Thoughts after the Yanks trade for Giancarlo freaking Stanton

(Mark Brown/Getty)
(Mark Brown/Getty)

It came together so quickly. Less that 24 hours after the Giants and Cardinals publicly declared themselves out on Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees swooped in to grab the reigning NL MVP and MLB home run king over the weekend for the bargain price of Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers. Pretty incredible. The press conference is at 2pm ET today. I imagine it’ll be on MLB Network and (Update: YES will have it for sure.) There’s a lot to say about this trade. More than should be squeezed into one post. Let’s start with some miscellaneous thoughts.

1. Know what I love about this trade? The Yankees are back to being the Evil Empire. They went out and got the biggest name and the best player available even though they didn’t really need him. It was an old school George Steinbrenner move made with those new school “wow the Yankees got a great deal” smarts. Didn’t trade top prospects, didn’t give up draft picks, didn’t blow up the luxury tax plan, nothing like that. The Yankees used to be a rich team that threw money at everything. Now they’re rich and smart. I truly believe it is good for baseball when the Yankees are a great team and everyone hates them. The Yankees being the villain is good for the sport, and the Yankees are back to being that villain. It’s also good for baseball that a player like Stanton is now in the game’s largest market. This past season a lot of outsiders fell in love with the young plucky underdog Yankees, though that was never going to last. The Evil Empire is back and it is glorious.

2. This is the epitome of a “too good to pass up” trade. I don’t think the Yankees had any intention of seriously pursuing Stanton when they went into the offseason, even after asking about him at the trade deadline. Another corner outfielder and more right-handed power was hardly a priority. The Yankees did what they always do. They kept an eye on the market, and if the stars aligned and they could get themselves a good deal on a great player, they’d pounce. And that’s exactly what happened. Stanton backed the Marlins into a corner with his no-trade clause, and with Miami’s leverage basically non-existent, the Yankees took advantage. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Stanton fell right into their laps. It takes a perfect storm for a deal like this to come together. It takes a great player, a team desperate to unload him, and an opportunistic team ready to take advantage. Brian Cashman & Co. are nothing if not opportunistic.

3. Speaking of being opportunistic, the Stanton trade is eerily similar to the Alex Rodriguez trade. During the 2003-04 offseason, A-Rod had just completed his age 27 season, in which he led the league in home runs and was named MVP. Yet his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Stanton just completed his age 27 season, a season in which he led the league in homers and was named MVP. And yet, his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Both contracts included an opt-out clause too. Stanton can opt out in three years. A-Rod opted out four years after the trade. Pretty freaky how similar the A-Rod and Stanton situations are, huh? The A-Rod trade was great. The problem was giving him a ten-year contract at age 32, after he opted out. Stanton is signed “only” through age 37, and his salary for luxury tax purposes is more favorable than A-Rod’s was during his contract. I would be quite surprised if the Yankees give Giancarlo a massive A-Rod contract should he opt out in a few years, though let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

4. Let’s take a second to remember how this all came together. It took a series a moves — a series of opportunistic moves, to use that word again — to get from Point A to Stanton. Here’s a recap:

  • Traded Adam Warren to the Cubs for Castro, who’d been pushed out by Ben Zobrist.
  • Traded four prospects no one misses for Aroldis Chapman, who’s trade value was kaput.
  • Traded Chapman to the Cubs, who were contending thanks in part to Zobrist, to get Warren back.
  • Re-signed Chapman as a free agent after the season.
  • Traded Castro to the Marlins for Stanton, who were desperate to unload his contract.

Pretty ridiculous. There are some other branches on the trade tree — the Yankees traded Brian McCann to the Astros for Guzman, who is going to the Marlins in the Stanton — but that’s the gist of it. This started as Warren (and Brendan Ryan!) for Castro and ballooned into Giancarlo (joining Warren!) in pinstripes. What the what.

5. So apparently I’ve been calculating luxury tax salaries wrong for traded players all these years? I was under the impression that once a player is traded, his luxury tax hit is recalculated based on the remainder of his contract. That is not the case though. Stanton’s huge 13-year, $325M contract has a $25M average annual value (and thus luxury tax hit). There are ten years and $295M left on the contract, so I thought his luxury tax hit going forward would be $29.5M. Apparently not. It is still $25M. Huh. That means I’ve been wrong all these years with guys like Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Castro, who the Yankees acquired in the middle of multi-year contracts. My bad, folks. Anyway, Ken Rosenthal says Stanton’s luxury tax hit going forward will be $22M because the $30M the Marlins will pay Stanton if he doesn’t opt out reduces the luxury tax burden on the Yankees. The Yankees might never actually see a dime of that $30M because Stanton may opt out, but they still get the tax credit. Pretty awesome. The Yankees have Stanton with a $22M luxury tax hit, and when you subtract out Castro, they only increased their 2018 luxury tax payroll roughly $11M with the trade. They still have about $20M in payroll space before reaching the $197M luxury tax threshold, though keep in mind they have to leave some of that open for midseason call-ups and additions. There’s still enough money to make more moves though. The Yankees just gave up a painless package for the largest contract in the sport, and it doesn’t even blow up the luxury tax plan. Amazing.

6. To state the obvious, assuming a ten-year contract and $265M in salary obligation is quite risky. The luxury tax hit may only be $22M a year, but the Yankees are on the hook for $265M in real dollars once you subtract out the $30M they’d get from Miami should Stanton not opt out. The good news is Giancarlo is only 28 — he turned 28 last month, so he’ll spend all of next season at that age — so the contract doesn’t take him into his 40s. That’s still a lot of years and a lot of money. It’s risky. That’s just the way it is. At same time, Stanton’s contract is probably going to look pretty good about 14 months from now, after Bryce Harper signs his inevitable monster contract. Think about it. The Yankees have Stanton at $22M against the luxury tax. Harper could end up at $40M against the luxury tax. Is Stanton as good as Harper? No, I don’t think so. I’d take Harper’s next ten seasons over Stanton’s next ten seasons, no question. But is the difference between Stanton and Harper on the field as great as the difference between Stanton’s contract and Harper’s upcoming contract? Almost certainly not. As big and as scary as Stanton’s contract is, it’s going to look a whole lot better once Bryce gets his payday.

Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)

7. It stands to reason adding Stanton will take the Yankees out of the running for Harper next offseason. I mostly agree with that — I’d never completely rule out the Yankees pursuing a generational talent like Harper — though I don’t think the Stanton addition means the Yankees will automatically steer clear of another monster contract. Instead of Harper, they might instead shift their focus next winter to Manny Machado, who’d address an obvious long-term need at third base. After all, second base is wide open for Gleyber Torres now. I’m a Miguel Andujar fan. You know that if you’ve read RAB long enough. But you don’t let a guy like Andujar stand in the way of adding Machado. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s see how the season goes for everyone, what the payroll and luxury tax situations look like going into next winter, then circle back and talk about Machado (and Harper).

8. So what’s the best outfield alignment? Given their size, both Stanton and Aaron Judge are deceptively good defensive right fielders. Stanton is at +23 DRS over the last three seasons, including +10 DRS in 2017. Judge was at +9 DRS this year. Left field is pretty spacious at Yankee Stadium, so, in a perfect world, the Yankees would keep Brett Gardner out there. There’s more to range than pure speed (reads and routes are important too), but Statcast’s sprint speed says Judge (27.7 feet per second) is slightly faster than Stanton (27.5 feet per second), so that doesn’t help us figure out who is better suited for left. Stanton has played right field exclusively in the big leagues. So has Judge, though at least he played seven games in left field in Triple-A last year. Right now, I have no idea whether it would be best to keep Judge in right and move Stanton to left on the days they both play the field, or keep Stanton in right and move Judge to left. This might be one of those things the Yankees have to figure out in Spring Training. Get them both some looks out in left field during Grapefruit League play and see who is more comfortable. Chances are the players will make the decision for the Yankees.

9. It is entirely possible the best outfield alignment has Stanton at DH, but not for defensive reasons. For health reasons. He’s had some injury problems in his career, most notably a series of lower body injuries (groin in 2016, knee in 2012, hamstring in several years), and giving him the majority of the at-bats at DH could keep him healthy, both short and long-term. The Yankees have a lot invested in Stanton financially. They want to get as much out of him as possible, and the key to a more productive Stanton down the road could be giving him more DH time now. The same is true of Judge. These are two massive humans — Judge is listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 lbs., and Stanton isn’t far behind him at 6-foot-6 and 245 lbs. — and the more running around they do, the worse it’ll be for their legs. The Yankees would surely love to use the DH spot to get Judge off his feet regularly as well, but the fact of the matter is Stanton has to be the priority because of his contract. The Yankees don’t have much invested in Judge. If things ever go south in the future, they can non-tender him if necessary. There’s no walking away from Stanton. Given his history of leg injuries, giving Giancarlo the majority of the playing time at DH could be the best thing going forward.

10. The outfield alignment is boring. The batting order is much more fun. There is how I would fill out the lineup card if I were manager Aaron Boone (it’s still weird writing that):

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B TBD

Don’t get too hung up on the outfield spots and the DH spot. I’m not worried about who plays where right now, just who hits where. Anyway, yeah, that’s my lineup. Judge is the better on-base player and Stanton is the better power hitter, so Judge before Stanton seems the way to go to me, not Stanton before Judge. I’ve seen some folks in the comments and on Twitter say Bird or Didi should hit third to break up the righties, and while I get it, it seems unnecessary. Among the 111 right-handed hitters who batted at least 300 times against right-handed pitchers this past season, Judge ranked second behind Mike Trout with a 179 wRC+. Stanton was ninth with a 144 wRC+ and Sanchez was 21st with a 130 wRC+. These are not your run of the mill right-handed hitters. These dudes crush righties. I say stack them up high in the lineup and let ’em eat. Maybe Bird will stay healthy and mash, and force a move to the three spot. That’d be cool. Right now though, squeezing Bird or Didi in there to split up the righties, and thus knocking Stanton and Sanchez down a spot, is unnecessary in my opinion.

11. So that TBD I have at second base, what’s going to happen there? This is something we’re going to have to discuss more in the coming days and weeks, but my guess right now is the Yankees will look for a low cost veteran to plug in for the time being, and if nothing really comes along, they’ll stick with their internal options. Those internal options being Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade (or Thairo Estrada?) until Torres is ready. If the Yankees don’t sign a free agent for second base, boy oh boy are the calls for Gleyber to start at second going to be loud in Spring Training. I think the chances of Torres breaking camp with the team next year are much better than they were this year, though I still think the Yankees would send him down to Triple-A Scranton for a few weeks, for two reasons. One, to make sure he’s back up to speed after suffering a major elbow injury and missing half the season. I mean, that’s obvious. Give the kid a chance to shake off the rust in a low pressure environment — Torres only had 96 plate appearances with the RailRiders before the injury, and has 235 above Single-A total, so it’s not like the extra at-bats would be a bad thing — before asking him to take over second base. And two, service time. The Yankees usually don’t manipulate service time, but in this case, it is worthwhile. Two weeks in Triple-A in 2018 equals gaining control of Gleyber’s age 27 season in 2024. That is pretty huge. We’re talking about buying a peak year of a potentially great player. Possibly his career year. The Yankees didn’t manipulate Judge’s service time because he’s already 25 and under control through his prime. That wouldn’t be the case with Torres. There is definitely something to be said for taking the best players regardless of service time. In this case, the potential reward is too great to not send Gleyber down for a bit, second base situation be damned.

12. Literally the only thing I do not like about the trade is that it adds more strikeouts to the lineup, but that is more of a minor nuisance than a major problem. Stanton is effectively replacing Matt Holliday in the lineup and Holliday struck out a ton this season (26.7%). Travis Sawchik wrote a neat post examining some adjustments Stanton made at the plate this past season, specifically the way he closed up his stance, which stops him from flying open and swinging through pitches on the outer half, and the result was a significant drop in strikeout rate:


Stanton cut his strikeout rate from 29.8% in 2016 to a career low 23.6% in 2017, which was only a bit north of the 21.6% league average. Two extra strikeouts per 100 plate appearances. Not a huge deal. His previous career low was a 26.6% strikeout rate in 2014. Stanton has made adjustments to cut down on his strikeout rate and that’s great. He’s still going to strike out a bunch. The Yankees ran into some problems at times last season (especially in the postseason) when they couldn’t put the ball in play, and adding Stanton won’t solve that. But, when you’re getting the game’s premier power hitter in his prime, you live with the strikeouts because the reward is so great.

