Shohei Otani is both the No. 1 target and a back-burner issue for the Yankees this offseason

Dingers. (Getty)
Dingers. (Getty)

Free agency is now underway. The five-day exclusive negotiating period is over and, as of 12:01am ET this morning, free agents are free to negotiate and sign with any team. MLB isn’t the NFL, NBA, or NHL though. There aren’t a flurry of Day One signings because there’s no salary cap. MLB free agency, like the regular season, is a marathon rather than a sprint.

Although the free agent signing period has opened, the No. 1 offseason target on every team’s list is still not available. Nippon Ham Fighters righty/slugger Shohei Otani has not yet been posted for MLB teams, and depending who you ask, he might not be posted at all this winter. MLB, MLBPA, and NPB are haggling over the posting system. It’s clear Otani wants to come over this winter. Now he just needs all parties involved to let him.

The 23-year-old Otani is basically the coolest baseball player on Earth. He’s a 100 mph throwing starter with wicked breaking stuff who also socks dingers on the days between starts. Otani hit .332/.403/.540 in 231 plate appearances with a 3.20 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings around ankle and quad injuries in 2017. Last year, when fully healthy, he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers and had a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.

Otani’s appeal is obvious. He’s young and he has a chance to not only contribute on both sides of the ball, but be an impact player both on the mound and at the plate. The consensus is Otani has more potential as a pitcher, but at this point, it makes sense to see whether he can hit and pitch. There is so much value to be gained. And if you have to pull the plug as a hitter or pitcher at some point, so be it.

The Yankees scouted Otani during the season (duh) and they’re expected to pursue him aggressively this offseason — Joel Sherman recently reported “they plan to push as hard as possible” to land Otani — which makes perfect sense. They have a fun up-and-coming team and Otani would fit right in with the exciting young core. He’s five months younger than Luis Severino! Of course this guy should be their No. 1 offseason target.

At the same time, the Yankees can’t — and shouldn’t — focus on Otani this winter. They need to proceed with their offseason as if they won’t sign Otani. That means filling out the rotation and coming up with a solution for the designated hitter spot (one set player? revolving door?), among other things. There are two reasons for this.

1. Otani might not come over. Back when Masahiro Tanaka was coming over, there were weeks and weeks of “he’s coming over/he’s not coming over/posting system negotiations could hold it up” talk. The same thing is happening here. I expect everyone to come to their senses and to get it worked out in time. But, until it happens, there’s always a chance Otani won’t be posted this winter. You can plan your offseason around a No. 1 target who might not actually be available. The Yankees don’t want to miss out on other players because they’re waiting for Otani.

2. It’s a minimal financial investment. This is the big one to me. Unless MLB, MLBPA, and NPB completely rewrite the international hard cap rules, which is possible but extremely unlikely, signing Otani will involved three financial commitments:

  1. The release fee paid to the (Ham) Fighters.
  2. His signing bonus.
  3. His 2018 salary.

MLB and the NPB already agreed Otani would be grandfathered in under the old posting agreement, meaning the (Ham) Fighters will set the maximum $20M release fee. Whichever team signs him, pays it. Every single MLB team can cut a $20M release fee check for Otani right now. Don’t let the owners trick you into thinking otherwise.

The signing bonus is a relatively small investment. Otani is subject to the international hard cap and teams only have so much international bonus money left to spend. Mark Feinsand says the Yankees have as much available international money as any team.

Eight teams have the ability to pay Ohtani a signing bonus of more than $1 million: the Rangers ($3.535M), Yankees ($3.5M), Pirates ($2.27M), Twins ($1.895M), D-Backs ($1.87M), Marlins ($1.74M), Tigers ($1.072M) and Mariners ($1.056M).

Conversely, 12 teams are prohibited from giving a signing bonus of more than $300,000 as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pools under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement: the A’s, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds, Royals and White Sox.

Otani’s salary next season is an important consideration for the Yankees given their luxury tax plan. Because of the international hard cap rules, Otani can only sign a minor league deal, and he has to be treated like any other rookie. That means three pre-arbitration seasons and three arbitration seasons before qualifying for free agency. Otani will earn the $545,000 minimum salary in 2018. That’s nothing. It won’t complicate the luxury tax plan at all.

