Weekend Open Thread

Another slow day at the ol’ hot stove office. You’ll have to forgive me for not getting excited about that Ryon Healy-for-Emilio Pagan blockbuster the other day. I’m still waiting for something interesting to happen this winter. Maybe next week. Here are two links to check out:

Here’s an open thread for the night. The (hockey) Rangers, Knicks, and Nets are all in action, plus there’s college basketball on as well. Talk about those game or anything that isn’t religion or politics right here.

Update: Yankees interview Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens for managerial job

Bam Bam. (Getty)
Bam Bam. (Getty)

Friday: The Yankees interviewed Meulens yesterday and Boone today, the team announced. I’ve seen a few beat writers on Twitter say Meulens was impressive. Impressive during his conference call, at least. Thomson, Wedge, Meulens, and Boone are the four candidates so far. Supposed the Yankees are only going to interview five or six. Chris Woodward is rumored to be another candidate.

Monday: According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees will interview both Aaron Boone and Hensley Meulens for their managerial opening. There’s no word on when exactly they will interview. Also, Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees asked the Athletics for permission to interview their manager Bob Melvin, but the A’s said no.

Boone was first mentioned as a managerial candidate last week. He played for the Yankees briefly in 2003 — you may remember that home run he hit — and has been working as an analyst for ESPN since he retired a few years ago. Boone has no coaching or managerial experience, but these days teams aren’t shy about hiring rookie skippers. It initially wasn’t clear whether he’d actually get an interview, but now we know he will.

Meulens, 50, was a top prospect with the Yankees way back when. He’s one of the most famous busts in franchise history, in fact. Following his playing career Bam Bam gradually worked his way up the minor league coaching ranks before joining the Giants. He was their hitting coach from 2010-17 — Meulens was on the coaching staff for their three recent World Series titles — and was named their bench coach this offseason.

In addition to his MLB work, Meulens has also coached and managed in international competition over the years. He and Didi Gregorius are close. They work together each winter and were both part of the The Netherlands’ World Baseball Classic squad earlier this year. Like just about everyone from Curacao, Meulens speaks multiple languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and Papiamento. That is an obvious plus for a manager. Meulens has been considered a future manager for several years now.

So far the Yankees have only interviewed Rob Thomson and Eric Wedge for their managerial opening. Brian Cashman told Mark Feinsand the next interview is set for Thursday — things are on hold while Cashman is at the GM Meetings the next few days — though he declined to say who it’ll be with. Could be Boone, could be Meulens, could be someone else entirely. We’ll find out soon enough.

The Yankees’ Five Shortest Home Runs of 2017

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Thanks to a multitude of factors, 2017 was the year of the home run. There were more homers hit this season (6,105) than in any other season in baseball history, and the Yankees contributed to that greatly. They led baseball with 241 home runs, including 161 homers by players no older than 27. Hooray for the youth movement.

Last week we looked at the first longest Yankees homers of the season. Now it’s time to move to the other end of the spectrum and look at the shortest Yankees homers of the season. Yankee Stadium, as we all know, is the only ballpark that gives up hilariously short home runs. You never see cheap homers into the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park or around the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park. Only the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Crazy.

In all seriousness, the short porch leads to a lot of cheap home runs each season, and sometimes you can do nothing other than shake your head and laugh. My personal favorite are the balls that clear the wall after the hitter slams the bat and curses at himself because he thought he missed his pitch. In honor of the short porch and cheap home runs everywhere, here are the five shortest home runs hit by Yankees in 2017.

5. Ellsbury vs. Yovani Gallardo

The best stretch by a Yankee not named Aaron Judge this year came from Jacoby Ellsbury, who was out of his mind during a four-week stretch spanning late-August and early-September. Ellsbury didn’t have a good year overall, but that hot streak helped the Yankees win a lot of games. He came up big a few times.

On August 26th, one night after a tough extra innings loss, Ellsbury came through with a go-ahead three-run home run against Gallardo. He got the Yankees on the board with a run-scoring single earlier in the game. Here’s the dinger:

Gotta love that short porch. The Yankees were scuffling a bit at the time and runs were hard to come by, especially with Judge still mired in his slump. Ellsbury’s hot streak was well-timed, as was this home run. Distance: 336 feet.

4. Hicks vs. Danny Duffy

Know how Judge dominated the longest homers list? Aaron Hicks dominates the shortest homers list. Didn’t expect that! He hit three of the four shortest homers by a Yankee this year.

The longest of Hicksie’s three short homers came in a loss to the Royals. Duffy crushed the Yankees that day, holding them to two runs in seven innings. The two runs scored on solo homers by Hicks and Chris Carter. The Hicks dinger was an opposite field job into the short porch.

