Archive for Hot Stove League
For the second time this off-season the Yankees lost an irreplaceable player. In Mariano Rivera they lost not only the greatest closer the league has ever seen, but they lost a leader and a legend. Even if David Robertson steps up and holds down the closer role for the next five years, he will never measure up to Mariano — by no fault of his own, of course. There is simply no way to replace a player like Rivera.
In Robinson Cano, who signed with the Mariners, the Yankees lose the best second baseman in the league. His presence and legacy might not measure up to Rivera, but his on-field production accounted for a greater portion of the Yankees’ success in recent years. Being the best at his position means that he is necessarily irreplaceable. In order to improve the roster, the Yankees will have to find reinforcements at other positions.
The void at second base
At second base the Yankees can only stanch the bleeding. They do have Kelly Johnson in the fold, but he’s probably not an ideal option as an everyday second baseman. He can hit a little, but much of his value comes from his ability to play second, third, and maybe a little left field. If Alex Rodriguez is suspended — a huge if that will color the Yankees’ moves going forward — then acquiring another infielder becomes crucial.
On the free agent market, Omar Infante sits awaiting an offer. During the course of his 12-year career Infante has been pretty average with the bat, a 93 career OPS+. Since 2008 he’s been perfectly average with a 100 OPS+, balancing seasons in the 90 range with some in the 110 range, including a career-best 113 OPS+ last year. He’s no Cano; he’s not even a Neil Walker. But he’ll likely come on a short-term contract and provide a decent combination of offense and defense.
The Yankees have been connected to Stephen Drew as well, though he’ll cost more in salary and years than Infante. He’ll also cost the Yankees a draft pick, not a huge consideration considering how many they’ve already given up (and received back for Cano and Granderson). Last year Drew put together a nice comeback season for the Red Sox, a 111 OPS+. Like Infante, he’s been up and down, with the result right around league average. He also had enormous home/away splits last year (.859 OPS at Fenway, .687 on the road), though playing in Yankee Stadium could keep his production high at home.
On the trade market, Howie Kendrick’s name has come up a few times this off-season on MLBTR. With two years and just under $20 million remaining on his contract, Kendrick could be an enormous bargain — which is why the Angels probably won’t trade him without getting back a starting pitcher. The Yankees need starters themselves, so chances are they couldn’t send one to Anaheim.
Supplementing at third base
Chances are the Yankees won’t make any big moves at third base. With Johnson in the fold they can wait until the Alex Rodriguez outcome. But if the Padres make Chase Headley available at the winter meetings next week, the Yankees will have to listen. He’s a guy who can potentially make a big impact on the lineup.
A heralded prospect in the mid-00s, Headley has held his own at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, producing a 115 OPS+ in his six seasons. He hit a bump in the road in 2010, but bounced back with 120 and 145 OPS+ seasons in 2011 and 2012. Last year he fell off a bit, perhaps due to an injury that cost him about 20 games, but his numbers were still solid. San Diego is rumored to be listening on him, since he’ll reach free agency after the season.
There are two ways to look at this. The first is that any acquiring team will over pay in prospects. They’re getting just one year of Headley, though perhaps there is value in actually having him on the team, in that they might have an easier time re-signing him (obviously not guaranteed). The other side is that good third basemen are hard to find. The Yankees have a fine prospect in Eric Jagielo, and Headley could help bridge that gap.
Replacing offensive production
Even if the Yankees manage to trade for Headley and sign Infante, they’ll still be at a net loss on offense. Yes, adding Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury help, but the Yanks could still use a little more punch on offense. That’s where one of the remaining free agent outfielders comes into play.
Earlier in the week it appeared that Carlos Beltran was about to sign elsewhere. Rumor had it that a team had offered him three years and $45 or $48 million, which is beyond where the Yankees were willing to go. Yet he hasn’t made a move yet. He could still be a target for the Yankees, taking reps in the outfield and at DH.
Shin-Soo Choo could come into play as well. Even after the Yankees signed Ellsbury we heard that they weren’t out on Choo, likely as insurance in case Cano left. Acquiring Choo at this point would either push Alfonso Soriano to almost-full-time DH, or lead to a trade of Brett Gardner. Neither seems ideal, but both could help.