So the financial investment boils down to the league minimum salary that is a drop in the bucket for every club, international bonus money every team is planning to spend one way or another, and the $20M release fee every team can afford. The financial playing field is level. That means the Yankees won’t be able to blow everyone away with a big offer like they did for Tanaka. That lowers their odds of signing him some degree.

The more important factor here is Otani’s league minimum salary in 2018. That won’t have much impact on the Yankees’ plan to get under the luxury tax threshold. They can go about their offseason, get the pieces they need, and if they land Otani at some point along the way, great! His salary won’t blow up the luxury tax plan. Treat him almost like a luxury item. Build your team as if you won’t get him, and if you do, it’s the icing on the cake.

Saturday Links: Otani, League Top 20 Prospects, Cessa

The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)
The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)

The offseason is off to a pretty good start. Last night we learned Masahiro Tanaka will not opt-out of his contract, and instead give the Yankees his age 29-31 seasons for $67M. Not bad. Not bad at all. Now the Yankees can now move on to other things, like finding a new manager. Here are some notes and links to check out.

Otani’s move on hold while MLB, MLBPA, NPB haggle

According to Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman, Shohei Otani’s move to the big leagues is on hold while MLB, MLBPA, and NPB haggle over the posting agreement. The posting agreement expired last month, though MLB and NPB agreed Otani would be grandfathered in under the old agreement, meaning the Nippon Ham Fighters would still get the $20M release fee. The players’ union doesn’t like that arrangement. From Sherman:

But MLB cannot enter into any transfer agreement with any country — Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, etc. — without approval from the MLB Players Association, as stated in the CBA. And the union, to date, has refused to make an exception for Otani, concerned about the precedent and fairness of the player receiving, say, $300,000 and his former team $20 million.

Under the international hard cap Otani can only receive a small bonus — the Yankees and Rangers reportedly have the most bonus money to offer at $2.5M or so — and sign a minor league contract, which is nothing. He’s getting screwed beyond belief, financially. I get why MLBPA doesn’t want to set this precedent, but maybe do something about it during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks? It’s a little too late now. You agreed to the hard cap, you dolts.

Anyway, my guess is Otani will indeed end up coming over at some point this winter. It seems like he really wants to despite the hard cap. So far this Otani stuff is following a similar path as the Tanaka stuff a few years ago. He wants to come over, oh no his team might not post him, now MLB and the NPB are at an impasse during posting system talks … blah blah blah. Same story, different year.

Otani undergoes ankle surgery

Oh, by the way, Otani had ankle surgery last month, according to the Kyodo News. The ankle had been bothering him since late last year, when he rolled it running through first base in October. He then reaggravated it in November. The ankle injury as well as a nagging quad problem limited Otani to only 231 plate appearances (.332/.403/.540) and 25.1 innings (3.20 ERA and 10.3 K/9) in 2017.

The surgery comes with a three-month rehab, meaning Otani is expected to be back on his feet by January. That could throw a wrench into his offseason workout routine. Obviously the surgery is a red flag and something MLB teams must consider when pursuing him, but given the nature of the injury — rolling your ankle while running through first base is kinda fluky — and the fact his arm is sound leads me to believe it won’t hurt his market at all. It could mean Otani is brought along a little more slowly in Spring Training, however.

More Yankees among BA’s league top 20 prospects

Florial. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Florial. (Rob Carr/Getty)

It just dawned on me that I never passed along Baseball America’s remaining league top 20 prospect lists. I did post Triple-A, Double-A, and High-A, but that’s all. There are still four more levels to cover, and many Yankees prospects. Let’s get to them quick:

