The Coaching Staff’s Last Ride [2017 Season Review]

Thomson & Tony. (Presswire)
Thomson & Tony. (Presswire)

Our season review series has reached the point where it is time to do the impossible: evaluate coaches. No one has come up with a good way to do it, at least from the outside. For the most part we just project player performance onto coaches. Leo Mazzone was a genius pitching coach when he had Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. When he had Rodrigo Lopez, Kris Benson, and Daniel Cabrera? Not so much.

The 2017 season was the last season for this coaching staff as a unit. The Yankees parted ways with manager Joe Girardi after the season and they broke up the coaching staff as well. Most of it, anyway. New manager Aaron Boone will inherit at least one coach and possible more. Let’s try to review the season that was with the coaching staff.

Bench Coach: Rob Thomson

The 2017 season was Thomson’s 28th with the Yankees. He joined the organization as a minor league coach in 1990 and gradually worked his way up the ladder, holding a variety of coaching and front office positions along the way. This was his fourth season as Girardi’s bench coach (2008, 2015-17) and his tenth on the coaching staff overall. He spent the 2009-14 seasons as the third base coach.

Two things about Thomson’s season stand out to me, one good and one bad. Let’s start with the bad. Why didn’t he push harder for Girardi to challenge the Lonnie Chisenhall hit-by-pitch in ALDS Game Two? Argh. Girardi obviously did not trust Gary Sanchez enough to challenge it, but Thomson is his right-hand man, and a quick little “Joe we really need to challenge this” could’ve done wonders. Alas.

And two, Thomson received unsolicited praise from Girardi and Alex Rodriguez during the postseason. Girardi credited Thomson for his work with the team’s young players — “Rob Thomson, he stays on these guys all the time to make sure they’re in the right place and ready to go,” said Girardi during the ALCS — and A-Rod said something similar during a pregame segment for FOX. They both credited Thomson for working with the kids.

The Yankees did interview Thomson for their managerial opening, though I wonder whether that was something of a token interview, and a sign of respect for all his years in the organization. Thomson said he wanted to remain with the Yankees even if he didn’t get the job, and when he didn’t, he decided to take the Phillies bench coach job. It seems to me the Yankees decided to move on from Thomson, not the other way around.

Pitching Coach: Larry Rothschild

Once again, the Yankees had the most complained about great pitching staff in baseball. And it wasn’t only because of the bullpen. The bullpen was actually pretty shaky the first three months of the season. The rotation was very good overall. To wit:

  • ERA: 3.98 (5th in MLB and 2nd in AL)
  • ERA-: 90 (6th in MLB and 3rd in AL)
  • FIP: 4.18 (7th in MLB and 4th in AL)
  • FIP-:  92 (7th in MLB and 4th in AL)
  • K%: 23.7% (7th in MLB and 4th in AL)
  • BB%: 7.3% (5th in MLB and 3rd in AL)
  • GB%: 48.1% (5th in MLB and 2nd in AL)
  • fWAR: +15.2 (6th in MLB and 3rd in AL)

Luis Severino rebounded from a disaster 2016 season to become an ace in 2017, earning him a third place finish in the Cy Young voting. That happened because he worked with Pedro Martinez in the offseason though. Severino worked with Pedro then avoided Rothschild all season. CC Sabathia‘s resurgence continued thanks to the cutter he learned from Andy Pettitte or Mariano Rivera last Spring Training. I dunno, it was probably one of those guys.

Masahiro Tanaka had a rough first half, which was Rothschild’s fault, then rebounded in the second half, because he figured some things out on his own, I assume. Dellin Betances walked a lot of guys this season, something he’s never done before in his career, and that is also Rothschild’s fault. Rothschild also convinced Tyler Clippard that throwing 90 mph fastballs middle-middle is great way to get outs. And remember when Aroldis Chapman credited Rothschild for helping him get over his issues by tweaking his fastball grip? He was crediting Rothschild out of pity.

