Saturday Links: Payroll, Bird, New CBA Details, YES Network

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians will continue their four-game series with the third game later today, though not until 7pm ET. Man do I hate Saturday night games. I might have mentioned that a few times over the years. Anyway, here’s some news and notes to check out.

Payroll is frozen for 2017

According to Bob Klapisch, Hal Steinbrenner has told Brian Cashman payroll will remain frozen for the remainder of the season. The Yankees took on quite a bit of salary at the trade deadline in David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Sonny Gray, though they got the Twins to eat the remainder of Jaime Garcia‘s contract. Apparently that’s it though. No more payroll can be added this season.

Two things about this. One, if payroll is indeed frozen, the Yankees aren’t going to get the bat(s) they pretty clearly need. Well, no, that’s not necessarily true. It just means they’d have to give up better prospects to get the other team to pay the remainder of the player’s salary. And two, man I hate hearing payroll is frozen. I mean, it’s Hal’s team and he can do whatever he wants, but the division is so winnable and the Yankees have played one postseason game since 2012, and they won’t take on more money if necessary? Blah.

Bird still the long-term first baseman

Not surprisingly, Cashman confirmed to Joel Sherman that Greg Bird remains the club’s first baseman of the future, even after his ankle surgery and what is essentially another lost season. That’s why they didn’t look for long-term first base help at the deadline like they did rotation and bullpen help. They sought out rentals only and, obviously, came up empty.

Bird, who will turn 25 in November, has resumed hitting following surgery and it’s possible he will rejoin the Yankees later this month. I never really expected the Yankees to pivot away from Bird as their first baseman going forward. They clearly love him, and they’re going young wherever possible, so it makes sense to try him again. Clearly though, the Yankees will need some sort of first base protection. Basically what Chris Carter couldn’t provide this year

New CBA includes draft penalties for payroll

MLB and the MLBPA finally completed the Collective Bargaining Agreement and got everything in writing last month, and according to J.J. Cooper, there’s a provision that levies draft pick penalties based on team payroll. Simply put, spend more than $237M on player payroll, and your top draft pick gets pushed back ten spots. From Cooper:

But the penalties really kick in for a team that spends more than $237 million in 2018. Not only will the franchise be hit with a 42.5 percent or 45 percent surcharge tax on top of the competitive balance tax, but the team will also see its first draft pick dropped 10 spots. That pick is protected, but that protection is relatively meaningless, as the penalty is applied to the team’s second draft pick only if it’s one of the top six picks in the draft. It would be hard to envision a team finishing with a top-six pick (meaning it had one of the six worst records in baseball) with a $237-plus million payroll.

These penalties are on top of the luxury tax penalties. So if your payroll exceeds $237M, you have to pay the luxury tax and your top draft pick gets moved back. Now a $237M payroll is substantial — the Yankees have only topped that twice ($237.1M in 2013 and $243.8M in 2016) — though salaries and revenues around baseball are only going up. It wouldn’t take much for many teams to get to $237M within the next two or three years. This new CBA is pretty terrible for the players. There are so may mechanisms in place designed to suppress salaries.

International play coming in 2018

As part of the new CBA, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to move 13 series to foreign countries from 2018-21, reports Bill Shaikin. Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it no secret he wants to grow the game globally and this is one way to do it. Here, via Shaikin, are the international play details:

  • 2018: Opening series in Asia, April series in Mexico, May series in Puerto Rico.
  • 2019: Opening series in Asia, April and May series in Mexico, June series in the United Kingdom.
  • 2020: Opening series in Asia, April series in Mexico, May series in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, June series in the United Kingdom.
  • 2021: April and May series in Mexico.

The Yankees, as the most popular team in baseball and one of the most recognizable brands in the world, will inevitably be sucked into a few of these series. That’s not per Shaikin’s report. That’s just me saying. When you’re playing games overseas and trying to increase interest in baseball, you send the Yankees because people are going to pay attention. I foresee a trip to Asia and Mexico in the team’s future.

