Friday Links: Safety Protocols, LED Lights, Flynn, Dock


The Winter Meetings are over and soon the dog days of the offseason will be upon us. After the holidays it’s just day after day after day of no baseball. Lame. Anyway, I’ve got some miscellaneous links to pass along as you count down the hours until the weekend.

MLB recommends new fan safety protocols

During the Winter Meetings this week, MLB officially recommended new safety protocols designed to protect fans from foul balls and broken bats. The press release is right here. In a nutshell, MLB recommends extending the netting behind home plate from dugout to dugout, and far enough to protect every seat within 70 feet of home plate.

These are recommendations, not mandates, though many teams have already confirmed they will comply. The Yankees have not but that doesn’t mean they won’t before the start of the season. Right now the netting at Yankee Stadium does not extend to the dugouts. There is one unprotected section adjacent to each dugout. I’m not sure how far the netting would have to extend to satisfy the 70-foot recommendation.

This past season there were several incidents where fans were hit by line drives and broken bats, including one scary incident in Fenway Park, in which a woman seated next to the dugout was hit in the head by the barrel of a broken bat. I’m all for making parks safer. The guys who get paid millions to play the game for a living can barely react to line drives in time. It’s only a matter of time until a fan gets killed if the nets aren’t extended. Not everyone is as lucky as this guy.

New lights at Yankee Stadium

According to Sonia Rincon, new LED lights have been installed at Yankee Stadium. They’re brighter and more energy efficient, stuff like that. I accidentally bought an LED light bulb for my bathroom over the summer and when I turned the damn thing on I thought I was standing on the sun. It was insanely bright. The field will be very well lit going forward. Things should be much easier to see.

Flynn, Dock leave the Yankees

Two behind the scenes employees have left the Yankees. Video coordinator Anthony Flynn has left the team for a job in the private sector, reports George King. He spent the last eight years as video coordinator and the seven before that in the baseball operations department. The New Jersey native is taking over as the director of baseball marketing and sales with XOS Digital, a video editing and technology company.

In other news, Ron Dock, who served as the team’s intervention coordinator for the last 17 years, has left the club. “It was my choice, time to move on. I went to Brian Cashman and thanked him and he gave me a hug. There are no regrets, I left on a high note,” said Dock to King. Dock was instrumental in helping Slade Heathcott get over his alcohol addiction a few years ago, among other things.

Dock, 65, was based in Tampa and responsible for helping players and employees dealing with addiction problems, depression, and family or legal issues. The Bronx native battled addiction after serving in the Vietnam War, and he later met Darryl Strawberry at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Strawberry introduced him to then farm system head Mark Newman, who asked Dock to help a minor leaguer with a drug problem. The team hired him shortly thereafter.

Top free agent off the board: Cubs get Jason Heyward

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

3:18pm: It’s an eight-year deal worth $184M with two opt-outs, according to multiple reports. That’s basically the Jacoby Ellsbury contract plus one extra year.

1:19pm: The Cubs have agreed to a contract with Jason Heyward, reports Jon Heyman. No word on the terms yet but they’ll come along eventually. Many years and hundreds of millions of dollars is a safe bet. Chances are he’ll get an opt-out too. The Cardinals and Nationals are said to be the runners up.

Heyward, 26, hit .293/.359/.439 (121 wRC+) with 13 home runs for the Cardinals last season. He’s also an elite defender and an excellent base-runner, so he’s a great all-around player. Given his age, the Cubs are clearly expecting Heyward to take his game to an even better level in the coming years.

The Yankees tried to trade for Heyward last offseason but were never in the mix for him this offseason, as far as we know. I thought the Yankees should have made a run at signing him because he’s really good and so young, and they’re in the middle of this on-the-fly rebuilt. Money’s tight though. So it goes.

Dingers, Inherited Runners & Challenges [2015 Season Review]

Gardner hit seven three-run homers in 2015. (Presswire)
Gardner hit seven three-run homers in 2015. (Presswire)

Every year when I plan out the Season Review series, I always end up with more topics than posts. I start out rather ambitiously, then I run out of gas a few weeks later. We’re all sick of discussing 2015, right? The offseason is in full swing and we’re all looking ahead to 2016.

Anyway, there are a few weird statistical quirks I want to look at as part of the Season Review. They’re not worth their own individual posts so I’m going to just lump them together. We’ll look at these now, then next week we’ll wrap the whole Season Review thing up with some minor league reviews and that’ll be that. Away we go.