Hicks gave the Yankees the lead! And Carter added to that lead! Then the bullpen completely melted down. Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, and Chasen Shreve combined to allow five runs and get four outs. Ouch. The regular late-inning guys must’ve not been available. Distance: 336 feet.

3. Hicks vs. Addison Reed

Shout out to Reed for showing up in both the longest homers and shortest homers posts. He allowed the fourth longest homer by a Yankee and also the third shortest homer by a Yankee this season.

This home run was, at the time, one of the biggest homers of the season. The Red Sox were in town and the Yankees had lost five of their previous eight games to fall 4.5 games back of Boston in the AL East. It was gut check time. The Yankees had to take a stand to stay in the division race. So of course they fell behind 2-0 in the first inning. Groan. Hanley Ramirez walloped a two-run homer against Jaime Garcia.

The BoSox stretched the lead to 3-0 by time the eighth inning rolled around. Brett Gardner started the eighth inning rally with a walk against Reed, then Hicks, in his second game back from his first oblique injury, got the Yankees on the board with a home run into the right field corner.

I’m not sure how Hicks kept that ball fair. It was a slider right in on his hands, and he was able to keep it just inside the foul pole. The homer got the Yankees to within 3-2, and they went on to add three more runs in the inning to take a 5-3 lead. Hicks then threw out Eduardo Nunez at third in the ninth to help the Yankees to one of their best come-from-behind wins of 2017. Distance: 335 feet. Hmmm. I have my doubts about that one. Looked shorter.

2. Hicks vs. Michel Ynoa

The season was still young and we were all very much in the “is Hicks good now?” mode. It was the 15th game of the season — it was the tenth game for Hicks, personally — and Hicks lined his fourth homer over the wall in right field. Well, no, not over. The ball hit the top of the fence and hopped over.

On one hand, Hicks crushed that ball and it was an extra-base hit off the bat. On the other hand, LOL at that homer. Distance: 335 feet. How? You’re losing me here, Statcast. For what it’s worth, Hit Tracker measured this one at 334 feet. Whatever. A silly homer either way.

1. Gregorius vs. Tony Cingrani

The shortest home run of the season was so short that it was only a few inches away from being robbed. Scott Schebler needed about nine more inches on his vertical to potentially reel this one in. Didi Gregorius provided two insurance runs with this blast, which he of course hooked into the short porch.

That home run was the fourth in three days for Sir Didi, and his sixth in the first 13 games coming out of the All-Star break. Distance: 332 feet. How that measured at 332 feet and the Hicks homer measured at 335 feet, I’ll never know.

Friday chat reminder

I’ve gotta admit, I didn’t expect the Yankees to get through the GM Meetings without making a trade. Not necessarily a major trade, but at least a 40-man roster cleanup trade. Jose Pirela for Ronald Herrera. Something like that. Anyway, the chat is tentatively scheduled for 2:30pm ET today. I might have to push it back a bit. I’ll let you know if that is the case.

Mailbag: Gordon, Ohtani, Andujar, Iglesias, Tillman, Pena

We’ve got eleven questions in this week’s mailbag. The email address to send us any questions or comments is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. We get a lot of submissions each week and I get to as many as I can. Don’t give up if your question didn’t get picked this week.

Dee. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Dee. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Doug asks: The RAB comment section has caught full blown Giancarlo Stanton fever but given the Marlins’ fire sale, his smaller contract, contact rate at the plate, his Gold Gloves and the fact that it would be easier to move the player currently playing his position (the 27 year old Starlin Castro) then the player holding down a corner outfield position (the 34 year old Brett Gardner), what about trading for Dee Gordon? Given the other sources of right handed pop in the Yankee line-up, it seems like Gordon might be a better fit for this roster right now then Castro.

Gordon turns 30 in April. Did you know that? I had no idea. I would’ve guessed he was still 27 or 28. Anyway, Gordon hit .308/.341/.375 (92 wRC+) with two homers and 60 steals in 76 attempts (79%) this season. That’s right in line with his career .293/.329/.367 (92 wRC+) line. Gordon doesn’t walk (3.6%) or strike out (13.4%), and is an elite baserunner. (It’s not just steals, he’s an extra base taking machine.) Also, his defense at second base keeps getting better as he gains more experience.

I do believe Gordon is a better all-around player than Castro. He won’t have as much impact at the plate, but the edges in baserunning and defense are significant. Plus he’s a lefty contact guy who would balance the lineup a bit. I wouldn’t bat Gordon leadoff. I’d bat him ninth and let him raise hell at the bottom of the order. The downside here is the $38M owned to him from 2018-20. As soon as Gordon starts to lose a step, forget it, his value will crater. I think I’d rather stick it out with the younger and cheaper Castro than bet on the age 30-32 seasons of a pure speed guy. (A Dee and Didi double play combination would be pretty cool though. D & DD.)