YES ratings up considerably in first half

Not surprisingly, the young and exciting (and contending!) Yankees have led to a substantial increase in YES Network ratings. Ratings were up 57% in the first half this season, including a 73% increase in the ages 18-49 demographic. YES has already had 18 games this year with a higher rating than the best game last year — Monday night’s game against the Tigers was the network’s highest rated game since Derek Jeter‘s final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014 — and ratings overall are the best in five years. Build a team with good young players, and people watch. Ratings are up now. Soon attendance will shoot up as well.

Saturday Links: Bour, Trade Value, Conlon, Rasmussen

Bour. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Bour. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Later today the Yankees and Red Sox will continue their four games in three days series with the second game at Fenway Park. That’s a 4pm ET start. Until then, here are some links to check out.

Bour trade talks only “cursory”

According to Buster Olney, trade talks between the Yankees and Marlins about first baseman Justin Bour have only been “cursory, non-specific.” Olney says the Marlins have let teams know they’re open for business while Jon Heyman reports the club has no intention to trade its affordable core players. That sounds like posturing to me. They’re willing to trade them but say they won’t in an effort to build some leverage.

Bour, 29, is hitting .289/.367/.556 (136 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 77 games this season, plus he’s under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. He put on quite a show in the Home Run Derby before getting knocked out by Aaron Judge. On one hand, Bour would be an enormous first base upgrade for the Yankees, and he’d provide a DH option going forward should Greg Bird ever get healthy. On the other hand, something about trading prospects for a 29-year-old late bloomer at the bottom of the defensive spectrum doesn’t sit well with me.

Three Yankees make FanGraphs’ trade value series

Over the last week Dave Cameron has posted his annual trade value series, in which he ranks the top 50 players in baseball by trade value. It’s not just about performance. It’s about performance and years of team control, things like that. Bryce Harper is obviously excellent, though he doesn’t make the top 50 because he’ll be a free agent after next season. Anyway, three Yankees make the top 50, and they’re the young cornerstones of the franchise.

6. Aaron Judge
12. Gary Sanchez
35. Luis Severino

Judge is behind Carlos Correa, Mike Trout, Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor in that order. I have no problems with that. Judge is awesome and he won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, though he’s only been this for half-a-season. Those other guys have done it for a full season, at least. Sanchez is the highest ranked catcher and Severino is the 12th ranked pitcher, which is pretty great. Last year there were no Yankees in the trade value series. Now there are three, including two in the top 12.

O’s fourth rounder now a free agent

Jack Conlon, a fourth round pick by the Orioles in this year’s draft, is now an unrestricted free agent, according to both Jim Callis and Hudson Belinsky. The O’s saw something they didn’t like in Conlon’s physical and declined to sign him. They didn’t even make him the minimum offer (40% of his slot value), which is why he’s now a free agent. MLB.com ranked the Texas high school right-hander as the 175th best prospect in the draft class. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:

Conlon can pitch at 92-95 mph with life on his fastball and back it up with an 81-84 mph slider on days when his mechanics are in sync. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, though it has some fade and he shows some feel for it. He has a classic pitcher’s build at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds that bodes well for his durability. Conlon lacks consistency, however, because he has a rough delivery with effort and a head whack.

There haven’t been any reports connecting Conlon to the Yankees (or any other team), and they might never come. This might be one of those situations where we skip straight to the signing announcement. I’m certain the Yankees will look into signing Conlon because hey, it’s not often you can pick up a decent pitching prospect for nothing but cash, though the failed physical is an issue. The Orioles are notoriously tough with their physicals, so maybe it’s nothing. Then again, it could be a serious arm problem, so much so that spending money on him isn’t worth the increased risk.

Also, I should note the Rays did not sign Oregon State right-hander Drew Rasmussen, the 31st selection in this year’s draft, also because something popped up in his physical. There are conflicting reports out there about his current status. Some say he’s a free agent because the Rays didn’t make the minimum offer while others say the Rays did make the minimum offer, and Rasmussen will return to school for his senior season rather than become a free agent. Who knows.

2017 Draft: Yankees sign first rounder Clarke Schmidt and second rounder Matt Sauer

Schmidt. (The Post ad Courier)
Schmidt. (The Post and Courier)

The Yankees have signed their top two selections in the 2017 amateur draft. The team announced deals with South Carolina right-hander Clarke Schmidt (first round, 16th overall) and California high school right-hander Matt Sauer (second round, 54th overall) earlier this afternoon. Sauer posted photos of his contract signing on Twitter.

