Weekend Open Thread

The GM Meetings were pretty fun this week. The Yankees made some moves and there were a surprisingly large amount of rumors, at least by Yankees standards. They tend to keep things quiet. Three weeks and a few days until all hell breaks loose at the Winter Meetings. Anyway, here are the links for the weekend:

  • Here’s a really fun Owen Watson post looking at the most extreme home runs of the 2015 season. The longest homer, the hardest hit homer, the fastest pitch homer, the most inside pitch to a right-handed hitter homer … all sorts of fun stuff like that. Brian McCann makes an appearance, as does Nathan Eovaldi on the wrong end of an extreme homer.
  • Fresh off their World Series win, the Royals are facing a difficult decision with Alex Gordon, one of the best and most popular players. Do they break the bank to re-sign him, or let him walk and spare payroll? In this piece, Andy McCullough spoke to several GMs who faced similar decisions in recent years, and they all said a lot more goes into it than on-field production.
  • If you’re looking for an ultra-nerdy article with lots of math, this Alan Nathan post on optimizing swings is for you. It starts with the question “can a curveball be hit farther than a fastball?” and then dives into things like swing angles and all sorts of other neat stuff. You are forewarned, it is indeed very nerdy with gory math. It’s as much a physics experiment as it is baseball analysis.
  • And finally, a non-baseball link: I enjoyed this Tyler Rogoway article on the family who owns a big piece of land adjacent to Area 51. The land, which has been in the family long before the government showed up next door, had been mined for copper and other metals for generations. The family has refused many seven-figure offers even though no one lives at the mine site these days and the government makes it all but impossible to access. Crazy stuff.

Friday: Here is your open thread for tonight and the rest of the weekend. The college basketball season begins tonight, plus the Knicks, Nets, and Islanders are all playing. Talk about those games, the links, or anything other than politics or religion here. Thanks.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. The Devils and Nets are playing in addition to a nice full slate of college football and hoops. Have at it.

Sunday: This is the open thread for the final time. The Patriots and Giants are playing right now, and the late NFL game is the Cardinals and Seahawks. The (hockey) Rangers are playing tonight as well and I’m guessing there’s some college hoops going on somewhere. Enjoy.

Friday Links: Braves, Upton, Severino, Chen, Marlins, Cuba

Upton and Simmons a few years back. (Presswire)
Upton and Simmons a few years back. (Presswire)

Hang in there, the weekend is only a few hours away. Here are a handful of stray links and notes to check out and help pass the time.

Yankees, Braves talked Upton and Severino last year

Last offseason the Yankees and Braves discussed a potential blockbuster trade that would have brought Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons to New York. Obviously things didn’t work out. Heyward was traded to the Cardinals last November and Simmons was traded to the Angels last night. The Yankees ended up acquiring Didi Gregorius to play shortstop and that worked out pretty well.

According to Jeff Passan and Mark Bowman, other iterations of the Heyward/Simmons blockbuster included Justin Upton — presumably instead of Heyward — and also Luis Severino. You’ve got to give something to get something, right? Last offseason Severino was still a Double-A pitching prospect who was ranked a top 35-ish prospect in baseball. Heyward fetched Shelby Miller, an established big leaguer, and Simmons by himself landed Sean Newcomb, a top 35-ish prospect.

A Heyward or Upton plus Simmons trade would have been mighty fun, though I’m happy with the way things turned out. Gregorius looks like a keeper at shortstop and Severino dazzled in his MLB debut this summer. Plus the Yankees can still sign Heyward or Upton this winter. That really would have been a fun trade though. Blockbusters are cool.

Yankees planning run at Chen

Last week we heard ex-Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen is a “possible target” for the Yankees this offseason, and now Mark Feinsand has corroborated the story, hearing the team will indeed make a serious run at Chen. The southpaw is said to be seeking at least a five-year contract. The O’s made Chen a qualifying offer as well, so the Yankees or whoever signs him will have to surrender a high draft pick.

I don’t doubt the reporting, but I’m not sure this one passes the sniff test. The Yankees seem disinclined to both spend big and give up their first round draft pick. And if they are going to spend big and give up a pick, there are better pitchers available in free agency, right? No knock on Chen, but you know what I mean. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees are being used to create leverage. Them going after an AL East proven pitcher is believable, and hey, getting the Yankees involved is never bad for business. I dunno. We’ll see.

