Friday Open Thread

Like yesterday, I’m going to post today’s open thread a little earlier than usual because the postseason games start nice and early. Here is today’s schedule:

  • Rangers at Blue Jays (Hamels vs. Stroman): 12:30pm ET on MLB Network and
  • Astros at Royals (Kazmir vs. Cueto): 3:30pm ET on FOX Sports 1 (no, apparently)
  • Cubs at Cardinals (Lester vs. Lackey, lol): 6:30pm ET on TBS and
  • Mets at Dodgers (deGrom vs. Kershaw): 9:30pm ET on TBS and

Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-season press conference this morning and I’ll post a recap shortly. There was no major news — coaches getting fired or surprise injuries, stuff like that — but he discussed the team as a whole and things they’ll look to change next year. The usual, basically.

Anyway, use this as your open thread to talk about the postseason games or anything else throughout the day.

Mailbag: Kinsler, Yamada, Angels, Pineda, Wildcard, Drew

Got ten questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to email us your questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. That’s the best way to send us anything, really.

Kinsler. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Kinsler. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Travis asks: Would Ian Kinsler make sense as a viable trade target or has Rob Refsnyder done enough with his September call up to be given a true shot at the 2B job in 2016?

Kinsler would make some sense, sure. He’s still a very good player — .296/.342/.428 (111 wRC+) with eleven homers, ten steals, and his usually strong defense in 2015 — despite being in the second base danger zone at age 33. His contract is reasonable too, with only two years and $25M remaining (plus a $10M option for 2018). That’s not going to break the bank.

I’m not sure if the Tigers will trade Kinsler — my guess is they’re going to try to contend next year, while Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are still effective — but he would make sense as a target. The Yankees might prefer to stick with Refsnyder rather than give up prospects for Kinsler at this point though. They went all in on youth this year and it worked! Many of their young players contributed and helped them get to the postseason. I think they’ll continue to go with young players next year, which means Refsnyder over a Kinsler trade.

Justin asks: I actually thought of this before the CC Sabathia stuff happened, more in regards to Slade Heathcott, or past players like Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden, but have the Yankees ever handled the clinching celebrations differently due to players with substance abuse issues?

Yes. Back in 1999 they celebrated with non-alcoholic champagne because of Strawberry. I’m not sure if they’ve done it at any other time, but they definitely did it for Strawberry that year. The Sabathia stuff came out a few days after the Yankees celebrated clinching a postseason spot, but you’re right about Slade, he’s had alcoholism problems in the past too. It doesn’t seem as though they used non-alcoholic champagne last week, but I doubt they overlooked Heathcott entirely. I’m not sure what happened.

Patrick asks: Do you think, with all the caution teams have with pitchers, that teams push for a Japanese type of schedule? (Meaning Monday would be a day off for all teams) That way 6 starters can be assigned a day and they’d only have to adjust for weather.

I think it’s possible but I also don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. The MLBPA has been pushing to shorten the schedule to 154 games, and thus far the owners have resisted, because fewer home games means less money. (Also, it’s not that simple. Television contracts include a minimum number of broadcast dates, stuff like that, and it would all have to be adjusted.) Scaling the schedule back to 154 games would be enough to allow for a true NPB schedule with an off-day every Monday, but again, I just can’t see it happening anytime soon. There are too many logistical and financial hurdles to clear.

Yamada. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
Yamada. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

Adam asks: Tell me everything you love about Tetsuto Yamada and why he should be the Yankee 2B in the next few years.

