Aaron Judge undergoes left shoulder surgery, will be ready for Spring Training

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

Turns out Aaron Judge wrapping his left shoulder with a big ice pack after each game in the second half was more than routine maintenance. Judge had arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder yesterday, the Yankees announced. The procedure “involved a loose-body removal and cartilage clean-up,” and his recovery will be completed in time for Spring Training.

Judge started wrapping his shoulder in the second half, at the same time as his slump, though of course he denied it had anything to do with his troubles at the plate. “It’s not affecting me at all,” he said on more than one occasion. Here’s a look at the ice pack following a game with the Red Sox on August 20th.

It’s impossible to say how much the achy shoulder contributed to Judge’s slump, if it contributed at all. He never made excuses, though the left shoulder is Judge’s front shoulder when hitting, and the front shoulder is the power shoulder. It might not have been a coincidence his hard contact rate dropped precipitously in the first few weeks of the second half.

aaron-judge-hard-contact

If the shoulder was bothering Judge, it didn’t show in September, when he hit .311/.463/.889 (233 wRC+) with 15 home runs, his most in any month. Achy shoulder or not, Judge still hit .284/.422/.627 (173 wRC+) with 52 home runs this season, and that is pretty awesome. That earned him the AL Rookie of the Year award (unanimously) and a second place finish in the AL MVP voting.

Although this surgery seems minor — it was arthroscopic, so they didn’t have to cut Judge open — every surgery is a risk, especially when it involves a major joint like the shoulder. Hopefully Judge’s rehab goes well and he comes back next season at full strength, because if this season was any indication, he’s pretty excellent even when his shoulder is barking.

Thoughts following the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline

New 40-man roster player Billy McKinney. (Presswire)
New 40-man roster player Billy McKinney. (Presswire)

It has been three weeks since the Astros won the World Series and we’re still waiting for something exciting to happen this offseason. Yesterday was the deadline for teams to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, and that’s the most exciting thing that has happened so far this winter. I’m going through hot stove withdrawals here. Would be cool if something fun happened soon. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. Last night the MLBPA announced they have extended their (completely arbitrary) deadline to figure out a posting agreement for Shohei Ohtani, and the fact they extended the deadline leads me to believe the sides made good progress yesterday, and the finish line is in sight. Supposedly one of the pending issues is the posting window. The MLBPA wants to shorten the period in which NPB teams can post their players. Right now they can be posted any time between November 1st and February 1st. MLBPA wants to cut it down to two weeks in November so it doesn’t hold up the rest of the free agent market. That seems like something they can work out, right? I hope so. The union really botched this. They agreed to this posting system and the international hard cap, and now they don’t like. Speak up at the table next time, fellas. Maybe hire a labor professional to negotiate on your behalf rather than give the job to an ex-player everyone likes? Could be cool. Hopefully everything gets worked out today and Ohtani gets posted soon. The sooner Ohtani comes over, the better it is for MLB and the MLBPA.

2. I was a little surprised Jonathan Loaisiga was added to the 40-man roster yesterday, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. Loaisiga is clearly talented, though he’s had a lot of injuries in his career (103.2 innings total in five years), and has only thrown 2.1 innings in a full season league. In the past, you could leave a guy like Loaisiga unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and not think twice about it. Even if he got picked, he’d come back at some point. Nowadays rebuilding teams are more open to selecting talented low level kids, sticking them on their MLB roster all season, then sending them back to the minors the next year to continue their development. The Padres did that not only with Luis Torrens last year, but also Allen Cordoba, who had never played above rookie ball prior to last season. A few weeks ago Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold they need to rethink their Rule 5 Draft protection strategy after losing Cordoba, and I think that applies to the Yankees too. They probably don’t protect Johnny Lasagna this year had they not lost Torrens from their Low-A roster last year.

3. Two things about the 40-man roster space clearing trades prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline. One, I’m pleasantly surprised the Yankees were able to open space exclusively through trades. They got something back for their players (Garrett Cooper, Caleb Smith, Nick Rumbelow, Ronald Herrera). They’re not going to lose them for nothing on waivers. Even the 37th, 38th, 39th, and 40th guys on the 40-man roster had some trade value. Cool. And two, I didn’t expect Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve to survive the 40-man roster purge, but perhaps I should have. Shreve may be out of minor league options, but he’s left-handed and he’s had some success in the big leagues. That’s not someone you cast aside unless absolutely necessary. As for Mitchell, he has a really great arm, even if the results haven’t been there yet. His curveball spin rate (2,750 rpm) the last two seasons is well above the league average (2,477 rpm), and these days curveball spin rate is all the rage. The Astros used curveball spin rate to find Charlie Morton. Tom Verducci is writing about it. This is a copy cat league. Other teams are going to start emphasizing curveball spin rate now. Maybe that’s enough of a reason to keep Mitchell. Or, at least it’s enough of a reason to hold onto him for the time being to see if a better trade offer than what was available prior to yesterday comes around.

