Here is an open thread for the night. The Islanders are playing and there are a few college basketball games on the schedule. That about it. Talk about those games, Matsui and the Hall of Fame, or anything else here that isn’t religion or politics.
According to Ben Badler, the Yankees have signed Dominican shortstop Angel Rojas as an international free agent. Rojas is one of the 13 former Braves prospects who became a free agent earlier this offseason when the team was disciplined for their international free agency transgressions under former GM John Coppolella.
Badler says the Yankees paid Rojas a $350,000 bonus. Anything given to the ex-Braves prospects over $200,000 counts against the hard cap, so the extra $150,000 comes out of the $3.5M in unspent Shohei Ohtani money. Between his original Braves bonus and new Yankees bonus, Rojas netted $650,000 total. Not bad.
The Braves originally signed Rojas last summer — most of the 13 prospects they lost signed in 2016, but Rojas is one of the few who signed in 2017 — and neither Baseball America nor MLB.com ranked him among the top prospects for the 2017-18 signing period. He’s not a highly regarded prospect, as his original $300,000 bonus suggests, and I can’t find a scouting report on the kid. Sorry.
In addition to Rojas, the Yankees have also signed outfielder Raimfer Salinas and catcher Antonio Cabello with their leftover Ohtani money this offseason. Salinas and Cabello likely received seven-figure bonuses. The Yankees have also been connected to Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez, who is not yet eligible to sign. He’s still going through the process of establishing residency and all that.
The Rojas signing is a drop in the bucket in that $3.5M in Ohtani money. I’m not sure how much the Yankees have left over after signing Salinas and Cabello, but whatever the amount is, the Yankees are going to spend it. It won’t go unused. They have until June 25th to spend it all, so there’s no rush.
Spring Training is four weeks and one day away, and as of right now, the Yankees do not have a defined second or third baseman. They have candidates for those two jobs, but no clear cut starter at second or third like they do at every other position. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! It’s just … unusual. Especially for the Yankees.
Among the candidates for the third base position is prospect Miguel Andujar, whose name popped up in trade rumors over the weekend. Well, I guess we should call them post-trade rumors. Gerrit Cole was dealt to the Astros and soon thereafter Jon Heyman reported the Pirates wanted Andujar. Jerry Crasnick says the Yankees made him off-limits along with their other top prospects, like Gleyber Torres and Justus Sheffield.
We’ll never truly know how trade talks between the Pirates and Yankees went down, but we do know Cole is an Astro and Andujar is a Yankee. If the Pirates asked for Andujar, they didn’t get him, and I think that means something. Josh Norris noted the Yankees “love Andujar.” Last week Brian Cashman said Andujar gets asked about often during trade talks (from Brendan Kuty):
“He’s a very exciting talent,” Cashman said. “One that’s being insisted upon, it seems like, in every conversation I’m having with anything that’s high-end out there. There’s a recognition of Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar as the next level of guys right below Gleyber Torres and it’s understandable why, with what these guys have done coming through our system.”
I have made it no secret I am an unabashed Andujar fan. I think he’s the next “how was this guy never on a top 100 prospect list?” player, though MLB.com currently ranks him as the 92nd best prospect in the game, so I guess I have to lose that argument. Point is, I’m a big Andujar fan and I think he’s long been overlooked, and I’m not alone. Keith Law called him “(the) rare unheralded Yankees prospect” last week.
Given what we’ve heard since the Cole trade, it sure seems the Yankees like Andujar as well, even though they didn’t give him much playing time last season. They kept him in the minors to work on his defense in the second half rather than use him as the big league DH, and hey, that could be evidence the Yankees like him. They want Andujar to improve so they put him in the best position to do so.
More evidence the Yankees like Andujar: Spring Training is right around the corner and they’ve yet to acquire a veteran third baseman. Now, that doesn’t mean much because the Yankees could re-sign Todd Frazier or trade for Josh Harrison tomorrow, this is a slow-moving offseason after all, but the Yankees haven’t rushed into anything. They were patient with Cole and now he’s an Astro. They were comfortable waiting because they have five starters.
The Yankees are being patient with infield help and, like Cole, it is entirely possible they will lose out on their top third base targets. Frazier could sign with the Mets, Harrison could get traded wherever, who knows? That’s the risk with being patient and playing the market. That perfect deal might not come along and you get stuck with nothing. Except the Yankees wouldn’t be stuck with nothing. They’d have Andujar at third base. Could be worse.
Last season the 22-year-old Andujar authored a .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers and a 13.6% strikeout rate in 125 games between Double-A and Triple-A, and the various projection systems peg him as a league average-ish bat for 2018:
The Yankees would, in theory, be able to live with that given the overall strength of their offense, assuming Andujar actually meets projections, which is a big assumption. At the very least, the team’s actions indicate they’re willing to roll with Andujar as an emergency option. Are they looking for a veteran infielder? Sure. They’re always looking for upgrades. But if nothing comes together, Andujar would be the guy, and I’m excited about that.