Tom asks: Say Otani gets the go ahead to come over fairly soon and the Yankees sign him, do you think they pass on signing Sabathia? That’s at least another $10 million under the tax, maybe they can use that to extend Didi.

Nope. The more pitching, the better. There’s a pretty good chance whichever team signs Shohei Ohtani will use a six-man rotation — that’s an idea worth its own post at some point — plus there’s no such thing as too much pitching. If the Yankees sign Ohtani and CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery has to start the season in Triple-A, so be it. He’ll be back in the big leagues soon enough. Keep in mind Ohtani’s career highs are 24 starts and 160.2 innings, and he’s a few months younger than Luis Severino. Gotta keep an eye on his workload, so get the pitching. The Yankees shouldn’t pass on doing anything if they get Ohtani, especially adding pitching.

Erick asks: It seems to me that teams can argue with Otani about him running the bases. His ankle injury occurred running, it might give headway for teams to reduce his potential plate appearances no?

Teams are probably going to say and do whatever it takes to sign Ohtani, and if that means promising him regular at-bats, so be it. The ankle injury was fluky — Ohtani rolled his ankle running through first base — though it was bad enough that it hampered him all season and required surgery last month. Ohtani has already started hitting off a tee as part of his rehab, according to the Kyodo News, so he’s expected to be ready in time for Spring Training.

The ankle surgery could justify limiting Ohtani’s plate appearances, especially early in the season, but ultimately I think this will come down to performance. If he hits, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the lineup. I’m with Grant Brisbee on this. Ohtani will get a chance to hit and pitch right away because that’s probably what it’ll take to sign him. Within two years though, he’ll be hitting or pitching. Not both. This’ll work itself out.

Mathieu asks: I’ve been a longtime believer in Miguel Andujar. I also think it’s clear that Castro, while serviceable, is merely a placeholder until someone better comes along. Am I wrong to think that the best future infield is Andujar at 3B and Torres at 2B? If so, why is there such a push to have Torres play the hot corner?

I like Andujar as well and think he’ll be a starting third baseman within a year or two. The beauty of all this is the Yankees have plenty of options. They could go Andujar at third and Gleyber Torres at second if that’s best. Or Torres at third and Castro at second. Or Andujar at third and Tyler Wade at second. Who knows? These things have a way of sorting themselves out. I really like Andujar and think he’ll be a sneaky good player in time. The Yankees will make room for him when that time comes. Gleyber isn’t being pushed into anything right now. Second and third (and short) are all potential long-term positions for him.

Oops. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Oops. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Chris asks: Would you make a deal for Raisel Iglesias for Dellin Betances & Tyler Wade? Raisel is a few years younger than Dellin, the Reds need a SS and a closer if they trade Iglesias and Dellin needs a change of scenery. And the Reds and Yankees seem to have a trade pipeline set up.

Chris, I’m going to hit you with a your trade proposal sucks here. The rebuilding Reds aren’t trading their borderline elite (and affordable!) closer for a broken setup man making similar money and a good but not great prospect. They could get lots more for Iglesias. Lots more.

As for pursuing Iglesias himself, sure, go for it. He’s really good. He’s only 27 and he had a 2.49 ERA (2.70 FIP) with 30.1% strikeouts and 8.8% walks in 76 innings this year, and he’s owed only $14.5M from 2018-20. Also, Iglesias has proven the last two years that he can go multiple innings, which is always nice. I don’t think the Yankees will trade prospects for relievers this offseason because the bullpen isn’t much of a priority. Iglesias is good though, and hey, if the Reds want Betances and Wade for him, do it.

Mary asks: What about Chris Tillman on a one-year rebound contract? Worth it for the Yankees? Would he be willing to sit in AAA until needed (maybe with a June 1 opt-out)?

Gosh, the Yankees have been pounding on Tillman for almost a decade now. He made his big league debut in 2009. Has it really been nine seasons already? Tillman has a career 5.54 ERA with a .307/.372/.494 opponent’s batting line in 112 career innings against the Yankees. Seems like they hammer him every single time.

In all seriousness, the 29-year-old Tillman has not been the same guy since he hurt his shoulder last year. There has been no life on his pitches at all since then. Tillman threw 93 innings with a 7.84 ERA (6.93 FIP) this season, though I suppose he could be better next year, as he gets further away from the injury. That’s what you’d be banking on. Given how bad he looked this year, I wouldn’t give Tillman a guaranteed deal. A minor league deal? Sure. Why not. No harm in those. One-year prove yourself contracts usually don’t happen in Yankee Stadium. Not for pitchers. Tillman will try to rebuild his value in a more pitcher friendly park.