By the numbers, Choo looks like he belongs on the Yankees. He has a career .389 OBP, and has broken the .400 mark twice in the last four years. He’s had just one bad year in his six as a full-time player, and even then he was above average. He might require an Ellsbury contract, but there is perhaps no more effective move in replacing Cano’s offensive production.
As for what to do with the outfield surplus, either move could work. Keeping Gardner and Ellsbury atop the order and in the outfield will pay off greatly. Soriano has said that he prefers to play the field, though his defense is probably just average. There will be chances to sit Gardner, or even Choo, against lefties, so Soriano will still see time in the outfield.
Trading Gardner only works if they can fill another immediate need. That’s tough, since he’s a free agent after the season. But if they can use Gardner to pry Kendrick from the Angels, or combine him with prospects to get a No. 3 starter from another team (perhaps Cincinnati and Homer Bailey?) the trade could be worth exploring. It’s much easier to find a guy who can DH 50 or so games (Mark Reynolds?) than it is to find a mid-tier starting pitcher or second baseman.
Augmenting the pitching
Even if Cano had re-signed with the Yankees, they would have had to address the pitching situation. We’ve heard that they’ll be in heavily on Masahiro Tanaka, but the new posting system could complicate matters. Tanaka is still the Yankees best option, but they’ll have increased competition, since any team that bids the maximum $20 million will be able to offer him a contract. That makes the situation much less like Yu Darvish, where he could only negotiate with the Rangers. I’d expect Tanaka’s deal to call for more guaranteed money at fewer years — perhaps five years, $75 million, compared to Darvish’s six years and $60 million.
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda does help matters, but he’s not providing even half of the 400 innings Brian Cashman admits he needs this off-season. And, being realistic, the Yankees need more than that. Given CC Sabathia‘s poor 2013 and Ivan Nova‘s up-and-down career, they could use as many pitchers as possible. Again, with the signing of Choo they could shop Gardner for a starter. They could also take a flier on Brett Anderson, in whom they’ve expressed interest. Still, many more innings are required for a quality 2013 pitching staff.
As Mike and I have both outlined, the free agent crop doesn’t look particularly inspiring. Ubaldo Jimenez has produced a combined two good seasons to date, and has been middling to terrible the rest of the time. Matt Garza has been okay, and could work depending on what kind of contract he ends up signing. Bartolo Colon? That’s a pretty big risk, despite his recent success. Ervin Santana? I’m a bit worried about his homer tendencies in Yankee Stadium. Signing Tanaka and trading for a starter seems to make the most sense, but as outlined above they might prove difficult. The Yanks might have to choose from among these players.
In the bullpen, Grant Balfour seems like a logical target. He pitched well with the Rays before signing a successful free agent contract with the A’s. He’s a bit older now, but on a two-year deal could provide setup help, or even close. Few other free agent relievers make sense, since they’re not very good. The Yanks will just have to hope they have enough internal reinforcements.
(Plus, by augmenting the rotation, they can bump someone like David Phelps to the bullpen, where he might be more effective and valuable anyway.)
Clearly the Yankees have a lot left to accomplish this off-season. Finding ways to compensate for the loss of Cano will comprise a multifaceted plan that covers not only second base, but third base, the outfield, and the starting rotation. Given the pace at which this off-season has moved, don’t be surprised to see the Yankees start to make moves, perhaps by the time this post goes live.
1:55pm: Scratch that, Feinsand issued a correction. The Yankees will indeed forfeit the Cano and Granderson picks for free agent compensation. That’s what the CBA says. One is already gone for Ellsbury — or will be as soon as his deal is official — and the other will go if they sign another qualified free agent. So much for that.
1:48pm: Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees will keep the supplemental first round draft picks they receive as compensation for losing Robinson Cano (to the Mariners) and Curtis Granderson (to the Mets). The team will forfeit its second round pick for signing Jacoby Ellsbury after giving up its first rounder to sign Brian McCann. The Collective Bargaining Agreement says supplemental first rounders can be lost as free agent compensation pretty explicitly, but Feinsand is citing an MLB official. Pretty great news if true.
Via Joel Sherman: The Mets and Curtis Granderson have agreed to a four-year contract worth $60M. The Yankees would have received a supplemental first round draft pick, but it will be forfeited due to the Jacoby Ellsbury signing. Thanks for the dingers, Curtis.