We know three things right now. One, Andujar is still a Yankee! That’s cool. Two, the Yankees have been going young wherever possible the last year or two. You could go back even longer than that, really. And three, the luxury tax plan exists. The more cheap young players the Yankees have — the more cheap, young, and productive players the Yankees have, I should say — the better it is for the luxury tax plan. Andujar at third frees up money for other stuff.
I have no doubt the Yankees will keep an eye out for a veteran infielder(s) given their second and third base openings because that’s what they do. And if something that makes sense comes along, they’ll pounce. For now though, Andujar is in line to start, and reports indicate the Yankees had him on their untouchable prospects list. At a time when the Yankees are going very young, Andujar could be the next young player to join the lineup full-time, and it could happen as soon as Opening Day.
Over the weekend the Yankees lost out on their most rumored trade target, as the Pirates shipped Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a package most seem to agree is pretty underwhelming. The Yankees were reportedly willing to trade Clint Frazier or Chance Adams for Cole, but not both. They made their very best prospects unavailable.
Aside from Cole, the pitcher most connected to the Yankees these last few weeks has been free agent righty Yu Darvish. Darvish confirmed his list is down to six teams and the Yankees are one of the six. And, naturally, as soon as the Cole trade went down, it was speculated the Yankees would move on and sign Darvish. That’s usually how it goes, right? The Yankees missed out on a player they wanted, so they’ll go after the next best thing.
There has been a lot — A LOT — of chatter about the Yankees and Darvish the last few days, and it is confusing as hell. It can be tough to tell what is legit and what it nonsense these days. Teams and agents both leak misinformation in an effort to create leverage, and fans eat it up. Let’s try to make sense of all this, shall we? Here’s what we know.
The Yankees may or may not have made an offer
On his radio show last Thursday, Michael Kay said the Yankees offered Darvish six years and around $160M, but added the offer was only on the table for 48 hours. That sounds … weird. This is the same Michael Kay who reported Aaron Judge would be named AL MVP, so take this with a big ol’ grain of salt.
Now, that said, Darvish eventually confirmed the Yankees did make him an offer. Eventually.
They don't give me offer yet? https://t.co/Zlp4KPLdzr
— ???????(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) January 12, 2018
Sorry guys. My mistake.
Actually they did make offer but the numbers are not correct. https://t.co/0mIvMlZTPJ
— ???????(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) January 12, 2018
First Darvish denied getting an offer from the Yankees, then circled back and said he did, though the numbers (six years and $160M) were incorrect. And then, a few hours later, Bryan Hoch reported that no, the Yankees have not made Darvish an offer. Hmmm.
Yes, the Yankees and Darvish have spoken
Brian Cashman has indeed spoken to Joel Wolfe, Darvish’s agent. I know this because Cashman confirmed it during a WFAN appearance last week. (Also, Wolfe is Giancarlo Stanton’s agent, and he was at Stanton’s introductory press conference last month, so of course he spoke to Cashman at some point.)
Anyway, here’s what Cashman had to say about Darvish during the WFAN appearance. Bryan Hoch has a partial transcript:
“Do we recognize Yu Darvish as a unique talent and a premier starting pitcher available in this marketplace? The answer to that question is yes,” Cashman said during an in-studio appearance on WFAN. “Would we be, in the end, one of the last teams standing? I can’t answer on that. I have talked to Joel Wolfe, his agent. I can acknowledge that.”
“He’s obviously a tremendous pitcher,” Cashman said. “I can’t answer it directly. I would just say that we do have some flexibility. To create more flexibility, the higher the cost of the player … I would have to create more financial room so we do not trip up that luxury tax when the dust settles at the end of this year, unless ownership changes their mind on that.”
The Yankees are trying to get under the $197M luxury tax threshold, and according to our unofficial calculations, they have about $22M to spend. Realistically, that’s not enough to sign Darvish. The Yankees would have to fit Darvish’s contract under the luxury tax threshold and set aside money for midseason additions and call-ups, nevermind try to find an infielder.
They’re waiting for the price to drop
Well, duh. That’s what every team is doing right now. Only a handful of the top free agents have signed. It feels like all 30 teams are playing a game of chicken right now. Who’s going to snap first and sign a top tier free agent? That’s where the offseason is at. Every team is waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) for the prices to drop. It is organic collusion, as Ken Davidoff called it.
Anyway, soon after the Cole trade John Harper reported Cashman and the Yankees believe they can land Darvish on a “reasonable” contract. In this case, “reasonable” seems to be Jeff Samardzija money.
Two sources on Saturday night said Cashman’s interest in signing Darvish, which he essentially made public during a WFAN interview on Thursday, is very real, largely because he believes this stalled free-agent market gives the Yankees a chance to get the Japanese star pitcher at a “reasonable” price.