  • OF Estevan Florial (Low-A No. 2): “He’s a higher-risk, high ceiling prospect who has further refinement to come, but special tools.”
  • RHP Jorge Guzman (NYPL No. 2): “(The) 21-year-old took a big step forward as a pitcher this year … He mixed in his curveball and changeup more regularly, which only made his plus-plus fastball more effective.”
  • RHP Trevor Stephan (NYPL No. 9): “Stephan sat 92-94 mph but touched 95-96 regularly. His slider got plenty of swings and misses thanks to his ability to bury it.”
  • RHP Juan De Paula (NYPL No. 14): “De Paula was one of the more skilled pitchers in the league, showing an ability to control the strike zone and throw in and out, up and down, raising and lowering hitters’ eye levels and never letting them get real comfortable in the batter’s box.”
  • IF Oswaldo Cabrera (NYPL No. 16): “Managers and scouts felt confident about Cabrera’s ability to hit for average and get on base … Scouts are concerned that Cabrera’s tools are more modest than his work ethic and feel for the game.”
  • RHP Luis Medina (Appy No. 6): “Medina’s upside is enormous. He attacks hitters with a true 80-grade fastball on the 20-80 scouting scale and sits anywhere from 96-100 mph … Medina pairs his heater with two potentially above-average secondaries. His curveball works in an 11-to-5 arc and is his preferred knockout pitch, whereas his changeup lags a little behind.”
  • RHP Deivi Garcia (Appy No. 15): “Garcia’s fastball sits in the low 90s and touches as high as 96 mph … His curveball is nearing plus status and boasts high spin rates and firm shape.”
  • SS Oswald Peraza (GCL No. 14): “Peraza is a smart, savvy player and a good athlete. He has a smooth, efficient stroke, good bat-to-ball skills and manages his at-bats well with a good sense for the strike zone.”
  • SS Jose Devers (GCL No. 19): “Devers’ glove is ahead of his bat, but he held his own against older competition in the GCL, showing a sound swing and contact skills, though without much power.”

In the Appalachian League chat, 3B Dermis Garcia was called “a very divisive player” because his pitch recognition isn’t great and he’ll probably end up at first base, but “(on) the flip side, he’s got enormous raw power and a strong throwing arm.” Also, OF Blake Rutherford placed 18th on the Low-A South Atlantic League list. Eek. Hopefully he bounces back next year. Rutherford’s a good dude.

Cessa activated off 60-day DL

A small transaction to note: Luis Cessa was activated off the 60-day DL yesterday, the Yankees announced. The Yankees now have four open spots on the 40-man roster. They’re going to go to Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects later this month. Chances are the Yankees will have to open a few more 40-man spots, in fact. Cessa, 25, had a 4.75 ERA (5.75 FIP) in 36 swingman innings this year before going down with a rib cage injury. I like him more than most. I think Cessa has a chance to be a nice little back-end starter and soon.

Sheffield and Estrada picked for AzFL Fall Stars Game

Sheffield. (Presswire)
Sheffield. (Presswire)

Earlier today the Arizona Fall League announced the rosters for their Fall Stars Game, the league’s annual top prospect showcase. Yankees prospects Justus Sheffield and Thairo Estrada were selected for the game, plus both Billy McKinney and Estevan Florial are on the Final Two ballot. Here’s the ballot. Go vote one of them into the game. Here are the East and West rosters.

Sheffield, who came over in the Andrew Miller trade, is New York’s top pitching prospect in my opinion. He threw 93.1 innings with a 3.18 ERA (4.58 FIP) around an oblique injury for Double-A Trenton this year, and so far he has a 2.37 ERA with 21 strikeouts and two walks in 19 innings in the notoriously hitter friendly AzFL. The scouting reports have been glowing too. From Keith Law (subs. req’d):

Sheffield was absolutely filthy in his AFL debut, sitting 94-96 with a plus slider at 86-87 and above-average changeup at 86-89, better at the 86-87 part of that range. He’s always been athletic with a good delivery that’s online to the plate, but now his arm looks faster than ever, and he has a real breaking ball in the slider — he didn’t throw a curveball at all. He was on my top 100 last winter on the promise of his athleticism and changeup, but now he’s got more fastball and a potential out pitch in the slider.

Estrada has long been a personal favorite. He’s hitting .390/.432/.512 through ten AzFL games after hitting .301/.353/.392 (107 wRC+) with a 10.3% strikeout rate as a 21-year-old at Double-A during the regular season. Estrada will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so a big showing in the AzFL could push the Yankees to add him to the 40-man roster. Middle infielders who can hit are worth keeping around.

The AzFL Fall Stars Game is this Saturday at 8pm ET, and the game will be shown live on MLB Network and MLB.com. Players on the Fall Stars Game rosters are going to play. It’s not like an All-Star Game where some guys might not get in. Sheffield might even start the game. That’d be neat.