I didn’t even know Yamada existed until this question was asked! The internet tells me Yamada is a 23-year-old right-handed hitting second baseman for the Yakult Swallows in Japan, and it also tells me the guy mashes a lot of taters. Here are his numbers, via Baseball Reference:

2012 19 Yakult 26 49 44 5 11 2 0 1 1 0 0 5 11 .250 .327 .364 .690
2013 20 Yakult 94 396 350 50 99 13 2 3 26 9 2 39 37 .283 .354 .357 .711
2014 21 Yakult 143 685 596 106 193 39 1 29 89 15 5 74 95 .324 .403 .539 .941
2015 22 Yakult 143 646 557 119 183 39 2 38 100 34 4 81 111 .329 .416 .610 1.027
All Levels (4 Seasons) 406 1776 1547 280 486 93 5 71 216 58 11 199 254 .314 .395 .518 .913

Boy, Yamada had himself some season in 2015. Wayne Graczyk says Yamada essentially Wally Pipp’d another player (Hiroyasi Tanaka) back in 2013. Because he’s only played two and a half years, Yamada is still seven years from international free agency. He’d have to be posted to come over to MLB before that, and who knows if the Swallows are open to that. Heck, who knows if Yamada even wants to come over to MLB.

The stats look great, but I have no if Yamada would be able to make the jump over to the big leagues. Japanese infielders have had a very high bust rate in MLB — almost all of the success stories are outfielders or pitchers, and the theory is the MLB game is simply too quick for infielders and they can’t make the adjustment — but that doesn’t mean ignore them forever. Yamada has some nice numbers and that alone makes him worth a longer look.

Paul asks: The Yankees will essentially put the same team on the field next year, what level of performance do you expect?

It’s no secret the Yankees rely on their veteran players to play big roles. Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira … they’re not just in the lineup, they’re in the middle of the lineup. Sabathia took a regular rotation turn as well. Because they rely so much on their old players, and old players tend to fall off a cliff, I would expect the Yankees to perform worse next season if they kept essentially the same roster. I think the potential drop-off from the veteran dudes is greater than the young players could make up with improved performance. If the Yankees had a young core with veterans as supplemental pieces, I’d expect them to improve. But they’re the opposite, they have a veteran core with young guys as the supporting case.

Joe asks: With Billy Eppler now with the Angels, what’s the potential of a Yankees-Angels trade? Who do you see Eppler going after?

I feel like a Yankees-Angels trade is inevitable now. New GMs always seem to make a trade or two with their former team. Andrew Friedman picked up Joel Peralta from the Rays last year. How many ex-Red Sox players did Theo Epstein pick up after going to the Cubs? Lots. It’s just one of those things. I could see Eppler trying to poach one or two of the Triple-A relievers to beef up the bullpen, and maybe one of the lefty hitting outfielders too. The Angels don’t have much to offer in return — aside from Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, there is no one on their roster I’d take over their Yankees counterpart — and their farm system is one of the worst in the game. If the Yankees and Angels do make a trade, I think it’ll be a minor trade designed to improve the bottom half of the 40-man roster.

Dan asks: Do you look at this season as a success for Michael Pineda? The results varied, but him throwing 160 IP is huge considering where he was the past few years.

Yes and no. Yes it’s good he finally stayed healthy long enough to throw a substantial amount of innings — he still landed on the DL with an arm problem, thankfully a minor one — but he also wasn’t very good, pitching to a 4.37 ERA (91 ERA+) and 3.34 FIP. Yeah, his strikeout (23.4%) and walk (3.1%!) rates were excellent, but he was too hit (.332 BABIP) and homer (1.18 HR/9) prone, especially late in the season. Considering the major shoulder surgery and his long layoff, I think you have to say this season was a success overall. Hopefully Pineda builds on it next year.

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

Aaron asks: What players in the farm system not named Aaron Judge should be ready for an extended look in the majors in 2016?

This was a lot tougher to answer than I thought it would be. Luis Severino and Greg Bird (and Refsnyder, kinda) are in the big leagues now, so they’re out. Judge figures to be up at some point next year, likely in the second half. After him it’s … Gary Sanchez and Brady Lail? Eric Jagielo is a possibility but I think a full year of at-bats in the minors would serve him well after he battled injuries the last two summers. Rookie Davis could be a second half call-up candidate. And then there’s James Kaprielian, who could zoom up the ladder and help in August or September. If anything, I think we’ll see guys who were up this year briefly — Heathcott, Mason Williams, the relievers, etc. — get longer looks next year. I’m not sure how many new faces we’ll see in 2016.