That might be Darvish’s asking price, but with teams throughout baseball determined to limit the length of long-term contracts, and the righthander coming off that poor World Series performance, the Yankees seem to think it’s possible they could get him for five years, $80-90 million.
I’ll take the over on five years and $90M or so, but in this free agent climate, who the hell knows. My guess is the other five teams Darvish is said to be considering would get very involved at five years and $90M-ish. If the price truly falls that far, a) holy crap, and b) it might come down to selling Darvish on the team and city.
* * *
Do the Yankees want to sign Darvish? Of course they do. Will they blow up the luxury tax plan to make it happen? Almost certainly not. If they were willing to do that, it probably would’ve happened already. I think two things are happening here:
- Cashman and Wolfe talked Darvish, and his camp floated seven years and $160M as contract parameters, which wouldn’t be outrageous for a pitcher of this caliber in a “normal” free agent market. Those numbers trickled down to Kay and, in the game of telephone, it got turned into an actual offer.
- The Yankees have not made Darvish a formal offer. (I’m sure they’ve talked money.) My hunch is Darvish tweeted the truth when he said the Yankees haven’t made an offer, which sent his agent into damage control mode, hence the correction tweet. Wolfe wants teams thinking the Yankees made an offer. It increases leverage.
Because of the luxury tax plan and the hoops the Yankees would have to jump through to fit Darvish under the threshold — they’d have to trade one or more of Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances to make it work financially, even at the discounted Samardzija rate (and trading those guys creates another set of problems) — I don’t see them signing him. It would be cool if they did sign Darvish. I’m just not counting on it.
Over the last month or so the Yankees have been connected primarily to Cole and Darvish, and for a while, it seemed like a Cole trade was inevitable. Eventually the Pirates would cave and take Clint Frazier and whoever else the Yankees deemed expendable. It didn’t happen. The Astros packaged some scraps and got him instead. And as soon as it appeared the Astros would get Cole, the focused immediately shifted to Darvish. That when all this stuff about offers and all that really picked up.
The Yankees pretty clearly want to add another starting pitcher. A good one at that. They’d have no trouble finding an affordable depth if that’s what they wanted. They want a difference-maker. That’s why they went after Cole and that’s why Cashman checked in on Darvish. Once you dig through all the nonsense, you end up in a familiar place: The Yankees checked in on Darvish because they check in on everyone, and they’re willing to do a deal at a price that doesn’t blow up the luxury tax plan. So, in that sense, nothing has changed.
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
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees “shut down” trade talks with the Pirates about Gerrit Cole, then he was traded to the Astros for two relievers and two prospects. Yu Darvish is still considering six teams and the Yankees are one of them.
- Prior to Friday’s deadline, the Yankees signed all eight of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year contracts for 2018. The team has approximately $22M in payroll space under the $197M luxury tax threshold.
- The Yankees signed utility man Jace Peterson to a minor league contract. We should start hearing about more non-roster players pretty soon.
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Friday: Here is an open thread for the night. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, and that’s about it. No college basketball tonight. Anything goes here except religion or politics. Thanks in advance.
Saturday: This is the open thread again. The NFL playoffs continue today with Falcons vs. Eagles (4:30pm ET on NBC) and Titans vs. Patriots (8pm ET on CBS). The Nets and Devils are playing tonight, and there’s a whole bunch of college basketball on as well. Have at it.
Sunday: For the final time, this is the open thread. The NFL playoffs continue with Jaguars vs. Steelers (1pm ET on CBS) and Saints vs. Vikings (4:30pm ET on FOX). The Knicks, Rangers, and some college basketball teams are playing too. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
10:20pm ET: Jerry Crasnick says the Yankees made Torres, Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial off-limits during trade talks with the Pirates. They were willing to trade Frazier or Chance Adams for Cole, but not both.
7:12pm ET: According to multiple reports, the Astros have traded for Gerrit Cole. For real this time. Headed the other way are right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, and prospects Colin Moran and Jason Martin. Musgrove and Feliz are big league relievers who might be able to start. MLB.com ranks Moran and Martin as the No. 5 and 15 prospects in Houston’s system, respectively.
The Yankees had been connected to Cole for weeks, but the Pirates reportedly insisted on Gleyber Torres, and that was never going to happen. Brian Cashman & Co. wanted to build a package around Clint Frazier which, as J.J. Cooper noted, would’ve been better than what Pittsburgh actually got from the Astros. Jon Heyman says the Pirates wanted Miguel Andujar as well, and the two sides were never close to a deal.
With Cole off the board, the Yankees figure to move on to other pitcher trade targets, such as Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, or Patrick Corbin. They’ve been connected to all those guys this offseason. Clearly the Yankees want a potential impact pitcher, not just a depth arm. That said, they have five starters already, plus some nice depth arms, so another pitcher isn’t imperative.