Here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local sports team in action, but there is some college hoops on as well. Have at it.
Before he joined the Dodgers last week, the Yankees spoke to former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos about a front office position, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty. The two sides actually met at some point, so this wasn’t just a cursory phone call or something like that. There was legitimate interest.
Anthopoulos, 38, served as Blue Jays GM from October 2009 though October 2015. He rejected a five-year contract extension after the team named Mark Shapiro their new team president, reportedly because he felt his authority within the organization had been diminished. Anthopoulos had been with Toronto since 2003.
The Yankees lost assistant GM Billy Eppler earlier this offseason, when he was named Angels GM. Eppler had been Brian Cashman’s right hand man. Pro scout Tim Naehring was promoted to replace Eppler. Right now Cashman has two assistants (Jean Afterman, Michael Fishman) and a small army of advisors, including Naehring, Gene Michael, and Jim Hendry.
It’s not surprising the Yankees reached out to Anthopoulos. They did the same when Ben Cherington stepped down as Red Sox GM last year, and they’re always looking to add smart people to the front office. He would have helped fill the void following Eppler’s departure. No doubt. Anthopoulos instead took a long-term deal with the Dodgers and is now their vice president of baseball operations.
3:43pm ET: MLB will now begin its investigation into the incident in earnest, reports Ken Davidoff. The league had been holding off while the criminal investigation was underway. “When you have a new policy, the first ones take on a special significance in terms of tone and precedent and all those things. I’m going to make sure that I know everything I could possibly know about each of these cases before I make any decisions,” said commissioner Rob Manfred at the owners’ meetings in Florida.
2:42pm ET: Aroldis Chapman will not face criminal charges stemming from the domestic dispute incident at his Miami area home back in October, the Broward State Attorney’s Office announced. Rafael Olmeda of the Sun Sentinel passed along the news.
“We are all pleased that the Davie Police Department and the Office of the State Attorney took the time to fully investigate the matter and have concluded that charges were not warranted,” said Paul Molle, Chapman’s attorney, to Olmeda.
Police were sent to Chapman’s home after his girlfriend called 911 claiming he choked and pushed her during a party. No arrests were made at the time due to inconsistencies in her story, however Chapman did admit to police he fired eight shots from a handgun in his garage. Here’s the police report.
Chapman remains under investigation by MLB under their new domestic violence policy. Suspensions under the policy are not dependent on arrests or criminal charges. MLB can and probably will suspend him anyway. That police were called to Chapman’s home and he admitted firing a gun seems like grounds for a suspension, right?
A few weeks ago we heard Chapman is not expected to receive a lengthy suspension, whatever that means. Ten games? Two weeks? A month? Who knows. There are no minimum or maximum suspensions, and no one has ever been suspended under the domestic violence policy, so no precedent has been sent.
Chapman is one of three players under investigation at the moment — Jose Reyes (for this) and Yasiel Puig (for this) are also being investigated — but his case is the only one that involves a gun. Even with no arrests or charges, I feel like MLB would want to come down hard on anything incident involving shots being fired. We’ll find out soon enough.
Earlier this offseason David Ortiz announced he will retire following the 2016 season, which was music to the ears of Yankees fans everyone. Ortiz has crushed the Yankees over the years — he’s a career .306/.395/.565 hitter against New York — and no one on this side of the rivalry will miss him. He was a worthy foe, and I’m glad he’s retiring.
While speaking to reporters at the owners’ meetings yesterday, Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the Yankees will indeed honor Ortiz in some way this coming season. From Ken Davidoff:
“I am sure we’re going to do something,” Steinbrenner said. “We have not formally, minute by minute, figured out exactly what we’re going to do yet. He’s a great player, great part of that franchise. Everything you like to see in a player.”
The Red Sox will be in the Bronx for the second-to-last series of the season, a three-game set from September 27-29. That’s a Tuesday through Thursday. I assume that’s when the ceremony will take place.
Ortiz has said he doesn’t want any kind of farewell tour, but it’s not really up to him. Teams, including the Yankees, are going to honor him whether his wants it or not. The Red Sox honored both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera when they retired a few years back, so I guess it’s only fair the Yankees honor Ortiz.
