Yankees can’t play spoiler, get hammered 8-1 by Orioles

No one said these last three games would be pretty. The Yankees played their first truly meaningless game of the season Friday night, and not surprisingly, they got clobbered 8-1 by the Orioles. So it goes.

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

The End of the Pineda Era
There’s a non-zero chance Michael Pineda threw his last pitch in pinstripes Friday night. He’s a year away from free agency, and if the Yankees deem him unworthy of a long-term extension, they could try to cash him in as a trade chip in a weak free agent class this offseason. It’s certainly worth exploring both options, a trade and extension. Doesn’t hurt to see what’s out there, after all.

Regardless of what happens over the winter, this was Pineda’s final start of the season, so it’s only fitting he closed out his year with some two-out runs and long home runs. That’s what he did all summer. Two singles and a double in the fourth inning, all with two outs, created the Orioles’ first two runs. Adam Jones (solo) and Mark Trumbo (two-run) then annihilated long home runs into the second deck in left field for a 5-1 lead in the fifth.

You can never really trust the television gun or the scoreboard, but PitchFX confirms Pineda’s velocity was down quite a bit Friday night. He averaged 91.8 mph with his cutter and 82.1 mph with his slider, down from his season averages of 94.8 mph and 86.4 mph, respectively. Hopefully that’s just the product of the less than ideal conditions — it was rainy and cold as hell — and not something worse.

The Trumbo homer ended Pineda’s night and season. He finishes with a 4.82 ERA (3.79 FIP) — second straight season his ERA was a full run higher than his FIP — in a career high 175.2 innings. The good news: Pineda leads all qualified AL starters with a 10.61 K/9 and is second with a 27.4 K%. The bad news: He’s the sixth pitcher in history with 200+ strikeouts and a 4.80+ ERA. Joe Girardi called Pineda’s season “mind-boggling” before the game. That about sums him up.

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

One Token Run
Not a whole lotta offense for the home team Friday night. The Yankees scored their one run in the fourth inning, on a walk (Chase Headley), a loud single (Brian McCann), and a sac fly (Mark Teixeira). Their only other hits were an infield single by Aaron Hicks in the fifth inning and a regular ol’ singly by McCann in the ninth. Their only other baserunners were a first inning catcher’s interference (Jacoby Ellsbury, of course) and a trio of walks (two by Hicks, one by Rob Refsnyder).

Once the Orioles blew the game open in the fifth inning, Girardi pulled all the regulars and the Yankees played the rest of the game with a Triple-A lineup. Here was the batting order after the sixth inning:

  1. CF Eric Young Jr.
  2. 3B Donovan Solano
  3. C Austin Romine
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 1B Tyler Austin
  6. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. LF Mason Williams
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes

Billy Butler didn’t even pinch-hit for McCann in the ninth, so props to Girardi for benching Butler these last few days. His at-bats are better used elsewhere. Anyway, the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention Thursday night and it showed Friday. Not much fight in the offense in this one.

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

Leftovers
The multitude of relievers: James Pazos (two outs), Anthony Swarzak (six outs), Chasen Shreve (three outs), and Ben Heller (three outs). Pazos allowed three runs, all on Jonathan Schoop’s homer. Shreve loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth and actually escaped without allowing a run. How about that? When Swarzak is your most effective pitcher, you know it’s bad.

Gary Sanchez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is now in a 1-for-27 (.037) slump. The one was a home run, of course. Hey, a slump was bound to happen eventually. Sanchez is still hitting .298/.373/.662 (171 wRC+) on the season, which I can confirm is pretty excellent. Sock one more dinger before the season ends, will ya Gary?

Ellsbury’s first inning catcher’s interference was his 12th of the season, extending his own single-season record. The old record was eight by Roberto Kelly, so he didn’t just break the record. He smashed it. There have been 39 catcher’s interferences this season. Ellsbury has almost a third of them. Crazy.

Pineda’s first strikeout of the game was the team’s 1,371st of the season, establishing a new franchise record. The old record was set in 2014 and tied in 2015. Me thinks we’re going to see a lot of strikeout records set in the future. That’s where baseball is heading.