Three-Run Dingers

It was fun to get back to calling the Yankees the Bronx Bombers unironically this season. The Yankees hit only 144 home runs in 2013, 101 fewer than they hit in 2012. That’s the largest year-to-year decline in baseball history. The Yankees improved in 2013 and hit … 147 home runs. The team rebounded to hit 212 homers in 2015, the fourth most in baseball. Only the Blue Jays (232), Astros (230), and Orioles (217) hit more.

While watching the season play out, it felt like the Yankees hit an inordinate number of three-run home runs. Especially Brian McCann. Is it just me, or does it seem like the guy hits nothing but three-run homers? (He hit a team high seven this year.) The Yankees led baseball with 40 three-run dingers in 2015. Forty! Know who was second? The Rockies, Phillies, Astros, and Blue Jays. They each hit 23. The Yankees hit 17 more three-run homers than any other team this summer. They nearly doubled the second place teams.

The last team to hit 40+ three-run home runs was the 1996 Mariners (42). Heck, the last team to hit 30+ three-run homers was the 2007 Indians (30). Hitting three-run home runs is not a skill. Hitting home runs is a skill, but coming to the plate with two guys on base is not. This is just one of those weird things. The Yankees hit a lot of home runs this year in general, and they just so happened to hit a bunch with two men on base.

By the way, the Yankees ranked sixth in solo homers (115), eighth in two-run homers (50), and second in grand slams (seven) in 2015. The Giants hit nine grand slams and eight three-run homers this season. Weird.

Inherited Runners

The Yankees had a really good bullpen this past season, though they only stranded 29% of inherited runners, which is basically league average (30%). Here are the team’s relievers who inherited at least ten base-runners this season, via Baseball Reference:

Justin Wilson* 61.0 74 44 7 16%
Chasen Shreve* 58.1 59 43 15 35%
Dellin Betances 84.0 74 41 11 27%
Adam Warren 131.1 43 17 4 24%
Chris Martin 20.2 24 15 7 47%
Esmil Rogers 33.0 18 15 7 47%
Nick Rumbelow 15.2 17 13 3 23%
Andrew Miller* 61.2 60 12 2 17%
Branden Pinder 27.2 25 10 5 50%

No real surprise here. Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, and Dellin Betances were Joe Girardi‘s firemen this year. Andrew Miller was married to the ninth inning, so those three were the guys Girardi turned to when he need an out(s) with men on base. They all inherited way more runners than the team’s other relievers. Wilson did a fantastic job stranding runners. Betances was slightly better than average and Shreve slightly worse.

What about the other side of the inherited runners coin? Which starters received the most help from the bullpen and which the least? Here’s the bequeathed runner data, again via Baseball Reference:

Nathan Eovaldi 154.1 27 27 31 8 26%
Adam Warren 131.1 43 17 27 5 19%
CC Sabathia* 167.1 29 29 22 7 32%
Michael Pineda 160.2 27 27 18 5 28%
Bryan Mitchell 29.2 20 2 16 6 38%
Chris Capuano* 40.2 22 4 14 5 36%
Ivan Nova 94.0 17 17 9 4 44%
Luis Severino 62.1 11 11 4 0 0%
Masahiro Tanaka 154.0 24 24 4 2 50%
Chase Whitley 19.1 4 4 3 2 66%

Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda all hovered right around the team/MLB average. Believe it or not, Masahiro Tanaka was taken out of a game in the middle of an inning only six times in 24 starts this year, hence the low number of bequeathed runners.

Adam Warren, on the other hand, got a lot of help from the bullpen. They did a real nice job stranding runners for him. If they’d allowed inherited runners to scored at the team average 29% rate, Warren’s ERA would go from 3.29 to 3.84. Ivan Nova, Chris Capuano, and Bryan Mitchell didn’t get much help from the bullpen either, but they didn’t leave a ton of men on base in their limited innings.

Not all inherited runners are the same — inheriting a man on first with two outs is much different than inheriting a runner on third with no outs, for example — and as far as I know, there’s no place that breaks down all the separate inherited runner situations. That would really tell use who did the best job stranding runners. Overall, the Yankees were a league average club when it came to leaving dudes on base this year.


Replay Challenges

Once again, the Yankees had an extremely high success rate with replay challenges in 2015. The Yankees had 24 of 32 calls overturned on replay this year, or 75%. That was easily the best success rate in the game. The Mariners were a distant second at 71.8%. No other team was over 70%. Credit goes to baseball operations assistant Brett Weber, the guy in the clubhouse watching the video and telling the coaching staff whether to challenge.