Donnie Baseball's new home. (Presswire)
Donnie Baseball’s new home. (Presswire)

Big market teams upset with Marlins

According to Jon Heyman, several big market clubs are upset with the Marlins and their financial situation. Miami generates the lowest revenue in baseball and thus receives the most revenue sharing money despite having a four-year-old ballpark. The big market clubs that pay into revenue sharing aren’t happy. “They’re a joke,” said one executive to Heyman.

The Yankees have paid more money into revenue sharing than any other club since the system was implemented, so it’s fair to wonder if they’re one of the teams upset with the Marlins. The Marlins receive roughly $50M in revenue sharing each year, according to Heyman. I’m not sure what MLB and the MLBPA can do about the Marlins — the union complained the team wasn’t spending enough money a few years ago, then poof, Josh Johnson got a nice extension — but getting rid of Jeffrey Loria is a good start. No reason to think that’s happening anytime soon though.

Yankees a candidate to play spring games in Cuba

At the GM Meetings earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB is looking into playing Spring Training games in Cuba next year. League officials visited different parks in Cuba recently and I guess gave the thumbs up, which is why Manfred is still talking about it. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are one of ten teams being considered for potential spring games in Cuba.

This makes a lot of sense, right? The Yankees are the most popular and most recognizable brand in baseball, if not all of sports. I don’t think selling out exhibition games in Cuba would be a problem no matter who plays, but getting the Yankees involved would create a lot more interest. Also, from a logistical standpoint, it’s a nice quick flight from Tampa. I don’t think MLB would drag teams from Arizona to Cuba in the middle of Spring Training. Either way, nothing is final yet. There are still hurdles to clear before exhibition games are played in Cuba next year.

Weekend Open Thread

Earlier today, CC Sabathia appeared on Good Morning America to talk about his alcoholism, which he says dates back to 2012. The video is embedded above. (Here’s the direct link in case the embed doesn’t work. It was giving me problems on the back end.) I also recommend reading this great Mark Feinsand piece on Sabathia’s addiction and recovery. Make sure you check it out. We’re all pulling for CC.

As I did last offseason, I’m going to dump a bunch of links in the weekly Weekend Open Thread this winter. These are things I come across each week that I enjoyed but aren’t necessarily Yankees related. They’re worth sharing but aren’t worth an RAB post. So I’ll dump them here each weekend. Enjoy.

  • We often hear pitchers have to change a hitter’s eye level by mixing high and low pitches, and they do, because MLB hitters are good and you have to keep them off balance. Jonah Pemstein had a fascinating analysis of what changing eye levels does to the umpire. Jonah found that in situations where pitchers threw two pitches at one height and the third at a different height, the strike zone does indeed shrink. It’s possible to change the umpire’s eye level too.
  • The Nationals named Dusty Baker their new manager this week, but only after contract talks fell apart with Bud Black. They wanted Black, lowballed him during negotiations, and he walked away feeling disrespected. Barry Svrluga has a pretty scathing look at team ownership and their frugal, meddling ways. The Nationals have so much talent and potential yet keep falling shorting of expectations, and it starts at the top.
  • Although the embargo is still in place, MLB is currently working with the two governments to bring Cuban players to the United States, write Michael Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. League officials recently visited Cuba to inspect fields to determine whether they’re suitable for Spring Training games next year. MLB also wants visas for players and their families so they can travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Still lots of work to be done and a long way to go, but MLB is trying to get Cuban players stateside.

Friday: Here is your open thread for tonight and every other night this weekend. The Rangers, Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all in action tonight. Talk about those games, Sabathia, the other links, or anything else here.

Saturday: Once again, this is your open thread for the night. There’s a bunch of college football on and both the (hockey) Rangers and Nets are in action. Have at it.

Sunday: Here is your open thread for the last time. You’ve got a bunch of afternoon football plus the Eagles and Cowboys as the late game tonight. The Devils, Islanders, and Knicks are playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here tonight.

Friday Links: Offseason Outlook, 2015 Draft, Park, Platoons

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Looking to kill some time before the start of the weekend? I have some stray links to pass along that might help you out. Enjoy.

MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook

Last week the gang at MLBTR covered the Yankees as part of their annual Offseason Outlook series. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a look ahead to the offseason. It’s a really great overview of the team’s situation in general — the big obstacle this offseason: getting younger and better despite limited flexibility — and touches on all the major points. We’ll dissect everything from every possible angle this winter here at RAB, but MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook post is a good primer as we wait for the offseason to really get underway. Check it out.

Baseball America’s Draft Report Card

Baseball America just wrapped up their 2015 Draft Report Card series, in which they break down each team’s draft class. They aren’t grading anything, just looking at the top tools. OF Jhalan Jackson (7th round) is said to have the most power potential among 2015 Yankees draftees, for example. The position player section is free but the pitchers and odds and ends are behind the paywall.

Interestingly, the write-up says RHP James Kaprielian (1st) was working at 92-94 and touching 96 this summer, which is a bit higher than the college scouting reports. Also, both his slider and changeup received 65 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is pretty damn awesome. RHP Chance Adams (5th), who had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with a 31.7% strikeout rate in 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing, touched 99 mph this summer. He could start next season at Double-A and reach MLB soon.

Park. (Yonhap)
Park. (Yonhap)

Nexen Heroes to post Byung-Ho Park

The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post power hitting first baseman Byung-Ho Park this coming Monday, according to a Yonhap report. The Yankees were reportedly one of 20 teams to scout Park this season. The right-handed hitting first baseman hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 homers in 140 games this year. Daniel Kim, a former scout and current Korean baseball analyst, told Travis Sawchik Park is the “best pure hitter in the history of KBO.”

The posting process starts Monday, which means teams then have until 5pm ET next Friday to submit a blind bid. The Heroes then have until the following Monday to accept or reject the bid. If they accept, the high bidder and Park have 30 days to negotiate a contract. The team only pays the posting fee if they manage to sign Park. Kim told Sawchik he expects Park to double the $5M posting fee the Pirates paid for Jung-Ho Kang last year.

Park is a first baseman and first baseman only, apparently, so I’m not sure what the Yankees would do with him. Another first baseman/DH is pretty much the last thing they need. They have Mark Teixeira for one more season, a bonafide first baseman of the future in Greg Bird, plus other potential first base candidates in Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and the aging Brian McCann. I dunno. We’ll see what happens.

Yankees dominated platoons in 2015

According to Baseball Reference, the Yankees led baseball by having the platoon advantage in 73% of their plate appearances this past season. The Indians were second at 71%. The Tigers, Nationals, and Diamondbacks were tied for last at a mere 43%. The Yankees have rated highly in the percentage of at-bats with the platoon advantage for the last few seasons now. Joe Girardi is really meticulous with his platoons, after all. There is definitely an advantage to be gained with platoon matchups, but, of course, it all comes down to the hitters. You have to have good hitters to platoon in the first place.

Saturday Links: Wildcard Game, Thames, Judge, Son, Yogi

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and White Sox are halfway through their four-game series. They continue the set with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time.

Wildcard games start times announced

Earlier this week, MLB announced the start times for the two wildcard games. The AL game will be played at 8:08pm ET on Tuesday, October 6th, while the NL game will be played at 8:08pm ET on Wednesday, October 7th. Standard postseason start times. The AL game will be broadcast on ESPN and the NL game on TBS. Those are the only games scheduled those days. The full postseason schedule can be found right here.

The Yankees come into today four games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East and 4.5 games up on the Astros for the first wildcard spot. They’re five games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. The magic number to clinch the team’s first postseason berth since 2012 is a mere five, as Joe DiMaggio tells you in the sidebar. It’s unlikely the Yankees will catch and pass the Blue Jays to win the AL East, so they figure to be playing in that wildcard game one week from Tuesday. They’ll host the game at Yankee Stadium if they hold onto their lead for the first wildcard spot.

Q&A with Marcus Thames

Brendan Kuty recently posted a short-ish interview with Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Marcus Thames, who was with the Yankees during their recent trip to Toronto. Thames discussed his philosophy as a hitting coach and some players we’ve seen come up from the minors this year. He also spoke about top prospect OF Aaron Judge at length after Judge hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with a 28.5% strikeout rate in 61 games for the RailRiders.

