This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing and there’s some college hoops on as well, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. You know what to do, so have at it.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 15 days. MLB and the MLBPA are hard at work negotiating a new deal and I’m sure they’ll get it done in time. No one wants a work stoppage. There’s too much money to be lost on both sides. Here are some big picture updates from around the league in the meantime.
MLB to standardize medical info
In the wake of Padres GM A.J. Preller’s suspension, MLB will standardize the medical information teams must disclose during trade talks, reports Kyle Glaser. The Padres essentially hid medical info at the trade deadline. That’s why Colin Rea was returned from the Marlins. He had a preexisting injury. There’s also an issue with Drew Pomeranz’s elbow the Red Sox didn’t know about it. Zoinks.
“We’ve talked about medical records given the issues we had this season, and I think we’re going to focus on trying to do even a better job of standardizing that process when clubs exchange records,” said MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem to Glaser. “We’re going to formalize it a little more and contemplate pushing for guidance in terms of what has to be in and what has to be out. Just make sure everybody has confidence in the system.”
GMs were informed of the new standards during the GM Meetings last week. Halem told Glaser this has been in the works for a while and isn’t a response to Preller’s suspension. Hmmm. Either way, I’m kinda surprised it took this long for this to happen. There have been some other preexisting injury issues over the years — the Gary Majewski trade comes to mind — and this is in the best interest of the league. Better late than never, I suppose.
MLB considering strike zone changes
According to Jon Morosi, MLB is considering formal changes to the strike zone this offseason thanks to PitchFX and Statcast, which help foster more adherence to the rulebook. Jon Roegele’s research has shown the strike zone has gotten bigger since 2009, mostly at the bottom of the zone near the knees. The pitches that are hardest to hit, basically. That’s one of the reasons offense dipped in recent years.
I’m not sure what kind of changes MLB is considering — I guess something that lowers the top of the strike zone since no one calls the high strike anyway? — but I guess we’ll find out. MLB umpires are the best umpires in the world, it’s not like there’s a secret group of elite umpires the league refuses to hire, but they’re not perfect. Far from it. If PitchFX and Statcast and all that help create a more uniform strike zone that more accurately reflects the rulebook, then great.
Players protesting international draft
MLB hopes to implement an international draft in the near future, which would both push the signing age back from 16 to 18, and also cost players money by reducing their negotiating leverage. In response, amateur prospects in the Dominican Republic boycotted the league’s showcase last month, according to Ben Badler. MLB then canceled the two-day showcase and forced the players to take random drug tests. This is fine.
Several current big leaguers who signed as international free agents back in the day have spoken out against an international draft. Gary Sanchez is one of them. Here’s his video. Others like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Miguel Sano, and Ivan Nova have posted similar videos too. I’m curious to see how this plays out. The MLBPA usually has no problem negotiating away the rights of amateurs, but with so many big leaguers speaking out, how can they ignore them?
Revenue sharing a key point in CBA talks
As MLB and the MLBPA negotiate the new CBA, a key item is the revenue sharing system, reports Susan Slusser. Specifically, teams that pay into revenue sharing (like the Yankees) want to make sure teams that receive revenue sharing are actually spending it. There’s been concern small market teams are just pocketing a portion of their revenue sharing checks. The Marlins and Athletics have come under scrutiny, specifically.
“There is leeway to justify other expenditures (like scouting),” said an MLBPA official to Slusser. “But if a team shows no progress year after year and most of the revenue sharing spending is on non-Major League salaries, red flags go up. There are clubs that other clubs look at and say, ‘What are they doing? Is this really the best use of our money?'”
The Yankees pump more money into revenue sharing than any other team — they paid over $90M in both 2014 and 2015 — so I’m sure they’re one of the clubs curious to know where their money is going, as they should. Revenue sharing isn’t going away. It’s been around too long and it’s working. The Indians and Royals just went to the World Series. More teams are in contention right now than ever before. But there’s an obvious problem with small market clubs pocketing revenue sharing money. The Yankees and other big market teams have every right to be concerned.