DotF: Austin heads to winter ball, Abreu dominates in AzFL

Last week SS Thairo Estrada finished third in the annual Arizona Fall League Hitting Challenge behind Twins 3B Chris Paul and Mets C Tomas Nido. During the Hitting Challenge players aim for targets on the field to accumulate points. It’s pretty neat. The video is above. Here are some minor league notes:

  • SS Gleyber Torres has started hitting off a tee as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery, according to his Instagram feed. Good news. Seems everything is going well. Torres blew out his non-throwing elbow sliding into home plate in June and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training.
  • Both 3B Miguel Andujar and 1B Tyler Austin will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic this winter, according to MLB Pipeline. Austin missed a bunch of time with injuries this past season, and could be a 40-man roster casualty this winter. Andujar needs to work on his defense. The more reps, the better.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 1) topped last week’s Prospect Hot Sheet following his dominant Arizona Fall League debut, then both RHP Albert Abreu (No. 2 ) and OF Estevan Florial (No. 7 ) made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had this strong a group of prospects in the AzFL.
  • Player development analyst Dan Greenlee has left the Yankees to join Gary Denbo with the Marlins, reports Joel Sherman. Greenlee will be Miami’s director of player personnel, which is quite the promotion. He’d been doing minor league analytical work for the Yankees.
  • The Yankees have started interviewing internal candidates to replace Denbo, reports George King. Pro scouting director Kevin Reese, director of minor league operations Eric Schmitt, director of performance science John Kremer, and field coordinator Carlos Mendoza have interviewed so far.
  • So long, 1B Ji-Man Choi. He elected free agency, reports Matt Eddy. We’ll always have those dingers. Also, the Yankees re-signed C Sharif Othman. The organizational depth catcher hit .223/.265/.345 (74 wRC+) in 72 games at three levels in 2017.

Arizona Fall League

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 10 G, 16-41, 9 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K, 2 HBP, 2 SB (.390/.432/.512)
  • OF Estevan Florial: 10 G, 12-38, 9 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 18 K, 1 HBP, 1 SB, 1 CS (.316/.422/.447) — Josh Norris said Florial got chewed up by breaking balls in one of the games he saw, which included six swings and misses on breaking stuff
  • SS Kyle Holder: 6 G, 10-24, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 CS (.417/.444/.625) — he’s on the taxi squad, so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • 1B/OF Billy McKinney: 9 G, 11-36, 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP (.306/.372/.528) — so far he’s played five games at first base, three in left field, and one at DH … some AzFL parks are equipped with Statcast, and among the games recorded, McKinney had one of the ten hardest hit balls
  • RHP Albert Abreu: 3 G, 3 GS, 15 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 1 HR (1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP)
  • RHP Cody Carroll: 5 G, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 11 K (0.00 ERA and 0.86 WHIP)
  • RHP Andrew Schwaab: 5 G, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HB (8.31 ERA and 1.85 WHIP)
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 4 G, 4 GS, 19 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 21 K, 1 WP (2.39 ERA and 0.79 WHIP) — Josh Norris has a write-up of Sheffield’s second AzFL start, and said his stuff was as good as his first start … “The 21-year-old sat between 94-97 mph with his fastball for most of his 4.1 inning out and touched 98 once. Just like he did on Tuesday, he also showed two potential plus offerings in his mid-80s slider and high-80s slider,” said the report.

[Read more…]

DotF: Sheffield dominant in Arizona Fall League opener

Now that the various fall and winter leagues have started their seasons, it’s time for a minor league update. I usually only do these once a week during the offseason. Before we get to the game action, here are some stray notes and links.

  • If you’re still holding out hope the Yankees will find a way to keep Gary Denbo, stop. The Marlins officially announced his hiring this past Tuesday. Here’s the press release. The Yankees have not yet announced who will replace Denbo as their player development department head. It might not happen until after the postseason.
  • Matt Eddy ranked the 30 teams by farm system production, and the Yankees led the way with +13.2 WAR from their prospect class in 2017. The Rockies were a distant second with +7.4 WAR. OF Aaron Judge is the headliner, obviously, but both LHP Jordan Montgomery and RHP Chad Green had close to +3 WAR seasons too.
  • Baseball America (subs. req’d) posted their 2017 draft report card for the Yankees recently. Most notably, the write-up says OF Steven Sensley has 70 power. Huh. Didn’t expect that. Sensley hit .292/.370/.584 (157 wRC+) with 13 homers in 50 games after being this year’s 12th round pick.
  • The Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, according to Eddy. Diaz, 27, hit .261/.315/.322 (79 wRC+) in 58 games at three levels as an organizational depth catcher this year. This is at least the second time he’s re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent.