Shane asks: What do you think of the one game playoff for the wild card? I would much rather see a 3 game series. Instead of only 1 game. I know that might be too many days off for the division winners waiting for the result but why not do a double header to start the wildcard then play the 3rd game if necessary at the second wild card team? What are your thoughts?

I don’t like the one-game playoff — never did, it’s not just because the Yankees lost — because baseball is a marathon and it’s being reduced to a sprint. It’s one thing to play an entire series and have to go to Game Seven. Being thrust into that situation kinda sucks. MLB says making a three-game series would be tough given the schedule, but, not for nothing, the LDS round didn’t begin until four days after the end of the regular season this year anyway. In a perfect world they would balance the schedule and send the teams with the four best records in the league to the playoffs. That’s my ideal postseason.

Vincent asks: Which player would be more useful to have under contract next season as the backup shortstop/infielder? Stephen Drew or Brendan Ryan?

Drew because he’s the better player. Backup infielders are usually very bad though — Jose Vizcaino played 18 years in the league despite a 76 wRC+, for example — so Ryan is par for the course. He’ll pick up his $1M player option, the Yankees will use him as their backup infielder, and that will be that. I’d rather have Drew, but my guess is he’ll look for a larger role elsewhere. The Yankees can roll with Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley at second next year, and I’d rather do that than go with Drew again.

Thursday Open Thread

Normally the nightly open thread doesn’t go up until 7pm ET, but I’m going to post it a little earlier today because Game One of the ALDS starts at 3:30pm ET. Now that the Yankees’ season is over, I want to decompress and take it easy the rest of the week. We’ll start our annual Season Review series next week and begin to focus on possible offseason moves, that sorta stuff.

Anyway, use this as the open thread this afternoon and this evening. Like I said, Game One of the ALDS begins at 3:30pm ET. That’ll be the Rangers at Blue Jays (Gallardo vs. Price). The Astros and Royals (McHugh vs. Ventura) play Game One of their ALDS at 7:30pm ET. Both games will be on FOX Sports 1. Enjoy.

Manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton in 2016

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Longtime manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton next season, according to multiple reports. “Dave was great for the Yankees and did a lot of great stuff,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “Obviously, Gary (Denbo) is running (the farm system now) and is trying to put people in places. With new people changes occur with new regimes.”

Miley, 53, has managed New York’s top minor league club since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. He remained with the organization when the Yankees left Columbus for Scranton in 2007. Miley played in the minors from 1980-87 without reaching MLB. He coached in the Reds’ farm system from 1988-2002 before serving as their big league manager from 2003-05.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has been around since 1989 and Miley is the all-time leader in wins (714). He led them to their only International League championship in 2008 as well as five division titles (2007-10, 2015). Miley was in charge when Triple-A Scranton spent the entire 2012 season on the road due to extensive renovations at PNC Field, and he’s managed every one of the Yankees’ recent top prospects, including Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Luis Severino. It’s a long list.

It’s unclear who will replace Miley and it’s too early for that anyway. Minor league coaching staffs usually aren’t announced until December or January. Denbo replaced Mark Newman last year and rearranged the coaching staffs extensively. Some coaches were moved around — longtime Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin was moved to the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate, for example — and some were replaced with outside hires. Miley was one of the very few who remained in place.

Cashman on Girardi’s status for 2016: “Nobody should be looking for anybody different”

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Any time a Yankees season ends without a World Series title, the coaching staff and management will have their job security called into question. It happens every year. The Yankees didn’t win so changes need to be made, and it’s easier to get rid of coaches than players. That’s the general line of thinking.

Don’t expect to see a new manager in 2016, however. Brian Cashman all but confirmed Joe Girardi, who just completed his eighth (!) season as manager, will return next season. Here’s what he told George King:

“It’s a fact, nobody should be looking for anybody different,” general manager Brian Cashman said when asked if Girardi, who has two years and $8 million remaining on his contract, was in trouble. “He is signed for two more years and managed the team to the playoffs. It’s not his fault we didn’t hit. He managed a perfect playoff game.”

September was not Girardi’s best month as manager, but almost every move he made backfired, even the ones that made perfect sense. The decision to bench Jacoby Ellsbury in favor of Brett Gardner in the wildcard game will be second guessed until the end of the time — or at least until people have something new to complain about — but it was the right move.