The Yankees decided to bring Rothschild back next year — he is the only confirmed holdover coach at the moment — which I guess means Severino will have to avoid talking to him and Chapman will have to continue giving him pity credit for things. Looks like we’re in for another year of complaining about a very successful pitching staff.

Hitting Coaches: Alan Cockrell & Marcus Thames

A year ago the Yankees scored 680 runs. This year the Yankees scored 858 runs. They scored their 680th run this year on August 30th, in the 132nd game of the season. That’s pretty great! Of course, it helps to have a full season of Sanchez, for Aaron Judge to become literally the best power-hitting rookie in the history of the universe, for Aaron Hicks to break out, for Didi Gregorius to take another step forward, for Austin Romine to inexplicably hit .314 for a month while Sanchez was on the disabled list, plus a bunch of other things.

The single biggest reason the Yankees improved offensively this year was the change in personnel. A year ago the Yankees gave 1,173 plate appearances to A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann, who combined to post a .301 OBP and a .380 SLG. Yeesh. Out with the old and in with the new. How much credit do Cockrell and Thames deserve for Sanchez doing what he did, and Judge doing what he did, and Hicks doing what he did? Impossible to say. Surely they had something to do with it. If nothing else, the players made Cockrell and Thames look good. But apparently not good enough to save Cockrell’s job. He is reportedly out with Thames taking over as the full-time hitting coach, though that has not yet been confirmed.

First & Third Base Coaches: Tony Pena & Joe Espada

As first base coach, one of Pena’s jobs involves timing the opposing pitcher to see whether attempting to steal a base makes sense. He literally times the pitcher’s delivery with a stopwatch, does the math with the catcher’s pop time and the runner’s speed, and determines whether running is worth it. I’m not joking. That’s part of what first base coaches do. Some team numbers:

  • SB: 90 (12th in MLB)
  • SB%: 80% (1st in MLB)
  • SB Attempts: 112 (16th in MLB)
  • SB Opportunities: 2,376 (1st in MLB)
  • SB Attempt%: 4.7% (20th in MLB)

The Yankees had the highest stolen base success rate in baseball, but they also ranked 20th in their attempt rate. Does that mean Pena didn’t do his job well because the Yankees should’ve run more? Well, no. Personnel matters, and it’s not just the guy on first base. Why would you send Brett Gardner when Judge and Sanchez are due up? Just let them hit with a man on base. The extra 90 feet isn’t worth the risk with those two dudes at the plate.

As for Espada, the third base coach, the Yankees had 20 runners thrown out at the plate this season, the fifth most in baseball. But! They also had 111 runners score from second on a single, the fifth most in baseball. On one hand, the aggressiveness paid off based on all those runners who did score from second on a single. On the other hand, having 20 runners thrown out at the plate kinda stinks, especially with the offense the Yankees had this year. Holding a runner at third and passing the baton to the next guy is a-okay with me.

Espada and Pena will not be back next season. Well, Espada won’t for sure. I thought he would get a chance to interview for the manager’s job, but that didn’t happen, and he is now the Astros bench coach. Pena? He did not interview for the managerial job and it doesn’t sound like he is coming back. I know Pena is a fan favorite — is it weird a coach is a fan favorite? I think that’s kinda weird — but it really seems like the Yankees are going for wholesale changes with their staff, not one or two tweaks, so Pena is likely out.

Bullpen Coach: Mike Harkey

Harkey really nailed answering the phone and waving his hat whenever a reliever was ready this season. Good response time, great hat-waving form. Knocked it out of the park. Harkey is a Girardi guy — they’ve been friends for a very long time, since they were Double-A batterymates in 1988 — and I figured that meant he would be gone as well, but apparently he will be back as bullpen coach next season. Huh. It hasn’t been announced yet, but multiple reports say so. Rothschild is coming back, Thames and Harkey are reportedly coming back, Thomson and Espada are gone, and Cockrell and Pena figure to be gone. It’s been a good run with that staff. Things will be different going forward.

