Got some minor league notes and links to pass along before we get to the first round of performance updates from winter ball:
- Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted some Arizona Fall League scouting notes, saying LHP Ian Clarkin “looked great in a four-inning stint” in his first game of the year. “Clarkin was 89-93 mph, mostly 90-92, for his entire outing, with a plus curveball that he really controlled well, 73-75 with tight spin. His changeup needs some work, and was actually better at 82 mph (where it had more action) than at 85-86 mph (where it was more like a bad fastball),” wrote Law. He added Clarkin’s ceiling as a potential No. 2 starter remains unchanged despite the elbow injury.
- In a separate post (subs. req’d), Law says RHP Domingo Acevedo was “throwing 94-98 mph” with bad command, plus an 84-87 mph slider that “took a lot of effort for him to get to it.” He kinda sorta likened Acevedo to Dellin Betances because of his “high-effort delivery and long arm swing as well as a general lack of athleticism.”
- Sam Dykstra posted some really simple Triple-A park factors for both 2015 and 2013-15. Once again, Triple-A Scranton’s PNC Field ranked among the toughest parks to hit, with a 0.876 (!) park factor this year. That means it suppressed offense to 87.6% of the league average. It was 0.926 from 2013-15. The four full season affiliates play in what have historically been pitchers’ parks.
- Some transaction news from Matt Eddy: both IF Gregorio Petit and RHP Kyle Davies elected free agent after the end of the season, as expected. Also, Eddy reports the Yankees signed 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Jhon Moronta. I can’t find much about him, just this.
Now on to the performance updates from fall and winter ball, which take place at the same time of year. As a reminder, Ramiro Pena used to crush winter ball every year. The guy was like Babe Ruth down there. Don’t take the numbers too seriously. Small samples and the caliber of competition is not good.
Arizona Fall League
- OF Tyler Austin: 8 G, 9-29 (.310), 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.310/.394/.586) — had a rough regular season — that included getting dropped from the 40-man roster — so it would be great if he could rake here and head into the offseason feeling good about things
- OF Dustin Fowler: 4 G, 5-18 (.278), 4 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 SB (.278/.316/.278)
- C Gary Sanchez: 10 G, 17-44 (.386), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.386/.404/.818) — leads the AzFL in homers (by one), RBI (by five), and total bases (by five)
- IF Tyler Wade: 9 G, 5-29 (.172), 2 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.172/.219/.276)
- LHP Ian Clarkin: 3 IP, 3 GS, 12.1 IP, 15 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 9 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (5.11 ERA, 1.95 WHIP) — ugly numbers, but he’s a) healthy!, and b) shaking off an entire season of rust
- LHP Chaz Hebert: 5 G, 0 GS, 8 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR (4.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) — he had a breakout regular season (2.46 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 139 innings) and is Rule 5 Draft eligible, plus he’s left-handed, but I’ll be surprised if the Yankees protect him … 40-man roster space is pretty tight
- LHP Tyler Webb: 5 G, 0 GS, 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR (4.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) — first game action since late-June … he missed a bunch of time with a tendon problem in his hand
Dominican Winter League
- IF Abi Avelino: 1 G, 0-1
- RHP Andury Acevedo: 3 G, 0 GS, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 2 HB (6.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 1 G, 0 GS, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (9.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
- UTIL Jose Rosario and SS Jorge Mateo are listed on rosters but have yet to appear in a game. They might not play at all, especially Mateo, who ended the regular season on the DL. (Albeit with a minor injury.) They’re listed on the rosters because the clubs hold their winter ball rights.
