future became uncertain after the 2017 season ended. The Yankees could have traded him to open an important 40-man roster spot for a younger player. But, they decided to trade Cooper instead. Austin’s defensive versatility and career .361/.432/.722 against left-handed pitching most likely extended his Yankee tenure.

Now, Austin has full control of his own destiny. With games at first base, third base, left field and right field on his résumé, he will be competing with Chase Headley to be a backup corner infielder and right-handed platoon bat. Austin has a better defensive reputation than Headley, and the former can play at more positions. But, Headley is owed $13 million in 2018, and Austin has one more minor league option remaining.

It feels like Austin will have to wow his way onto the Yankees 2018 roster. His spot on the roster will rely on strong defense and good at-bats against left-handers. If he cannot do that, then we will not see much of him in the Bronx

 

Thoughts Following Cashman’s Media Session at the GM Meetings

Brian Cashman gave a press conference to reporters during the annual General Manager meetings today in Florida. He said a lot of things, and I have a lot of thoughts. Let’s get to it:

Gleyber-Mania Fast Approaching?

We could see Gleyber Torres in the Bronx sooner rather than later. Cashman said he was “not denying anybody a chance to make the club and push their way into the mix.”

That definitely puts extra pressure on Chase Headley, who posted a -7 DRS at third base last year before moving to first base upon the arrival of Todd Frazier. Even with an awful May (.165/.211/.235), Headley managed to slash .273/.352/.406 while moving around defensively. He is due to earn $13 million next season.

What also intrigues me here is that Cashman mentions Torres as a third base candidate over Miguel Andújar. Torres has not seen game action since June 17 when he tore his left UCL in a home plate collision. He also only has 15 professional games at third base under his belt.

Andújar, on the other hand, has 541 MiLB appearances at third base on his résumé, and also got a big-league stint as the designated hitter in June 2017 and as a September call-up. Will Yankees look to trade Andújar, or keep him as a depth option? Many aren’t sold on his defense, but his bat is definitely ready.

Outfield Questions

A few days ago, Cashman remarked that Aaron Hicks is expected to be an everyday outfielder for the 2018 Yankees.

This seems to put Jacoby Ellsbury on the chopping block, especially since Jake Cave is now on the 40-man roster. But, Cashman said he has not taken a very serious step that would be necessary to move the 34-year-old outfielder.

Cashman said he views Clint Frazier as a depth outfielder in this situation, implying that he will begin the season with Triple-A. This would cement a Gardner-Hicks-Judge outfield with Ellsbury on the bench to start the season.

Things can change, like when Bubba Crosby was slated to start the 2005 season in center field before Johnny Damon signed in New York. Ellsbury could be moved. Someone could get hurt. There is a lot of time until Opening Day.

Chad Green: What’s His Role?

Cashman stated that Chad Green will come into Spring Training stretched out as a starter. I think that’s an interesting plan, given how successful Green was out of the bullpen.

Here are Green’s career splits:

  • Starter: 2-4, 6.10 ERA, 1.513 WHIP (38.1 IP)
  • Reliever: 5-0, 1.41 ERA, 0.747 WHIP (76.1 IP)

It’s like night and day. But, Luis Severino turned a successful bullpen stint into a Cy Young finalist season. The Yankees could simply try to catch lightning in a bottle here. In the worst case scenario, they would then put him back in the bullpen. Hopefully, they would avoid the ill effects of the back-and-forth that Joba Chamberlain suffered.

I would leave Green where he was. He was so effective that it doesn’t seem to make sense to move him.

Free Agency Begins

It’s Thursday, November 2. The champagne has barely dried from the Houston Astros World Series celebration that Sports Illustrated predicted three years ago. But now, it’s time to fire up the Hot Stove.

That’s right – the offseason, and free agency, gets underway today. The Yankees are not expected to be big spenders due to their well-publicized goal of getting under the $197 million luxury tax threshold. Their big winter will come after the 2018 season.