13. I can’t help but feel a little bad for Castro. He spent all those years with the Cubs while they rebuilt, got to the NLCS with them in 2015, then was traded away the offseason before they won the World Series. He went through all the rebuilding pain without reaping any of the reward. Now Castro spent two seasons with the Yankees, made it to the ALCS this year, and got traded right before the club looks poised to take off. That must suck. This is a business though. That’s the way it goes. I can’t imagine Starlin will be with the Marlins long — they’re probably going to flip him elsewhere for prospects since he’s making real money ($22M total from 2018-19) — so maybe he’ll get traded to a contender (the Angels and Mets jump to mind as possible landing spots). The timing just stinks. Castro was with the Cubs and got traded before they won the World Series. He was with the Yankees and now they traded him right when it looks like they’re on the verge of being a powerhouse. Poor Starlin.

14. This is another one of those things worth a full post (or a series of posts) at some point in the future, but Clint Frazier is going to shopped around for a starting pitcher now, isn’t he? I like Clint, he’s pretty awesome, but Stanton and Judge aren’t going anywhere, so he is capital-B Blocked as a corner outfielder. It only makes sense to put him out there on the trade market and see what offers come along. The Yankees could try to package Frazier for an established controllable big leaguer like, say, Gerrit Cole or Sean Manaea or Danny Duffy, though I wonder if they’ll look to trade him for a pitcher version of Frazier. A young guy with a some MLB time under his belt who is not yet established in the show. A prospect-for-prospect challenge trade, essentially. Someone like Diamondbacks lefty Anthony Banda (they have to replace J.D. Martinez) or Braves lefties Max Fried or Luiz Gohara (Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are sooo bad) might work. I dunno. Just spitballin’ here. A trade doesn’t have to happen now. The Yankees could hang on to Frazier and stash him in Triple-A when the season starts, then see what materializes at the trade deadline. This isn’t something that has to be taken care of right now, before Spring Training. My point is it’s just hard to see where Frazier fits now. Cashman and his staff wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t at least put Clint’s name out there to see what kind of return they’d get.

15. A cool thing about the trade is that the Yankees gave up lower level prospects in Guzman and Devers. Guzman is really good, he could be a top 100 guy by midseason next year, but he’s yet to pitch in a full season league. Devers is in rookie ball. You trade guys that far away from MLB for a dude like Stanton every single time. Anyway, my larger point is that the Yankees didn’t give up any of their upper level depth pieces. They kept Frazier, they kept Wade, they kept Billy McKinney, they kept Luis Cessa, they kept guys like that. Are they great? No. But they’re useful pieces who are a phone call away. Keeping Cessa means no scrambling for a spot starter at midseason, for example. I thought the Marlins would seek upper level talent in their salary dump trades but that has not been the case. Not with the Stanton trade and not with the Dee Gordon trade. They went with lower level players who aren’t particularly close to contributing at the big league level. The Yankees got Stanton and got to keep their depth players. That shouldn’t be overlooked. One of the reasons the Yankees look so formidable going forward is the way they’ve been able to raise their own internal replacement level, if that makes sense. They have quality players waiting in Triple-A as reserves.

16. Beyond his on-field impact, Stanton is going to boost television ratings as well as ticket and merchandise sales massively. The Yankees were already trending up in ratings and attendance. They’re going to jump even more now. Stanton is one of the few players in baseball whose value transcends what he does on the field. He puts butts in the seats and gets people to tune in regularly. Know what the Yankees should do now? They should open the gates a little earlier prior to home games so fans can watch batting practice. Gates open two hours before first pitch now, so by time you walk in the door, the Yankees are pretty much done with batting practice. You get to see the bench guys hit their final round and that’s it. Open the gates a half-hour earlier and fans will get to see Stanton and Judge do their thing, and as someone who has seen both of them take batting practice multiple times, it is fun as hell. The Yankees wouldn’t necessarily make money from that (other than getting 30 extra minutes of concession sales) but it would still be a cool thing to do for fans. If they don’t want to do it every single game, maybe do it once a homestand or something. Make these great players more accessible. There’s the Judge’s Chambers in right field. Put Stanton Island in the left field bleachers or something. Market the hell out of them.

17. And finally, wow does the trade look terrible for MLB and the Marlins. The Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group bought the Marlins for $1.2 billion a few weeks ago and now they’re crying poor and salary dumping their best players because they came into this venture without much capital. They’re already looking for new investors for a cash infusion. They don’t have any money and I don’t see much of a plan to make the team competitive down the road. Their only focus seems to be eliminating debt. What are the odds the Marlins are going to spend all that revenue sharing money they receive next year on players? The Sherman/Jeter group knew the team’s financial situation going into the purchase and so did MLB. They league reviews the finances of every prospective buyer. They knew this fire sale was coming, yet they approved the sale anyway. Pretty terrible. Forget the conspiracy theories about Jeter helping the Yankees. That’s nonsense. Stanton would be a Giant or Cardinal if Jeter had his way. But instead, Stanton is a Yankee because instead of turning the franchise over to owners ready to invest, MLB allowed them to be sold to a cash-strapped outfit. Yeesh. Bad look.

Two Weeks On The Road


So I have been traveling a lot for work lately and the hot stove really hasn’t been really a priority.  I was in Vegas the week after Thanksgiving when most of the talk around the Yankees was “Who’s the Manager” and “What about Ohtani?”  News was mostly silly chatter about potential candidates and what a failure Brian Cashman was beginning to look like in his “bungling” of the Joe Girardi situation.  It’s kinda funny though what can happen in a week.

Aaron Boone happens around the time I am packing my suitcase to head back from AWS re:Invent (for you nerds, I work for MongoDB and love it, sorry RAB they paid for my trip) and I kind of giggled to myself.  I had been in a cab on the way from McCarran to the Encore the beginning of the week and I was absolutely convinced that this was going to be Carlos Beltran‘s job.  Like many other fans I felt that his connection to the group currently on the field, his skill set as a player and mind for baseball was something that Brian Cashman was looking for.  At this point it was either Hensley Meulens or Beltran in my mind.  But all of a sudden the news of Beltran’s elimination came out, which was not the biggest shock, and the realization that there’s a big chance the needle was starting to move in the Bronx.

The news leaks, and we all find out Aaron Boone is the new Yankees manager.  I get wifi on the flight back to Newark in the morning and follow along until I lose streaming audio (thanks airplane wifi) and just start keeping up on Twitter.  Like most, the Aaron Boone selection was a shock because of the lack of experience.  I started thinking about Joe Girardi a bit and the 2007 Yankees season.