4. Speaking of the Astros, I think it’s kinda funny that, after hearing for however long that a strong bullpen is necessary to win the World Series, they won the World Series with that disaster of a bullpen. Their bullpen allowed 37 runs in 61.2 innings in the postseason. That’s a 5.40 ERA. Their best relievers in the playoffs were starters. Lance McCullers Jr. had the four-inning save in ALCS Game Seven, Brad Peacock had a 3.2 inning save in World Series Game Three, and Charlie Morton had a four-inning save in World Series Game Seven. Houston’s bullpen was a mess and they won the World Series anyway. Does that mean having a strong bullpen is not as important as generally believed? Nah. Sign me up for dominant bullpen all day, every day. Timing is everything though. The Astros got good relief work (mostly from starting pitchers) in the games they really needed it. There is no magic formula for winning the World Series. Pitching by itself doesn’t win championships. The best way to win the World Series is to be good at everything. Hitting, pitching, defense, baserunning, everything. Do as many things well as possible and things will work out. For the Astros, their depth starters came through when their regular relievers did not.

5. With each passing day I am talking myself more and more into trading for Giancarlo Stanton. Don’t get me wrong, he’s awesome, but I never felt like he was someone the Yankees would pursue aggressively for a variety of reasons. The luxury tax plan, their crowded outfield, the farm system, etc. And yet, I am more and more coming around on the idea of making a serious push to get him. Dan Szymborski put together long-terms ZiPS projections for Stanton with the various trade suitors and his projections with the Yankees are just bonkers:

giancarlo-stanton-zips

That’s a .639 slugging percentage and 48.8 homers per season from 2018-22, Stanton’s age 28-32 seasons. Goodness. And who know what’s crazy? It doesn’t seem outrageous. I can totally buy Stanton hitting like that the next five years. The Yankees almost certainly won’t trade for Stanton for the reasons I listed above, but gosh, if they can get him for something less than full price in terms of prospects, I’d be all for it. I know Bryce Harper will be a free agent in a year and available for nothing but money, but Harper doesn’t help you win in 2018, and chances are Harper’s eventually contract will make Stanton’s look pretty good.

6. I was not at all surprised Jose Altuve won the AL MVP and I don’t think the lopsided voting results — Altuve received 27 first place votes while Aaron Judge received only two — reflects the feelings of the voters either. My guess is an awful lot of those voters had Altuve and Judge basically neck-and-neck for the award, but when it came time to separate them, most sided with Altuve because Judge slumped the first few weeks of the second half. The 27-2 split in first place votes makes it seem like this was an easy decision. I don’t think that reflects reality though. Just about all the voters who put out columns explaining their votes said Altuve and Judge were close. And, the weird thing to me, I’ve seen a lot of people explaining why they didn’t (or wouldn’t have) vote for Judge rather than why they voted for Altuve. The biggest separator in the voting is not something Altuve did. It’s something Judge didn’t do, and that’s be consistent, which is apparently a factor in MVP voting now? Judge had the slump and still made fewer outs than Altuve and hit for way more power this season, and if you believe the metrics, he was a more valuable defensive player too. Eh, whatever. Winning AL Rookie of the Year unanimously and finishing second in the AL MVP voting is above and beyond anything I expected from Judge this year.

7. I am weirdly indifferent about the managerial search. I don’t have a favorite managerial candidate and there’s no one I absolutely do not want the Yankees to hire either. I felt this way going into the search and I thought things would change once some names came out, but nope. Still don’t feel strongly about any of the candidates, one way or the other. Among the candidates, I guess my favorite right now is Hensley Meulens because he has extensive coaching experience and spent a lot of time working under Bruce Bochy, a truly great manager. I do think the whole “he speaks five languages” thing is getting overblown. It’s a valuable skill, sure, but speaking five languages doesn’t help if you don’t know what you’re talking about in the first place. (Also, Meulens is not fluent in Japanese. He supposedly can speak some words and phrases, mostly baseball related, but it’s not like he’s at the conversation level.) After Meulens, I am really intrigued by Chris Woodward, who seems to be highly regarded within baseball and has risen up the coaching ranks rather quickly. That doesn’t happen unless a lot of people think you’re really good at what you do. We’ll see where this goes. Like I said, I do not have a personal favorite right now. I’m kinda ambivalent about the whole thing.