Michael asks: Are there any rules prohibiting active players from full or partial ownership of an MLB team? If not, do you foresee a situation in MLB where a player contract includes partial ownership of the team?

Yes, there is a rule against that. It would be a massive conflict of interest if the player ever gets traded or changes teams. The rule was put in place because Rogers Hornsby had an ownership stake in the Cardinals when he played, then they traded him to the Giants. MLB forced him to sell his stake and St. Louis lowballed the hell out of him because he had no leverage. They knew he had to sell. Giving players an ownership stake is never ever ever going to happen again, and it shouldn’t. I’m surprised MLB is okay with Billy Beane having an ownership stake in the Athletics.

Thomas asks: Do you think the Yankees history policy of not renegotiating deals hurts them at all in the Ohtani sweepstakes? Either because Ohtani wouldn’t like to sign with a team that has a policy like that or because MLB will look at any extension deal they (potentially) do extra carefully?

Interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. The Yankees supposedly did away with the no extensions policy a few years ago, when they signed Gardner long-term, though it wasn’t until recently that they had more 20-somethings worth extending. The Yankees have extended players before. Gardner and Robinson Cano are the notable examples. They signed Derek Jeter to a massive extension back in the day. The no extensions thing could be a red flag for Ohtani, but ultimately, the Yankees have a history of paying their players top dollar, and I think that’ll make up for it.

No one ever takes pictures of the first base coach. (Elsa/Getty)
No one ever takes photos of the first base coach. (Elsa/Getty)

Todd asks: With the Yankees saying they will cap it at 5-6 interviews for manager, what do you see in Tony Pena’s future?

Pena interviewed for the managerial opening last time around, though that was just for show. The Yankees wanted Joe Girardi, but MLB’s rules say each team must interview a minority candidate, so Pena was that candidate. This time around Hensley Meulens is that candidate. (I don’t mean Muelens is the token minority candidate. He’s a legitimate managerial candidate.) As far as we know, Pena won’t interview for the job. Rob Thomson said he wants to come back even if he doesn’t get the manager’s job, but we have no idea how Pena feels about things. He might not want to come back with Girardi gone. Or it could be up to the new manager. If the new manager wants Pena, they could offer him a position. If the new manager wants to bring in his own guys, Pena might be a goner. I’m not really sure what’s next for him. I like Tony. Hopefully he gets to stick around.

RJ asks: Mike, what do you think about the Twins voiding the 3 million dollar contract with Jelfry Marte over a vision problem? Coincidentally there’s a superstar from Japan that just so happens to being posted this offseason. Now 3 teams can offer 3+ million.

Eh, it’s just a coincidence. A few international (and draft) signings get voided each year due to physical issues. The Twins knew Ohtani was likely to be posted back when they signed Marte, and now there’s a really good chance the Twins don’t get either guy, Ohtani or Marte. And if the Twins were trying to weasel out of the Marte deal to free up money for Ohtani, Marte’s people would make a big stink and file a grievance with MLB. Backing out of a $3M contract is not something that gets taken lightly.

Dan asks: The Chad Green situation got me thinking. C.J. Wilson was exclusively a reliever for 4 straight years, never going over 73 IP. They made the switch, and he averaged 204 IP and 34 starts for the next 5 years. Was he a 1 in a million anomaly, or is this something that teams are missing out on?

Wilson is a big time outlier. He had a ton of arm injuries earlier in his career too, when he was a reliever, yet he stayed completely healthy for a few years as a starter. It was pretty incredible. A lot of guys have done the reliever-to-starter thing early in their careers (Chris Sale, Zack Greinke, etc.), but that late in their careers? No. Wilson did it at age 29. Guys like Danny Graves and Braden Looper tried it late and got knocked around as starters.

Are there some relievers out there who could be successful starters? Yeah, probably. I think Adam Warren could be a league average starter if given the chance. Or at least could’ve been earlier in his career. Most guys are in the bullpen for a reason though. They don’t have a third pitch, or they have crummy command, or they can’t stay healthy, something like that. Wilson is definitely an outlier. Going from career reliever to five straight seasons of 31+ starts and 170+ innings in your early-30s just doesn’t happen.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Breaking Shohei Otani news: it’s Ohtani, not Otani. You’ll see it spelled both ways around the internet, but Shohei’s representatives at CAA Sports confirmed it is indeed Ohtani. Technically, both Ohtani and Otani are correct. There is no literal Japanese characters to English letters translation. The translation is based on the pronunciation. Well, whatever. Ohtani it is.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Titans and Steelers are the Thursday night NFL game, the Devils and Islanders are playing, and there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about whatever here, just not religion or politics. Get that outta here.