Mexican Pacific League
- OF Rico Noel: 3 G, 1-12 (.083), 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB (.083/.154/.169) — he’s a runner, not a hitter
- RHP Gio Gallegos: 8 G, 0 GS, 5.2 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 HR, 1 WP (14.29 ERA, 2.47 WHIP) — he’s allowed multiple runs in four of those eight outings, so it’s not just one disaster outing skewing the numbers
- RHP Luis Niebla: 4 G, 4 GS, 24 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (1.88 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
- RHP Cesar Vargas: 8 G, 0 GS, 7 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (1.29 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico)
- RHP Bryan Mitchell, IF Cito Culver, and 2B Angelo Gumbs are listed on rosters but have not yet appeared in a game. The season just started yesterday. Mitchell threw only 104.2 innings during the regular season. He might be down here to get some more under his belt. His career high is 145.1 innings set back in 2013.
Venezuelan Winter League
- C Francisco Arcia: 12 G, 11-32 (.344), 3R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K (.344/.432/.500)
- IF Ali Castillo: 4 G, 3-15 (.200), 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K (.200/.294/.267)
- OF Ben Gamel: 13 G, 13-48 (.271), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 7 BB, 12 K, 1 SB, 1 CS (.271/.351/.479) — following up his excellent regular season with a nice showing in winter ball … I’m sure the Yankees were happy to let him play winter ball this year, it gives them more time to evaluate him before deciding whether to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason
- OF Ericson Leonora: 12 G, 4-22 (.182), 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP (.182/.217/.318)
- OF Teodoro Martinez: 18 G, 20-69 (.290), 2 3B, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K, 2 SB (.290/.318/.348) — I’m not even sure if he’s still in the organization, to be honest … the Yankees signed him at midseason when they needed some outfielders to help cover for injuries and promotions … that’s usually a part-time gig
- UTIL Jose Pirela: 6 G, 11-20 (.550), 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 1 K (.550/.640/.750) — he always rakes in winter ball
- RHP Luis Cedeno: 3 G, 0 GS, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (0.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
- RHP Jaron Long: 4 G, 4 GS, 23.2 IP, 20 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (1.90 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) — between the regular season and winter ball, the ex-hitting coach’s kid has thrown 178.1 innings this year
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 8 G, 0 GS, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (9.45 ERA, 1.65 WHIP) — allowed three runs in two of those eight outings … everything else has been pretty good
- IF Thairo Estrada is listed on a roster but has not yet played in a game.
Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets and Royals will play Game Three of the World Series tonight (Syndergaard vs. Ventura at 8pm ET on FOX), plus the (hockey) Rangers and Nets are in action too. Talk about any of those games or anything else right here.
Looking to kill some time before the start of the weekend? I have some stray links to pass along that might help you out. Enjoy.
MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook
Last week the gang at MLBTR covered the Yankees as part of their annual Offseason Outlook series. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a look ahead to the offseason. It’s a really great overview of the team’s situation in general — the big obstacle this offseason: getting younger and better despite limited flexibility — and touches on all the major points. We’ll dissect everything from every possible angle this winter here at RAB, but MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook post is a good primer as we wait for the offseason to really get underway. Check it out.
Baseball America’s Draft Report Card
Baseball America just wrapped up their 2015 Draft Report Card series, in which they break down each team’s draft class. They aren’t grading anything, just looking at the top tools. OF Jhalan Jackson (7th round) is said to have the most power potential among 2015 Yankees draftees, for example. The position player section is free but the pitchers and odds and ends are behind the paywall.
Interestingly, the write-up says RHP James Kaprielian (1st) was working at 92-94 and touching 96 this summer, which is a bit higher than the college scouting reports. Also, both his slider and changeup received 65 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is pretty damn awesome. RHP Chance Adams (5th), who had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with a 31.7% strikeout rate in 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing, touched 99 mph this summer. He could start next season at Double-A and reach MLB soon.
Nexen Heroes to post Byung-Ho Park
The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post power hitting first baseman Byung-Ho Park this coming Monday, according to a Yonhap report. The Yankees were reportedly one of 20 teams to scout Park this season. The right-handed hitting first baseman hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 homers in 140 games this year. Daniel Kim, a former scout and current Korean baseball analyst, told Travis Sawchik Park is the “best pure hitter in the history of KBO.”