As the story goes, George Steinbrenner wanted to sign Ortiz after the Twins non-tendered him back in 2002, but Brian Cashman talked him out of it. The Yankees had the newly signed Jason Giambi at first base, plus a top first base prospect in Nick Johnson, who was an elite first base prospect at the time. Signing Ortiz meant burying or trading Johnson, which eventually happened anyway. So it goes.
Anyway, I don’t really have a problem with the Yankees honoring Ortiz. They honored Chipper Jones and Paul Konerko when they were retiring a few years back. Have a quick little pre-game ceremony and then keep him in the park during the games. No fireworks, if you know what I mean.
In just four weeks, Yankees pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training in Tampa. We’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the offseason tunnel. Here are some random thoughts on a random Thursday.
1. So would you rather have Justin Upton for six years and $132.75M, or Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153M? Yeah, me too. Ellsbury is two years into his contract and he’s hit .265/.324/.387 (97 wRC+) in a little over 1,100 plate appearances with the Yankees. The rationale behind these long-term deals is taking the high-end years up front and living with the ugly back-end, but the Yankees haven’t gotten the high-end years from Ellsbury. They’ve gotten one solid year and one bad year. So two of those all-important front years of the contract are gone. The Yankees aren’t getting them back. I’m not much of an Ellsbury fan, but I also don’t think that was the real him last season. He’s better than that. Either way, the team needs him to rebound and be a difference-maker going forward.
2. I mentioned this soon after the Yankees acquired Aroldis Chapman: the Yankees are about to have their fifth different primary closer in five seasons. What didn’t dawn on me at the time is not only are the Yankees going to have their fifth closer in five years, they’re going to have to their fifth awesome closer in five years. Look at this:
I can’t imagine another team has had that much year-to-year turnover of elite players at one position. Yeah, relievers are kinda in their own little world, but when teams find a dominant closer, they tend to stick with him as long as possible. The Yankees have intentionally changed closers the last two years. They had an awesome closer, then managed to find someone better. Then they did it again. Crazy.
3. Yesterday Hal Steinbrenner reiterated he doesn’t want to raise payroll any higher than it’s current level, which is par for the course these days. We’ve been hearing that for years. Part of that is self-serving — the fact Hal keeps saying that and hasn’t signing any big league free agents this offseason shows agents and opposing teams he means business, creating some negotiating leverage — and I get that, but man, no one wants to hear the owner bitch about payroll when the team has played one postseason game in three years. The Yankees aren’t going to raise payroll significantly and they’re almost certainly going to get under the luxury tax in the near future. Fine. Whatever. But maybe don’t remind fans about it all the time? That’s no way to reverse the decline in attendance and ratings.
4. Speaking of Hal, his “innocent until proven guilty” line when asked about Chapman yesterday is such a lame cop out. Here’s the full quote in case you haven’t seen it, via Ken Davidoff:
“I guess what I would say is, in this country, when allegations are brought against a person, that person is completely innocent until proven otherwise. Not the other way around,” Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said at the Major League Baseball quarterly owners’ meetings. “I think we should keep that in mind right now. A lot of thought was put into it, but the benefits for the organization as a player, if you just look at the baseball side of it, [there’s] tremendous upside, needless to say.”
“Look, it’s a touchy subject,” Steinbrenner said. “But again, I would say: The man is innocent until proven otherwise. And I understand it’s a very sensitive subject, as rightfully so it should be. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
That doesn’t get said about a generic middle reliever. Heck, the generic middle reliever doesn’t even get acquired if he was involved in a situation like Chapman’s. Brian Cashman admitted the Yankees pounced on Chapman because the asking price dropped following the domestic violence incident and that’s gross as hell. The “innocent until proven guilty” line almost makes this seem like some kind of insignificant issue unworthy of a thoughtful response. Yuck. Make sure you check out Craig Calcaterra’s take on all this.