AzFL Scottsdale (7-4 win over Mesa) Tuesday’s game

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K — the Summer of Thairo is now the Autumn of Thairo (the Fall of Thairo sounds bad)
  • DH Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Estevan Florial: 1-4, 2 K — threw a runner out at the plate
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 40 of 62 pitches were strikes (65%) … Keith Law and Eric Longenhagen had Sheffield sitting 94-96 mph … Law said this game was the best he’s ever seen Sheffield, and a scout told Josh Norris: “That was No. 1 starter stuff right there” … in a post (subs. req’d), Law said Sheffield was “absolutely filthy in his AFL debut, sitting 94-96 with a plus slider at 86-87 and above-average changeup at 86-89, better at the 86-87 part of that range”
  • RHP Cody Carroll: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 16 of 31 pitches were strikes (52%)

[Read more…]

Tuesday Links: Sabathia, Girardi, Mets, Judge, Tate, Abreu

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Thanks to wins in Games Three and Four of the ALDS the last two days, the Yankees will play for a spot in the ALCS tomorrow night. What a fun season this has been. I hope it never ends. Anyway, here are some stray links to check out now that we all have a chance to catch our breath a bit during the off-day.

Sabathia still wants to pitch in 2018

Over the weekend CC Sabathia reiterated to Jon Morosi that he plans to pitch in 2018. He said this back over the winter too, but at 37 years old and with a balky knee, he could’ve changed his mind at some point during the season. And heck, maybe the Yankees will win the World Series and Sabathia will decide to ride off into the sunset as a champion. That’d be cool, as much as I’d miss CC.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I am totally cool with bringing Sabathia back on one-year contracts for pretty much the rest of his career, Andy Pettitte style. He showed this year that last season’s success was no fluke. The new Sabathia is here to stay. Between the perpetual need for pitching depth and Sabathia’s leadership role in the clubhouse, bringing him back is a no-brainer. And why would Sabathia want to leave? The Yankees are good and fun, and he lives here year-round. The going rate for veteran innings dudes (Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, etc.) is one year and $10M to $12M these days. Maybe Sabathia gets $15M because he’s basically a legacy Yankee?

Mets have discussed Girardi

I had a feeling this was coming. According to Mike Puma, the Mets have internally discussed pursuing Joe Girardi should Girardi and the Yankees part ways when his contract expires after the season. Terry Collins was essentially pushed out as Mets manager after the season, and the team is looking for a new skipper. Also, as George King writes, Girardi has given some indications he could step away after the season to spend more time with his family and avoid burnout.

While we should never rule out Girardi going elsewhere or simply stepping away to be with his family, these two reports struck me as plants from Girardi’s camp as a way to build leverage for contract talks. The best thing for Girardi would be the Nationals and Dusty Baker having trouble finding common ground for an extension, because then he could use them as leverage too. I think Girardi wants to come back — who’d want to leave given how well set up the Yankees are for the future? — and I think both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman want him back. The chances of a reunion seem quite high to me. Maybe as high as 95/5.

Judge named BA’s Rookie of the Year

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

A few days ago Baseball America named Aaron Judge their 2017 Rookie of the Year, which should surprise no one. They give out one award for all of MLB, not one for each league. Baseball America has been giving out their Rookie of the Year award since 1989 and Judge is the second Yankee to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 1996. From their write-up:

“You watched him in the minor leagues and you saw the raw power and athletic ability,” one pro scout told BA during the season. “You saw a big swing and high strikeout numbers. Then you have to ask yourself does he have the ability to make adjustments and shorten the swing. The answer was yes.’

“If anybody says they expected this I would have to call them a liar. Nobody in their right mind expected this.”