Yanks add Gleyber Torres, five others to 40-man roster prior to Rule 5 Draft protection deadline

Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Monday night was the deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft, and, as expected, the Yankees added top prospect SS Gleyber Torres to the 40-man. Also added were RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Domingo Acevedo, IF Thairo Estrada, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, and OF Billy McKinney. The 40-man roster is now completely full. Garrett Cooper, Caleb Smith, Nick Rumbelow, and Ronald Herrera were all traded away in recent days to clear space.

Torres, 21 next month, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. He came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) in 55 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks Torres as the best prospect in baseball. Protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft was a no-brainer.

The 22-year-old Abreu is the second best prospect added to the 40-man, at least in my opinion. He came over from the Astros in the Brian McCann trade. Abreu had a 3.37 ERA (3.12 FIP) with 27.6% strikeouts and 8.1% walks in 53.1 Single-A innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and threw 27.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA in six starts. Great finish to the season, that was.

McKinney, 23, is a former first round pick who went from the Athletics to the Cubs (Jeff Samardzija trade), then from the Cubs to the Yankees (Chapman trade). He bounced back in a big way this season, hitting .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with career high 16 homers in 124 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. The Yankees had McKinney start learning first base in the Arizona Fall League to increase his versatility. We heard he’d be added to the 40-man a few weeks ago.

The 21-year-old Estrada is a personal favorite, and he had a breakthrough with Double-A Trenton this season, hitting .301/.353/.392 (107 wRC+) with a tiny 10.3% strikeout rate. He’s a good defensive shortstop who also has a lot of experience at second and third bases. Guys with good bat-to-ball skills and strong defensive chops on the middle infield are worth keeping around. The Yankees added a lot of talent to the 40-man today, but don’t sleep on Thairo. Kid can play.

Acevedo, the prospect who goes by Big Sunday, threw 133 innings with a 3.25 ERA (3.25 FIP) with 26.0% strikeouts and 6.0% walks at three levels this season. The 23-year-old is one of the more divisive prospects in the system. On some days Acevedo will look like a future ace and on others he’ll look like a middle reliever with little more than a big fastball. It’s worth keeping him around to see how he develops, for sure.

Loaisiga, 23, is a lottery ticket the Yankees picked up a few years ago, after he had been released by the Giants. Loaisiga had Tommy John surgery last year, returned this year, and threw 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA (2.17 FIP) in the various short season leagues.

Johnny Lasagna has been getting talked up as a breakout prospect in recent weeks, and these days rebuilding teams have no problem popping low minors kids in the Rule 5 Draft and stashing them on the roster all year. That’s what the Padres did with Luis Torrens last year.

Among the notable prospects the Yankees are leaving exposed to the Rule 5 Draft are IF Abi Avelino, LHP Nestor Cortes, OF Rashad Crawford, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, 1B Mike Ford, RHP Anyelo Gomez, RHP Brady Lail, OF Alex Palma, and LHP Stephen Tarpley. I suspect Cortes and Gomez will get selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Feyereisen and Tarpley are candidates to get picked.

As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s 25-man active big league roster all of next season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to the Yankees. Most Rule 5 Draft players do not stick. The Yankees lost four players in the Rule 5 Draft last season (Torrens, Smith, Tyler Jones, Tyler Webb) and all but Torrens were returned.

Yankees trade Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to Marlins

King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)
King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)

The Yankees have made another trade as they continue their 40-man roster purge. Tonight they traded Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to the Marlins for pitching prospect Mike King and an undisclosed sum of 2017-18 international bonus money, the team announced. This trade plus the Nick Rumbelow trade and Ronald Herrera trade give the Yankees six open 40-man roster spots before they have to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

King, 22, was selected by Miami in the 11th round of the 2016 draft out of Boston College. He threw 149 innings this season, all at Low Class-A, where he had a 3.14 ERA (3.97 FIP) with 17.8% strikeouts and 3.5% walks. MLB.com did not rank King among the top 30 prospects in the Marlins system, which is arguably the worst in baseball. Here is a snippet of Baseball America’s pre-2016 draft scouting report (subs. req’):

The 6-foot-3 righthander doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he commands an upper 80s fastball with sink, touching 92 mph. King mixes in a short-breaking slider that is difficult to square up but not an above-average offering. He pitches to contact but is a plus competitor and has above-average command.

The Yankees have had a lot of success getting their pitching prospects to add velocity in recent years. If King adds a few ticks to his heater, he could be really interesting given his slider, command, and competitiveness. Also, a move to the bullpen could be in the cards. King could move real quick as a reliever.

The international bonus money is the more notable addition here because it means more money for Shohei Ohtani, should he come over. It had been reported the Yankees already maxed out their bonus pool — teams are allowed to trade for an addition 75% of their original pool ($4.75M for the Yankees) — but apparently not. Maybe they’re maxed out now? Hmmm.