Joe had just come off a Manager of the Year victory over his stupid old boss, Jeff “literal dumb person” Loria and took a job with the YES Network doing color.  Girardi was smart on the microphone and really made me look at what Joe Torre was doing a bit more.  By the end of the 2007 season I was completely convinced that the right manager for the Yankees wasn’t in the dugout, he was in the booth with Kay.

As the year moved on I started thinking about the tech industry and the problem I’ve seen with talent that’s just not properly placed in the organization.  A person who writes code can also be someone who contributes solid ideas and proper organization of an application or product.   It’s sometimes about recognizing the talent you have in your organization, in this case Girardi, and moving them to the right place so that you can succeed.  Torre had proven to be no longer in the favor of the Steinbrenners and the “correction” of talent was made.  YES was only partially owned by the Yankees at the time, but my feeling was that he went with YES for a broadcasting job because he knew he wanted to stay close to the Yankees as the organization began to change.

Boone and his scar.

Now Boone didn’t work for YES, but he did for ESPN and for the last eight years all he did was watch, talk and study baseball for the enjoyment of the fans.  While he was paid well for it, it made me think about how much you as a player have to love baseball after years of playing to stay in the game somehow.  Aaron Boone is a young man, but he’s one who’s seen hardship personally as his health suffered from a heart defect in 2009 while playing for the Astros.  But he came back, and he played just months after the procedure to repair the big heart we all saw on display after his heroic crack of the bat in 2003. That story always stuck with me.  So I felt that Boone was probably the right guy.  He was a baseball lifer who grew up in the game and understood the type of person the Yankees needed for 2018 and beyond.

So the dust settles in Yankees world and most of us wait to see what’s next as the Winter Meetings approach.  I am in San Francisco with my wife at the time working at another conference.  I take small breaks to catch up with news, but honestly I am pretty busy and staying on top of things with the Yankees was a bit difficult.  It can be funny how a storm can hit and change everything so quickly … Ohtani was only the rumbling of what was really behind the clouds.  After he rejected the Yankees, many of us began really paying more attention to those rumors Jon Heyman had been floating about the reigning NL MVP.  Well, that storm was Giancarlo Stanton.

Ben, Mike and myself tend to try to keep up with things so we can keep the Twitter up to date.  Mike of course is doing his job for CBS.  So we’re all online watching what’s cooking until Hank Shulman bombed Baseball Twitter.  I am in SF and finally went bed at like 12AM local when nothing was quite done but I couldn’t stop checking. The morning was wonderful though as Heyman told the world that the Yanks and Marlins had a deal.

I had a flight to catch at 10am as the details started to come together.  I start grabbing my stuff and trying to get ready while furiously reading updates.  We hop on the plane and I get wifi and try to keep up as Brian Cashman basically blows up the whole baseball world before the Winter Meetings can even get started.

In a week we watched Cashman get himself a big raise, a new manager and the biggest fish in the 2017 trade ocean.  He caught himself a friggin Marlin.  In a week we watched the Yankees add a new manager, add a new star and take a ton of attention away from the rest of the 29 teams in the league.

Finally after two weeks, I am back home and I am looking forward to more hot stove news.  Mike will be all over it, so keep reading us on the site or check our twitter.  Thanks again for making RAB part of your Yankees baseball life.

Sorting Things Out


A year and a half or so ago, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran. A year and a half ago, the Yankees were looking at a rebuilding process that, hopefully, wouldn’t be too painful. A year and a half ago, the present reality of the Yankees seemed completely unfeasible. But here we are: after a season of unexpected success from unexpected avenues, the Yankees made their biggest splash in an already splashy year by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro and two prospects.

With Stanton aboard and Castro gone, there’s plenty to sort out, but let’s start with the emotions of this. Hell, yeah, huh? A week ago, it seemed like Stanton would land in San Francisco or St. Louis, but as the week went on, that all went away and we got word he’d listed the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros as his preferred destinations. Even then, I thought that there was little or no shot he’d actually end up on the Yankees. To say this was a pleasant and invigorating surprise would certainly be an understatement. Thanks to my son being sick, I was up for most of the morning hours on Saturday and caught a lot of the development of the trade that way. I woke up with him at around 2 AM and didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep–I didn’t want to miss anything.

This felt like a slower version of what happened when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira out of no where in 2008. Were the Internet the way is now back then, I’m sure the Alex Rodriguez trade would’ve felt the same, too. Regardless of the comparison, the level of shock that this actually happened is sky high. I can’t wait to see what Stanton does in this lineup. Speaking of, things are a bit crowded now, aren’t they?

Even before acquiring Stanton, the Yankees were probably heavy one outfielder. Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and (maybe? Probably?) Clint Frazier were all going to have to figure out how to share time in the field and at DH.  As has been the looming case for a while, it seems that time has run out for one of Ellsbury and Gardner as well; if the Yankees–and, I’m willing to bet, most of us–get their way, Ellsbury will be gone with Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton as the main outfielders and DHs. Perhaps they let Frazier hang on the bench and fill in depending on matchups, as I’ve suggested in the past. Or, they could send him to AAA again and let him get every day at bats there.

Minus Starlin Castro, the Yankees now have a void at second base. Enter Gleyber Torres? Eventually. Unless he has a Spring Training like Aaron Judge did last year, I don’t see him breaking camp with the team. If he doesn’t, though, the Yankees could sign a stop gap for one year, or run a platoon of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes out there, or run a competition between those two during Spring Training. No matter what they do, the Yankees won’t need to get much production out of second, given what the lineup will look like with Stanton included now.

I’m still in shock this trade happened, frankly, but it’s a damn good shock. And even when the shock wears off, the feeling will be great, grand, wonderful. In a cliche of cliches, the Yankees have certainly given their fans an early holiday gift; given the surprise of this one, I can’t help but wonder if more is in store.

Thoughts after the Yankees name Aaron Boone manager

No more dip in the dugout, skip. (Getty)
No more dip in the dugout, skip. (Getty)

In a few hours the Yankees will hold an introductory press conference for new manager Aaron Boone, who we learned got the job last Friday. You’ll be able to watch the press conference live on YES and at 12pm ET. Needless to say, this is a significant change. The upstart Yankees are going from veteran skipper in Joe Girardi to a neophyte in Boone. The manager situation is almost a microcosm of the roster. Out with the old, in with the new. Anyway, I have thoughts on all this, so let’s get to ’em.

