While the 2017 Yankees’ improbable postseason run ended on a sour note in an ALCS Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday night, the time has come for the organization to turn the page and address needs and wants for the 2018 campaign. Yes, it may be difficult for players, coaches, and ownership to take solace in coming up short of the ultimate goal, but for a Yankees team that wasn’t expected to sniff October, perhaps their overachievement mends the sting.
So with that said, here’s the first offseason edition of BP Mailbag. The questions below involve the Yankees’ winter plans. As always, thanks to those who sent questions, and sorry for any long-winded responses. Well, not really.
Here we go.
I know this will feel like several questions at once but “what do you think will happen to CC, Castro, Girardi, and Betances?” #BPmailbag
Answer: Good question. A loaded question, but good nevertheless. In early June, CC Sabathia told WFAN Radio that he wants to pitch in 2018, and that he prefers to wear pinstripes while doing so. However, he’ll have the opportunity to test the market this winter as a 37-year-old free agent. Considering what Sabathia accomplished during the regular season and postseason, it would make the most sense for the Yankees to sign him to an incentive-laden contract — akin to what the club arranged with Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda a few years ago. If Sabathia’s comfortable with taking a pay cut, all the better. His presence on and off the field is valued, and if he can stay healthy, he’d be one reliable arm. Sabathia’s redemption story is special, and if both sides truly want to reunite, it’ll happen. But don’t be surprised if Sabathia decides to chase more money elsewhere, or even retire. He’s a borderline Hall-of-Famer with nothing left to accomplish.
The case for Joe Girardi is somewhat similar, as it all depends on whether or not he wants to return to The Bronx. Despite his controversial gaffe in the ALDS (he’s absolved, by the way), Girardi still managed the Yankees through 13 postseason games this year, and that’s an exceptional feat, considering what the team’s expectations were back in April. In his 10 seasons with New York, every team — contender or pretender — finished with a record over .500. That’s nothing to sneeze at. If Girardi wants to walk, it wouldn’t take him long to find work in a sense, but it’s worth noting that the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, and New York Mets have hired new skippers. Maybe a reunion with the Miami Marlins (under Derek Jeter’s rule) could be enticing, but who knows. For someone who takes so much pride in what he does, it’d be tough to see Girardi walk away from this group of players. Yes, he over-prepares. Yes, he’s usually reactive and not proactive. But he’s an above-average manager who fits the franchise’s mold. Even if Girardi’s relationship with ownership isn’t as strong as it used to be, he’s still the right guy for the job moving forward… if he wants it.
As for Starlin Castro and Dellin Betances, it seems like their future in New York is ambiguous. Both guys underperformed this October, and that definitely cost them support from fans. But the Yankees need to determine if Betances’ ongoing control issues are fixable. He had trouble finding the strike zone all season, and that led to him having a reduced role as a reliever. It’s fair to wonder if the front office has its doubts, and if they do, perhaps it’s worth discovering what Betances’ market is. It’s surprising that it’s come to this, but with or without Betances, the bullpen is still in good shape. Even when general manager Brian Cashman traded for Castro two winters ago, it didn’t feel like he was going to be a fixture in the lineup for years to come. Overall, he’s played well in New York, but his struggles come in bunches, and with top-ranked prospect Gleyber Torres close to joining the majors, maybe Castro will get bumped. Gut feeling: Both Betances and Castro are on the upcoming Opening Day roster. Loaded question, loaded answer.
Thoughts on retaining Tanaka as well as acquiring Darvish? They could feed well off each other. What other pitching is needed? #BPmailbag
Answer: Can’t imagine Yu Darvish coming to New York. Even though the pitching market will be thin, he’ll likely ask for money that the Yankees can’t afford to give him. Based on how strong Masahiro Tanaka looked this month, it makes the most sense for him to opt out of his current contract (3-years, $67 million remaining with Yankees), and hope for big bucks. Although his elbow is cause for concern, it’s not inconceivable to picture him signing a multi-year deal worth nine figures now. That could put the Yankees in a tricky spot. If Tanaka walks, they’ll probably make him a new offer, but if the Yanks want to live under the luxury tax threshold next season, they can’t pay top dollar. If they lose him, they lose him. Tanaka won’t receive an average annual value (AAV) that’s higher than where it is right now, but he could still choose to test the waters. Yankees would like him back, but their budget is now tighter. Opting out is a gamble worth taking for Tanaka.
Worst case scenario for the rotation next year? If Tanaka and CC leave and the Yankees only have Sevy, Monty and Gray left? #BPmailbag
Answer: If the Yankees are left with Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery, they’ll have to get creative. Adding depth to the rotation will cost money, but if they can get Tanaka or Sabathia back, it would help them a ton. Also, there are two other low-cost options: Pursue Japanese phenom Shohei Otani, or promote prospect Chance Adams. If the Yankees fail to make any of those moves, they’ll be between a rock and a hard place. More on Otani below.