Here is the bonus information:

  • Schmidt: $2,184,300 per Jack Curry ($3,458,600 slot)
  • Sauer: $2,500,000 per Jim Callis ($1,236,000 slot)

Schmidt, 21, received a below-slot bonus because he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in May, so he’s going to be out until midseason 2018. As our Draft Pool tracker shows, the Yankees now have a little less than $460,000 in bonus pool space remaining before hitting the penalties. They’ve maxed out their spending pool the last few years. I imagine that $460,000 is going to a late round pick.

Based on the way things played out, the Yankees planned all along to sign Schmidt below-slot — I’m guessing they had a pre-draft agreement in place — and spend the savings on a highly touted player who slipped into the second round. That happened to be Sauer. I think this was Plan B. Plan A was using the first round selection on a player who was no longer on the board when that pick rolled around, so they called an audible.

Anyway, Baseball America ranked Schmidt as the 32nd best prospect in the draft class. MLB.com ranked him 49th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 74th. He was considered a mid-first round talent before blowing out his elbow last month. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Schmidt relies heavily on a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96 and features power sink. Both his slider and curveball can be plus pitches at times but also lack consistency, and he also mixes in a decent changeup. He generally throws strikes but can be vulnerable if his pitches wander up in the strike zone … He maintained his improved velocity until he got hurt this spring, but scouts don’t love his delivery and now have even more questions about his durability.

Sauer was ranked as the 28th best prospect in the draft class by both MLB.com and Baseball America. Keith Law ranked 67th. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

He’s reached 97 mph at times this spring and has sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range in most starts. He combines that with a nasty slider, up to 87 mph, thrown from a three-quarter slot with good power, bite and deception. The changeup is a distant third pitch … Some scouts are not in love with Sauer’s arm action and see him more as a potential power bullpen type of pitcher. Others see a potential three-pitch mix, two above-average to plus offerings, with the build to be a rotation workhorse.

The draft signing deadline is Friday, July 7th, so two weeks from yesterday. The Yankees have already handled all their major business, however. They’ve signed each of their picks in the top 17 rounds plus several late rounders. I expect them to spend that remaining $460,000 ($457,949 to be exact) on someone. That has been their M.O. in the draft pool era. To spend as much as possible without incurring penalties forcing them to surrender next year’s first round pick.

2017 Draft Signings: Sauer, Smith, Lehnen, Higgins, Zurak

Higgins. (Getty)
Higgins. (Getty)

We are still two and a half weeks away from the Friday, July 7th signing deadline, though the Yankees have already taken care of business with most of their 2017 draft picks. Here are my Day One, Day Two, and Day Three recaps, and here are all of the Yankees’ picks. Now here are the latest signings:

  • Both Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan (3rd) and Rice RHP Glenn Otto (5th) signed for less than originally reported. MLB.com says Stephan received $797,500, not $800,000. Jim Callis says Otto received $320,900, not $323,400. Turns out there’s an accounting trick that saves teams $2,500 against the bonus pool. Callis says the standard draftee contract includes $2,500 in bonuses so easily reachable that teams were counting it as part of the signing bonus. Now they’ve stopped. The player still gets the money, but it doesn’t count against the bonus pool. Huh.
  • The Yankees and California HS RHP Matt Sauer (2nd) have a deal in place, reports Steve Adams. Joe Bailey says Sauer was offered $2.5M, which is roughly double his slot value. I don’t doubt Adams and Bailey, though I’d like to see one of the regular draft gurus says the deal is done before considering it done, you know?
  • Texas HS OF Canaan Smith (4th) has signed, the Yankees announced. Jim Callis says he received a $497,500 bonus, a little above the $433,100 slot value. Smith has big left-handed raw power and he walked 60+ times in 40 games this spring. It’s a top ten walks total for a prep player all-time.
  • Augustana LHP Dalton Lehnen (6th) and Dallas Baptist RHP Dalton Higgins (7th) have signed, the Yankees announced. Callis says Lehnen received a $245,100 bonus, which is his slot value minus the $2,500 trick. No word on Higgins’ bonus yet. My guess is he received slot as well. (Update: Callis says Higgins signed for $227,500, which is slightly above slot.)
  • Radford RHP Kyle Zurak (8th), Texas-Arlington RHP Austin Gardner (9th), and Southern Illinois RHP Chad Whitmer (10th) have all signed as well, the Yankees announced. MLB.com says all three signed for a well-below slot $7,500. They’re draft pool saving college senior picks.
  • New Orleans RHP Shawn Semple (11th), Orange Coast 1B Eric Wagaman (12th), Virginia Tech RHP Aaron McGarity (15th), Mount Olive SS Ricky Surum (16th), Delaware RHP Ron Marinaccio (19th), and Notre Dame C Ryan Lidge (20th) have all signed, the Yankees announced. Slot money for every pick after the tenth round is $125,000 and I doubt these guys signed for more than that. (Update: Callis says Semple signed for $147,500. No word on the other guys.)
  • Seattle RHP Janson Junk (22nd) has signed, according to his Instagram feed. There’s no reason to think he received more than the $125,000 slot.