Dillon Tate | RHP
Tate, 22, was born and raised in Southern California, and he attended Claremont High School in the Los Angeles suburbs. He earned all sorts of baseball and academic honors, and during the summers he trained at MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
Baseball America ranked Tate as the 79th best prospect in California and 391st best prospect overall in the 2012 draft class. Their scouting report said he “could develop into an impact prospect” in college, and noted there were “scouts who regard him as a sleeper worth gambling on inside the top 10 rounds this year.”
Despite that praise, Tate went undrafted out of high school and wound up at UC Santana Barbara. He rarely pitched as a freshman — four games and three innings, that’s it — before pitching for the Urban Youth Academy Barons of the California Collegiate League in the summer. Tate threw another 32.2 innings in the CCL. He told Grace Raynor he vowed to himself that summer to become a first round pick after watching the 2013 draft on television.
As a sophomore in 2014, Tate took over as the Gauchos’ closer and pitched to a 1.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43.1 innings. He was among the finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year award as the nation’s top reliever. Tate pitched for Team USA in the summer and was ranked the fifth best prospect on the team by Jim Callis, one spot ahead of James Kaprielian.
UCSB moved Tate into the rotation his junior year and he took over as the staff ace, throwing 103.1 innings of 2.26 ERA ball. He struck out 111 and walked 28. Because he’d thrown more innings than ever before, Tate started to wear down late in the season and the Gauchos had to lighten his workload. He was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best player.
Prior to the 2015 amateur draft, Baseball America ranked Tate as the third best prospect in the draft class behind Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson. MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) both ranked Tate as the fifth best prospect available. The Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick — he was the first pitcher selected in 2015 — and signed him to a $4.2M bonus.
The Yankees acquired Tate and two others from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal at the 2016 trade deadline.
Because he threw so many innings at UCSB last spring, the Rangers took it very easy on Tate following the 2015 draft. They assigned him to the short season Northwest League and Low-A South Atlantic League. He appeared in only six games and threw only nine innings after signing, during which he allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight.
Texas sent Tate back to Low-A to start this season, and after two dominant starts (10.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 K), he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain. It sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Tate struggled when he returned and he never really got going. He allowed 19 runs on 23 hits and seven walks in his first five games and 13 innings back. Yikes.
At the time of the trade Tate had a 5.12 ERA (4.37 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (19.0%) and walk (9.3%) rates in 65 innings. The Yankees moved him to the Low-A Charleston bullpen immediately and had minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell work on his mechanics. Tate had a 2.95 ERA (3.62 FIP) with 17.9% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 18.1 relief innings with the RiverDogs after the trade.
The Yankees sent Tate to the Arizona Fall League after the season for more innings. He had a 3.86 ERA (5.21 FIP) in six relief appearances and 9.1 innings with the Scottsdale Scorpions before reaching his innings limit and being shut down, according to Randy Miller. On the bright side, his small sample size strikeout (29.7%) and walk (2.7%) rates were excellent.
There are essentially two scouting reports on Tate. The good scouting report has him sitting mid-90s and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball, and backing it up with a killer upper-80s slider and a promising changeup. The bad scouting report has his fastball in the upper-80s/low-90s with a sweepy breaking ball and generally inconsistent secondary pitches.
The good version of Tate existed prior to the hamstring injury. The bad version showed up after his early season disabled list stint. Reports indicate Tate’s stuff bounced back by time he got to the Arizona Fall League, which is promising. His velocity was more consistent in a relief role with the Yankees. That’s for sure. The changeup looked good too.
Tate is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., and he’s very athletic with a repeatable delivery, generally speaking. His tempo was out of whack for much of the year however, and that’s what the Yankees worked to fix. And for what it’s worth, Tate’s a really bright kid who did well in school. The good version of him is really, really good. The bad version might not get out of Double-A.