And finally, the Tigers are winning and the Blue Jays are losing as of this writing, so if the scores hold, the Orioles will sit in the top wildcard spot and the Blue Jays will be a game back. The Tigers will be a half-game back of Toronto. It would be so great if the Blue Jays miss the postseason after running their mouths earlier this week.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head on over to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Orioles will play the second game of this season-ending three-game series Saturday afternoon. That’s a 4pm ET start. Luis Severino, not Masahiro Tanaka, will be on the mound. The Yankees are understandably playing it safe and shutting down their ace after his minor forearm injury. Wade Miley will be on the mound for the O’s. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch either of the final two games of the season live at Yankee Stadium. The winter’s long, man. Go see baseball while you can.

Game 160: Spoilers

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Well folks, the Yankees have nothing left but three meaningless games this season. Meaningless to them, that is. The Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention last night, but their opponent this weekend, the Orioles, is still very much alive in the wildcard race. These three games mean everything to them.

Buck Showalter has been taking shots at the Yankees since they parted ways following the 1995 ALDS. He goes out of the way to needle the Yankees every chance he gets. Now the Bombers have a chance to keep Showalter’s team out of the postseason, and gosh, that would be sweet as hell. The Yankees already created some headaches for the Blue Jays and Red Sox this week. Time to do the same for the O’s. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. LF Mason Williams
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It is cold and windy and rainy in New York. Not exactly baseball weather. There’s rain in the forecast pretty much all night too. Seems like it’s going to be more mist than outright downpour. We’ll see. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. MLB.tv is free this weekend, by the way. Blackouts still apply, however. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: It’s still undecided whether Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) will make his scheduled start tomorrow. He feels fine, but the Yankees may decide not to risk anything since they’re out of the race … Brett Gardner is a bit banged up but is expected to play again before the end of the season … Starlin Castro is out of the lineup essentially as a precaution. The don’t want him on the wet field so soon after his hamstring injury.

News: Luis Severino has been fined for his role in Monday’s benches clearing brawl(s) with the Blue Jays, but he wasn’t suspended. Weird. A.J. Cole just got five games for throwing behind Jung-Ho Kang. Didn’t even hit him. Severino threw behind Justin Smoak then hit him with the next pitch, after benches were warned, yet no suspension. I do not understand. Whatever.

9/30 to 10/2 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
(Duane Burleson/Getty)

So here we are. The final series of the 2016 season. The Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention last night by the Orioles, who are in the Bronx for the final three games of the season this weekend. Baltimore beat the Blue Jays to knock the Yankees out. Alas. The Yankees are 8-8 against the Orioles this season, including 5-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s took two of three from Toronto this week and they’ve won five of their last six games overall. They’re 87-72 with a +23 run differential. The Orioles and Blue Jays are tied for the second wildcard spot, and the Tigers are 1.5 games back. Baltimore’s magic number is three. Sweeping them this weekend wouldn’t automatically push the O’s out of the postseason — the Tigers still need to take of their own business — but it would be a big help for Detroit.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles have had exactly the kind of offense everyone expected them to have this season. They hit a ton of homers (247) but they’re only okay at getting on base (team .317 OBP), which is why they’re middle of the pack with an average of 4.58 runs per game. Their team wRC+ is exactly average at 100. The O’s are without UTIL Steve Pearce (forearm) and Rule 5 Draft OF Joey Rickard (thumb), who are done for the year.

Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Despite a .314 OBP, CF Adam Jones (98 wRC+) remains manager Buck Showalter’s leadoff hitter for whatever reason. Lately 1B Chris Davis (110 wRC+) has been batting second too, so that’s fun. 3B Manny Machado (130 wRC+) and DH Mark Trumbo (121 wRC+) hit third and fourth. Showalter starting bunching his four best hitters at the top of the lineup about a week ago. DH Pedro Alvarez (117 wRC+) and rookie DH Trey Mancini (283 wRC+) have been platooning as the No. 5 hitters.

C Matt Wieters (85 wRC+), 2B Jonathan Schoop (94 wRC+), and SS J.J. Hardy (91 wRC+) are the team’s other regulars. OF Hyun-Soo Kim (122 wRC+) and OF Nolan Reimold (78 wRC+) have been sharing time in left field of late. C Francisco Pena (33 wRC+), UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+), and OF Michael Bourn (75 wRC+) were the regular bench players for much of the season. C Caleb Joseph, IF Paul Janish, and OF Drew Stubbs are the extra September call-ups.