The case for keeping Clint Frazier

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Clint Frazier is probably the most tradeable top prospect in baseball right now. He is technically no longer a rookie — he exceeded the rookie limit by four at-bats this year — but he is functionally still a prospect because he is young and not yet established at the big league level. Frazier got a taste of the show this year and did some exciting things. He also did some not-so-exciting things. Par for the course with rookies, really.

When the Yankees made the no-brainer trade ten days ago to add Giancarlo Stanton to Aaron Judge, Frazier became expendable. He’s a corner outfield prospect — Clint hasn’t played center field full-time since 2015, when he was in High-A ball — on a team with very possibly the two of the three best corner outfielders in baseball along with Bryce Harper. Frazier’s name has popped up in trade rumors the last few days, mostly involving young pitching, and that is in no way surprising.

No player is every truly untouchable — would the Yankees really balk at trading Gleyber Torres for Mike Trout or Carlos Correa? — and of course it makes sense to make Frazier available in trades after the Stanton deal. He could help bring back a significant piece. There is also a case to be made for keeping Frazier, and I’m going to make it. There are four good reasons to keep him.

He could be really good!

Or he could be really bad too. No one really knows. What I do know is Frazier just turned 23 years old, he was ranked as a top 25 prospect by the various scouting publications going into the 2017 season, and during his brief taste of the show he had 17 extra-base hits (nine doubles, four triples, four homers) and 14 singles. More extra-base hits than singles as a rookie is not easy to do, but Frazier has the bat speed to hit anything.

Baseball Reference projects a .252/.311/.447 line from Frazier in 2018. Steamer projects .247/.312/.433. Last offseason ZiPS spit out Dave Henderson as Frazier’s top statistical comp based on his minor league career, and Henderson is a former All-Star who spent 14 productive seasons in the big leagues. The scouting reports and numbers suggest Frazier could be a quality big league player in time. In 2018? Maybe not. Plenty of rookies need some time to find their footing. But Frazier has obvious talent, the kind of talent worth keeping around.

Gardner is entering the last year of his contract

Brett Gardner turned 34 in August and the 2018 season is the final guaranteed year on his contract. He’ll make $11.5M before the Yankees have to make a decision about his $12.5M club option for 2019 ($2M buyout). Given his age and how hard he plays — and has played for the last decade now — a sudden decline and/or physical breakdown could be on the horizon. I hope it doesn’t happen, Brett is the man, but it might. That’s baseball.

If Gardner does decline and the Yankees do need to move on (or reduce his role), they’ll be happy they kept Frazier around for left field. I know Frazier looks capital-B Blocked right now. In 12 months though? He very well could be in line to take over as the starting left fielder. Gardner is kinda sorta year-to-year at this point of his career.

Hicks is still unproven

I like Aaron Hicks. I think first half Aaron Hicks is the real Aaron Hicks. Maybe he won’t repeat the .290/.398/.515 (144 wRC+) batting line he put up prior to the All-Star break this year, but I think he’s a true talent .270/.370/.470 guy going forward. Those numbers combined with above-average outfield defense make Hicks a pretty valuable player. He’s always had talent and athleticism. This season that talent and athleticism finally turned into production.

And yet, the fact remains Hicks turned 28 in October and he has yet to have a fully healthy and productive big league season. He’s shown flashes and that’s about it. The Yankees are currently penciling Hicks in as their starting center fielder, and I am totally cool with that, but you don’t have to try too hard to envision a scenario in which Hicks plays his way onto the bench next summer, Gardner has to take over in center field, and left field opens up for Frazier.

Stanton and Judge will need time off their feet

Stanton and Judge are so darn big that giving them fairly regular reps at DH to spare their legs seems like a smart move to me. Is it crazy to think the two of them should combine for 100 starts at DH next year? That still leaves 62 DH starts for Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and whoever else (Frazier!). Frazier can help make all those DH starts possible for Judge and Stanton by simply being available to start in the outfield and offering more youth and power than Jacoby Ellsbury, who is not guaranteed to be a Yankee come Opening Day.