1. News broke the Yankees would name Boone their manager Friday night, and the word of the weekend was “risky.” It’s a risky hire. The Yankees made a risky move. It’s a risky decision. Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. Of course hiring Boone is a risky decision. This was always going to be a risky decision, no matter who the Yankees hired. Realistically, who could the Yankees have hired to make this whole thing not be considered risky? Maybe luring Terry Francona away from the Indians would’ve done the trick? Parting ways with Girardi and going forward with literally anyone else as manager was risky. I don’t see Boone as any more risky than any other managerial candidate, even with the lack of experience. Hire an experienced manager and you’re hoping he learned from his previous managerial stint (from which he was fired, of course). Hire an inexperienced manager and you don’t really know what you’re going to get. There’s always risk, and with Boone, the focus has been on the negative (he might suck) rather the positive, specifically the fact he is a very bright and personable guy who grew up in the game and is enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of managing in New York.

2. When teams change managers, they have a tendency to bring someone in who is the exact opposite of the guy they just fired. The Mets and Phillies went from the old school Terry Collins and Pete Mackanin to the very new school Mickey Callaway and Gabe Kapler this offseason, respectively. The Tigers moved on from Brad Ausmus, an analytics guy and former front office dude, and brought in the thoroughly unspectacular Ron Gardenhire. The Yankees replaced the intense and meticulous Girardi with Boone, who by all accounts is much more laid back and open-minded. Girardi was high-strung and he wore it on his face, you could see if every time the Yankees played a remotely important game, and I think that tends to wear on a team after a while. That shouldn’t be a problem with Boone. He’s outgoing and he’s got a great sense of humor (have you seen his impressions?). I’ll be very surprised if we see Boone in the dugout wearing that same strained look Girardi wore so often the last decade.

3. “Communication” was the buzzword during the managerial search, and if you’re judging Boone’s communication skills on his broadcasting, just stop. Broadcasting a game for a national audience is waaay different than communicating with players one-on-one. Informing the audience is not the same thing as a manager forming a professional (and personal) relationship with his players. Basically everything I’ve read about Boone the last few days (like this, this, this, this, and this) indicates he is very relatable and the kind of person who gets along with everyone. He’ll joke around with the media — that’ll be a nice change of pace from Girardi, who enjoyed speaking to the media about as much as I enjoy a subway platform on a nice and toasty August afternoon — and keep his players loose, and that’s important. The Yankees bought into his communication skills and ultimately, that’s all that matters. Just don’t judge those skills by his broadcasts. Talking on television and talking to human beings are very different things.

4. Clearly, experience was not a priority for the Yankees. Or for pretty much any team this offseason, for that matter. Six teams changed managers this winter (Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees) and five of them hired first time managers. Only the Tigers (Gardenhire) hired a retread. The Yankees interviewed six candidates and only one, Eric Wedge, had prior MLB managerial experience. Boone and Carlos Beltran have zero coaching or managerial experience, and Chris Woodward is relatively new to the coaching game. This is the trend within baseball now. Even Girardi only had one year coaching experience and one year managerial experience under his belt when the Yankees hired him. He wasn’t exactly a seasoned vet. Teams don’t want Joe Maddon or Terry Francona. They want the next Joe Maddon or Terry Francona. Look at the two World Series managers this year. Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch have barely more than 1,000 games of managerial experience combined. That’s a little more than six full seasons between them. Boone spent the last few seasons speaking to all 30 managers as a broadcaster — and I don’t mean those silly mid-game interviews, I’m talking about in the clubhouse and on the field before games — and that’s valuable experience. He got to pick the brain of everyone around the league rather than work under one or two managers. Young inexperienced managers are a clean slate. Boone is going to have his own unique managerial style, no doubt, but the Yankees will also be able to mold him into the manager they want because he’s not set in his ways. That’s what pretty much every team is trying to do these days.

5. I was surprised the Yankees let Rob Thomson get away and join the Phillies as their new bench coach. He’d been with the Yankees since the early 1990s and he’d done basically everything there is to do in the organization. Thomson knew the Yankees inside and out, and he said he wanted to stay even if he didn’t get the manager’s job. The fact he’s now with Philadelphia leads me to believe the Yankees moved on from Thomson, not the other way around. The split seems amicable — “No hard feelings on my part! It’s the business. The Steinbrenners and the Yankee organization have taken great care of me for 28 years,” said Thomson to Joel Sherman — so I wonder if the Yankees felt they needed such large scale clubhouse change that they let Thomson go in addition to Girardi. Or maybe they didn’t want Boone to have to look over his shoulder at a Girardi holdover and someone else who interviewed for the managerial job? I’m not sure. If anything, I thought the Yankees would kick Thomson back up to the front office than let him go completely. I’m surprised. I expected Thomson to stay in some capacity.

6. Speaking of the front office, I think the odds are pretty darn good the Yankees will hire Beltran as a special advisor to Brian Cashman, similar to Hideki Matsui. I think that’s why they brought him in for the managerial interview. To show him respect and to show him he’s wanted. Matsui has been a special advisor to Cashman for three years now and his duties include, among other things, going around and working with prospects in the minors. I know Beltran said he wants to manage, but going from player one year to manager the next is a huge jump, and was probably never all that realistic. A special advisor role is much less demanding. There’s less travel and more time at home with the family, which a recently retired player figures to appreciate. But he also gets to stay in baseball and begin the second phase of his career. Matsui and Beltran are very similar. They are dignified and very highly respected, especially in their home countries, and have a lot of baseball knowledge to offer. The Yankees could bring Beltran aboard as a special advisor with the promise that if a coaching or managerial job opens somewhere around the league, he’s free to leave. He can work with players up and down the organization, particularly Latin American players, in the meantime. Beltran is someone worth having in the organization and I think the Yankees let him know they want him during their interview, even if they didn’t name him their manager.

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

7. Among the six managerial candidates, my personal preference was Hensley Meulens, though I didn’t feel strongly about any of the candidates one way or the other. I liked Bam Bam because he has extensive coaching experience. That’s basically it. Being able to speak five languages was an obvious plus, though I thought it was getting played up a little too much. There’s more to managing than speaking different languages. Meulens has coached for a long time, he’s coached under a great manager in Bruce Bochy, and just about everyone who’s spent time around him has said he’ll make a great manager one day, so that’s why I liked him. Then again, Meulens has interviewed for a few managerial openings over the years (including the Tigers this offseason) and didn’t get any of them, so maybe he’s not as great of a candidate as everything thinks? I dunno. I thought Bam Bam would be the guy and he was my personal favorite for the job, but like I said, I didn’t feel all that strongly about any of the six candidates. I thought maybe I would the deeper the Yankees got into the process, but nope. I was mostly indifferent about the whole thing.