Personally, I think Girardi is an average-ish manager in terms of on-field moves. He assigns his relievers specific innings and he weighs platoon matchups heavily, which makes him like most other guys out there. Girardi seems to go his best work in the clubhouse. The Yankees are largely distraction free — even something as serious as CC Sabathia checking in to rehab more or less blew over — and they play hard for him. You can’t quantify it, but there is absolutely value in that.

As for the coaching staff, Cashman stopped short of saying everyone will be back next season, though he says that pretty much every year. Here’s what he told King:

“I will go through that with our ownership and Joe. Since you live through it for six months you have a pretty good feel about everything,” Cashman said when asked about the coaches’ status. “Now is the time to have these conversations. You live and you know it and you have a feel for what you might want to do with it as you move forward. Those conversations take place with your manager, take place with your coaches and take place with ownership.”

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has one year left on his contract and bullpen coach Gary Tuck can pick up an option in his contract for next season. Bench coach Rob Thomson, first base coach Tony Pena, hitting coach Jeff Pentland, and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell all have contracts that expire this month. I’m not sure what third base coach Joe Espada’s contraction situation is.

The Yankees did not hit at all from mid-August through the end of the regular season, though they jumped from 20th in runs last year to second this year. Firing the hitting coaches after that would be weird but it’s not impossible. Marcus Thames served as Triple-A Scranton’s hitting coach last year and it seems like he is being groomed for the big league job. Pentland and Cockrell took over after Kevin Long was fired last season.

Pena has been with the Yankees since 2005 and Thomson has been with the organization since 1990. He’s worn many different hats over the years — minor league coach, director of player development, big league coach, the works. Perhaps the Yankees are considering bumping Thomson back up into the front office now that assistant GM Billy Eppler is leaving for the Angels.

The one coaching staff change that wouldn’t surprise me is Espada at third base. The Yankees had 14 runners thrown out at home this season, which is actually the fifth fewest in MLB, but there were some really egregious ones in there, sometimes due to apparent communication issues. Remember the incident with Mark Teixeira in Texas? That was pretty bad. Espada worked in the front office the last few years and maybe he’s the one moving back with Eppler leaving. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m not at all surprised Girardi’s job is safe and I don’t think it should be in danger anyway. The offense disappeared, none of the Triple-A relievers impressed, no starting pitcher threw 170+ innings, and the problem was Girardi? Please. Maybe the coaching staff will be shuffled around a little bit, but I would be surprised if there were any major changes in the dugout this offseason.

Pineda and Eovaldi projected for largest arbitration raises in 2016

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
Big Mike is in line for a big raise. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Now that the season is over, we can start to look forward and figure out which direction the Yankees will go this offseason. They could go big with free agents, they could do nothing and continue to trust their prospects, or they could have another trade-heavy offseason. I’m sure there’s a middle ground somewhere.

This offseason arbitration will be a major item for the Yankees. Some of their most important players are up for arbitration and due big raises, which will impact the overall payroll. Matt Swartz at MLBTR posted his annual arbitration projections earlier this week, and his model gets more and more accurate each year. There are still some big misses, that’s unavoidable, but overall the margin of error is within a few percent.

Anyway, let’s look at Swartz’s projections for New York’s nine arbitration eligible players. Yes, nine. The numbers in parentheses are each player’s service time, written (years.days). In the service time world, 172 days equals a year.

Sergio Santos (5.110) – $900K
Andrew Bailey (5.034) – $900K arbitration projection; has $2MM club option.
Ivan Nova (5.024) – $4.4MM
Michael Pineda (4.099) – $4.6MM
Dustin Ackley (4.087) – $3.1MM
Nathan Eovaldi (4.013) – $5.7MM
Adam Warren (3.036) – $1.5MM
Justin Wilson (3.035) – $1.3MM
Didi Gregorius (2.159) – $2.1MM

According to Tim Dierkes, the Super Two cutoff this year is 2.130, meaning Dellin Betances fell 52 days short of qualifying for arbitration. Super Twos are arbitration eligible four times instead of the usual three. Gregorius is a Super Two and arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. He’s got a nice raise coming after making something near the league minimum in 2015.