Those 32 challenges were the ninth fewest in baseball. (The Rays and Tigers had the fewest challenges with 27 each while the Rangers had the most with 54.) That’s a lot of unused challenges. I wouldn’t be opposed to Girardi being a little more liberal with them going forward. Yeah, the success rate might drop, but it might help you win another game or two. Say a bang-bang play in the late innings of a close game. Weber might give you a thumbs down, but if it’s a really close play in an important spot, roll the dice and maybe the MLB folks in midtown see it differently.

Either way, the Yankees have been extremely successful with their challenges in the two years the system has been in place. (Last year they went 23-for-28, or 82.1%.) I’m not sure I’d call this a skill. I’d rather just say Weber is really good at his job, looking over the replays in a timely fashioning and advising the staff whether they should challenge. A few more Hail Mary challenges might not be a bad idea though. It’s okay to shoot from the hip once in a while.

Mailbag: Shields, Teixeira, Beltran, Castro, Uribe, Mateo

We received a lot of questions over the last week that were moot by time I checked the inbox yesterday. Questions about signing or trading for guys who signed or were traded at the Winter Meetings. That sort of stuff. I still managed to pull eleven questions out of the pile. Email us questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Bill asks: Any possibility that the Yankees could trade Shields and instead of asking for the Padres to eat salary, they have to throw in young talent instead? Shields isn’t what he used to be but could be a nice innings eater for 3 years which this team desperately needs.

The Yankees could try, but I don’t think the Padres will kick in a young player or two in exchange for taking James Shields’ entire contract. He’s not that much of an albatross. Shields has three years and $65M left on his contract, though he has an opt-out after 2016, so if he’s good, you get him for one year. If he’s bad, you get him for three. Not exactly the most favorable contract situation you’ll find.

Shields will turn 34 in a week and a half, and he had a 3.91 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 202.1 innings for San Diego this year. His strikeout rate (25.1%) was easily the highest of his career, but he also gave up a ton of home runs (1.47 HR/9 and 17.6 HR/FB%). Shields has had weird homer spikes like this before (1.50 HR/9 and 13.8 HR/9 in 2010) and rebounded, though he is older now, so it might not be a blip. He’s worth a deeper look in the non-mailbag format. Of course, the Yankees probably aren’t trading for him because he’s both older and expensive. That’s not how they do business these days.

R.J. asks: Mike, Would you spend 200+ Mil on an ace or spread the money between two or three pitchers? If Price blows his elbow out or hits the DL for an extended period of time, that deal looks disastrous. I don’t know why, but I have the same feeling about this deal like I did about the Simmons trade. We’ll live.

I think both approaches are viable — spend big on one guy vs. spreading the money around — and I guess it depends on the team and their situation. If David Price gets hurt, the Red Sox have the ability to cover for that given their payroll and farm system. If Zack Greinke gets hurt, the Diamondbacks are pretty screwed. They don’t have the same resources.

One elite player is worth more than two above average players. One +6 WAR guy is better than two +3 WAR guys because there’s an opportunity cost associated with that second roster spot. So if you have the resources and can afford the elite player, go get him. That’s not possible for every team. Give me Price over, say, Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija. That’s a risk the Yankees can afford to take.

Jake asks: If the Yankees find themselves out of contention by the time of the trade deadline, would they consider trading Mark Teixeira (if Tex lifts his no-trade clause) and/or Carlos Beltran by eating their contracts for the remainder of the year in order to bring back a haul of prospects?

We’ve been getting this same question every offseason for the last two or three years now. Only the names change. The answer stays the same: the Yankees would have to crater in a huge way to sell at the deadline. If they are even remotely in the postseason race, they’re more likely to add pieces than subtract. The Yankees are doing this on-the-fly rebuild but they’re also trying to win, and trading away guys like Teixeira and Beltran won’t help them win. The Yankees would have to be very far out of the race — like bottom five record in MLB — to sell. I can’t see it happening any other way.

Mark asks: Most articles I see say CC has a vesting option for 2017. Basically if his left arm doesn’t fall off he gets his $25m. But there have been articles that said it was a club option with a $5m buyout. Could you clear that up?