For what is probably the first time in franchise history, a homegrown star is leaving the Yankees as a free agent because the team was outbid. Robinson Cano has agreed to a ten-year contract worth $240M with the Mariners, reports Enrique Rojas and Jon Heyman. The deal comes only a few hours after it was reported talks had fallen apart over excessive demands. He will take his physical on Monday. New York will receive a supplmental first round pick in return.
Cano, 31, receives the fourth largest contract in baseball history, behind Alex Rodriguez‘s two contracts (ten years, $252M and ten years, $275M) and Albert Pujols’ deal (ten years, $254M). It’s the tenth largest contract in history in terms of average annual value. The Yankees reportedly held a hard-line and topped out at seven years and $175M, and there’s just no way Cano could turn down an extra $65M. He’ll also keep a ton of extra money because Washington has no state income tax.
The Yankees have been adamant about not pushing their offer to ten years and rightfully so given the A-Rod nightmare. They take a huge hit in the short-term — Cano is irreplaceable, they’ll need to acquire about three players to make up the lost production — but will better off down the road, when they aren’t saddled with another albatross contract. I don’t blame them at all for meeting his asking price. It was excessive. This definitely has an A-Rod-to-Texas vibe, a great player joining a terrible team because they offered the most money. For his sake, I hope Robbie isn’t looking for a way out in three years.
Cano leaves the Yankees as a .309/.355/.504 (126 wRC+) career hitter with 1,649 hits and 204 homeruns. Over the last four seasons, he’s put up a .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) batting line while ranking first in baseball in bWAR (29.7) and second in fWAR (25.4). Robbie finished second in the 2005 Rookie of the Year voting (behind Huston Street) and is a five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glover. He has received MVP votes in six seasons and finished in the top six of the voting in each of the last four years, plus he’s missed a grand total of 14 games in the last seven years. There’s no denying he is one of the five best players in the world right now.
Among Yankees second baseman, Cano ranks third in hits (1,649), first in doubles (327), first in homers (204), fourth in games played (1,374), and third in bWAR (45.1). He is obviously in the conversation for greatest second baseman in Yankees history, along with Tony Lazzeri and the perpetually underrated Willie Randolph. Among all players, Cano is ninth in franchise history in batting average (.309), eighth in doubles (375), tenth in hit-by-pitches (54), 14th in homers (204), and 14th in bWAR. The Yankees have had a lot of really good players over the years.
So where do the Yankees go from here? I don’t really know. They’ve been connected to Omar Infante and he seems like a logical second base replacement. Mark Ellis is a lower cost alternative and they did just signed Kelly Johnson, after all. Dean Anna and Eduardo Nunez are the other in-house candidates. The Yankees have a nice chunk of change to spend now though, and I definitely expect them to spend it somehow. Adding pitching is a necessity and they definitely need to add another bat now, even after signing Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.
There’s no way to sugercoat it: the Yankees lost their best player and take a huge hit with the Cano’s defection to Seattle. They had an uphill climb this winter anyway after winning only 85 games in 2013 (79-win team by run differential) and now that climb will be much more difficult. Adding McCann and Ellsbury is a good start, but they need to do a lot more to get back to contention now. Cano was an elite player at a hard to fill position and he was a fan favorite. It’s tough to believe he’s actually leaving. The Mariners were nice enough to soften the blow with their huge offer; it’s a little earlier to say goodbye considering how much they bid.
10:20am: Ken Rosenthal says talks between Cano and the Mariners are “still alive.” I get the sense that one side (Mariners) leaked the initial report of the snag and the other side (Cano) leaked the report that things were alive. Posturing!
8:26am: Via Mark Feinsand: The Mariners have broken off contract talks with Robinson Cano due to Jay-Z’s excessive demands. Feinsand says the team was led to believe the nine-year, $225M offer would get it done, but Jay-Z asked for ten years and $252M at the last second. CEO Howard Lincoln “exploded” and ended the meeting. Scott Boras must be loving this.
Friday: The Yankees are close to re-signing Kuroda, reports Jon Heyman. It’ll be a one-year deal worth about $16M. Brian Cashman acknowledged being on the “one-yard line” with “more than two” players at a charity event this morning. Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kelly Johnson? Sounds about right.
