This week, partially because I couldn’t decide what to write about, I put the call out for mailbag questions. It’s going to be a monthly thing going forward, leveraging Twitter (tweet me questions @Yankees_talk) and email questions (send to [email protected]).
I received some good ones this week, so let’s get to it.
Free Agent Frenzy
Like the plague — actually like last year — I hope the Yankees avoid free agency this offseason.
Unlike the past 25 years the Yankees are not in a position to fill gaps on their squad with free agents. Their primary objective, which they made abundantly clear at the mid-season trade deadline, is to develop their young talent. The business of bringing the biggest names and contracts to the Bronx should, at least temporarily, be put on hold.
Alex Rodriguez (the player, not the expense) is gone. Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Mark Teixeira ($47.125M combined salary in 2016) are off or coming off the books. They will no longer be paying CC Sabathia and the aforementioned ARod in a year’s time. They’re seriously exploring dumping Brian McCann, even if it means eating a portion of his remaining monies. All of this, I believe, with the goal of sneaking under the luxury tax threshold. I do not foresee them shifting their course to bring in expensive players from a mediocre list of free agents.
@Yankees_talk I know it’s far away & a lot can change, but who of these 3 do you want most in 2018 FA: Harper, Machado, or Fernandez?
Ah yes, the free agent class everybody is waiting for. By the time 2018/19 rolls around, the Yankees will have shed payroll weight like a ketogenic kid. If the status quo doesn’t change, Jacoby Ellsbuy will be the only blood sucking leech still remaining on the roster. As Drew says, we don’t know who of the Yankees prospects will have materialized, but there is a lot to like in the ’18/19 FA class.
Bryce Harper, the de facto most exciting player in baseball, will sign the richest contract in history that offseason shortly after celebrating his 26th birthday. With 7 seasons, nearly 200 dingers under his belt, and Scott Boras as his agent, Harper has a legitimate chance of becoming baseball’s first half-a-billion dollar man.
Manny Machado is perhaps the best player on this list. Machado and Harper are convenient comparisons; they were both rookies in 2012, are separated in age by only 3 months, and live 41 minutes (without traffic) away from one another. While Harper has run the DMV, Machado has actually out-performed him 22.2 to 16.9 in total WAR since coming into the league.
Jose Fernandez, sidetracked in 2014 and ’15 from Tommy John Surgery, is having a season that rivals his age-20 when he won the Rookie of the Year and finished third in Cy Young voting. Fernandez, like Machado and Harper, will have yet to play his age-27 season when he signs.
I think the age of it’s superstars is what makes this free agent class the best ever.
Let’s play the next two seasons out in hypothetical Yankees land. Harper, who has been rumored to sign with the Yankees since he was born, will seek the largest contract in baseball history however he won’t find it coming from the Steinbrenners. He will ink a deal with the Dodgers for $501M over 12 years, leaked by Magic Johnson who accidentally tweets a picture of Harper signing the paperwork. Buck Showalter, knowing the Yankees are no longer chained to Chase Headley and frustrated that his George Steinbrenner voodoo doll no longer has any use, will convince Orioles ownership to make Machado the highest paid player in franchise history.
While all of that is happening, the Yankees starting rotation will remain inconsistent. After returning from surgery, Nathan Eovaldi will explore free agency, Michael Pineda will have been traded back to Seattle after another disappointing season, and Masahiro Tanaka already celebrated his 30th birthday, so the Yankees will make Jose Fernandez their top priority. While all of that is bullshit, it makes the most sense for the Yankees as of this very moment.
If Harper, Machado, and Fernandez weren’t enough, Clayton Kershaw can also opt-out of his contract after 2018. Josh Donaldson will hit free agency for the first time, Matt Harvey (assuming his arm is still attached to his bloated body) will be on the market, D-Backs star A.J. Pollock and the Yankees’ very own, Dellin Betances, will also highlight a ridiculous list of free agents.
Expect the Yankees and Brian Cashman, who are currently only committed to $57M in 2019, to go on a Pretty Woman-esque spending spree.
Ok, are you ready for a little inside baseball? Joel Sherman reported that a reason we won’t see prospects like Clint Frazier or Jonathan Holder among the September call-ups is because “the Yankees anticipate a 40-man roster crunch this offseason.”