Here are the 2017 Yankees that are now free agents:

  • Matt Holliday, DH
  • Todd Frazier, 3B/1B
  • Jaime García, SP
  • Michael Pineda, SP
  • CC Sabathia, SP

That group does not include Masahiro Tanaka, who has until Saturday, Nov. 4 to decide whether he will exercise his player option or remain under contract until after the 2020 season.

Of the names listed above, I think CC Sabathia is the most realistic bet to re-sign with the team. Sabathia said after the season that he wanted to finish his career in New York, and could be had on a deal similar to Andy Pettitte‘s in 2013: 1 year, $12 million.

I think the team will also make a run to re-sign Todd Frazier, who really proved to be a fantastic leader during the run to the American League Championship Series. However, I think he will receive multi-year offers elsewhere, and that does not fit into the Yankees long-term plans to hand third base over to either Miguel Andújar or Gleyber Torres in the near future.

The Yankees have an incredible amount of depth, and will be able to fill holes from within their system. Plus, they are known to be pursuing Japanese SP/DH/OF Shohei Ohtani should he leave NPB to come to the MLB. If Ohtani is not available or signs elsewhere, expect the Yankees to target either Jake Arrieta or Lance Lynn.

A glaring need is a left-handed reliever that is not named Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees used Chasen Shreve to the tune of a 0.2 fWAR season in 2017, but that may not be enough going forward. They may make a run at someone like Mike Minor, who posted a 2.1 fWAR season out of the Kansas City Royals bullpen in 65 appearances.

I’ll do my best to bring the latest Hot Stove info as it comes.

Aaron Hicks Injury Forces Yankees’ Hand on Cave/McKinney

With Aaron Hicks going down with yet another oblique injury, the Yankees could find themselves in a tough situation that greatly affects their future.

There are still doubts regarding the effectiveness of Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bat. Clint Frazier begins his rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Monday. The next top Yankee outfield prospect, Estevan Florial, has yet to crack Double-A with Trenton.

With 40-man rosters, the Yankees could do nothing. But, they need another outfielder to back up Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge. Sure, they could recall Tyler Austin or Tyler Wade, who have experience in the outfield corners. Sure, they could ask Matt Holliday to don an outfield glove and pray nothing bad happens.

Or, they could look to their Nos. 19 and 24 prospects: Jake Cave and Billy McKinney, respectively. Cave, 24, leads the RailRiders in batting average with his .328 clip for the 2017 season. Plus, he is tied with Ji-Man Choi for the team lead in home runs with 15. He has started 28 games in center field for Scranton, as well as 24 in right field and 12 in left field. He has just one error in the outfield this season. At his age, Cave is eligible for the Rule-5 draft. He knows all about that process, having spent 2017 Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds. Cave was returned to the Yankees on April 5, 2016. Cave is also eligible for Minor League free agency after the season.

Billy McKinney, though he profiles as a corner outfielder, could still help the Yankees down the stretch. His .312 average puts him behind just Cave and Miguel Andújar for the best mark on the RailRiders. He, too, has shown a power stroke by clobbering 10 home runs in the International League. He has played both outfield corners regularly. At age 23, the former first round pick is Rule-5 eligible.

Both players have impressed at the highest levels of the minor leagues. A rebuilding team could be willing to take a chance on either player through the Rule-5 Draft since both have shown quality outfield defense and a talented left-handed bat. The Hicks injury essentially forces the Yankees to look at both Cave and McKinney as outfield options down the stretch. They may not trust Ellsbury, and certainly do not want to rush their No. 2 prospect, Clint Frazier, back from injury.

Protecting either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney allows them to keep a valuable future asset in the system while filling a current need on the MLB roster.

Where I’ve Been

Oh, wow. It’s been a while since I last posted on here. Life has been a bit busy. I’ll be brief: I ended up with two jobs that took time and energy away from covering baseball. Now that I’m back at Syracuse, I’ll have plenty of time outside of the classroom to cover the Yankees down the stretch. So, as rosters expand to 40 today, I plan to expand my coverage back to the usual amount.