8. The next step now is building a coaching staff and I have to think Boone and Yankees will look for a bench coach with managerial experience to help the rookie skipper. I don’t think there will be a meaningful difference between Girardi and Boone in terms of on-field strategy. The lineup kinda writes itself, at least through the top six spots or so, and the bullpen is deep enough to survive the rookie manager’s learning curve. The front office has a lot of input into that stuff anyway. Boone and the Yankees are still going to want someone in the dugout with experience. Someone who has run a Spring Training before, someone who has seen so many of those weird situations baseball can throw at you. Who are some potential bench coach candidates then? Beats me. Wedge has been mentioned as a candidate — he managed Boone for two years in Cleveland — and he reportedly wants to get back in the managing game, and getting back in the dugout as a bench coach is a step in that direction. Tony Pena is an obvious candidate, but if the Yankees want to move on from Pena like they apparently wanted to move on from Thomson, he won’t be an option. Dave Miley managed Boone for a short period of time in 2003 and managed Triple-A Scranton from 2006-15, so he is familiar with the Yankees and vice versa. Could the Yankees hire bench coach Bob Geren away from the Dodgers? They’d probably be able to get Fredi Gonzalez, Boone’s former manager with the Marlins, away from Miami. He is currently their third base coach. Robin Ventura (unemployed)? John Farrell (unemployed)? Ron Washington (Braves third base coach)? Bo Porter (unemployed)? I’m looking forward to seeing the coaching staff. Should be interesting.

9. Boone is going to be under the microscope this year because every new manager is under the microscope, though in this case Boone is the inexperienced manager of ready to win Yankees, who will almost certainly be a trendy World Series pick going into 2018. There will be a lot of attention on him. And that’s good because it means that much less attention will be paid to Aaron Judge and Greg Bird and Luis Severino and all the other young players who would’ve been the top story this season had the Yankees kept Girardi. There’s some value in that. Anything that makes life easier for your young cornerstone players is a plus. I always thought Alex Rodriguez provided an intangible value by soaking up so much attention that many other Yankees were able to fly under the radar. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a ton of attention of Judge and Severino and all the young guys expected to lead the team to a title. As much attention as there would’ve been without the managerial change? I don’t think so.

10. So what number will Boone wear? I imagine we’ll find out today. He wore No. 19 during his brief stint with the Yankees as a player, but that’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s number. Boone also wore No. 8 at times in his career. That’s not happening either. He wore No. 17 with the Reds all those years, and that’s open now with Matt Holliday gone, so I guess that’s it? We’ll find out. Whatever it is, I hope Boone doesn’t adopt Girardi’s tradition of wearing the number of the World Series title the Yankees are chasing. Remember that? He wore No. 27 in 2008 and 2009, then when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, he switched to No. 28 because that was his goal, the team’s 28th championship. I always thought that was kind of gimmicky, and when Girardi ended up wearing No. 28 for the final eight years of his tenure, it was a daily reminder that the Yankees weren’t achieving their stated goal. The gimmick has run its course. I hope Boone picks No. 17 or whatever and that’s that.

11. And finally, no, the Yankees did not hire Boone because of that home run he hit 14 years ago. I know some people out there are thinking it. Did that home run give Boone a level of celebrity he wouldn’t have otherwise achieved given his playing career? Absolutely. It helped land him on ESPN, I’m sure. And maybe that helped Boone stay relevant long enough to be considered for a managerial gig seven years after he played his final game. But no, that homer didn’t get him the job. If anything, being honest and accountable about blowing out his knee in a basketball game helped Boone get the job. He could’ve easily made up some story about getting hurt during an offseason workout to keep his 2004 contract — the Yankees voided his $5.75M deal, which would’ve been the highest salary of his career by $2M — but no, Boone owned up to it. That speaks to his character and I think that stood out to the Yankees. Now, did they hire him because of that? No, of course not. But it was an insight into Boone’s character. It was a piece of information that could be used during the hiring process. The home run though? Nope.

Thoughts after the Yankees miss out on Shohei Ohtani

At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)
At least I can stop looking for Ohtani photos now. (AP)

The first round of Shohei Ohtani cuts were announced last night. The Yankees were among them. Brian Cashman confirmed Ohtani’s camp told him he will not sign with the Yankees. Sucks. Ohtani was reportedly impressed by New York’s sales pitch, but is said to be prefer a West Coast team. Jon Heyman says Ohtani’s agents implored him to give the Yankees a longer look, but no dice. What can you do? Anyway, some thoughts.

1. Of course I’m disappointed the Yankees missed out on Ohtani, but I’m not crushed, weirdly. I thought I would be. On a scale of zero to wow the Yankees are about to trade for Cliff Lee, I’m at about 0.25 Cliff Lees right now. That’s my disappointment level. Maybe that’s because I’ve mellowed out with age. Or maybe because I wasn’t planning the offseason around Ohtani, and because I always knew the level financial playing field meant Ohtani’s personal preferences would drive his decision, and I had no idea what those preferences are. He’s not the first Japanese-born player who wants to play on the West Coast and he won’t be the last. It stinks. Ohtani is fun as hell and I was hoping the Yankees would add him to their very fun team. It’s a bummer, and yet I don’t feel like this is the end of the world. I wish Ohtani well, but if he wants to sign with the Mariners, then get outpitched by Masahiro Tanaka and lose to the Yankees in Game Seven of the ALCS one of these years, I’ll allow it.

2. What are the Yankees missing out on in Ohtani? A potential impact player, in the simplest terms. There’s a natural tendency to say “he sucks anyway” whenever your favorite team misses out on a player, but Ohtani’s potential is significant. I’m skeptical he’ll be an impact hitter — in last week’s chat I said I think Ohtani will be a full-time pitcher no later than 2020 — but his upside on the mound is considerable. Upper-90s heat with two swing-and-miss secondary pitches (slider, splitter) is no joke. This was a 23-year-old potential ace-caliber pitcher available for nothing more than a $3.5M bonus and a minor league contract. How often do you get a chance to acquire this type of player on those terms? Basically never. This was a big missed opportunity. The Yankees didn’t do anything wrong! We can’t blame them. It just sucks to miss out on such a young and potentially great player.