The posting process starts Monday, which means teams then have until 5pm ET next Friday to submit a blind bid. The Heroes then have until the following Monday to accept or reject the bid. If they accept, the high bidder and Park have 30 days to negotiate a contract. The team only pays the posting fee if they manage to sign Park. Kim told Sawchik he expects Park to double the $5M posting fee the Pirates paid for Jung-Ho Kang last year.
Park is a first baseman and first baseman only, apparently, so I’m not sure what the Yankees would do with him. Another first baseman/DH is pretty much the last thing they need. They have Mark Teixeira for one more season, a bonafide first baseman of the future in Greg Bird, plus other potential first base candidates in Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and the aging Brian McCann. I dunno. We’ll see what happens.
Yankees dominated platoons in 2015
According to Baseball Reference, the Yankees led baseball by having the platoon advantage in 73% of their plate appearances this past season. The Indians were second at 71%. The Tigers, Nationals, and Diamondbacks were tied for last at a mere 43%. The Yankees have rated highly in the percentage of at-bats with the platoon advantage for the last few seasons now. Joe Girardi is really meticulous with his platoons, after all. There is definitely an advantage to be gained with platoon matchups, but, of course, it all comes down to the hitters. You have to have good hitters to platoon in the first place.
Thanks to a great June and July, the Yankees surged to the top of the AL East standings this summer. At one point their lead was as big as seven games. Several strong bounceback performances from key veteran players fueled that hot start.
And yet, the Yankees had some clear needs at the trade deadline. I thought they would aggressively look for upgrades considering they were in first place and hadn’t been to the postseason since 2012, but instead they made just one minor move, acquiring Dustin Ackley from the Mariners. Ackley had more impact than I ever expected.
They Finally Got Their Man
The Yankees had been after Ackley for a long time. We first heard they were after him back during the 2013 Winter Meetings, and they tried again to get him at the trade deadline last year. The Mariners wanted Bryan Mitchell in return and the Yankees said no thanks. They finally got their man at the trade deadline this year, after a few weeks of rumors.
The three-player trade sent outfielder Ramon Flores and right-hander Jose Ramirez to Seattle for Ackley. The Yankees dealt from positions of depth — Flores was one of many upper level left-handed hitting outfielders (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, etc.) in the organization and the Yankees have more right-handed relievers for the Scranton shuttle than you can count.
It’s worth noting both Flores and Ramirez will be out of minor league options next season, meaning they will have to stick on the big league roster or be exposed to waivers. The Yankees don’t have an obvious role for either next season and surely that factored into the decision to trade them. They acquired Ackley and managed to clear the 40-man roster logjam a bit. It was a fine baseball trade. It was also the only trade the Yankees made at the Major League level this season.
Not The Best First Impression
Ackley replaced Garrett Jones in the “bench guy who rarely plays” role. Ackley is six years younger, a bit more versatile, and the Yankees controlled him beyond 2015, so it’s easy to understand why they made the move. Plus there’s always a chance Ackley figures things out. He is still only 27, after all.
Ackley joined the Yankees after the trade deadline, and appeared in two of the first three games with the team. He came off the bench to spell Carlos Beltran late in a blowout win on July 31st, then did the same for Alex Rodriguez late in a blowout win on August 2nd. Remember blowout wins? Those were fun. Ackley went 0-for-3 in those two games.
Two days later, Ackley landed on the 15-day with a right lumbar strain. An MRI showed a herniated disc in his back, so they gave him an epidural, though there was a chance he would ultimately need season-ending surgery. Ackley was going to miss a month at the very least. Yuck. The Yankees ended up bringing Jones back while Ackley was out.
The epidural worked. Ackley did not need surgery, was able to play in some minor league rehab games at the end of August, then was activated off the DL when rosters expanded on September 1st. I gotta say, I was not expecting that. Back problems usually don’t go away that easily. Ackley had no issues whatsoever after coming off the DL, however, so hooray for that.