Tyler Wade’s Curious Situation

No one has ever questioned the potential of Tyler Wade. Currently ranked as the No. 6 prospect for the Yankees, Wade is proficient everywhere around the diamond. At 22, he has already played 14 games in the big leagues.

Brian Cashman gave Wade a vote of confidence earlier in the season when he said that Wade would be the first name called if the Yankees needed infield reinforcements. With a system that just acquired Gleyber Torres, a top-five prospect in all of baseball, Cashman’s choice of Wade shows just how high the Yankees are on him.

His defense has sparkled, but his bat has yet to show the ability that allowed him to slash .313/.389/.453 for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In his 14 games at the MLB level, Wade has a .136/.224/.227 line that includes 15 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances.

If this was last year, and the Yankees sold at the deadline, Wade would be starting at second base every day until Starlin Castro‘s return. The team’s lack of playoff aspirations in 2016 gave them the opportunity to test the skills of players like Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez in the MLB. They found their catcher and right fielder of the future in part because of that experiment.

However, this is a different year, and a different team. The Yankees need Wade to provide quality defense, some base-hits and stolen bases down the stretch. Castro still needs time to heal after his second hamstring injury of the season. But, if Wade continues to struggle at the plate, the second base job will go to Ronald Torreyes. The Yankees only have one other infielder on the 40-man roster: Miguel Andújar. The Yankees want to get his defense at third base serviceable, so there is no way they’d throw him into the second base fire. Wade is the guy to “replace” Castro on the roster.

The Yankees find themselves between a rock and a hard place with Wade. As much as they want him to develop with everyday at-bats, he cannot do so at the expense of the team’s performance. It looks like Torreyes will get the bulk of second base playing time until Castro returns. When Castro returns, Wade will go back to the RailRiders. He has been the target of Yankee fans’ ire because of his inability to instantly contribute at the MLB level. But, Wade has the talent to be a valuable piece down the stretch and into the future.

Reaction to Yankees-White Sox Blockbuster

There are tons of different ways to view the trade that went down Tuesday night between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox. The Yankees got Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson in exchange for Tyler Clippard, Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo.

To start, there really is no way to determine who “won” this deal outright. The White Sox continue their trend of stockpiling young prospects, and the Yankees get necessary bullpen reinforcements controllable beyond 2017. Oh, and Todd Frazier.

A lot of people on the Internet have been viewing the deal as Rutherford (No. 3 NYY prospect pre-trade) for Frazier. In reality, Frazier feels like a throw-in. Logic says you don’t trade your No. 3 prospect for a rental hitting .207. Brian Cashman did not. He traded that prospect for two fantastic bullpen arms.

Kahnle and Robertson rank third and 12th in strikeouts-per-nine-innings in the MLB this year. Both have a history with the Yankees organization. This acquisition allows Joe Girardi to have an impressive arsenal at his command in the later innings. It also gives Chad Green the chance to dominate in a longer-relief role with more flexibility.

Todd Frazier’s arrival gives the Yankees the chance to maximize Chase Headley‘s value. He will move into a platoon at first base with Garrett Cooper. Headley hits righties way better than lefties this year, so the team can capitalize on that split and Frazier’s 16 home runs.

Rutherford’s departure stings a bit, but the Yankees already have a surplus of minor league outfielders. The team really likes 19-year-old Estevan Florial, and reports indicate that Rutherford profiles as a corner outfielder. Rutherford has a clearer, and faster, route to the big leagues with the White Sox organization.

Tyler Clippard gets a badly-needed change of scenery. His recent struggles made him a target for jeers, and made him an unusable player essentially. Ian Clarkin will have a chance to contribute for the White Sox, as long as his injuries subside. Tito Polo seems like a talented outfielder with lots of upside. He brings speed and athleticism to the ChiSox farm system.

The Yankees fix their holes, and the White Sox continue to plan for the future. This trade could be one that works out well for both.