Defensively the Orioles are a solid team with above-average defenders at all four infield spots. Well, Machado is arguably the single greatest defensive player in baseball, so he’s more than above-average. Jones is solid in center, ditto Wieters behind the plate, but the corner outfield spots leave a lot to be desired regardless of who Showalter sends out there. When it doubt, hit it to Trumbo.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Had Gallardo been merely bad instead of disastrous, the Orioles would have probably locked up a playoff spot a few days ago. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 5.63 ERA (5.09 FIP) in 22 starts and 112 innings this season, and there’s basically no silver lining in his rate starts. Not enough strikeouts (16.3%) or grounders (43.4%), and too many walks (11.4%) and homers (1.29 HR/9). His platoon split is small because batters on both sides of the plate have hit him well. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gallardo twice this year. The first start was okay (four runs in seven innings) and the second was a nightmare (eight runs in 1.1 innings).

Saturday (4:05pm ET): TBA vs. TBA
The O’s still have Saturday’s starter listed as TBA but it is expected to be lefty Wade Miley, who has been away from the team the last few days on paternity leave. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 5.40 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 29 starts and 160 total innings this season, though it’s a 6.38 ERA (3.91 FIP) in ten starts and 48 innings with the O’s since coming over from the Mariners at the trade deadline. His peripherals are middling (18.7 K%, 7.0 BB%, 47.9 GB%, 1.35 HR/9) and righties have hit him a ton harder than lefties. These days Miley sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and pairs them with low-to-mid-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also toss a few upper-70s curves per start too. The Yankees have seen him just once this season, scoring four runs in five innings a little less than four weeks ago.

As for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) threw a bullpen session yesterday and says he wants to make his scheduled start tomorrow, but the Yankees might simply shut him down now that they’ve been knocked out of the race. If they do, I guess Luis Severino would get the start the instead. Kinda weird he hasn’t been suspended, right? Maybe MLB forgot he threw at a hitter intentionally (twice!) and was ejected. Usually that’s an insta-suspension announced the next day. Weird.

Update: Severino has been fined for his role in Monday’s brawl, but not suspended. Huh.

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Sunday (3:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Hah, figures. Last game of the season and who do the Yankees have to face? The guy who’s crushed them all season. Though, to be fair, Gausman has been dominating everyone of late. He has a 3.15 ERA (3.90 FIP) since the All-Star break. The 25-year-old northpaw has a 3.66 ERA (4.08 FIP) in 29 starts and a career high 172.1 innings. His strikeout (23.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates are very good, though Gausman has been a little too fly ball (43.4 GB%) and home run (1.41 H/9) prone. Then again, pretty much every pitcher has been homer prone this season. Righties have hit Gausman harder than lefties and that’s not unusual because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. That pitch is the equalizer against batters of the opposite hand. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. In five starts against the Yankees this season Gausman has a 0.80 ERA and a .205/.240/.279 batting line against in 33.2 innings. Yeah.

Bullpen Status

The Orioles are fighting for their playoffs lives and Showalter has declared this an all hands on deck weekend. That means starters RHP Dylan Bundy (4.02 ERA/4.69 FIP) and RHP Chris Tillman (3.77/4.22) are available in relief, if necessary. Tillman is lined up to start the wildcard game and they probably don’t want to mess with that if at all possible though. Anyway, here is Showalter’s bullpen.

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.55 ERA/1.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (1.60/2.86), RHP Darren O’Day (3.90/4.68)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.18/3.26), LHP Donnie Hart (0.50/3.53), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.18/3.05)
Long: RHP Vance Worley (3.53/4.82)
Extra: LHP Jayson Aquino, RHP Oliver Drake, LHP Bran Duensing, RHP Tyler Wilson, RHP Mike Wright

O’Day has missed much of the season with hamstring and shoulder problems, but he’s healthy now and on the roster. Him, Brach, and Britton form a really tough end-game trio. Britton might be the best closer in the game right now. Showalter, like Joe Girardi, loves his matchups, so get ready for lots and lots of pitching changes this weekend.