“If you come to a game and watch, everybody’s trying to make him expand (the strike zone). So if he expands, he’s going to get himself out. So he’s going to have to have discipline to know what he does well, and that’s swing at strikes. If he does that, he’s going to be fine,” said Thames. Judge is always going to strike out a bunch — he’s 6-foot-7 remember, that’s a lot of strike zone to cover — but another few hundred at bats in Triple-A next season is best for him. Triple-A is the place to learn how to not expand the zone, not the big leagues.

Son. (Korea Times)
Son. (Korea Times)

Korean OF Ah-Seop Son plans to come to MLB

Korean outfielder Ah-Seop Son plans to come over to MLB this offseason, reports Jeff Passan. Son will not be a free agent this winter, so his team, the Lotte Giants, will have to make him available through the posting system. Once he is posted, teams will be able to place a blind bid, and high bidder gets a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with Son. Here are his career stats, via Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 19 -9.5 Lotte KBO 4 6 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .333 .500
2008 20 -8.2 Lotte KBO 80 250 31 66 11 1 3 17 2 3 28 35 .303 .387 .404 .791
2009 21 -7.3 Lotte KBO 34 96 11 16 4 0 3 4 1 1 9 16 .186 .263 .337 .600
2010 22 -6.0 Lotte KBO 121 487 85 129 23 0 11 47 6 2 50 82 .306 .377 .438 .815
2011 23 -5.4 Lotte KBO 116 492 79 144 25 5 15 83 13 4 43 80 .326 .385 .507 .892
2012 24 -4.3 Lotte KBO 132 556 61 158 26 0 5 58 10 5 41 79 .314 .370 .396 .766
2013 25 -3.5 Lotte KBO 128 568 83 172 23 4 11 69 36 7 64 88 .345 .421 .474 .895
2014 26 -2.9 Lotte KBO 122 570 105 175 25 3 18 80 10 3 80 78 .362 .456 .538 .994
2015 27 Lotte KBO 108 480 82 133 26 0 12 52 11 6 62 95 .321 .408 .471 .879
All Levels (9 Seasons) 845 3505 539 994 164 13 78 411 89 31 377 554 .324 .399 .462 .860

Son, who turns 28 in March, is described as a player “whose forte is more hitting for a high average and getting on base” rather than hitting for power. Passan notes Son will qualify for free agency next year, so if he gets lowballed during contract talks this winter, he could simply return to Korea for another season, then try again as a true free agent with more negotiating leverage next offseason.

The Yankees have a full and rather pricey big league outfield as well as a bevy of lefty hitting outfielders in the upper minors — Son is a left-handed hitter as well — so I’m not sure he makes sense for them. (For what it’s worth, the Yankees are reportedly scouting Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park.) That said, you can be sure teams will take a much harder look at Korean players going forward following the success of Jung-Ho Kang with the Pirates.

Yogi’s funeral will be an “intimate private memorial”

According to Priscella DeGregory, the funeral for the late Yogi Berra will be an “intimate private memorial” next week, likely near his home in Montclair, New Jersey. It’ll be a small service for his family according to officials for Berra’s museum. “The outpouring of emotion that we have witnessed is a testimonial to how significant an impact he had not just as an athlete but as a human being,” said museum CEO Kevin Peters to DeGregory. Yogi passed away at age 90 late Tuesday night. We all miss him.

Saturday Links: Teixeira, Forbes, Martin, 2017 WBC

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Mets continue the Subway Series a little later this afternoon. Here are some stray links to help you pass the time.

Teixeira named 2016 Roberto Clemente Award nominee

Mark Teixeira has been named the Yankees nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, MLB announced. Each team nominates one player and the winner is determined by fan voting. Here’s the ballot. The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Derek Jeter won it back in 2009. It’s a pretty big deal. The voting ends October 9th. Here’s the ballot again. Go vote for Teixeira.

Forbes ranks Yankees as third most valuable sports franchise

According to the latest Forbes rankings, the Yankees are the third most valuable sports franchise in the world at $3.2 billion. Only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion) and Real Madrid ($3.26 billion) are more valuable. Well, technically the Yankees are tied with the New England Patriots at $3.2 billion, but who cares about them. Forbes valued the Yankees at $3.2 billion back in March — the Dodgers are a distant second among MLB teams at $2.4 billion — and they post their updated MLB franchise valuations during Spring Training each year.