Thursday: While speaking to reporters this afternoon, Brian Cashman said Hiroki Kuroda intends to pitch next season. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will do it for the Yankees — he could still opt to return to Japan or sign with another MLB team — but retirement is no longer being considered. That’s a good thing. The Yankees offered Kuroda a one-year deal worth $15-16M a few weeks ago and Cashman said the two sides continue to talk. Obviously they want him back for 2014.
8:03pm: Jon Heyman says the Mariners are preparing to offer Cano nine years and $225M. I would be surprised if the Yankees went that high. Cano might have to leave money on the table to return to New York.
6:16pm: Ken Rosenthal says Cano asked the Mariners for ten years and $240M. The team did make an offer but it was not over $200M. Last we heard, Robbie asked the Yankees for $250-260M or so. His price just came down again.
4:10pm: Via Enrique Rojas (translated article): The Mariners let Robinson Cano know they would be willing to offer him a ten-year contract worth $230-240M during a private meeting today. Robbie flew out to Seattle to speak to the club personally. It doesn’t sound like they gave him a formal offer, but either way, this is the first time another club has talked dollars with Cano (as far as we know). If they do offer him ten years and $230M or so, the Yankees would have no choice but to up their offer from seven years and roughly $165M, probably into the $200M range they reportedly want to avoid. Unless, of course, they’re willing to walk away.
At some point very soon, MLB and NPB are expected to finalize a new posting agreement allowing Japanese players to come across the pond prior to qualifying for international free agency. Reports indicate the maximum allowable bid will be $20M, and any team who bids the max will be allowed to negotiate with the player. It’s a really crummy deal for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who were surely expecting $50M+ for ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this winter.
The new system essentially creates true free agency with a $20M tax. Only the team who signs the player has to pay the posting fee, so there’s really no reason for any team not to submit a max bid for a player like Tanaka. There’s always a chance he shows up to negotiations and says “You know, I’ve always wanted to pitch in Denver” or something like that. For small market teams who can’t afford a player like Tanaka, such as the Rays or Padres or Athletics, there is some value in simply throwing your hat in the ring and making things slightly more difficult for your rivals.
For the Yankees, the new system makes Tanaka less desirable from a financial standpoint. That goes for all big market teams, really. The posting fee does not count against the luxury tax, so New York could have submitted a huge bid, then signed Tanaka to a below market contract (which does count against the luxury tax) because they had exclusive negotiating rights. The setup was great even if the Yankees weren’t trying to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. Now the posting fee will be relatively small and the contract much larger because the player will be on the open market.
As far as the luxury tax goes, the new system does hurt the Yankees. That said, Tanaka remains the best pitcher available this winter, at least in some ways. If you’re looking to maximize 2014 impact, guys like Hiroki Kuroda and Bartolo Colon and Matt Garza are probably better bets. That first year always seems to be something of an adjustment period for Japanese hurlers. Long-term, the just-turned-25-year-old Tanaka seems like a better investment than the 30-year-old Garza and the soon-to-be 30-year-old (and spectacularly inconsistent) Ubaldo Jimenez, assuming he’s as good as everyone says he is. Plus he won’t cost a draft pick (Garza won’t, Ubaldo will).
The Yankees were expected to make a very hard push for Tanaka before the posting system changes, so they obviously like him and think he can handle the transition into the AL East and a tiny home ballpark. The favorable contract and luxury tax system really made him a perfect fit. Does the new system change that? It doesn’t change Tanaka as a pitcher, it just means he’ll be more expensive if they go over the luxury tax threshold. The new system figures to actually lower the total cost — $70M posting fee plus $50M contract under the old system vs. $20M posting fee plus $80M contract under the new system, sound about right? — it just gives the majority of the money to the player rather than his former team in Japan.
The Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, and Mariners were expected to be in on Tanaka before the posting system changes and I assume they will remain serious bidders. I’m sure teams like the Orioles and Diamondbacks will submit max bids, but when push comes to shove, they don’t stand much of a chance when it comes to offering a competitive contract. Wooing Tanaka will not be easy for the Yankees even if they throw a ton of money at him. I think the Dodgers are a very real threat because, in addition to all their money, there’s a big Japanese community in Los Angeles and the travel back to Japan is way easier. Same goes for Seattle. If Tanaka is all about the money and will go to whichever team offers the most, the Yankees are in better shape to land him. They have every reason to overpay for guys right now.