Brach (23 pitches) and Hart (four pitches) both pitched last night. Then again, with a 12-man bullpen, availability isn’t much of a problem. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi’s relief crew.

Yankeemetrics: A bittersweet sweep [Sept. 27-29]

(AP)
(AP)

Still breathing
The Yankees staved off elimination on Tuesday night with a gutsy 6-4 win in the series opener, keeping their flickering postseason dreams alive, while snapping Boston’s 11-game win streak. This was the third time in the history of this rivalry that the Yankees beat a Red Sox team riding a win streak of more than 10 games; it also happened in 1909 and 1995.

The Baby Bombers carried the team from start to finish, delivering game-changing performances on the mound and at the plate. Luis Cessa pitched six strong innings of two-run ball, while Gary Sanchez opened the scoring with a first-inning two-run bomb and Tyler Austin capped it off with a tie-breaking two-run homer in the seventh.

Sanchez’s 407-foot shot was a historic one, the 20th time he went deep in just 51 MLB games. That matched the fewest career games needed to reach the 20-homer milestone by any major-league player, a mark he shares with outfielder Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves.

He is the 10th rookie catcher in major-league history to hit 20 homers, and is the only Yankee in that group. Each of the other nine players — Wilin Rosario (2012), J.P. Arencibia (2011), Geovany Soto (2008), Mike Piazza (1993), Matt Nokes (1987), Joe Ferguson (1973), Carlton Fisk (1972), Earl Williams (1971), Rudy York (1937) — played at least 100 games during their rookie campaign.

Austin’s power-hitting feats haven’t been as prolific as Sanchez’s, but it’s hard to argue that anyone else’s homers on this team have been as impactful as Austin’s.

Each of his first four homers in the big leagues have given the Yankees a lead, with three of them coming in the seventh inning or later. Through Tuesday, he had more go-ahead, late-inning homers than any other Yankee this season, despite logging time in just 27 games since his call-up in early August.

Didi Gregorius also joined the homer party, ripping his 20th homer of the season into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the sixth. He and Starlin Castro are the first middle infielder duo (i.e., primary position is either shortstop or second base) in franchise history to reach the 20-homer milestone in the same season.

David Ortiz, playing his final series at Yankee Stadium, was hitless in five at-bats and whiffed on a 3-2 splitter from Tyler Clippard to end the game, stranding two guys in the ninth inning. This was his 255th career game against the Yankees (including playoffs), but it was the first time that he ever struck out to end the game with the tying run on base.

(AP)
(AP)

Refuse to lose
Down to their final out and on the brink of being officially eliminated from the postseason race on Wednesday, the Yankees rose from the dead with a stunning rally in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Red Sox, keeping their microscopic October dreams alive for another 24 hours.

In a season filled with so many heart-pounding victories, the Yankees 82nd win of the season might top them all in terms of the do-or-die circumstances of the game and the sheer miraculous nature of their comeback.

Trailing 3-1 with two outs in the ninth and the bases full, the soon-to-be-retired Mark Teixeira came to the plate and drilled a 99-mph fastball over the fences in center field for a game-ending homer that was historic in so many ways:

  • It was the first regular-season walk-off home run by Teixeira; his 408 career regular season homers entering the game were the most of any player in baseball history who’d never hit a walk-off shot.
  • The pitch was clocked at 98.95 mph, the fastest pitch he’s hit for a home run since July 17, 2009 when he went deep off a 99.0 mph fastball from Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya.
  • It was the ninth walk-off grand slam in franchise history, and the first since A-Rod’s memorable blast against the Orioles on April 7, 2007.
  • Only two other Yankees have ever hit a walk-off homer with the bases loaded against the Red Sox: Charlie Keller on August 12, 1942 and pitcher Red Ruffing on April 14, 1933.
  • Teixeira is the fourth Yankee to hit a walk-off slam with his team trailing at the time. The others are A-Rod, Jason Giambi (May 17, 2002 vs. the Twins) and Babe Ruth (Sept. 24, 1925 vs. the White Sox).
  • Teixeira and A-Rod are the only players in franchise history to hit a two-out, come-from-behind walk-off grand slam.
tex champ belt
(Getty)

Forgotten amid the wild and crazy ending is the fact that this was a classic pitchers duel for much of the night. Bryan Mitchell and Clay Buchholz matched zeroes on the scoreboard, as Mitchell threw seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits while Buchholz gave up one hit over six shutout innings.

