Five weeks from today pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for Spring Training. What are the chances all these free agents sign before then? Pretty small, I’d say. My guess is a handful of guys are going to be stuck looking for jobs in mid-March. We’ll see. Here are random thoughts on this random Tuesday.
1. There’s a deadline coming up! Friday is the deadline for teams and their arbitration-eligible players to submit salary figures for 2018. The player files what he wants, the team files what they want to pay him. The two sides can still negotiate a contract of any size after Friday, though these days pretty much every team is “file and trial,” meaning if the two sides don’t agree to a contract before filing salary figures, the team ends negotiations and they go to an arbitration hearing. That’s their way of putting some pressure on the player to get a deal done. The Yankees have eight arbitration-eligible players this offseason. Here are their projected 2018 salaries:
- Didi Gregorius: $9.0M (third time eligible as Super Two)
- Sonny Gray: $6.6M (second time)
- Dellin Betances: $4.4M (second time)
- Adam Warren: $3.1M (third time)
- Aaron Hicks: $2.9M (second time)
- Tommy Kahnle: $1.3M (first time)
- Austin Romine: $1.2M (second time)
- Chasen Shreve: $900,000 (first time as Super Two)
Most players will sign before Friday’s deadline because that’s what always happens. No one likes to drag this out. The Yankees did go to an arbitration hearing with Betances last year — it was their first hearing since 2008 (Chien-Ming Wang) — so we know they’re willing to do it, and I’m curious to see whether the team takes a real hard line during contract talks because of the luxury tax plan, especially with guys like Romine and Shreve, who are theoretically on the roster bubble. Every dollar they can save on arbitration-eligible players is a dollar they can spend on something else. In all likelihood those eight arbitration-eligible players with sign one-year contracts near their salary projection prior to Friday’s deadline. That’s how this tends to go. This year though, I think there’s a much better chance the Yankees end up going to hearing(s) than usual.
2. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the Jordan Montgomery trade rumors recently. Two things about this. One, I haven’t seen any rumors, so I assume it is speculation that has taken on a life of its own, as these things tend to do. And two, why would the Yankees trade Montgomery? I mean, everyone is tradeable at the right price, but aren’t the Yankees trying to acquire a pitcher exactly like Montgomery? Young, controllable, and effective? The Yankees are trying to add to Montgomery, not subtract him. That doesn’t mean he is off-limits. Like I said, everyone is available at the right price. I haven’t seen any actual Montgomery trade rumors at all and unless they think he’s on the verge of breaking down — they have more information than us, after all — I don’t see why the Yankees would want to move him. He’s a quality young pitcher with a clear path to playing time going forward. Montgomery is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
3. Another thing people have asked me about: Clint Frazier at third base. I get it, but no. Just no. With the exception of first base, which is the “last resort” position, players move from the infield to the outfield, not the other way around. All those super-utility guys everyone talks about, like Ben Zobrist and Chris Taylor? They’re all converted infielders. The game moves so much faster on the infield, and asking a lifelong outfielder still trying to establish himself in the show to move to third base — the infield position where things move the fastest, keep in mind — is putting an awful lot on the kid. I’m sure Frazier would be willing to do it in Spring Training because he’s a baseball rat, but I think it would be doomed to fail. There’s a reason he’s an outfielder after all. I’m not sure the instincts or reaction time are there for third base, nevermind the fact Frazier would have to adjust his throwing motion. Firing a ball in from the outfield is not the same as slinging it cross the diamond. Putting Clint at third base is one of those video game ideas. It sounds worthwhile in theory and is a disaster in waiting in reality.
4. We’re going to break down the 2018 ZiPS projections a little later today, but I want to mention one small thing here. The projections really show how deep the Yankees are at the moment. Including the Yankees, ZiPS projections have been released for 17 teams so far. Here’s a breakdown:
|Most||Second Most||Third Most|
|+1 WAR players||Yankees (27)||Brewers (25)||Cardinals (24)|
|+2 WAR players||Dodgers/Cardinals tie (13)||Dodgers/Cardinals tie (13)||Yankees/Rockies tie (9)|
|+3 WAR players||Yankees (6)||Dodgers (5)||Four teams tied with 4|
Here’s my spreadsheet. Those totals do not include free agents, so the Yankees don’t get credit for Todd Frazier, the Dodgers don’t get credit for Yu Darvish, etc. Even with no established second or third baseman, the Yankees have the most projected +1 WAR players and +3 WAR players, and are tied for the third most projected +2 WAR players. That is insane. There is nothing sexy about a projected +1 WAR player, but when you have 27 of them — 27 of them! — that means you’re not calling up replacement level fodder whenever an injury strikes. This all courtesy of the farm system, which is loaded with upper level potential impact talent. Top prospects like Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, and Chances Adams all have Triple-A time under their belt and can be called up at a moment’s notice.
5. Having seen a bunch of interviews and read a bunch of quotes over the years, I got the sense Giancarlo Stanton was extremely frustrated with the Marlins. Who could blame him? He came off as a guy who just wants to win, and the Marlins were never particularly close to contending during his time there. (Miami’s best record with Stanton: 79-82 in 2016.) Why did Stanton take that big contract to stay with the Marlins, in that case? Well, what’s he supposed to do, turn down $325M? That’s a no-brainer decision. Stanton seemed very frustrated with the situation in Miami and I’m looking forward to seeing how playing on a legitimate contender for the first time in his career motivates him. Isn’t life so much better when you have a job you like? We’ve all had a crappy job at some point. It makes you miserable. I am really looking forward to seeing how going from a terrible situation with the Marlins to a great situation with the Yankees motivates Stanton this season. Gonna be fun.