* * *

In no way am I opposed to trading Frazier. The Stanton pickup does make him expendable and Clint has significant trade value thanks to his youth, his talent, and his six years of team control. The Yankees should be able to snag a pretty darn good pitcher by parting with Frazier. Whether that pitcher is Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer or someone else is another matter.

The Yankees do not have to trade Frazier, however, and they shouldn’t feel any sort of urgency to trade him. This doesn’t have to happen right now. The Yankees can stash Frazier in Triple-A to start next season — a few more Triple-A reps wouldn’t be the end of the world — and reassess at the trade deadline. Do they still need a pitcher? Do they need the outfielder more? Frazier is a top trade chip, for sure. Brian Cashman & Co. don’t have to trade him this offseason though.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 18th, 2017

2017 Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE
2017 Postseason Record: 7-6 (51 RS, 42 RA), won AL WC Game, won ALDS, lost ALCS

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Weekend Open Thread

Free agents are starting to sign! It’s about time. Carlos Santana is heading to the Phillies (for real) and Zack Cozart will join Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim. Speaking of Ohtani, Zach Buchanan got his hands on the recruiting package the Reds submitted to Ohtani. Make sure you check that out. It’s a neat little behind the curtain look at what teams were sending Ohtani earlier this month.

Friday: Here is an open thread for the evening. Rangers, Devils, Nets. They’re all playing tonight. That’s pretty much it. Talk about those games, the Ohtani presentation, or anything else here that isn’t religion or politics. Thanks in advance.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. There are two NFL games today (Bears vs. Lions at 4:30pm ET and Chargers vs. Chiefs at 8:30pm ET) plus the Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks are all playing. Have at it.

Sunday: For the final time, this is the open thread. The Nets are playing and there is all the day’s NFL action as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Assessing Trade Targets

Cole. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Cole. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Yankees are looking for pitching. It’s shocking, I know, but it’s going on. Even though they ‘found’ a pitcher yesterday by re-signing CC Sabathia to a one year, $10 million contract, it’s unlikely that they’ll just settle in with what they have. Sure, a rotation of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery is solid, but that doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t add to it. We’ve seen the Yankees connected to free agent Alex Cobb a bunch of times this offseason. However, most of the buzz around the Yankees and pitching seems to be concentrated around the trade rumor mill.

Over the past two weeks or so, the Yankees have been linked to no fewer than four starting pitchers in trade rumors. One is division rival Chris Archer of the Rays. Another, also in the AL is Tigers’ starter and 2016 AL Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer. The other two hail from the National League–Gerrit Cole of the Pirates, the Yankees’ first round draft pick in 2008, and Patrick Corbin off the Diamondbacks (who became an absolute monster in one iteration of franchise mode in The Show for me many moons ago).

When considering a trade, we’ve got a multitude of factors to weigh, but they can be boiled down to three fundamental categories: cost, control, and performance.

Cost operates on two fronts: How much money and how many players will it take to get your target? Control considers the player’s current contract and that/those of the player(s) you’re giving up. And performance deals, of course, with whether or not the guy is any good or has done well. All three categories can and will intersect when evaluating whether or not to make a trade.

To bring work home with me even more than an English teacher already does, I developed a quick rubric of sors to judge each trade candidate using the aforementioned fundamental categories.

 

Category/Score 3 2 1
Cost $ Low $ Medium $ High $
Cost player Low player Medium player High player
Control 3+ years beyond 2018 1-2 years beyond 2018 Impending free agent
Performance High performance consistently AND recently Some inconsistencies, may be a rebound/regression candidate Consistently poor performance

For the acquiring team, you obviously want the cost to be low and the control and performance to each be high. The better that combination, the more desirable the trade target. Let’s use Giancarlo Stanton as a test case or model to implement this rubric. We have hindsight here and in a vacuum, without the Marlins’ apparently dire financial situation, Stanton would be high on all three categories. He’s got a big contract for a long, long time, and just won NL MVP; in a “normal” world, he would’ve cost an arm, a leg, and then some. But, in reality, Stanton was acquired for a low player cost and even the big cost of his contract–which has him under control for a long time, a double-edged sword, perhaps–is somewhat mitigated by the Marlins kicking in $30 million. By any rubric or measure, this was a no brainer trade for the Yankees to make.