5. We’ve reached the point of the offseason when teams start looking for cheap free agent bargains. In recent years the Yankees have signed guys like Brian Roberts, Travis Hafner, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez in late-January/early-February. History suggests the club will take a chance on a veteran player looking to hang around at some point soon. Looking over the list of free agents, the one player who stands out as a candidate for such a move is Jimmy Rollins. The Yankees tend to target former stars for these deals, guys who were true impact players back in the day, and Rollins is the only available free agent who really fits the ball. He hasn’t played a position other than shortstop since 2002 but is said to be open to a utility role if he can’t find a starting job somewhere. I dunno, this seems to pass the sniff test. Former star, switch-hitter, willingness to accept a reduced role … that’s the kind of player the Yankees tend to target on these bargain deals. Rollins would slide right into that final bench spot and be a true backup infielder.
6. The Tigers designated infielder Jefry Marte for assignment yesterday to clear a 40-man spot for Upton. The former Mets farmhand hit .275/.341/.487 (139 wRC+) with 15 homers in 95 Triple-A games last season, then went deep four times in 90 plate appearances with Detroit in his MLB debut. Marte, 24, is a first and third baseman, though he’s generally considered a below-average gloveman. But still, he’s young, he has power from the right side, and plays the corner infield. He seems like a worthwhile pickup for the Yankees. Even if he doesn’t land on the roster in that final bench spot, Marte has options and he’s someone worth stashing in Triple-A. He certainly seems like better use of a 40-man roster spot than generic lefty Tyler Olson given the organization depth chart.
7. On paper, I think this is the best Yankees roster since 2012. It’s the most exciting roster in terms of “hey look at all the young guys” since … I guess 2008? When Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were in the rotation and Joba Chamberlain was in the bullpen? That didn’t work out so well, but that’s the risk with young guys. At some point you have to let them sink or swim. The Yankees did that with Didi Gregorius last year and were rewarded. Next year they’ll have a full season of Luis Severino and presumably Gary Sanchez. There’s upside in the rotation, the bullpen is absurd, and even bench guys like Dustin Ackley and Aaron Hicks are more exciting than typical bench fodder. I don’t know if the starters will stay healthy or if the veteran guys will hit or if the young players will be as good as expected. I do know I’m looking forward to watching this team more than I have at any point in the last three seasons.
Here is the nightly open thread. The Knicks and Nets are both playing, plus there’s a whole bunch of college hoops on as well. You folks know how these threads work by now, so have at it.
Today, at the quarterly owners’ meetings in Coral Gables, Hal Steinbrenner told reporters he doesn’t want payroll to climb much higher than it is right now. “I’m not comfortable with the payroll being too much higher than it is now,” he said to Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale. “(But) we’ve surprised people in the past.”
This isn’t a surprise, right? Payroll has held relatively steady for a decade now even though the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009 and MLB signed ginormous new national television deals two years ago. To be fair, the Yankees do pay a ton in luxury tax and revenue sharing each year. But still, payrolls around the league are going up while New York’s remain static.
Back of the envelope calculation: the Yankees currently have $223.6M on the books for next season per Cot’s, assuming Aroldis Chapman and Ivan Nova win their arbitration cases. Add in the rest of the 40-man roster and the $12M or so each team has to contribute towards player benefits, and the payroll for luxury tax purposes is around $240M right now.
The Yankees finished last season with a $241.15M payroll for luxury tax purposes and are again right at that number. The salary they took on in the Chapman and Starlin Castro trades replaces what they shed in Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and Garrett Jones after the season. Also, the Yankees still haven’t signed an MLB free agent this winter.
You don’t have to look any further than the Yankees roster to understand why spending huge on free agents all the time isn’t a great idea. That said, I think it’s fair to say the team is not leveraging its financial might as well as they should. The rest of the league is catching up financially, so the market advantages of being a New York team are going to waste.
Hal has maintained his plan is to get under the luxury tax threshold in the near future, which would save the team tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax and revenue sharing. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in December, and I assume the $189M threshold will go up with the next CBA. After getting under in 2017, the team could increase payroll substantially. We’ll see.