Brian Cashman told Randy Miller the Yankees are planning to move Tate back into the rotation next season. “(His velocity) has been good since we got him. We kind of let him go back to some of his mechanical ways before they made changes with him in Texas, and the velocity came back,” said the GM.
My guess is Tate will open next season with High-A Tampa, and if he does well, the Yankees figure to move him up to Double-A fairly quickly. There’s some thought he could reach the show as soon as next season if the team moves him to the bullpen full-time, but I think it’s way too soon to do that. Give him a chance to start with your coaches and instructors first.
The Yankees were really smart to buy low on Tate in the Beltran trade. He was a top prospect coming into the season — MLB.com (36th), Keith Law (50th), Baseball Prospectus (59th), and Baseball America (69th) all ranked him as a top 100 prospect in the spring — and the Yankees were able to get him (and two others!) for a rental DH. Had he suffered an arm injury in April instead of the hamstring, things might be a little different, but his arm’s healthy.
Now, that said, the Yankees took a pretty big risk here. Tate may not be fixable — the early returns suggests he’s getting back on track, so hooray for that — and even if he does get back to where he was last year, he still may only be a reliever long-term. A really good reliever, but still a reliever. He was definitely a worthwhile pickup though. The Yankees have a ton of depth in the farm system are in position to roll the dice on a talented player like Tate.
Like always, the Yankees spent a good portion of the 2016 season cycling through assorting homegrown relievers as their bullpen needs changed. They swapped guys out when a fresh arm was needed, or when someone wasn’t performing well, or when there was an injury. Whatever. Every team does it. The Yankees aren’t special or creative.
New York’s bullpen shuttle was not quite as extreme this year as last year. Last season is felt like the Yankees were making a roster move every other day, usually because they were. Some injuries thinned out the shuttle relief crew this year, which meant other players got a chance to strut their stuff in the big leagues. Time to review the 2016 shuttle arms.
I thought Barbato had a chance to be the rare shuttle reliever with staying power. He dominated in Spring Training, made the Opening Day roster, and put together a few good weeks before things came apart. The 24-year-old allowed one run and struck out ten in his first eight innings. He then allowed seven runs and struck out two in his next five innings. Yeah.
Barbato was sent down to Triple-A Scranton in mid-May and he spent almost the entire rest of the season there. His only other big league cameo came in early August, when the Yankees needed a fresh reliever. Barbato appeared in one game, faced four batters, didn’t retire any of them, then was sent down. The Yankees didn’t even give him a courtesy September call-up. Ouch.
Overall, Barbato had a 7.62 ERA (4.45 FIP) with a 26.4% strikeout rate in 13 big league innings and a 2.61 ERA (3.44 FIP) with a 24.1% strikeout rate in 48.1 Triple-A innings. General command was his issue. Barbato has a big fastball and two different breaking balls, but he left too many pitches over the middle. Not getting a September call-up suggests he may not be on the 40-man roster much longer.
Goody was the primary shuttle reliever this past season, meaning he was the one who was called up most often and spent the most time in the big leagues. Four times he was called up. Once in April, once in July, once in August, and then once rosters expanded in September. He threw 29 innings for the Yankees overall.
Goody’s best outing of the season came on May 13th in relief of an ineffective Luis Severino. The White Sox hammered Severino and he eventually left the game after 2.2 innings with a triceps issue. The 25-year-old Goody fired 3.1 scoreless innings in relief to spare the bullpen. Needed only 37 pitches too.
The Yankees still have a minor league option for Goody next season, meaning they’ll be able to send him up and down as many times as they want in 2017. It’s possible he could be a 40-man roster casualty in the offseason, though I think there’s enough guys below him on the depth chart for now. I like Goody the most among the shuttle arms, but until he can keep the ball in the park, his bat-missing slider won’t be of much use.
The Yankees added Heller to the shuttle relief crew at midseason. He was the third piece in the Andrew Miller trade with the Indians. Heller, 25, had a 1.73 ERA (2.86 FIP) with 29.3% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 41.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A before the trade. A few tune-up appearances with Triple-A Scranton were made before the Yankees called Heller up in August.