Assuming the Sauer deal is done, the Yankees have now signed every pick in the top 22 rounds except South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt (1st) and Alabama-Birmingham RHP Garrett Whitlock (18th). That Sauer is getting a big over-slot bonus indicates the Yanks have a below-slot deal in place with Schmidt.

2017 Draft Signings: Sensley, Cortijo, Hess, DeMarco

Sensley. (Presswire)
Sensley. (The Advertiser)

With the short season leagues set to begin this week, the Yankees have locked up many of their late round draft picks these last few days. Here are my Day One, Day Two, and Day Three draft recaps, and here are all of the Yankees’ picks. Now here are the latest signings (and non-signings):

  • Louisiana-Lafayette OF Steven Sensley (12th) has signed, reports William Weathers. No word on his bonus, though there’s no reason to think it’s above the $125,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer called Sensley his draft sleeper. “We like his exit velo, power, athleticism,” he said to Randy Miller. Exit velo for a college kid! Anyway, Sensley hit .314/.417/.576 with eleven homers in 57 games this spring.
  • Maryland HS RHP Harold Cortijo (14th) has signed. His high school coach posted a photo of the contract signing on Twitter. No word on the bonus, though I think there’s a chance Cortijo will get more than the $125,000 slot. He was said to be very committed to junior college, which would have allowed him to re-enter the draft next year.
  • Rhode Island C Chris Hess (17th) has signed, according to the school’s Twitter feed. Again, no word on the bonus, though as with Sensley, odds are it is not over $125,000. Hess hit .347/.414/.581 with eight homers and 12 steals in 53 games as a senior this spring.
  • Georgia HS Pat DeMarco (24th) is not planning to sign, according to his Twitter feed. He’s one of the highly ranked players who slipped to Day Three due to signability concerns. DeMarco grew up in New York City, graduated high school in Georgia, and is committed to Vanderbilt.
  • Lane College LHP Austin Crowson (26th) has not yet decided whether to turn pro, according to Steve Mims. “Not sure yet, still discussing everything. I’m going to take my time,” he said. Crowson is at a junior college, so he could re-enter the draft next year.
  • Norfolk State RHP Alex Mauricio (27th) has signed, according to his dad’s Twitter feed. No word on his bonus yet and chances are we’ll never find out. These under-slot late rounders are rarely reported. Mauricio hit .345/.427/.528 this spring and had a 3.49 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. The Yankees drafted him as a pitcher.
  • Louisiana HS SS Hayden Cantrelle (40th) wants to “keep his options open,” reports Trey Labat. Cantrelle has a number in mind, and if the Yankees meet it, he’ll sign. He’s a legitimate football prospect in addition to baseball, and he made it no secret he wants to go to college.

Our Draft Pool Tracker page is up and running. You can use that to keep tabs on the bonus pool situation between now and the July 7th signing deadline. The Tracker is available at all times under the Resources pull down menu in the nav bar at the top of the site.

2017 Draft: Yanks sign fifth rounder Glenn Otto to slot bonus

(Getty)
(Getty)

June 20th: Jim Callis says Otto signed for $320,900, not $323,400. Callis says the standard contract for draftees includes $2,500 in bonuses so easily reachable that teams were counting it as part of the player’s bonus. Now they’ve stopped. The player still gets the $2,500 bonus, but it doesn’t count against the bonus pool. Huh.