Under the old posting system, Tanaka was a near perfect fit for New York. He was luxury tax friendly and, more importantly, they can really use a high-end 25-year-old starter. The plan to get under the luxury tax threshold was predicated on a young rotation built around Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and Manny Banuelos, but that hasn’t materialized for many reasons. Under the new posting system, Tanaka remains just as good a fit on the field but won’t come with the same luxury tax friendly cost. He is still the best available pitcher on the market and the Yankees should still make a very strong push to land him, it’ll just be much more difficult now.
Update: Jerry Crasnick reports Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana said the team may simply hold onto Tanaka rather than pawn him off for $20M. “We have an obligation to explain to our stakeholders whether it’s fair. There’s a possibility we won’t take the next step,” he said. They could hold onto him for a year and post him next year if the posting agreement changes again.
Who remembers following the hot stove season in the days before MLB Trade Rumors? You could read the New York papers and get tidbits here and there about free agent negotiations and trade speculation, but the information came from a limited number of sources. I remember reading the Star Ledger in my high school years, seeing just a tiny blurb here and there about the Yankees’ plans during the off-season. Only when deals appeared imminent did we get full articles.
When Trade Rumors launched in 2005, it changed the way everyone follows the off-season. Tim Dierkes and his crew (which at points included both Mike and me) have aggregated the notes from the beat writers and columnists of all 30 teams, giving us a fuller view of what’s happening. The writers have seemingly responded to this newfound national attention, working harder to provide even the smallest morsel of information. In the last few years Twitter has given rise to notes, rumors, and speculation like we’ve never before seen.
This is a long way of introducing the latest in the Robinson Cano hoopla. Over the weekend the Seattle Mariners “emerged” as a potential suitor for Cano. They’re desperate to become relevant, and Cano is, by some accounts, desperate to land a mega deal. The saga took a new twist yesterday, when we learned that Cano’s representatives met with the Mariners in Seattle and might have even made an offer. Yet it’s what came next that spurred an uproar.
Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik might have kicked off the fiasco with his comments to the press (as reported by Bob Dutton). “You have to adapt to the market. In some cases, you have to stretch more than you want to, you just have to.” He followed up by saying that he “always have felt there would be a time where we have to augment this club. I think we’re at that time.”
Those comments alone wouldn’t lead to rampant speculation, so Jason Churchill threw gasoline on the fire when he tweeted, “Just got a text from asst GM who think Seattle is about to make a ‘panic’ move…” Dave Cameron of FanGraphs fanned the flames when he said he received a similar text — which noted that the potential move could be “damaging.” Of course, given the reports of the meetings with Cano, people assumed that the Mariners were offering Cano an insane amount of money.
This morning George King took a fire extinguisher to the inferno (emphasis mine): “According to a person with knowledge of the Mariners’ involvement with the free-agent second baseman, the club’s ownership doesn’t have the stomach to pay one player $200 million across eight years even though they are doing the tango with Cano’s camp.” So perhaps the Mariners did make an offer. Chances are that if it topped the Yankees’ offer of around $170 million, it wasn’t by much.
Looking in from the outside, it is impossible to fully understand what’s happening behind the scenes. We can only piece together what we’ve heard. Clearly, it’s curious that Seattle “emerged” as a Cano suitor only after the Yankees met with Cano’s representatives last week. Obviously Cano and his people weren’t happy with the $80 million or so gap between their offers, so it makes sense that they’d try to get another team involved. Sensing desperation in Seattle, Cano’s team made a wise choice.
At this point it appears that Cano’s representatives at CAA are using Seattle in the same way they used the Mets. They’re trying to drum up interest wherever they can, in order to put the screws to the Yankees. Along the way perhaps they do elicit a bid from the Mariners that tops that of the Yankees. From what we’ve seen and heard, though, it does appear that Cano’s strongest option remains the Yankees. Perhaps the final contract will pay Cano a bit more than the roughly $170 million currently on the table ($188 million would mean an AAV $5 million higher than Ellsbury), but whatever the case, despite ridiculous odds reports, the safe bet is for Cano wearing No. 24 and batting in the Yankees’ lineup in 2014.