It was just the third time since at least 1913 where both starters in a Yankee game went six or more innings, didn’t allow a run and surrendered two or fewer hits. The other two instances were on June 18, 2003 against the Rays (Roger Clemens and Victor Zambrano), and Sept. 20, 1958 against the Orioles (Don Larsen and Hoyt Wilhelm).

Good news, bad news
It was a bittersweet win for the Yankees on Thursday, as they completed the sweep over the Red Sox, but saw their playoff dreams extinguished too thanks to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays earlier in the night. Baltimore’s victory also guaranteed that the Yankees will end the season in fourth place in the AL East, their lowest divisional finish since 1992.

David Ortiz said goodbye to the Yankees after going 0-for-1 with a walk in his two plate appearances in the series finale. His 53 home runs against the Yankees are tied with Hank Greenberg for the fourth-most all-time, and his 31 homers at Yankee Stadium are tied with Mickey Vernon for the second-most ever by a visiting player at the ballpark.

Although he’s tormented them over the past decade-plus, Ortiz went hitless in his final 14 at-bats against the Yankees, matching his longest stretch without a hit in this rivalry (also from Sept. 25, 2009 to April 7, 2010).

Making his 30th and final start of the season, CC Sabathia turned in a stellar performance, holding the Red Sox lineup to one run on four hits in seven-plus dominant innings. He earned his 223rd career win, passing former Mets southpaw Jerry Koosman for sole possession of 17th place among left-handed pitchers on MLB’s all-time wins leaderboard. Looking ahead to 2017, next up on the list of lefties is Whitey Ford, who won 236 games in his 16-season career.

Friday chat reminder

Well, the Yankees have been officially eliminated from the postseason, which means we can now shift gears to offseason mode. Lame. Anyway, today’s chat is going to start at 2:30pm ET. See you then.

Mailbag: Sanchez, Williams, Severino, McCann, Headley

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. This is the last mailbag of the regular season, you know. Crazy. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us anything.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Pete asks: If Sanchez continues to rake and hits, say, 4 more HRs over the last 11 games and the team squeaks into the playoffs, does he get much MVP love? Should he?

Even without the extra homers and the postseason trip, I still think Sanchez is going to wind up with a tenth place MVP vote or two. Twenty-eight different players received an AL MVP vote last season, including guys like Kevin Kiermaier and injured Mark Teixeira. Sanchez getting a tenth place vote wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I kinda expect it to happen.

Now, should he get any MVP votes? Of course not. There is zero argument to be made that Sanchez is one of the ten most valuable players in the AL this season. Heck, you could argue he isn’t even one of the ten most valuable players in the AL East. Sanchez is going to get a ton of Rookie of the Year support and he just might steal the award away from Michael Fulmer. Any MVP love will be the result of the silly down ballot shenanigans we see every year though.

Casey asks: Not that it will happen, and not that I want it to happen, but say the Yankees were to cash in on Sanchez’s high stock right now. What would they get back for him? I know our trade proposals suck, and there probably aren’t many good comparisons out there, but just looking for a rough ballpark.

Now that Buster Posey’s power is slipping, you could argue Sanchez will be the best hitting catcher in baseball as soon as next season. Right? I don’t think that’s completely impossible. It’s either Sanchez, Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, or Yasmani Grandal. Sanchez’s trade value is astronomical because he’s young, cheap, and provides big offense from a premium position. Plus he adds value defensively with his arm.

All of that makes Sanchez one of the most valuable commodities in the game. The list of players the Yankees should be willing to trade him for is short. Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant … we’re talking those types of players. Sanchez plus stuff for Chris Sale has turned into Sanchez for Sale straight up. Quality catchers are insanely valuable. That’s why they get huge free agent contracts and are drafted earlier than expected. Put Sanchez on the market and the Yankees could get almost anything they want.

Michael asks: If Mason Williams has no spot in the Bronx, what might his trade value be? Could he be worth somebody like, for one example, Shane Greene – a busted SP who might have a little untapped potential?