Let’s lead off by looking at Gerrit Cole, the pitcher most consistently linked to the Yankees recently. Cole is projected by MLBTR  to make $7.5 million in 2018. That’s not bad at all. Additionally, he’s also under control for 2018 and 2019. The former puts him at a 3 for Cost $ and a 2 for control. Not a bad start. The player cost is where we hit a bit of a bump or a snag. Yesterday, it got out that the Pirates were going to ask for Gleyber Torres in exchange for Cole, which is, uh, not gonna happen. Good for them for asking, but I’d sooner bet on the snowball in hell. Failing Torres, though, it’s likely the Pirates will then ask for Clint Frazier and more–Chance Adams, perhaps, and another lesser piece. At first blush, that seems to be the going rate for a pitcher of Cole’s reputation, so that could just be the cost of doing business, right? You’ve gotta give to get and all that, and if both sides are hurting, then the trade is probably good. But Cole seems to have more in the bank on reputation than on performance lately. He was downright elite in 2015 but then just sorta good in 2016–and hurt–and pretty meh overall in 2017. He had a big home run spike last year–his HR/FB% more than doubled from the year before–which could explain a lot. But when you’re poised to give up someone as talented as Clint Frazier and a potential league-minimum, back of the rotation guy in Chance Adams, AND another piece, I’d want something more than a guy who’s pretty much the definition of a 2 on my rubric. The idea of Cole seems to be better than the reality.

(Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Brian Davidson/Getty Images)

Starting with the money, we get another manageable situation in Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin. He’s projected to make $8.5 million. Another 3 in the Cost $ category. Where he loses out, though, is that this is his last year of team control and he’s a free agent at the end of the year. Big time 1 in the Control category. That would likely bring his player cost down, too, as would performance that was okay-ish in 2017 (4.03 ERA, 4.08 FIP), his second full year back from injury after missing all of 2014. 2016, by the way, was pretty ugly for Corbin (5.15 ERA, 4.84 FIP). What stands out is a garishly high HR/FB% of 15.8% last year; his career mark is 13.8%. Granted he plays in a homer friendly park, but that wouldn’t be likely to move down in Yankee Stadium and the AL East. If I’m feeling generous, I give him a 1.75 in the Performance category and probably a high 1, low 2 for player cost. Overall, I don’t think this one would be worth it unless that player cost dipped way down low.

Archer. (Presswire)
Archer. (Presswire)

Chris Archer is a pitcher who, on the face of things, passes every mark for a Yankee trade target. He’s got a good reputation and has spent his entire career in the AL East. Beyond that, he’s got a team friendly contract that has him making $6.25 million in 2018, $7.5 million in 2019, $9 million in 2020, and $11 million in 2021; the latter two are club options with buyouts of $1.75 million and $250, 000 respectively. That all makes for a fantastic mark in both Cost $ and Control. Unfortunately, that also means he’d likely be a 1 in Cost Player. Add on the fact that the Yankees would be trading with a division foe and you’re looking at a very steep cost. In terms of the Performance category, Archer is sort of in the same territory as Gerrit Cole; based on the way we think and talk about him, you’d think his stats would be a lot more glowing. While he hasn’t been bad by any real stretch, he’s failed to repeat the great season he had in 2015. A big home run spike in 2016 and 2017 is likely the cause of that. Still, he throws lots of innings (200+ the last three seasons), strikes out lots of guys, and doesn’t walk a ton of batters. Throw in that with the with the contract and this is someone who, unlike Cole, I could see giving up some top-flight talent for.