#BPmailbag Does Otani become a Yankee? Yanks have the bonus pool $ and maybe Tanaka helps in recruiting?
Answer: Probably. If the 23-year-old pitcher/hitter chooses to leave his homeland for the states this offseason, he’ll be treated like a young international free agent, as players can’t enter true unrestricted free agency until age 25, under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement. This would cost Otani hundreds of millions of American dollars if he’s posted by his Japanese club, the Hokkaido Hippon-Ham Fighters. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, Otani can be paid a maximum of $10.1 million — in addition to a tentative $20 million posting fee. If Tanaka choses not to opt out of his contract, sure, he could help in recruiting Otani. Hideki Matsui helped the Yankees sign Tanaka four years ago. Otani’s 2017 was riddled with injuries, but he’s young, affordable, and talented. Yankees would really like him.
#BPMailbag When should we expect Gleyber Torres to make his debut and what of guys like Clint Frazier etc.? Where do we make room or do we?
Answer: Brian Cashman recently told WFAN that Gleyber Torres will most likely begin the 2018 season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and since he only has one month of experience at the highest minor league level, the decision to start him there makes sense. It’s also worth mentioning that Torres is in the midst of rehabbing a surgically repaired left elbow (he underwent Tommy John surgery in June), and that’s significant. Because his 2017 was cut short, he needs further development. And don’t forget that Torres is just 20 years old. Unless he excels with a glove and bat during spring training, it’s hard to picture him in pinstripes until later in the summer — that’s if everything goes according to plan. Clint Frazier’s first few weeks in the majors were exciting, but there are several holes in his game, and he also needs more work in the minors. He also needs the opportunity to play every single day, so having him begin the year in Triple-A makes the most sense, too. If those two youngsters shine in the minors, the Yankees will make corresponding moves when that time comes. For now, they’re still a work in progress.
Answer: It’s possible the Yankees deal Castro for a pitcher. One name that keeps coming up on television and in other stories is Mets’ veteran reliever Jerry Blevins, who could be a return piece in a trade. Castro has two years, $22 million remaining on his contract, so trading him straight up for a 34-year-old arm in Blevins may not be the smartest option. Still expect Castro to start at second base coming Opening Day, since Torres isn’t ready for the majors and a utility man like Ronald Torreyes isn’t really an upgrade on offense. Castro goes through mood swings at the plate, but remember early on in the year when he was hitting .350 and there was talk of him winning the batting title? He’s the best player available for now.
Answer: Although Todd Frazier played a role in the Yankees’ second half success, he most likely won’t be with the team next year. Frazier is bound for free agency, and figure that some club will offer him money that New York can’t give him. With that said, it makes sense to have Chase Headley return to third base until some of the Yankees’ infield prospects are ready to take over. Headley’s contract expires after 2018, so maybe the club tries to move him around the trade deadline. But on March 29, 2018, best guess is that he’s at the hot corner. Plus he served as a decent backup first baseman to Greg Bird.
Who do you considered to be the next Yankees Captain? #BPMailbag
Answer: The Yankees don’t hand out captain honors to players right away. Derek Jeter had already played eight years before he was announced captain in 2003, and before that, it took Don Mattingly nine years before he was awarded the same title in 1991. Aaron Judge definitely has what it takes to be the next captain. He’s constantly being compared to Jeter for a reason, as he exemplifies leadership traits. While it’s important to produce and put up numbers, Judge is modest, confident, and diligent — a perfect makeup for a captain. The odds of Aaron Judge becoming the next captain look pretty good, but for now, he’ll only be looked at as the face of the franchise. Another candidate could be Didi Gregorius. He makes the game fun, and he’s proven to be an exceptional athlete and teammate. Right now, those two guys stick out. But it could be several years until the Yankees name their next captain.
What are the possibilities that we see Chad Green in the rotation in ’18? #BPmailbag
Answer: There’s a good chance that Chad Green gets an opportunity to start next season. He was dominant as a reliever this season, but it wouldn’t hurt the Yankees to have him start in spring training and see what happens. Worst case scenario is that he doesn’t offer much, and he returns to his position out of the bullpen. It’s similar to what Adam Warren’s situation was/is. Before Severino became the team’s bona fide ace this year, he was throwing out of the bullpen in 2016, so it’s not ridiculous to think that New York could try the same thing out with Green and hope he remains successful in any given role.
Do the Yankees need a big star like Harper, Machado etc. ? #BPmailbag
Answer: Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. The franchise’s future is bright, but the script is still unwritten, and if names like Gary Sanchez, Judge, Bird underperform next year, the Yankees will be in a position to potentially sign a superstar like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado that winter. Either one of those players would make the club even more dangerous, but if the Yankees team we saw this season shows up again next season, no, Harper and Machado wouldn’t necessarily be needs. They’d be wants. When the team gets under the luxury tax threshold, they’ll have quite a bit of spending money, so expect them to make a push for at least one of them. There’s still plenty of time before that happens, though.