Santos is an obvious non-tender candidate. Even if the Yankees wanted to keep him around, they’re better off non-tendering him and re-signing him to a minor league contract since he’s going to miss most of next season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. There is no 60-day DL in the offseason and there’s no reason to have a injured journeyman reliever like Santos clogging up a precious 40-man roster spot.

Bailey is also a non-tender candidate and his contract situation is slightly more complicated thanks to that $2M club option. I know he’s a former All-Star and all that, but I didn’t see anything in September that made me think Bailey is worth $2M next season. The Yankees can decline the option and instead take him to arbitration, where he’s projected to earn a mere $900,000. I could see cutting him loose entirely or going to arbitration. I’d be surprised if the Yankees picked up the option.

Pineda and Eovaldi are both entering their second arbitration year. Pineda earned $2.1M this season and has the biggest projected raise at $2.5M. Eovaldi is right behind him with a $2.4M projected raise. That is fairly standard for good but not great starters going through arbitration for the second time. Given the fact both Pineda and Eovaldi spent time on the DL with arm injuries in 2015, I’m guessing the Yankees will not explore a long-term extension with either this winter.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

Like Pineda and Eovaldi, Ackley is entering his second arbitration year and he’s projected for a mere $500,000 raise. His arbitration case is slightly different because he signed a Major League contract with the Mariners after being drafted, which means Ackley’s salary was higher in his first few years as a big leaguer. He made $1.5M in 2013, his final pre-arbitration year. Most players are making something close to the league minimum that year. His arbitration salary last season was based on that $1.5M. Still, that projected $3.1M salary for Ackley in 2016 is fine. The Yankees didn’t trade Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez to get Ackley only to non-tender him after the season. Besides, he hit in September!

Warren and Wilson are getting typical raises for middle relievers going through arbitration for the first time. Warren’s salary is slightly higher because he spent some time as a starter, and being a starter pays. Had he remained in the rotation all season, his projected arbitration salary likely would have climbed north of $2M. Maybe the Yankees will throw Warren a bone and pay him more than projected after jerking him around this year. I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were Warren though. This is a business, after all.

And finally, Nova’s the most interesting arbitration case because he was both hurt (rehab from Tommy John surgery) and bad (5.07 ERA and 4.87 FIP) in 2015. That projected $4.4M salary works out to a $1.1M raise over his 2015 salary, which is quite small for a starting pitcher entering his third arbitration year. Joel Sherman says the Yankees will not non-tender Nova, and as bad as he was this year, that makes sense. Paying $4.4M for a depth arm is nothing, and at least with Nova you can say he might improve as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery. At the very least, the Yankees could tender him a contract then trade him. Don’t cut him loose for nothing.

Arbitration salaries are based on old school stats. Wins, saves, home runs … stuff like that. The players are compared to others at their service time level and they argue they deserve X while the team argues they deserve less than X. The Yankees haven’t been to an actual arbitration hearing in years, not since Chien-Ming Wang in 2008, and there’s no reason to think they’ll go to one this offseason. Chances are everyone who needs to be signed this winter will be signed.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I have to say, I still haven’t fully processed the Yankees being eliminated from the postseason. The one-game wildcard game is so weird. I still feel like there’s a Game Two coming at some point. Anyway, make sure you check out this Players’ Tribune piece by Francisco Cervelli, in which he discusses how he’s using everything he learned while with the Yankees with the Pirates now. Pretty great read.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Cubs and Pirates are playing the NL wildcard game tonight (8pm ET on TBS) and hockey seasons starts tonight too. The Rangers are playing the Blackhawks (8pm ET on NBCSN). The Devils and Islanders are off tonight. Talk about those games, the Cervelli article, or anything else here.

Quiz!: The 2015 Yankees roster Sporcle quiz is out. I did a lot better than I thought I would: 53 out of 56. I missed three non-obvious relievers but feel I should have gotten two of them. Good luck!