(Justin Edmonds/Getty)
(Justin Edmonds/Getty)

Michael Fulmer is about to start his third year of MLB service, so his first shot at arbitration won’t be until a year from now. Per Cot’s , Fulmer is also going to qualify for Super 2 status, meaning he’s got an extra year of arbitration, giving his team control of him through 2022. Hot damn. That’s a 3 and then some on the Control category. Even if he signed some sort of extension or contract, his mark in Cost $ is going to be a 3 pretty much no matter what. In terms of performance, Fulmer more or less repeated his ROY season, though with a lower strikeout rate. He kept up a big ground ball rate, though, and did a good job of keeping the ball in the park. That would probably change in moving from Comerica Park to Yankee Stadium, of course. Still, he’s got good control and command and keeps the ball on the ground; if you’re not going to strike people out, those two are the next best things. All this, though, of course means that Fulmer’s player cost is going to be sky high. The Tigers would be justified in asking anything–non-Torres division–in exchange for Fulmer. While there would be doubts in my mind about paying the player cost for Cole and some minor ones in paying the player cost for Archer, those more or less don’t apply to Fulmer. A young, supremely controlled pitcher with history of solid performance? Yep.

Given all this, my preferred order of acquisition would look like this:

Fulmer, followed by Archer, then a toss up between Corbin and Cole. While Cole is definitely the better pitcher, the cost for Corbin would likely be a lot lower, which evens them out a little bit. I’m not sure, obviously, what’s going to happen, but if the Yankees are going to go hard for one of these guys, it should be Fulmer. The farm system would take a hit and it would suck to say goodbye to someone as fun and cool as Clint Frazier, but Fulmer would make an immediate impact and a lasting one.

Yankees, Sabathia reportedly agree to one-year, $10M deal

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

CC Sabathia is staying with the Yankees. According to Mark Feinsand, the Yankees and Sabathia have agreed to a new one-year contract worth $10M with incentives based on innings pitched. The deal is pending a physical which, despite Sabathia’s knee, shouldn’t be an issue since the Yankees know all about his medicals. The Yankees have not yet confirmed the agreement.

Sabathia, 37, reportedly spoke with the Angels and Blue Jays this offseason, though he made it clear his first choice was remaining with the Yankees. “This is my home. I want to see this thing through. I want to come back here and finish things off. This is where I want to be,” said Sabathia following the ALCS Game Seven loss a few weeks ago.

“There were very competitive offers out there that really made CC take his time,” said Sabathia’s agent to Joel Sherman. “In the end, he feels there’s unfinished business to attend to. Loves his teammates, clubhouse and the moves the Yankees are making this offseason. (Sabathia) wanted to come back for his 10th season with the New York Yankees.”

Given his age and performance and leadership, there’s a pretty good chance Sabathia and the Yankees are operating on the Andy Pettitte plan now, meaning they keep working out new one-year contracts as long as Sabathia wants to continue pitching. That would be cool. There’s no such thing as too much pitching and this signing doesn’t break the bank.

This past season Sabathia threw 148.2 innings with a 3.69 ERA (4.49 FIP), and he did it with the same cutter heavy approach that revived his career in 2016. He’s a soft contact machine now. Sabathia had the lowest average exit velocity (83.9 mph), fifth lowest hard contact rate (24.1%), and sixth highest soft contact rate (27.2%) in baseball in 2017.

Sabathia will join Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery in the rotation. The Yankees have been connected to a bunch of young controllable starters in recent days, including guys like Gerrit Cole and Michael Fulmer, and I don’t believe re-signing Sabathia will stop that. I think the Yankees still want another starter.

With Sabathia back on a $10M deal, the Yankees are approximately $23M under the $197M luxury tax threshold, though keep in mind they have to set some money aside for midseason additions and call-ups. In addition to another starter, the Yankees could use another infielder after trading away Starlin Castro and Chase Headley.

Saturday Links: Cole, Ellsbury, Diamondbacks, Judge, Fowler

Cole. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Cole. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

As of today, pitchers and catchers are 59 days away from reporting to Tampa for Spring Training. Two months. There’s lots to do in those two months too. The Yankees need another pitcher and probably another infielder. and eventually the top free agents are going to have to sign. Anyway, here are some notes to check out.