What does that mean? It means they’re going to have more players that should be on the 40-man roster than actually can be on the 40-man roster. To prevent teams from just stockpiling talent in the minors at no consequence, the Rule 5 Draft was instituted, and this year the Yankees are going to be paying close attention.
Who is Rule 5 Draft eligible? Good question. Players who have played pro ball for 5 seasons (if they were signed at 18 or younger) or played 4 seasons (if they were signed 19 or older). Also, basically any draftees prior to 2013. Some names: Jorge Mateo, Jake Cave, Kyle Higashioka, and Miguel Andujar.
One more question then I promise I’ll make a point. Who else needs to be added to the 40-man roster? After the season ends the Yankees will have to make a decision on 60-day DLers like Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, and Branden Pinder. If they want to reinstate those players to the 40-man roster, others have to go.
So, add that all up and you have way too many players for only 40 roster spots. Ben Gamel was simply taking up valuable real estate and with the absurd outfield depth the Yankees have at this moment (Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Dustin Fowler, and Billy McKinney…to name 5), Ben Gamel was a long shot to contribute to the Yankees at the major league level.
Ben, good luck in Seattle! Now you’re free to grow those magnificent locks, and please don’t become a Yankees killer.
Mdevoe116 on Instagram: Tyler Austin came up as a third baseman, so do you think they will give him a shot there? I know Torreyes has come alive lately but Austin gives us more power in that position.
This one is from last week, and we discussed it on the podcast, but I think it’s a good question to explore.
After Chase Headley lost his job to Ronald Torreyes for a brief stretch, a stretch in which Torreyes went 14-for-26 (.538), Chase was outspoken about his lack of playing time. I wrote that Joe Girardi was completely justified for riding the hot hand of Torreyes over the aging Headley. But fast forward a week and Headley has his starting job back. Why?
Torreyes did not do anything to lose playing time, which was always temporary even if Girardi acted like it wasn’t. Joe rode Torreyes on the West Coast trip and short home stand vs Baltimore, in which ‘lil Toe had 5 more hits. Then the Yankees flew to Kansas City for a huge series vs the red hot defending World Series champs and Headley was back at third.
If Headley got his starting job back for no reason I can think of other than his higher profile and salary, then I do not foresee Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, or anyone else taking Headley’s job this season. Austin’s history backs this theory up, too. In five minor league seasons, Austin played only 35 games at third base, while spending most of his time at first (119 games) and in the outfield (319 games). Despite being drafted at the hot corner, Austin has not had much experience there in his pro career.
Didi Gregorius vs. Xander Bogaerts
Is this 2001 or 2016? It seems that history is repeating itself with a good ‘ol Yankees-Red Sox shortstop debate. Fifteen years ago it was Jeter or Nomar? Now: Didi or Xander?
WAR is a pretty good barometer when measuring how good a baseball player is. Need actual proof? The top five position players for total WAR since the start of 2014 are Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Paul Goldschmidt, and Adrian Beltre. (Ian Kinsler is sixth — are you kidding me?) I think we can all agree — Kinsler not withstanding — those players have been some of the best in baseball.
It’s going to be hard for me to argue that Didi Gregorius is better than Xander Bogaerts at this point. As much as I want to, the numbers don’t lie; Xander beats Didi in batting average, hits, extra base hits, RBI’s, OPS and, you guessed it, WAR. Since the start of 2015, which is when both players took over the starting shortstop gig for their respective teams, Xander has a 7.1 total WAR to Didi’s 5.5. However, as Angel asks about, the gap between them is narrowing.
A big portion of the extra 1.6 wins that Bogaerts has produced is due to his productive first half in 2015 (.304/.338/.411) while Didi was still finding his way in NY (.238/.296/.326). If you look at the last season’s worth of baseball games the gap between them is almost non existent. Didi is starting to develop his power (read: take advantage of the Yankee Stadium short porch) while playing far above average defense. Xander has continued to rake in front of Fenway’s Green Monster, cranking 63 extra base hits.
Didi (26 years old) and Xander (23 years old) not only have unique first names that distinguish them, but are becoming two of the best all-around shortstops in baseball and — hopefully — can can rehash some of that New York-Boston rivalry.