Unlike most other shuttle relievers, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have Heller a real shot at important innings. It didn’t go so well, but they tried. He entered with the Yankees either tied or leading by one run in three of his first six appearances, and in those three appearances, he put four of nine batters on base. Heller completed a full inning once. The other two times he got one out and zero outs.
Force-feeding Heller high-leverage innings right away didn’t work so well, so Girardi scaled back. His final four outings all came with the Yankees trailing by at least five. All told, Heller had a 6.43 ERA (9.57 FIP) in seven innings. He struck out six, walked four (one intentionally), and allowed three dingers. Also hit two batters and gave up eleven hits. It was a rude introduction to the big leagues.
Unlike a few others in this post, Heller’s spot on the 40-man roster is safe this offseason — the Yankees might trade him, but he won’t be dropped from the roster — and he’ll come to Spring Training with a chance to win a bullpen job. Heller’s fastball averaged 96.0 mph and topped out at 97.9 mph during his brief cameo, plus he showed a workable slider, so the tools are there. He’s not the first reliever to struggle in his first seven MLB innings and he won’t be the last.
No reliever in minor league baseball had a better season than Holder in 2016. He shifted back to the bullpen after spending last season as a starter, and in 65.1 innings at three levels this year, the 23-year-old righty had a 1.65 ERA (1.30 ERA) with 101 strikeouts (42.4%) and seven walks (2.9%). Holder capped off his minor league season by striking out eleven in a row as part of a four-inning save to clinch a postseason berth for Triple-A Scranton.
Sure enough, Holder’s appearances were sporadic. He made eight appearances and only three times was the score separated by fewer than three runs. Holder entered one of those three games in the second inning, after Severino had been ejected for throwing at Justin Smoak, so it was hardly a high-leverage appearance. He allowed runs in four of his eight outings and was working mop-up duty by the end of the season. Womp womp.
Overall, the 2016 season was a phenomenal success for Holder, who climbed from High-A to the big leagues. Was the call-up a little shortsighted? Sure. The Yankees tied up a 40-man roster spot with a low-leverage reliever who was a year away from Rule 5 Draft eligibility. What’s done is done though. Holder had a 5.40 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 8.1 big league innings, during which he struck out five and walked four. Like Heller, he’ll come to camp with a chance to win an Opening Day bullpen job.
After three elbow surgeries and six and a half seasons in the minors, the 28-year-old Mullee finally reached the big leagues in 2016. He had a 1.42 ERA (2.02 FIP) in 19 minor league innings when the Yankees called him up for the first time. Mullee appeared in one game, walked three Diamondbacks and hit another while allowing a run in an inning on May 16th. Not the greatest debut. It happens.
Tests revealed a nerve issue near Mullee’s elbow, and he soon underwent season-ending surgery. That bites. At least there was no structural damage this time. Mullee remained on the disabled list until November 2nd, when the Yankees tried to slip him through waivers and remove him from the 40-man roster. The Cubs claimed him instead. Mullee had been with New York since being their 24th round pick in 2010.
Pazos, 25, is the hardest throwing left-hander in the organization now that Miller and Aroldis Chapman have been traded away. His heater averaged 95.5 mph during his September call-up this year, which was actually up from 94.1 mph last year. That kind of velocity is hard to find on a lefty, even these days where every team seems to have guys who throw 95+ out of the bullpen.
An unknown injury sidelined Pazos from early June until late August in the minors, and around the injury he had a 2.32 ERA (2.50 FIP) with a 35.6% strikeout rate and a 15.2% walk rate in 31 minor league innings. The Yankees did not call him up right away once rosters expanded; Pazos had to wait until September 6th to join the MLB team. He appeared in eleven games with the Yankees and faced no more than two batters in eight of them. The Yankees were leading in three of his eleven appearances, twice by five runs.