Ben Gamel. That’s Williams’ trade value. Gamel just showed us the trade value of a lefty hitting outfielder who may or may not be much more than a bench player. (Ramon Flores did the same last year.) Williams has far better tools than Gamel and more upside, but the shoulder surgery and relatively short track record of excellence kinda negates that. Generally speaking, there’s not much separating players like this even though their tools may differ.

Using Williams in a busted prospect for busted prospect trade to get a pitcher is probably worthwhile since the Yankees do have outfield depth and need pitching. Trading him isn’t imperative though. Williams could easily end up spending 100 days on the big league roster next season due to injuries, especially if the Yankees trade Brett Gardner. I think Williams is worth more to the Yankees as a depth piece than anything he could fetch in a trade.

Eric asks: Would it make sense to trade Severino for another struggling young starter? A starter like Jose Berrios or Archie Bradley?

This seems like making a move for the sake of making a move. Unless the Yankees are pretty sure Luis Severino is broken for good and will never be a successful starter, trading him for another struggling pitcher seems like more risk than reward. Berrios is talented but he’s had an unbelievably terrible start to his career. I read an article not too long ago — I can’t find it now, unfortunately — that showed almost every pitcher who got off to a start similar to Berrios’ never recovered to have a productive career. Bradley? Eh. I’d take him, Berrios too, but giving up Severino for him is too much. I wouldn’t make Severino untouchable. Not in anyway. But I’m not trading him for a broken pitcher. The Yankees aren’t at that point with Severino yet. He’s not a change of scenery guy.

Liam asks: Ken Rosenthal had an idea on twitter that there should be a Jose Fernandez spirit award where each team nominates a player who has played the game with most enthusiasm and spirit and then pick one of those 30 players for the main award. Hypothetically who would be the Yankees nominee this year?

It was actually Harry Pavlidis’ idea, but more people follow Rosenthal on Twitter, so he got all the credit. Anyway, yeah some kind of award celebrating the spirit and joy in baseball would be a wonderful tribute to Fernandez. Nominating one player per team and then picking one winner, a la the Roberto Clemente Award, would be a great idea. This award has Adrian Beltre written all over it, doesn’t it?

As for the Yankees, maybe it’s just me, but Didi Gregorius seems like the obvious candidate for a hypothetical Jose Fernandez Award. Him or Ronald Torreyes. Didi picking up the 5-foot-6 Torreyes so he can high-five people after home runs …

Aaron Judge Ronald Torreyes

… is one of my favorite things about this season. I’m not even sure who else it would be aside from those two. The Yankees are getting younger, but they’re still kinda boringly corporate, so we don’t have much to pick from right now. Too bad Alex Rodriguez isn’t around anymore.

Tom asks: Assuming McCann is traded and Encarnacion is too pricey, who do like best for primary DH/5th OF out of Beltran/Bautista/Trumbo/somebody else?

Spending big on a DH doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea. Out of those options I’d take Carlos Beltran on a one-year deal, but I don’t even love that plan all that much. The Yankees are going to need to give Sanchez some DH time, plus it wouldn’t hurt to give Greg Bird and Aaron Judge time there too. A rotating DH spot wouldn’t be the worst idea. That creates more playing time for guys like Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, whoever. This free agent class is so bad that guys like Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are going to get insane contracts simply because there’s nowhere else to spend the money. Big money DHs is not a pool worth swimming in.

Michael asks: How do you think the Ramos injury affects the market for McCann this offseason? He is now better than all of the available free agents.

The Wilson Ramos injury is devastating in multiple ways. The Nationals just lost their starting catcher and best right-handed hitter before the postseason. Ramos was about to hit free agency coming off a monster season, and instead now he’s having his second major knee surgery in four years. Brutal. He was, by far, the best available catcher this offseason.

With Ramos down, the best free agent catchers are Matt Wieters and Jason Castro. I feel like Wieters is going to wind up back with the Orioles — they seem to value him more than anyone else — and Castro … eh. The Ramos injury could definitely open up the trade market for McCann. Teams will no longer have the option to spend money on a superior player. Their options are either trade for McCann or hold your nose with Wieters and Castro. The Ramos injury sucks. In the big picture, it’s good for the Yankees because there’s one fewer alternative to McCann now.