The last few Baseball America Rookies of the Year include Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, and Mike Trout. Judge is for sure going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award — he’d be the first Yankee to win that since Jeter — and he should win unanimously. The real question here is the MVP race. I see way more people explaining why Judge shouldn’t win it (his slump) than why Jose Altuve should win. Kinda weird.

Tate removed, Abreu added to AzFL roster

Dillon Tate has been removed from the Scottsdale Scorpions roster with Albert Abreu taking his place, the Arizona Fall League announced. Also, Chris Gittens was removed from the roster as well. I’m not sure why Tate was dropped from the roster, but it could one of countless reasons. He could’ve gotten hurt. The Yankees could’ve decided to shut him down after Instructional League. The Yankees may think those innings would be better spent on Abreu. Who knows.

Abreu came over in the Brian McCann trade and he threw only 53.1 innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He finished the season healthy though, and is obviously healthy enough to go to the AzFL, so he’ll be able to squeeze in some more innings there. That’s good. Abreu has an awful lot of upside, maybe the most of any pitcher in the system. As for Gittens, he was removed because Billy McKinney was added to the AzFL roster, and he’s going to start playing some first base there. Only so many first base roster spots to go around, so Gittens gets dropped.

Saturday Links: Otani, Denbo, Judge, Sanchez, YES Network

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

The Yankees and Indians have an off-day today as the ALDS shifts from Cleveland to New York. The best-of-five series will resume with Game Three tomorrow night. Here are some links to check out in the meantime.

Otani dazzles in possible final start in Japan

Shohei Otani, who may or may not come to MLB this offseason, made what could be his final start for the Nippon Ham Fighters earlier this week. He struck out ten in a two-hit shutout of the Orix Buffaloes, and Jason Coskrey says dozens of MLB scouts attended the game. Otani finished the season with a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings and a .340/.413/.557 batting line in 63 games. He missed time with quad and ankle problems, hence the limited time on the mound.

Joel Sherman says the Yankees are “known to be extremely interested” in Otani, who, if he does come over this year, will come over under the old posting rules. That means the (Ham) Fighters will set a $20M release fee. MLB and NPB are currently renegotiating the posting agreement for other players going forward. The Yankees have roughly $2M in international bonus money to offer Otani based on my estimates, though if he comes over this year, it won’t be for top dollar. Basically no team has much international money to offer. Otani will go wherever he thinks is the best fit based on his own personal preferences. Good luck predicting that.

Denbo expected to join Marlins

Folks in baseball expect Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo to join Derek Jeter and the Marlins this offseason, reports Jon Heyman. Marlins general manager Mike Hill is expected to remain on, with Denbo coming over to head up their player development department, the same department he runs for the Yankees now. Denbo’s contract is up after the season, so he’s free to come and go as he chooses.

Jeter and Denbo are very close and go back a long away, and I figured Jeter would try to poach him once we found out he was buying the Marlins. Denbo has done a phenomenal job turning around the farm system and the Yankees will miss him, assuming they can’t convince him to stay. Who will take over the farm system? I have no idea. The Yankees will find someone. I’m curious to see which Yankees farmhands the Marlins try to acquire going forward. You know Denbo has some personal favorites in the system.

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

Judge had most popular jersey in 2017

The most popular player jersey this season, according to sales on MLB.com, belongs to Aaron Judge. Here is the press release. The average age of the top 20 players in jersey sales is 27, so that’s fun. Here’s the top five:

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
  2. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  5. Bryce Harper, Nationals

Also in the top 20 jersey sales: Gary Sanchez. He ranked 15th in jersey sales overall and sixth among AL players, behind Judge, Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve. Only two pitchers in the top 20, which is kinda weird. Kershaw is fourth and Noah Syndergaard is 19th. The people love dingers, I guess.

YES Network ratings up 57%

Not surprisingly, the YES Network’s rating were up a whopping 57% this season, the network announced yesterday. This season’s ratings were the best in five years. Primetime game broadcasts on YES had higher ratings than the primetime schedules of all other cable networks in New York, plus ratings for non-game broadcasts (pregame and postgame shows, etc.) were up as well. Ratings outside the city also increased substantially. Turns out if you put a very good and very fun team on the field, people will watch. Who woulda thunk it?