Assuming Jacoby Ellsbury and Kelly Johnson pass their physicals and their contracts become official, how many games would the current Yankees’ roster win right now? I’m talking about the roster as it is today, with no Robinson Cano and a pitching staff that might be one of the worst in the league. Here’s the depth chart in you need a reminder of who slots in where at the moment. How many games would that team win?
Eighty wins seems like a good number to me. The Yankees won 85 games this past season because they outplayed their run differential (by six wins!) thanks to baseball’s very best record in one-run games. That 85-win/really 79-win team lost Cano, Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Boone Logan, Curtis Granderson, and a bunch of lesser guys, which is somewhere along the lines of 17 wins worth of talent. (If you must know, it’s 16.2 fWAR and 18.5 bWAR.) That baseline 68-win team added about a dozen wins in Ellsbury, Brian McCann, a full season of Alfonso Soriano, and what we hope will be full seasons from Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. I’m just spitballing here, don’t get too caught up in exact numbers.
There are two points to this little exercise. You might think they’re an 83-win team right now and someone else might think they’re a 76-win team. Strong arguments can be made both ways, but the point is that we should all be able to agree the Yankees are not good enough to get back into the postseason as presently constructed. That’s okay though! The offseason is relatively young and Spring Training is still two months and nine days away according to our handy countdown in the sidebar. The Yankees have plenty of time to re-sign Cano and fix their pitching staff and do whatever else.
That’s the first point I was trying to make, that the team still needs to add pieces to get back to contention. The second and more important point has to do with where the Yankees sit on the win curve and the value of adding those necessary pieces. Forty-eight hours ago the Yankees were a baseline 75-win based on the numbers I just slapped together, but they added Ellsbury and now they’re an 80-win team. That’s a nice upgrade but, at the end of the day, they’re still just an 80-win team and no cares about 80-win teams. They don’t get anything, not even one of those little participation trophies they hand out in Little League. Eighty-win teams are afterthoughts.
Given where the Yankees are on the win curve right now, every move they make and every win they add to the roster going forward has a greater and greater impact on their postseason chances. Going from 75 wins to 80 wins with Ellsbury is nice but it doesn’t really do anything as far as the playoff race is concerned. Re-signing Cano, however, would take them from 80 wins to about 86 wins and that’s a huge, huge move up the win curve. Suddenly they’re on the postseason bubble. Re-sign Kuroda and they’re at 88 or 89 wins, which really puts them in the playoff picture. Add another starter (Masahiro Tanaka?) and a reliever or two on top of that and … well, you get the idea.
As we found out last night, missing the postseason can be very costly for the Yankees. Brian Costa reported the team saw a $58M decline in ticket revenue from 2012 to 2013 and they surely lost concession revenue on top of that. The value of adding wins 80+ to the ledger in the coming weeks is greater to the Yankees than it is any other club because the Yankees’ brand is built on winning, and the brand suffers in a big way financially when they don’t win. The Ellsbury signing (not so much McCann, in my opinion) shows the team is willing to overpay to add the wins they need to get back into the postseason because it will be too financially damaging if they don’t. Remember, at the end of the day, the Yankees are still a for profit business.
“The financial payoff at this juncture, coming off a missed postseason, is way more than any other team stands to gain by improving themselves by three, four, five, six wins — whatever the number might be,” president of SABR and consultant to MLB teams Vince Gennaro said to Costa. “The second-biggest problem the Yankees could have is overpaying for a free agent. The biggest problem is not getting the free agent they need to get back to the postseason and make a deep run into it … Let me tell you: If the Yankees were an 85-win team or an 83-win team for three or four years in a row, they would suffer financially orders of magnitude more than any other franchise.”
The win totals I’ve been using in this post are trivial; don’t get too caught up in the them. The point is that the Yankees were a mediocre team this past season and they got worse this winter because they lost several key players to retirement and potentially free agency. They improved a bit with McCann and Ellsbury but not enough to get back to being a serious contender. To do that, they need to add some pitching and (especially) re-sign Cano in the coming weeks. All the team has done so far this offseason is go from mediocre to bad to back to being mediocre. It’s the next few moves that will be the most important because the value of an individual win and getting back into contention is so high.