Jackson asks: It seems that another potential landing spot for McCann would be in NY, with the Mets. They are disappointed in dArnaud and McCann would likely not object to a (non) move cross town. Other than the fact that it’s the Mets, why wouldn’t this work? Would a two player return headed by Ynoa and/or Smoker be reasonable?

In theory, yes. The Mets need a catcher because Travis d’Arnaud can’t stay healthy and has gone backwards. Also, Kevin Plawecki kinda stinks. That said, I would be shocked if the Mets took on a $17M a year catcher. Even if the Yankees paid down, say, $7M a year, they still might not go for it. Their rotation is going to get mighty expensive this winter, and they need to figure out second base. d’Arnaud and Plawecki are young enough that sticking with them next season wouldn’t be completely crazy. I think the Mets are too cash-strapped to take on McCann, even at a discounted rate.

Jonathan asks: If The Yankees were to trade Headley this offseason,who would play third?

That’s kinda the problem. Moving Chase Headley in the offseason sounds great — similar to McCann and Ramos, the Martin Prado extension means there’s one fewer third base alternative available — but the Yankees need competency at third base themselves, and I’m not sure who else can give that. I like Torreyes as a bench player. Give him 600 plate appearances as the everyday third baseman and you might get an AVG/OBP/SLG slash line that starts with .2s across the board.

The Yankees’ best third base prospect is Miguel Andujar, and while he had a nice 2016, he’s not someone who makes you say “let’s trade Headley because Andujar will be ready in 18 months.” There’s always the Starlin Castro option, and I do think the Yankees will look to give him time at the hot corner next season. Maybe trade Headley, sign a backup plan like Kelly Johnson, and go with Castro and Refsnyder at third? Eh. That might not work out too well. Listen to offers for Headley. For sure. But trading him likely means a downgrade at the hot corner.

Eric asks: I must have missed something. Where did #YoSoyGary come from? Is there some sort of backstory?

I came from Sanchez himself. On Twitter he signs his tweets with #IamGary and #YoSoGary, and it kinda took on a life of its own. There are even t-shirts for sale now too:

YoSoyGaryTake all of my money.

Michael asks: What’s your opinion on giving Didi an extension? He’s been such an important player for them and he’s only 26, but they do have Mateo and Torres arriving possibly by 2018, not to mention Wade, Holder, Park, etc.

An extension for Gregorius shouldn’t depend on other players in the system. Is he a quality player worth locking up? If the answer is yes, then do it, because at worst it makes him a more valuable trade chip. If down the road you have Gregorius signed affordably and both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo knocking on the door, great. That’s a wonderful “problem” to have.

Signing Gregorius to an extension now makes more sense than it did a year ago. Last year he had a fine overall season and a very good second half, but we still weren’t sure exactly what he was as a player. Didi broke out this year, especially in the power department, and that’s going to get him paid through arbitration. A 20-homer shortstop with his defense is worth signing long-term.

The only service time comparable I can find is Dee Gordon’s five-year, $50M extension with the Marlins. Gordon had a batting title, two stolen base titles, and two All-Star Game selections to his credit at the time though. Gregorius has none of that. So would something like five years and, say, $40M to $45M work instead? Either way, I wouldn’t let the team’s shortstop prospect depth stand in the way of a Didi extension.

Anonymous asks: The Cubs gave Theo Epstein a 5 year/$50 million extension. What do you think Brian Cashman is worth? And do you think Theo was overpaid, underpaid, or paid the right amount?

Andrew Friedman broke the executive pay scale when he left the Rays for a five-year deal worth $35M with the Dodgers. That was two years ago now, and Epstein has a far more impressive resume, so it’s no surprise he’s getting $10M a year. (Fourth starter money!) I really have no idea whether he is underpaid or overpaid. A smart executive seems tremendously valuable, but there are lots of smart guys out there qualified to run a baseball team. And besides, at the end of the day, the players still have to perform. Executives only have so much control.

As best I can tell, Cashman’s current contract is worth $3M annually, which made him one of the highest paid GMs in the game at the time it was signed. Using the Friedman-Epstein scale, Cashman probably falls into the $7.5M a year range? Maybe even a little higher. Friedman did well in Tampa, but running a big market team is a very different animal, and basically no one pumps out winning teams better than Cashman. The Phillies and Angels and Red Sox have all shown it takes more than money.