June 17th: According to Mark Berman, the Yankees have agreed to a deal with their fifth round pick in this year’s draft, Rice RHP Glenn Otto. Slot money for the 152nd overall pick is $323,400, and that’s what Otto will receive. It’s a straight slot signing, per Berman. You can keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool Tracker.

“It feels good to be a professional baseball player, feels even better to be a Yankee,” said Otto to Berman. “It’s always been a goal of mine ever since I starting playing baseball when I was five-years-old. People would ask me what I wanted to be and I always said professional baseball player. That’s always been the case through Little League, high school, and college. I wouldn’t be here without my dad. He’s helped me through everything baseball’s brought me.”

Otto, 21, spent most of his three years at Rice in the bullpen and the last two as the team’s closer. This spring he had a 3.77 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 29 walks in only 59.2 innings after sitting out fall ball with arm fatigue/soreness. MLB.com ranked him as the 96nd best prospect in the draft class while Baseball America ranked him 181st. Pretty big split! Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

When he comes out of the bullpen, Otto generally works with a 92-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97. His spike curveball can be devastating with power and 12-to-6 break. He also has a changeup but rarely uses it … Otto has a strong frame and his arm works well, so many scouts believe he could make it as a starter in pro ball. To succeed in that role, he’ll have to throw more strikes.

Berman says the Yankees intend to develop Otto as a starting pitcher going forward, which isn’t terribly surprising. He did make two starts for Rice this spring, so I suppose it’s not completely foreign to him. In addition to throwing more strikes, Otto will have to use his changeup more often to make it work in the rotation, and also refine that knuckle-curve. Not too many starters throw that pitch. It can be tough to command. Here’s some video:

The Yankees are not shy about attempting to convert relievers into starters in the minors. Chance Adams is the big success story, though others like Jonathan Holder and Taylor Widener have tried it as well. “We got together as a group and decided that we’re going to take our best arms and put them in the starting rotation,” said farm system head Gary Denbo over the winter. Now they’re going to do the same with Otto.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 7th this season, so three weeks from yesterday. The Yankees have already handed out one over slot bonus, to third rounder Trevor Stephan. They’re expected to save some bonus pool money with first rounder Clarke Schmidt, as well as the college seniors they drafted in rounds 8-10, which will then be given to other players, including second rounder Matt Sauer.

2017 Draft: Yankees sign third rounder Trevor Stephan to over-slot bonus

(Arkansas)
(Arkansas)

June 20th: MLB.com says Stephan signed for $797,500, not $800,000. Jim Callis says the standard contract for draftees includes $2,500 in bonuses so easily reachable that teams were counting it as part of the player’s bonus. Now they’ve stopped. The player still gets the $2,500 bonus, but it doesn’t count against the bonus pool. Huh.

June 16th: According to Jim Callis, the Yankees have signed Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan, their third round pick in this week’s amateur draft, to an over-slot $800,000 bonus. Slot money for the 92nd overall pick is $588,700. You can keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our Draft Pool Tracker.

Stephan, 21, had a 2.87 ERA with 120 strikeouts and 20 walks in 16 starts and 91 innings for the Razorbacks this spring. MLB.com ranked him as a 87th best prospect in the draft class. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

He touched 97 mph in the fall and has sat at 90-95 this spring, using his deceptive crossfire delivery to create running life. He commands his fastball well to both sides of the plate … He has scrapped a soft curveball in favor of a slider/cutter that shows flashes of becoming an average pitch, and he rarely uses a changeup that’s even less advanced. His delivery and arm action may not be conducive to starting every fifth day in pro ball, where he’s likely to become a reliever who relies heavily on his fastball.

Once the signing is complete, I imagine Stephan will join Short Season Staten Island to begin his pro career. Their season begins Monday. Here is some video of Stephan in action:

In addition to the usual bonus pool saving college senior picks in rounds 8-10, the Yankees are also expected to save some cash with first round pick South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and doesn’t have much leverage. Most of those savings figure to be funneled to second rounder California HS RHP Matt Sauer, however.