Yankees, Pirates talking Cole trade

As rumored during the Winter Meetings, the Yankees and Pirates are indeed talking about a Gerrit Cole trade, reports George King. The deal “possibly” could include Clint Frazier, and the Pirates are said to want a young big league ready pitcher as well. Chance Adams is the obvious fit there, though who knows, maybe the Pirates prefer Domingo German or Luis Cessa. Strangers things have happened.

On one hand, Cole turned only 27 in September, and he has obvious ace-caliber upside. Plus he’s under control for two seasons, not just one. On the other hand, Cole has gone backwards the last two years. He had a 4.26 ERA (4.08 FIP) in 203 innings this season, which is as close to league average as it gets. League average is fine! A league average workhorse is quite valuable. I just worry about trading an ace package for a guy who hasn’t been an ace in two years.

Yankees, D’Backs talked Ellsbury trade

The Yankees and Diamondbacks discussed a Jacoby Ellsbury trade at some point recently, according to Brendan Kuty, though apparently it was a one-sided conversation. The D’Backs weren’t interested. Arizona appears to be one of the few potential landing spots for Ellsbury given the fact they need an outfielder, and Ellsbury and manager Torey Lovullo know each other from their Red Sox days. Plus Ellsbury has a house in Arizona, apparently.

Supposedly Ellsbury does not want to waive his no-trade clause, which could simply be his way of playing hard to get, and leveraging the no-trade clause into some sort of compensation for agreeing to a deal (pick up his 2021 option)? That might be pushing it. Or maybe Ellsbury doesn’t really want to leave the Yankees because he wants to win, and is willing to accept a reduced role. Whatever it is, he is in control here. If he doesn’t want to go to the D’Backs (or anywhere else), he doesn’t have to.

Judge will be ready for Spring Training

Earlier this week Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that following his shoulder surgery, Aaron Judge will be ready for the start of Spring Training, though the procedure will throw a wrench into his offseason workouts. Judge will have to start hitting a little later than usual. Here’s what Cashman said:

“He won’t be hitting in the winter the way he’s used to doing but in terms of hitting the ground in spring training he should be fine,” Cashman said. “But as far as his normal cage work and picking up a bat at a certain point, that’s going to be delayed for a period of time. But in terms of the recovered and the rehab puts him well in advance of spring training.”

While every surgery comes with risk, I’m not too worried about Judge because it was a fairly minor procedure — they scoped out a loose body and repaired some cartilage, there wasn’t any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff — and he has plenty of time to recover. Missing some offseason cage time isn’t the end of the world. As long as Judge is ready in time for Spring Training, he’ll get more than enough at-bats to be ready for the season.

Fowler suing White Sox for injury

According to Tom Schuba, former Yankees farmhand Dustin Fowler is suing the White Sox and the agency that manages Guaranteed Rate Field over the injury he suffered this summer. Fowler suffered an open rupture of the patella tendon when his knee hit an electrical box along the sidewall chasing a foul pop-up, as I’m sure you remember. It happened in his first inning as a big leaguer. From Schuba:

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, claims the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority acted negligently by not securing the metal box or taking precautions to prevent players from colliding with it. In addition, the suit alleges the White Sox and Sports Facilities Authority failed to adequately inspect the right field wall and the box. The box was installed at knee-level “in a manner so as to create a hidden and undetectable hazard” to Fowler and other ballplayers, the suit alleges. By failing to properly pad, guard or cover the exposed box, the defendants showed “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard” for Fowler’s safety.

The lawsuit says Fowler, who later went to the Athletics in the Sonny Gray trade, suffered “severe and permanent” injuries as well as mental pain and anguish, and adds Fowler has had to spend “large sums of money” on medical care related to the injury. I have no idea whether he has any chance of winning the lawsuit, but I hope Fowler cleans them out and they have to rename the ballpark after him. He started baseball activities as part of his rehab last month, so it seems he’s doing well. Hopefully Fowler wins the A’s center field job in Spring Training.