It’s both. It’s a $25M club option with a $5M buyout, but as long as CC Sabathia‘s shoulder remains intact, the option will vest. If it doesn’t vest, it’s a club option the Yankees could conceivably exercise to bring Sabathia back for 2017. That’ll never happen though. The Yankees can not buy Sabathia out if the option vests. Once it vests, he’s locked into that $25M salary for 2017.

Starlin. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)
Starlin. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Alex asks: Will the team be able to use Starlin at 3B and/or corner OF such that he becomes a super utility guy, or is the plan for him to be the 2B?

Brian Cashman mentioned playing Castro at shortstop and third base at times — Starlin’s has never played third at the MLB level and only has a handful of minor league games at the hot corner, all in rookie ball — but did say he will primarily be the second baseman. He didn’t mention anything about the outfield. Castro is still in the process of learning second base — he’s played only 258 innings at the position so far, so he’s still learning — so I’m not sure dumping third and the outfield on him right now is the best idea. It sounds like the plan is second base primarily with a little shortstop when Didi Gregorius needs a break, and maybe a little third when Chase Headley needs a day.

Nathanial asks: If you could ask two questions to anyone within the Yankees’ organization, and be guaranteed completely honest answers, who would you ask and what would the questions be?

Oh boy. This is a good question. I’d ask Hal Steinbrenner why payroll has not increased at a rate equal to league-wide inflation the last ten years, especially after the new Yankee Stadium opened. I’d also ask Cashman if he thinks he is given an appropriate level of resources given the team’s market and financial situation. I know I’ve been harping on the payroll a lot lately, and the Yankees do spent a ton of money relative to the rest of the league, but geez, the fact payroll hasn’t changed at all in the seven seasons since the new ballpark opened really bugs me.

Dan asks: As currently constructed, the Yanks still need someone who can backup third, and be a righty bat off the bench. How about Juan Uribe? He should be cheap, and fits their needs.

Uribe’s great and would fit the team’s needs, especially since he can still play second base. He’s not an everyday option there, but he can do it on occasion. The 36-year-old hit .253/.320/.417 (104 wRC+) with 14 home runs in only 397 plate appearances last year, including .272/.350/.543 (146 wRC+) against lefties. Uribe is a shockingly good defender, he can still hit, and he’s an A+ clubhouse dude. I’m all for it. If the Yankees could get him for a year and, say, $3M or $4M, do it.

P.J. asks: With the Starlin Castro signing what will happen to Jorge Mateo going forward? It would now appear he’s blocked at SS by Gregorius and at 2nd by Castro.

This is a cop out answer but it’s the only answer right now: it’s too early to worry about this. Mateo is a very good young prospect. He has also played only 21 games above Low Class-A, and those were all at High-A. The absolute best case scenario is what, a late 2017 MLB arrival? It’s more likely Mateo won’t be ready until 2018 sometime. Lots can happen between now and then. Gregorius will only be a year away from free agency at that time, so we could end up doing the “let Didi walk/replace him with Mateo in a year” song and dance we’re doing right now with Greg Bird/Aaron Judge and Teixeira/Beltran.

Andrew asks: How badly did the Yankees mess up in not trading Cano/Swisher/Granderson before they hit free agency? Especially with the last two, there were some free agent outfielders they could’ve signed to replace and so would not have had to lost those players for nothing. What are your thoughts?

Before we start, I have to point out trading Nick Swisher was not a realistic option. His final season with the Yankees was 2012 and they won the division that year. He was also one of their best players. I know what Andrew’s asking, but Swisher’s not someone who should be lumped into the “why didn’t they trade him!” group. Also, Curtis Granderson was hurt at the time of the 2013 trade deadline, so he was essentially untradeable.

Bob Cano. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Bob Cano. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Anyway, at the time I thought the big mistake was not adding more pieces at the deadline to help Robinson Cano and David Robertson, not not trading them. The Yankees were 3.5 games back of a postseason spot the morning of the 2013 trade deadline. They were three back the morning of the 2014 trade deadline. For me, that’s “go for it” territory, especially when you’re talking about the Yankees.

In hindsight, not trading those guys looks awful. I could have sworn I remember reading somewhere that the baseball operations folks wanted to trade Cano at the deadline because they knew they weren’t going to re-sign him, but ownership said no. I can’t find it now. The Athletics and Braves were the two contenders who really needed second base help at 2013 deadline, though who knows what the Yankees could have gotten in return for Robbie. Those clubs didn’t have the best farm systems at the time.