Martin scraps slider for curveball

Earlier this season, righty Chris Martin was higher up on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen depth chart than I think most of us realized, but he struggled for a while and eventually wound up on the DL with an elbow injury. The Yankees sent Martin to Triple-A once he got healthy, and, according to Billy Witz, Martin dropped his slider in favor of a curveball while with the RailRiders.

Martin hasn’t pitched a whole lot this month, so we haven’t seen the new curveball yet. He told Witz he was better able to control his slider, but the curveball gets more swings and misses, and that’s a trade-off he’s willing to make. I’m not sure Martin will be with the Yankees beyond this year — there’s going to be a big 40-man roster crunch this offseason and Martin’s expendable — but he has a new pitch now, and maybe that will help him stick around the big leagues a few more years.

2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers coming to Brooklyn

Earlier this week, MLB announced qualifying games for the 2017 World Baseball Classic are coming to Brooklyn. The four-team pool includes Brazil, Great Britain, Israel, and Pakistan, and they’ll play their round robin tournament from September 22nd to 25th next year at MCU Park in Coney Island. The winner of the pool advances to the 2017 WBC. MCU Park is really great. One of my favorites. This isn’t Yankees-related, but baseball in Brooklyn is still cool. Anyway, here is the full WBC qualifying round information.

Saturday Links: Waiver Trades, Eppler, 2016 Draft, YES

D-Rob. (Presswire)
D-Rob. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their Labor Day weekend series a little later this afternoon. Here are some morning links to help you pass the time.

Yankees were blocked in attempts to add pitching

During the waiver trade period in August, the Yankees were “blocked in every attempt” to add pitching, reports Nick Cafardo. Well, that should say “almost every attempt,” because they did claim David Robertson, only to have the White Sox pull him back. Getting blocked on trade waivers simply means a team with a lower waiver priority (i.e. a worse record) placed a claim on a player. In August, players can only be dealt to the team that claims them off trade waivers. They can be dealt to any team if they go unclaimed.

The Yankees were in first place for 18 of 31 days in August, so I’m guessing the Blue Jays did most of the blocking. Wildcard hopefuls like the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Rays, and Orioles were probably in on the act as well. The only pitchers traded in August were Fernando Rodney, Neal Cotts, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez, and Eric O’Flaherty. Cotts and Perez are useful left-on-left matchup guys, but otherwise the Yankees don’t have much use for those players. Any attempt to add significant pitching was likely blocked. Aside from Robertson, of course.

Eppler continues to be linked to Angels

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler continues to be linked to the Angels, who will hire a new GM in the offseason following Jerry Dipoto’s midseason resignation. Dipoto lost a power struggle when owner Arte Moreno sided with manager Mike Scioscia. Bob Nightengale heard from one “high-ranking Angels executive” that Eppler is considered the front-runner for the job while Alden Gonzalez notes Eppler’s name comes up “frequently” in Angels discussions Ken Rosenthal reports the Angels have not yet asked the Yankees for permission to speak to Eppler, for what it’s worth. Eppler interviewed for the Angels job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto. There are a few GM jobs open right now (Angels, Mariners, Red Sox) and I’m guessing this won’t be the last time we hear Eppler connected to one of them.

2016 draft set for June 9th

The 2016 amateur draft has been scheduled for June 9th, reports John Manuel. That’s a Thursday. The draft has historically been held on the first Tuesday of June, but in recent years the start date has moved around due to MLB Network. The draft started on a Monday in both 2012 and 2015, and on a Thursday in 2013 and 2014. As usual, it will be a three-day event next summer.

Manuel says there has been talk of moving the draft broadcast to Omaha to coincide with the College World Series, which would allow some more prospects to attend, but that won’t happen next year. The College World Series usually doesn’t start until mid-June, which would mean delaying the draft two weeks or so. Not ideal. Teams want to get their players, get them signed, and get their careers started.

YES ratings up 31% in the second half

Apparently the thrill of a postseason race has more people watching the Yankees down the stretch. YES Network ratings are up a whopping 31% in the second half, the network announced. Ratings are up even more in certain demographics, and YES is “delivering the best demo viewership” since 2012, whatever that means. Also, nine of the eleven highest rated game broadcasts have come within the last month. If you win, people will watch. If you lose, many will still watch.