After returning, Ackley again slid into that “bench guy who rarely plays” role. He didn’t appear in his first game after coming off the DL until September 9th, when he went 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout in a spot start in left field. Ackley came off the bench in a blowout loss on September 11th, then again in the first game of the September 12th doubleheader.
Joe Girardi started Ackley at first base in the second game of the doubleheader to give Greg Bird a rest, then he started him at first base the next day because Ackley had great career numbers against R.A. Dickey. He was 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run against the knuckleballer. Sure enough, Ackley had a big game, going 2-for-2 with a home run and a sac fly in the win.
Girardi decided to play Ackley at second base on September 16th, in the series finale against the Rays. It was only his second game at second base of the season — he didn’t appear at second at all in 2014 either — and while Ackley went 0-for-2 and was lifted late for defense, he showed he could handle the position. It wasn’t an entirely new experience for him — Ackley played 281 games at second from 2011-13 — but he did have to get reacquainted to the position.
The Yankees traveled to Citi Field for a series with the Mets next. Ackley had a pinch-hit double in the first game, a pinch-hit triple in the second game, then started the third game at second base and went 1-for-3 with a three-run home run.
The Bombers faced a string of lefties at the end of the season and Rob Refsnyder cut into Ackley’s playing time, but he had made his presence felt. In 23 games and 57 plate appearances with the Yankees, Ackley hit .288/.333/.654 (161 wRC+) with four home runs. He hit .215/.270/.366 (75 wRC+) with six homers in 85 games and 205 plate appearances for the Mariners before the trade. Small sample size, absolutely, but Ackley did produce in that sample. The hits and homers counted.
More Contact, More Hard Contact
Remember, Ackley is not just some guy. It wasn’t too long ago that he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft (2009) and a top 10-15 prospect in all of baseball (2010-11 according to Baseball America). The Yankees rolled the dice on a very talented player who failed to develop as expected for whatever reason. It was a change of scenery move.
The short porch seemed to agree with Ackley — three of his four home runs in pinstripes came at home — but let’s look a little deeper to see if anything else changed under the hood after the trade.
I wouldn’t read too much into this stuff because the sample is so small — Ackley put only 46 balls in play during his brief time with the Yankees. This is not meant to be definitive proof of a new approach or swing changes or anything like that. I was just curious to see the numbers.
Ackley didn’t strike out as often with the Yankees and he did produce more hard contact — especially line drives — so that’s promising. Whether it’s the result of dumb luck or some sort of tangible change in his approach or swing, we don’t know. I’m sure the Yankees acquired Ackley with the idea of tinkering a bit and trying to change some things. We’ll have to wait until next season to see whether Ackley is truly producing more hard contact in pinstripes.
Looking Ahead to 2016
The Yankees didn’t acquire Ackley in July only to non-tender him in November. He is projected to earn $3.1M through arbitration next year, which is nothing. There’s no reason to think the Yankees will non-tender him. At worst, he will return in that “bench guys who rarely plays” role. But, after his late season surge, Ackley could see more playing time next year. We’ve already seen reports indicating the Yankees are “leaning towards” using Ackley and Refsnyder at second base next season, for example. Barring a surprise trade, Ackley will be on the roster next year. I suppose his exact role depends on how well he plays.
Got eleven questions in the mailbag for you this week. You can email us any questions or links or comments or whatever at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.
Griffin asks: Do you think it could be realistic for the Yankees to acquire Yasiel Puig this offseason?
I don’t think so. I do believe Puig will be traded this offseason, or at least we’re going to hear a lot of rumors about him possibly being traded, but the Yankees care too much about clubhouse chemistry and makeup to go after Puig. (I don’t mean “too much” in a bad way. I’m just saying it’s a priority for the.) He is insanely talented and a really great player when healthy, but he’s a headache and has reportedly had some run-ins with teammates, like this one. Puig is an electrifying player and the Yankees would be a better team on the field with him. They’d likely be a worse team in the clubhouse though, and the Yankees value that cohesiveness very highly. I can’t see it happening for that reason.
