Wow, what a World Series. Game 7 had literally everything: home runs, errors, good base running, bad base running, comebacks, bad umpiring, replay, a rain delay, more replay, and questionable managing. The 4 hours of slow-burning drama that transpired on Wednesday night reminded us of why baseball is unlike – and better than – any other sport. But now that the 2016 MLB season is officially over, here are some numbers Yankees fans should keep an eye on this offseason.
62 million (dollars)
Even though Aroldis Chapman blew the biggest save opportunity of his life with the entire baseball world watching, the only number he’ll be concerned with this offseason is $62M. It is one more million than Jonathan Papelbon signed for back in 2012, which set a record for relief pitchers.
Chapman, despite the game 7 hiccup, will absolutely set a new record for most money paid to a bullpen arm. The only question is: by how much?
Five years and $75M is the first thought that popped into my head. It’s a nice round number and would make Chapman the highest paid player at his position in MLB history. Five years is a lot to give a closer, who will be 29-years old at the start of next season. It didn’t work out with Papelbon, who Philly fans quickly grew tired of. You have to be a real jackass for the city of Philadelphia to hate you, but that is exactly what Jon Papelbon is. Chapman, despite his domestic violence issues, is regarded as a good teammate. He’s been well behaved all season (as if not assaulting your partner is “good” behavior). The Yankees were rewarded for the chance they took on him and the Cubs the same. I have to believe that, while his off-field issues will deter some teams, it will not affect his top-line offer.
The Yankees are one of the leading candidates to land Chapman. They would not have to endure nearly as much bad PR that comes with Chap since they already went through it last winter. The two questions Brian Cashman has to answer are: Does Chapman fit into the Yankees short and long-term plans? And is he worth it?
My best guess is the Yankees will not be the top bidder for Chapman’s services, and Cashman will settle on a shorter-term bullpen option.
88 (home runs)
That is the number of home runs the Toronto Blue Jays have to replace this offseason if and when their three key free agents leave town. Do you remember the Moneyball scene when Brad Pitt and his cronies were discussing ways Oakland could replace Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi’s production? Well, same goes for the Blue Jays this offseason except there’s no fatso Jonah Hill to save them with saber-metrics.
Edwin Encarnacion, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, is the biggest bopper on the free agent market this winter. He’s been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball for five seasons and he will be paid handsomely for it, just probably not by the Blue Jays.
Jose Bautista, Toronto’s crooked-faced right fielder, is also looking for a new home. There were reports last spring that Bautista was seeking $30M per year, a ridiculous sum of money for a 36-year old, but after a down season in which he only hit 22 homers, the Jays might be back in the running for Joey Bats.
Michael Saunders is last of the free agent trio and he is also the forgotten one. At 29-years old, Saunders picked a convenient time to bash 24 homers. After 6 disappointing seasons in Seattle followed by a lost 2015, Saunders will be looking to cash in on a sucker who thinks the .815 OPS he posted in 2016 wasn’t a fluke.
Because the qualifying offer is the highest it’s ever been ($17.2M), it is unlikely the Jays extend it to Saunders. Assuming Encarnacion leaves for stupid money, the Jays, desperate to remain a contender, will have no choice but to bring back Bautista and all the people he follows on Twitter.
Toronto, who played in back-to-back Championship Series, will be taking a step back next season. The Yankees, who are 13 and 25 against the Blue Jays over the past two seasons, will directly benefit from that step back. Even if the Yankees stay quiet on the Free Agent market, they will be keeping a close eye on Toronto’s activity.
2005 (the year)
Would it shock you to know that Chicago actually has two baseball teams?
The White Sox are a dumpster fire. Here, let me summarize their 2016 season: back in March, Adam Laroche was so butt-hurt that ownership politely asked him to not bring his son Drake, a 14-year old, around the locker room all the time that he up and quit. As if that isn’t a ridiculous enough story, White Sox players actually came out in support of Drake, calling him a leader. A leader! Fast-forward a month and things were actually looking up; the Chi-Sox were 17-8 and near the top of many baseball power rankings. Then everything went to shit. They played .445 ball over the next 5 months, their ace Chris Sale made headlines when he went Edward Scissorhands on some ugly throwback unis, and ownership renamed the ballpark Guaranteed Rate Field … (I’ll pause so you can point and laugh) … Then, White Sox fans’ worst nightmare came true; the Cubs won the World Series and the entire world forgot the South Side baseball team was in, and won, the 2005 World Series.
Woah, I’m out of breath.
The White Sox seem to be stuck in the worst possible place – franchise mediocrity. 2005 is now a distant memory. Even worse, they are willing to spend money so they end up putting band-aids on problems instead of taking real action at fixing them (see: James Shields).
There is a positive aspect to their team however. Their starting rotation featured two of 2016’s best starting pitchers, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Additionally, Carlos Rodon is only 23-years old and poised for a breakout season sooner rather than later. It would be in their best interest to trade one of them.
Sale would obviously fetch the biggest return because he is only 27-years old and under contract through 2019. Quintana, also 27, is locked up for even cheaper money but he is a lesser version of Sale. For the Yankees, trading for Quintana may be annoying since he was in their system back in 2008 (they hung onto him through 2010, but he never materialized into the pitcher you see today). You may think it would be foolish to trade Rodon since the Sox should be building for the future, but he is the worst of the three pitchers and a Scott Boras client, so they may want to sell him now.
No matter who it is, I expect one of those three pitchers to be traded for prospects. The Yankees, who suddenly have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, can acquire any of them. Cashman said he’s hesitant to deal for a high-end ace, but if he changes his mind then Kenny Williams will be there to answer his call.
3 million (fans)
2016 was the closest the Yankees came to not drawing at least 3 million fans to the Stadium since 1998, when they inexcusably drew only 2.955 million in a season in which they won 114 regular season games.
This year they eclipsed 3M by 63K, a game-and-a-half worth of fans. Ask any fan who watched or attended a game this summer and they’ll tell you the announced crowd, which averaged just under 38,000, was nowhere near the actual crowd. I’m talking asses in seats.
If it weren’t for all the reunions, ceremonies, and farewell tours then the Yankees probably would have dipped below 3-mil. Only 7 teams in baseball can claim they drew as many fans as the Yankees, so it’s not as if the organization should be embarrassed, but it is no secret that attendance at the Stadium has been in steady decline.
New Stadium updates like party decks, kid’s zones, and various jumbo-sized foods are intended to bring more fans to the game, but the reality is unless the product on the field drastically improves then there is a good chance they will fail to draw 3 million fans in 2017. That is ok however. The Yankees should not let marketing aspirations drive baseball decisions such as signing a high-profile free agent or making a splash trade just to put asses in seats.