Pazos had a 13.50 ERA (10.05 FIP) in his 3.1 innings with New York and lefties went 4-for-8 against him with one strikeout. That seems bad. The Yankees seem to like Pazos — I get it, he throws hard from the left side — and he has two option years remaining, so he figures to stick around for a little while as an up-and-down southpaw. I wouldn’t rule him out coming to Spring Training with a chance to win a bullpen job.
A year ago Pinder was the primary shuttle reliever, getting called up six (!) times throughout the season. At least once in every month. Wild. This year, his season lasted three appearances. Pinder didn’t win a bullpen job in camp, so he went to Triple-A, appeared in two games, then got called up in mid-April. He pitched in one game with the Yankees and blew out his elbow. Pinder had Tommy John surgery on April 26th.
On the bright side, Pinder spent nearly the entire season on the Major League disabled list and collected big league salary and service time. Good for him. Poor Nick Rumbelow blew out his elbow in Triple-A and didn’t have the same luxury. The Yankees designated Pinder — who is still in the middle of his rehab — for assignment when they claimed Joe Mantiply last week. Injured fringe relievers who are weeks away from their 28th birthday aren’t exactly a hot commodity on waivers, so there’s a pretty good chance Pinder will remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.
This season the Yankees did something that really had been a long-time coming. They committed to a youth movement. It actually started last season with the Didi Gregorius trade and Greg Bird and Luis Severino call-ups, but this year the Yankees took it a step further by trading productive veterans for prospects at the deadline. We haven’t seen them do that in nearly three decades.
As a result, the Yankees now have one of the best farm systems in baseball, if not the best. Jim Callis calls it the deepest system in the game. Depending what happens with Brett Gardner and Brian McCann this offseason, it’s entirely possible Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley will be the only players over 27 in the starting lineup come Opening Day next year. The Yankees could have youngsters all over the field. That’s exciting!
You know what else is exciting? Trading a whole bunch of those prospects for Mike Trout. Think about it, what better player is there to build around going forward than the best player on the planet, who himself turned only 25 four months ago? There isn’t one. Trout’s not just great. He’s historically great and well on his way to being in the inner circle of the inner circle of the Hall of Fame. A generational talent, indisputably.
The idea of a Trout trade creates two obvious big picture questions: why would the Angels do it and why would the Yankees do it? Let’s answer the second question first because it’s easiest. Because Trout’s insanely good and not every prospect is going to work out. Hang on to all the kids and you’re inevitably going to be left with a lot of nothing. That’s baseball. The attrition rate for even tippy top prospects is pretty darn high.
As for the Angels, this is where it gets complicated. Take Trout away from the Angels and they’re an unmitigated disaster. The 2011-13 Astros but somehow more hopeless. They have baseball’s worst farm system and so very few long-term assets at the big league level. There’s Andrelton Simmons and, uh, C.J. Cron? Trout is more valuable to his franchise’s well-being than any other player in baseball. He’s the only reason the Halos are relevant.
More than a few folks have said the Angels would be wise to trade Trout for a godfather package to kick start their rebuild, and there is some validity to that. He’d bring back almost an unprecedented amount of talent. Personally, I think it’s a heck of a lot easier to rebuild a farm system than it is to get the best player in the world on your roster when he’s only 25. That’s just me.
Anaheim has given zero indication Trout is available. Angels GM Billy Eppler, who spent all those years as Brian Cashman‘s right-hand man, said last year Trout “means too much to this clubhouse, community, organization,” to trade. And he’s right. It’d be like trading Derek Jeter. Like I said, take Trout away from the Angels and they’re in worse shape than any team we’ve seen in a very long time. Their situation is that dire.
Convincing the Angels to part with Trout is the hard part. I actually think putting together a trade package would be pretty easy for the Yankees. It depends how much they’re willing to stomach more than anything. Prospects? Whatever, they’re all on the table. Gary Sanchez? Of course you put him in a Trout trade if that’s what it takes. He just had a Trout-like two months. Trout just had his fifth straight Trout-like year.