Matty asks: What do you see more likely to happen: the Wild Card game becoming a 3 game series or the Division series becoming a best of 7?
The LDS becoming a best-of-seven. A best-of-three wildcard round would be a real headache. After the end of the regular season, MLB needs to leave a day free for potential tiebreaker games, then squeeze in a best-of-three series without forcing the division winners to sit around waiting too long. So the regular season ends Sunday, tiebreaker day is Monday, the best-of-three wildcard round runs Tuesday through Thursday, then the LDS begins Friday?
Maybe that works — Game One of the NLDS was Friday this year, after all — but there’s all that travel and stuff to sort out. It’s a logistical nightmare. I suppose they could play Game Two and a potential Game Three of the wildcard round as part of a doubleheader, but again, that’s not really fair. It would be fun as a fan, don’t get me wrong, but you’d be pushing the players a little too hard late in the season. I don’t like the winner-take-all wildcard game format and would prefer a best-of-three. I just don’t see how they can pull it off in a way that is fair to everyone.
Chris asks: I love the idea of pursuing Heyward this offseason. Clearly, the increase to the overall payroll is a huge barrier here. Perhaps the Yanks could move Gardner and McCann to create payroll space. Gardy is pretty easily moved and I wonder if McCann is not at all overpriced with 3/$51M left on the contract. Murphy starting at C serves the youth movement as well. Perhaps the question is only academic given that McCann has a full no-trade clause.
Yeah, moving Brian McCann would be tough because of his salary — $17M per year for a catcher is a ton — and no-trade clause. It’s a good idea in theory. A John Ryan Murphy/Gary Sanchez tandem at catcher could be surprisingly productive, plus it would add some right-handed balance to the lefty heavy lineup, but getting rid of McCann seems very hard to do. Which teams would even be interested? Tigers, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, maybe the Nationals? Not too many contending teams — there’s no reason to think McCann would waive his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding club — are in position to take on a high-priced catcher, even if the Yankees eat some money to facilitate a deal.
James asks: Can you see Teixeira spending the offseason working on learning how to play third base?
No, definitely not. Mark Teixeira did come up through the minors as a third baseman — he originally moved to first base with the Rangers to make room for Hank Blalock (!) — but that was a very long time ago. He hasn’t played third base since 2003 and even now he’s at the age when most third baseman move across the diamond to first base, not vice versa. (He turns 36 in April.) There was some chatter about moving Teixeira to third base back in 2009 when Alex Rodriguez started the season on the DL, but the Yankees quickly shot that down. If I’m remembering correctly, Teixeira said something like “there’s a reason I don’t play third base anymore.” So yeah. Can’t see it happened.
Sal asks: How about Rajai Davis joining the Yanks this year? He’s hit lefties very well over the course of his career. I know he’s never been raved about defensively, but he could be used to spell Gardner/Ellsbury against southpaws: he does have a .798 career OPS against them. At 35, he won’t be fetching a big multi-year deal, and definitely won’t get the QO.
Remember how Davis used to torment the Yankees when he was with the Blue Jays? He was such a pain in the ass. Davis is an excellent righty platoon outfielder, hitting .302/.341/.510 (135 wRC+) against lefties with the Tigers the last two years. He crushed southpaws with Toronto too. Davis isn’t a 40+ steal guy anymore and his defense is just okay, less than what you’d expect from a speed guy, but he’s still a quality platoon option.
I still think Davis could pull in a two-year contract this offseason even at age 35 (he just turned 35 last week). Maybe something like two years and $12M? (He just completed a two-year, $10M contract.) I like Davis and think he’d be a really great Chris Young replacement. The only question is whether the Yankees want to commit that much money to an extra outfielder. (And whether Davis feels he can get a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere.)
Mark asks: I was wondering if you could break down 2015 Didi stats vs 2014 Jeter stats and explain why Didi gets praised and Jeter gets bashed.