3. The Yankees are definitely going to spend that $3.5M in international bonus money elsewhere now. They didn’t trade Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez for nothing! In all seriousness, that money is going somewhere. The current scouting reports are hardly glowing, but Kevin Maitan is the big name out there now that he’s no longer with the Braves. All those other Braves prospects are out there waiting to be signed too. The Yankees can spend that $3.5M on them. Also, keep in mind the Yankees have been connected to outfielder Raimfer Salinas and catcher Antonio Cabello for weeks now, so they’re probably going to wrap up deals with them soon. Salinas and Cabello are two of the best international prospects still on the market now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees sign Salinas, Cabello, and Maitan now that they’re out on Ohtani. Point is, that international bonus money is going somewhere. I wish it were Ohtani, but better the other guys than nowhere.

4. So what do the Yankees do now? Well, if you’re hoping they turn around and make a big move like signing Yu Darvish or trading for Giancarlo Stanton, I would advise you not to hold your breath. For starters, the Yankees don’t operate like that anymore. They don’t make knee jerk reactionary moves. Secondly, the financial terms of these moves are not even in the same state, let alone the same ballpark. We’re talking about a player at the league minimum and players on large contracts, whether it’s Stanton or some free agent. The plan to get under the luxury tax threshold is still in effect — that’s what made Ohtani so appealing, he could have so much impact at so little cost — and the Yankees won’t jeopardize that. They’ll look for pitching depth because they always do that, and, if anything, they might now look for a lower cost bat to take some DH at-bats after losing out on Ohtani. That’s something they can wait to do later in the offseason though, when players who are still unsigned start to get desperate, a la Chris Carter last year. There are always bargains to be had in January and February. Is a big move possible? Of course, these are still the Yankees. I just don’t see them making a big move in response to losing out on Ohtani. It is entirely possible their biggest move this winter will be re-signing CC Sabathia.

5. On the bright side, at least Ohtani was nice enough to let teams know they are out of the running early in the process rather than string them along. He could’ve easily summoned the Yankees to Los Angeles to make an in-person sales pitch just to hear them out, but no, he let them know not to bother. Ohtani did that for selfish reasons — he only has a 21-day window to pick a team, so why waste time on a team you know you’re not signing with? — but it helps the Yankees. They can put the Ohtani pursuit behind them and move on with the rest of their offseason. No need to wait around for him to make a decision. Now that we know Aaron Boone will be the next manager and Ohtani will sign elsewhere, I think we can say the biggest offseason stories for the Yankees are complete. Onward.

On to the Next


The Yankees have made their choice, naming Aaron Boone their next manager. Mike offered his thoughts here, so take a look. My thoughts? Cool? I guess? I wanted Hensley Meulens for a variety of reasons, but I can’t really complain about the Boone hire–or any, really. Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office have bought themselves a lot of credit over the past two years of baseball and I trust their decision making. Would I have preferred a candidate with experience? Sure. But I wasn’t in that room conducting the interview.

For whatever reason, the Yankees think Boone is the best man for the job, and I’ve got no real choice but to trust in that. I understand some of the immediate concerns fans had on Friday when news came down that Boone got the job. Here’s how I allay those concerns, internally at least. While I don’t recall Boone ever being a proponent of advanced analytics and the like on his ESPN broadcasts, there’s no way the Yankees would have even interviewed–let alone hired–him if they weren’t confident in his ability to understand and explain those things. He’s completely new at this, for sure, but Boone will be backed up by a fully stocked and intelligent baseball operations department. And, this isn’t the 1950’s; Boone won’t be making decisions on his own. The baseball ops team will make sure he’s well-informed and well-ready to make the right call on the field.

As for the on the field things, again, it’s 2017; tactics in baseball are fairly uniform at this point. The overwhelming likelihood is that Boone’s tactics look very similar to Joe Girardi‘s. What matters is the stuff behind the scenes. Clearly, the Yankees feel that Boone can handle that stuff better than Girardi could have going forward after his long tenure. We talk mostly about the on-field stuff because it’s what we see. But the stuff we don’t see–communication, interaction, etc–is where the job is its hardest. Boone wouldn’t have gotten the nod if the organization weren’t confident he could handle that heavy lifting.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The secondary effect of the manager situation being wrapped up is that the Yankees can move on to other pressing business. First up, they’ve got to sew up Cashman’s contract. He’s been reportedly working on a handshake agreement, but it’d be nice to see the agreement made official. I wonder if this contract will come with a promotion to president of baseball ops with someone else moving into the GM role, but if that hasn’t happened for Cash yet, I don’t think it will this time.

Then there’s the roster, specifically the pitching rotation. And even more specifically, Shoehei Ohtani. While I’m sure the pitch would’ve been good either way, having a manager in place when presenting to Ohtani can’t hurt. It shows the ducks are in a row, at least for the next few years, and that the team has a clear direction in which it’s going. Despite its present success, this team is all about the future. Boone and Cashman are obviously a big part of that, and Ohtani can be, too. It’s impossible to know what he wants in a team until he signs and comes out and says it, but the Yankees seem like a great fit.

The offseason in general has been more of a cold stove than a hot one, mostly thanks to Ohtani and the Giancarlo Stanton trade discussions. For the Yankees, that’s been doubly so thanks to the relatively long search for a manager that’s now over. Now that that’s done, on to the next.

Thoughts prior to the 2017 non-tender deadline

One of these three might get non-tendered tomorrow. (Presswire)
One of these three might get non-tendered tomorrow. (Presswire)

Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to offer contracts to their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players. It’s the non-tender deadline. A brand new batch of free agents will hit the market, though there’s a reason these guys become free agents. They get non-tendered because they’re damaged goods (injured pitchers, usually) or their salary has eclipsed their on-field worth. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. Might as well start with the non-tender deadline. The Yankees do not have any obvious non-tender candidates. MLBTR listed Austin Romine as a non-tender candidate, though I do not get the sense the Yankees are eager to make a change at backup catcher. I suspect their internal defensive metrics indicate Romine is a heck of a lot better than the public metrics and the eye test would leave you to believe. Plus he seems like a genuinely good dude and the Yankees value having a good clubhouse. Maybe they’ll do the non-tender/re-sign to a minor league deal trick to clear up a 40-man spot? I think Kyle Higashioka (optionable catcher with power) and Gio Gallegos (optionable reliever with great Triple-A numbers) would find Major League deals elsewhere, so they’re not non-tender/re-sign candidates. I mean, if Colten Brewer got a Major League deal, Gallegos would too. Maybe the Yankees can do it with Tyler Austin? Free agency is always flooded with first base types, plus Austin knows he’s always another Greg Bird injury away from a call-up. My guess is Austin would look for a fresh start elsewhere. The non-tender deadline figures to pass tomorrow without the Yankees doing much of anything. They’ll probably tender all their players and that’ll be that.