I don’t think a player of Trout’s caliber has ever been traded. The closed comparable is the Alex Rodriguez trade, which was motivated by money more than anything. It’s apples and oranges. Putting together hypothetical trade proposals is pointless because a) your trade proposal sucks, and b) there’s no real precedent for trading the best player in the world four years before he becomes a free agent. No one has been crazy enough to do it yet.
This, I think, is the most important thing to understand: the Yankees could give up a hefty package of young talent for Trout and still have plenty left over. The Angels are Trout and nothing else. The Yankees would not become Trout and nothing else with the trade. Their talent base right now so far exceeds what the Angels have put around Trout that even gutting the system to make the trade leaves them with a respectable roster.
Consider Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects for a second. The Yankees could take the top six guys, send them to the Angels for Trout, and still have a top 100 prospect left, not to mention Sanchez and Bird and Severino and Gregorius and Masahiro Tanaka and others at the MLB level. This wouldn’t be like the 68-win Reds gutting their system for Trout. The Yankees are in better position to make a move like that.
Here’s the other thing to consider: trading prospects not on the big league roster for Trout instantly makes the Yankees contenders. He’s a legitimate +9 WAR player. A balance of power player. He changes the entire dynamic within a division. Adding Trout moves New York’s timetable for contention up from “we hope sometime within the next two or three years” to right now. That is huge.
As it stands right now, the Yankees’ master plan seems to be incorporating young players into the roster while shedding payroll and resetting the luxury tax rate, so when some actually good players become free agents, they can sign them to boost the roster. Good plan, in theory. Risky because the prospects might not work out and those players might not become free agents, but that’s life. Everything is risky.
Acquiring Trout is a much more straightforward plan, and also the “safer” play as well. You’re getting value from your prospects and acquiring an undeniably great player. It’s a franchise-altering move. For both teams, the Yankees and Angels. He changes everything. The timetable, the team building philosophy, everything. The Angels would slip into a deep rebuild while the Yankees could suddenly start gearing up for serious contention again. It would be the blockbuster of all blockbusters. The Wayne Gretzky trade all over again. It would shock the world.
Sadly, there is basically no chance Trout gets traded this offseason. And if the Halos did put him on the market, the Yankees would face stiff competition. The Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, Astros, and every other team in the league would get involved. Eppler and Angels owner Arte Moreno — trading Trout is a decision that gets made at the ownership level, not the GM level — would create the mother of all bidding wars. It would be total chaos.
Sending a whole bunch of prospects to the Angels for the best player in baseball is a fun idea that almost certainly will never happen. The timing is not right. The farm system is ready for a trade now but the Angels aren’t. When the Angels are ready to trade Trout, if they ever are, the farm system probably won’t be. Such is life.
The Yankees added all these prospects recently and we’re all attached to them and excited. We’ve been waiting for this for years. I know I have. Turning around and trading these kids might be tough to swallow, but as far as I’m concerned, trading for a player of Trout’s caliber is never a bad move. Not when you’re the New York Yankees.
Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers, Nets, and Devils are all playing tonight, plus there’s a bunch of college hoops on as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
Earlier tonight, the BBWAA named Indians manager Terry Francona the 2016 AL Manager of the Year. Rangers skipper Jeff Banister finished second and Orioles manager Buck Showalter finished third. Francona is the 15th man to win the award twice. Here are the voting results.
Joe Girardi finished fifth in the voting behind Francona, Banister, Showalter, and Red Sox manager John Farrell. Girardi received one second place vote and two third place votes. He’s finished fourth, fifth, or sixth in the Manager of the Year voting every year since 2010. Girardi finished third in 2009.
The last Yankees manager to be named Manager of the Year was (who else?) Joe Torre in 1998. Tough to earn recognition when you have a huge payroll and expectations are always high. Manager of the Year is basically the “manager of the team that most exceeded expectations” award.
Gary Sanchez finished second to Michael Fulmer in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Masahiro Tanaka will surely receive some Cy Young votes when the voting is announced tomorrow. Chances are one or two Yankees will get down ballot MVP votes as well. MVPs will be announced Thursday.