If you could somehow force the Yankees to give you an honest answer, I think they’d say they know they screwed up by not trading Cano and Robertson (and Hiroki Kuroda?). They were valuable assets who left for only a draft pick, which … meh. Draft picks are nice but they’re not much. Maybe that’s why they’re trying to trade Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner now. So they don’t miss that chance to maximize value again. Based on what we know now, not trading those guys was a big mistake.

Jackson asks: It’s a safe bet next year that the Yankees will make qualifying offers to Beltran and Tex, they well decline and the Yanks get two additional draft picks, right?

Noooooooo. Not safe to assume that at all, especially with Beltran. Even if he repeats his 2015 season in 2016 season, he’ll be a 39-year-old whose best position is DH, so his market will be fairly limited. The qualifying offer is going to be worth $16M or so next year, and I think Beltran would jump all over that. He’d need to have a monster 2016 season to reject a qualifying offer. Something like .300/.380/.500 with 30 dingers or so. Otherwise he’s just the kind of the player every team seems to be trying to get away from nowadays.

Teixeira’s a different story because he’s slightly younger than Beltran (36 in April) and remains a two-way threat. He can still mash dingers and pick it at first base. If Teixeira stays healthy — that’s a big if these days, even though I fully acknowledge the shin injury was really fluky — and has a strong year, I could see him rejecting a qualifying offer. He’d put himself in line for a nice two-year deal, maybe two years and $28M or something like that. It’s much more likely Teixeira will get a qualifying offer than Beltran, but I wouldn’t say it’s safe bet at all.

Josh asks: There was a question in last week’s mailbag about Dave Winfield. I remember hearing during the HOF inductions that he never played a minor league game in his life. That strikes me as pretty rare – especially for players who don’t come to the MLB as bonafide professionals from another country. But how rare is it? Could it ever happen again? Is there anyone active now who came right into the majors and never needed a rehab stint?

There’s no one in MLB right now who has never played in the minors. The closest is Mike Leake, who was drafted in 2008, threw 19.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League that year, then made the Reds out of Spring Training in 2009. (He also made two Triple-A appearances in 2011 after being demoted.) Baseball Almanac has a list of players who went straight to MLB after being drafted and SABR has a list of players who never played in the minors at all. I’m not sure how complete the list is though. Could it happen again? Yeah, it just seems really unlikely, especially because service time is such a big concern now. Baseball’s really hard. Jumping from college to MLB seems almost impossible without some minor league tune-up time.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The 2015 Winter Meetings are finally over. The Yankees made two trades this week, and it seems pretty clear right now more moves are on the way this offseason. “I think Alan Cockrell is loving me and Larry Rothschild‘s not liking me,” said Brian Cashman to Erik Boland, referring to his hitting and pitching coaches and the offseason to date. Also, I forgot to mention this the other day, but Joe Girardi held his annual Winter Meetings press conference Tuesday afternoon, before both trades went down. Here’s the transcript, if you’re interested.

This is the nightly open thread. The Cardinals and Vikings are the Thursday NFL game, plus both the Knicks and Nets are playing too. There’s also a college hoops game. A. Singular. Talk about those games, the Winter Meetings, or anything else right here.

2016 Draft: releases first top 50 prospects list

Cal Quantrill, top 2016 draft prospect and former Yankees draft pick (26th round in 2013). (
Cal Quantrill, top 2016 draft prospect and former Yankees draft pick (26th round in 2013). (

I guess draft season is now underway. The crew at — specifically Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo — put together their first top 50 draft prospects list recently. New Jersey HS LHP Jason Groome currently sits in the top spot, but the draft is still a long way away, so a lot can and will change. As always,’s scouting reports are free.

At the moment, the 2016 draft class appears to be deep in arms and light on true impact bats, especially on the infield. I feel like that is the case every year nowadays. There are a bunch of dudes throwing 95+ and not many hitters, and those who can hit are outfielders. It seems like there are fewer and fewer quality infielders in baseball each passing year, at all levels.

The Yankees currently hold the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft, as our Draft Order Tracker shows. They started out with the 22nd overall pick but moved up thanks to the Zack Greinke and Jeff Samardzija signings. That pick will move up even further if the Mariners, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Nationals, Angels, or Astros sign a qualified free agent.

We should never completely rule out the Yankees signing a big free agent, but right now it seems very unlikely they will add a qualified free agent and forfeit that first round pick. The money doesn’t appear to be there this offseason. The Yankees have leaned towards college players big time in recent drafts, so if you’re combing through’s list for possible targets, I’d start with the college guys.