2. Bold prediction: the Yankees will have their managerial search wrapped up by the end of next week, then they’ll hold the introductory press conference at the Winter Meetings the following week. That gives them this week and next week to wrap up the first (New York) and second (Tampa) rounds of interviews and make a decision. Is it weird that naming a manager six weeks after canning the old manager qualifies as a bold prediction? It kinda is. The managerial search has been shockingly slow-moving. The GM Meetings and Thanksgiving slowed things down a bit, for sure, but the Yankees do seem to be taking their sweet time with this. Like I said two weeks ago, I don’t see the prolonged managerial search as a bad thing. Or even as a good thing. It’s just a thing. I do think the longer it goes on, the worse it looks. The optics are bad. It makes the Yankees look indecisive, and look like they’re having a hard time finding a qualified candidate. I’ve seen plenty of “the Yankees screwed up when they fired Joe Girardi without having a replacement in mind!” comments on social media and whatnot. I don’t agree with that — how often does a team fire a manager and have his replacement already picked out anyway? — though that’s the sentiment. It looks bad. Hopefully the Yankees wrap this up soon, pick a great manager, and we can all move on to bigger and better things.

3. I think Brian Cashman not having a contract is weirder than the Yankees not having a manager at this point. Hal Steinbrenner said Cashman is working on what amounts to a handshake agreement during the owners’ meetings two weeks ago, and that’s the last update we received. There’s no reason to think Cashman won’t be back though. He’s running the managerial search — Hal wouldn’t let Cashman do that if there were any chance he wouldn’t be back — and the Yankees sent out a press release this week promoting Cashman’s annual rappel down the Landmark Building in Stamford as part of the Heights & Lights Festival, so they certainly aren’t acting like Cashman might leave. Cashman and Hal are probably haggling over money. Cashman might be pushing for Theo Epstein money ($10M+ annually) and Hal is countering with Andrew Friedman money ($7M annually). Something like that. It’s just weird this is taking so long. Cashman’s previous contracts always came together fairly quickly. This one is dragging out for some reason, and that it’s happening at the same time as the prolonged managerial search makes it a little curious.


4. My hunch coming into the offseason was that the Yankees and CC Sabathia would hammer out a new contract fairly quickly, though that hasn’t happened. I still think Sabathia is coming back though. It makes too much sense not to happen. He’s still effective and he doesn’t want to leave while the Yankees could use the rotation depth and wouldn’t have to worry about any sort of adjustment period. The fact he should come fairly cheap helps too. Still no deal though. Two things about that. One, there has been very little free agent activity overall this winter, so it’s not like everyone else is signing while Sabathia sits and waits. And two, I get the feeling a “CC we really want you back, but we need to take care of some other stuff first, so let’s touch base in a few weeks” conversation has already taken place. The Yankees need to hire a new manager, build a new coaching staff, re-sign Cashman, and work through Shohei Ohtani’s rapid fire free agency. Once they do that, they can circle back to Sabathia and hammer out a deal. I think he’s coming back. I hope he comes back. CC is the man.

5. Spin rate, particularly curveball spin rate in the wake of Tom Verducci’s article on the Astros, is all the rage these days — you are forewarned, there might be a “the Yankees and their use of spin rate” post coming at some point — so I’ve been toying around with Statcast leaderboards the last few weeks. One-hundred-and-seventy-five pitchers threw at least 150 curveballs this season. Here’s where various Yankees (and one ex-Yankee) rank in average curveball spin rate:

9. Sonny Gray: 2,890 rpm
10. Jonathan Holder: 2,879 rpm
19. Dellin Betances: 2,807 rpm
23. Jaime Garcia: 2,797 rpm
37. Bryan Mitchell: 2,725 rpm
45. David Robertson: 2,685 rpm
(MLB average: 2,489 rpm)

One, I’m surprised Robertson does not rank higher. Two, is it a coincidence the Yankees acquired two (three, really) curveball spin rate darlings at the trade deadline? Surely availability had something do with it — only five starters were traded in the week prior to the deadline (Gray, Garcia twice, Yu Darvish, Jeremy Hellickson, Trevor Cahill) — but Gray and Garcia seem to fit the mold. Three, is Mitchell’s curveball spin rate the reason he wasn’t a 40-man roster casualty prior to the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline? He’s been pretty bad in the big leagues overall (4.94 ERA and 4.26 FIP in 98.1 innings) and he’ll be out of minor league options next year, yet he’s still on the 40-man. And four, Holder’s spin rate and minor league performance is probably going to keep getting him chances. Spin rate isn’t everything — many of the curveball spin rate leaders the last two years are pretty crummy pitchers — but it is clearly something teams value. I don’t think it is any way a coincidence so many Yankees who use a curveball as their primary secondary pitch have such high spin rates. (Notable exception: Jordan Montgomery and his below average 2,375 rpm curveball.)

6. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the MLBPA lately given all the Ohtani stuff. For all intents and purposes, baseball has a salary cap. The new luxury tax rules are so harsh — teams can be hit with a luxury tax rate as high as 95% under certain conditions — that no owner will ever allow the front office to get close to that threshold, so it’s effectively a salary cap. Draft and international spending is capped now too. Everything is capped and somehow the union let it happen. Good luck uncapping it. I think one of the MLBPA’s top priorities during the next round of CBA talks (beyond hiring an actual labor professional to represent them) is getting the minimum salary raised substantially. Teams are building around young players and eschewing big money free agents more than ever, so make sure those young players get paid. The league minimum will be $545,000 in 2018. It was $490,000 five years ago. That’s an 11% increase. Meanwhile, MLB revenues went from $8 billion five years ago to north of $10 billion this year. That’s more than a 25% increase. Get the young players their piece of the pie. The minimum salary will be $555,000 in 2019, then players will get cost of living adjustments in 2020 and 2021 before it’s time to bang out a new CBA. I’d like to see the MLBPA push for a minimum salary closer to $1M. Push for $1M and settle for like $750,000 or so. The more young players make early in their careers, the less likely they are to sign long-term extensions, and that means more talent gets pumped back into free agency, which raises salaries for everyone.