Both Cooper and Smith were up-and-down depth players for the Yankees this summer. Cooper, 27 next month, hit .326/.333/.488 (113 wRC+) in 13 games as a fill-in first baseman. That includes a four-hit game against the Blue Jays. The Yankees acquired Cooper from the Brewers for Tyler Webb at midseason. He didn’t receive a September call-up, which was a pretty good indication his 40-man roster spot would be jeopardy.

Smith, 26, spent most of the season in Triple-A. He had a 7.71 ERA (5.62 FIP) in 18.2 big league inning spread across two starts and seven relief appearances. The Marlins hired farm system head Gary Denbo away from the Yankees a few weeks ago, and he is no doubt very familiar with Smith. I wonder if he’ll get a chance to crack their rotation next year. Either way, both Smith and Cooper figure to get better opportunities with the Marlins than they would’ve with the Yankees, so good luck to them.

Update: Buster Olney says the Yankees received $250,000 in international bonus money from the Marlins, and are now maxed out. It was reported earlier this month they had $3.5M in available international bonus money to offer Ohtani, so now it’s $3.75M.

Update: MLBPA extends deadline to settle Ohtani posting dispute

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

November 20th: The MLBPA has announced a 24-hour extension for talks. The new deadline is 8pm ET Tuesday. I suppose this means the two sides (three sides, really) are making enough progress that the union is willing to extend talks to make sure this gets done. So … good news?

November 16th: According to Jon Heyman, the MLBPA has set a Monday deadline to settle the ongoing dispute regarding Shohei Ohtani and the posting system. If MLB, NPB, and MLBPA can not come to an agreement in four days, Ohtani will not come over this winter, and will instead return to the Nippon Ham Fighters next season.

The posting agreement expired a few weeks ago, and MLB and NPB agreed to grandfather Ohtani in under the old agreement, meaning the (Ham) Fighters will set a $20M release feel. The MLBPA doesn’t like that though. They don’t want so much money going to the (Ham) Fighters and so little money going to Ohtani, hence the dispute. MLBPA’s approval is needed to finalize the posting system.

Because he is only 23, Ohtani is subject to the international hard cap, which will severely limit his earning potential. The Rangers and Yankees are said to have the most hard cap space available at $3.5M or so each. Furthermore, Ohtani can only sign a minor league contract, and will earn the league minimum next year. Ouch.

Of course, the MLBPA agreed to the international hard cap last year as part of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The union has been selling out its future members for years by agreeing to draft and international spending limits, and now there’s a star player who could’ve changed baseball’s salary scale and helped all MLBPA members, but can’t.

The MLBPA had their seat at the table. They could’ve rejected an international hard cap. We all knew about Ohtani last year. He was not a secret. MLB and the MLBPA knew he would come over at some point, yet the union agreed to the hard cap anyway. And if all the parties involved fail to come to an agreement by Monday and Ohtani has to stay in Japan next year, it will be the MLBPA’s fault.

Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today, the BBWAA announced the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Andruw Jones are the notable first time eligible players. And I guess Omar Vizquel too. He’s going to get into Cooperstown despite being a career .272/.336/.352 (82 OPS+) hitter, isn’t he? Anyway, the notable ex-Yankees on the ballot are Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina, and Gary Sheffield. I hope Moose gets in this year.

Here is an open thread for the night. Falcons vs. Seahawks is the Monday Night Football game, plus the Knicks and Devils are playing. And there’s a bunch of college basketball on as well. Religion and politics are off-limits here. Talk about anything else.

Yankees announce 2018 Spring Training schedule

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Late Friday evening the Yankees announced their 2018 Spring Training schedule. Pitchers and catchers are due to report Tuesday, February 13th, and the first Grapefruit League game will be played Friday, February 23rd. Here are the key dates:

  • Pitchers and catchers report: Tuesday, February 13th
  • First workout: Wednesday, February 14th
  • Position players report: Sunday, February 18th
  • First full squad workout: Monday, February 19th
  • First Grapefruit League game: Friday, February 23rd (home vs. Tigers)

The Yankees will make two trips to the other side of Florida next spring, including once to play the Mets in St. Lucie on Wednesday, March 7th. The Mets will visit Tampa three days later. That Yankees close out their spring schedule with an exhibition game against the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday, March 26th.

All told, the Yankees will play 33 exhibition games next spring, including 16 home games at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The various networks will release their spring broadcast schedules in a few weeks. All networks have been scaling back their spring coverage in recent years — those midweek afternoon games don’t get good ratings, apparently — but a good 20-25 of those 33 games should be televised.

Eventually the complete spring schedule will be available right here. Spring Training season tickets are on sale right now. You can buy them here. Individual spring game tickets will go on sale sometime in January. The Yankees open the 2018 regular season on Thursday, March 29th in Toronto. The season begins midweek now to accommodate extra off-days during the season.