Gregorius will never in a million years have Jeter’s career, but the 2015 version of Didi was much better than the 2014 version of Jeter. He out-hit him in every way — more power, more average, more on-base ability — and was a far superior defender. You don’t even need to look at the defensive stats. Your eyes should have told you Gregorius was a way better gloveman than Jeter this summer.
Jeter was an all-time great Yankee. Yet, at the end of his career, he was a drain on the Yankees. Going from Jeter in 2014 to Didi in 2015 was a substantial upgrade even though Gregorius had plenty of rough patches himself.
Greg asks: Now that 20, 42, 46, and 51 have been retired by the Yankees, what happens to number 21?
I have no idea what the Yankees are planning to do with No. 21. They dedicated a plaque in Monument Park in Paul O’Neill’s honor, so now what? Are they going to not retire the number but keep it out of circulation? The plaque in Monument Park is pretty cool and that seems like enough to me. I say give No. 21 to someone like Greg Bird or Luis Severino, a young homegrown guy who impressed and already won over fans this year. O’Neill hasn’t played in 14 years now. Let’s get the number back on the field.
T.J. asks: With Alex Gordon likely opting for free agency, what about a bundle deal of Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran to the Royals? Beltran might waive his no-trade to go back to a proven winner and his original team. This would open up all sorts of possibilities in free agency.
That’s pretty interesting, I hadn’t though about that. Beltran has a full no-trade clause and has wanted to play for the Yankees forever, so I don’t think he’d waive his no-trade clause at this point, even to go to a contender like the Royals. (Boy, that is a weird sentence, huh?) Gardner would make a lot of sense as Gordon’s replacement because he fits their speed and defense mold — he probably strikes out a little too much for Kansas City’s liking though — and is relatively affordable. Gardner with three years and $39.5M guaranteed left on his contract is a really great deal. The Royals aren’t going to be in any of the big free agent outfielders (Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, etc.) and Gordon is heading for $100M or so himself, so Gardner might make a lot of sense for them. Interesting.
Mike asks: What is more likely (even if it’s 0.002 to 0.001% chance) – the Yankees and Mariners make a Ellsbury/Cano deal, or the Yankees sign Daniel Murphy?
The Yankees sign Murphy, by a mile. There is no reason think the Mariners would be open to a Robinson Cano-for-Jacoby Ellsbury swap, even with other stuff thrown in. Cano is the substantially better player, so much so that shedding the extra three years and $70M isn’t worth it. They’re both terrible, awful, no good contracts. But at least Cano is still a great player. (He finished the season at .287/.334/.446, 116 wRC+ after the dreadful start, so yeah.) I Don’t think the Yankees will sign Murphy either, but gosh, I can see that happened long before I could see a Cano-for-Ellsbury swap.
Matt asks: Given the Yankees presumed reluctance to add another “big name/contract” starter this offseason, with the exception of maybe Jeff Samardzija, what do you think it might take to acquire Jonathan Niese? His name has been brought up in previous mailbags, going back sometime now, and I’m sure there will be more than a couple clubs inquiring about his availability during the off-season.
Niese turned 29 earlier this week and he didn’t have a good regular season, pitching to a 4.13 ERA (4.41 FIP) in 176.2 innings. He sat in the 3.50 ERA/3.70 FIP range the last few years while dealing with on and off elbow and shoulder problems. Niese’s contract is affordable — he’s owed $9M next season with club options for 2017 ($10M) and 2018 ($10.5M) — and I don’t think the Mets will be desperate to move that money, especially with Bartolo Colon coming off the books this winter.
Going forward, I think you have to treat Niese as more of a 4.00 ERA guy than a 3.50 ERA guy — maybe even a little higher than that in the AL — because his strikeouts are way down (14.7% in 2015) and he doesn’t crack 90 mph often these days. This might just be who he is at this point of his career. Who in recent years fits as a comparable trade we can reference? Mat Latos? Ian Kennedy? Those seem like the best fits, which means we’re probably talking about two good but not great prospects.
The Yankees have a lot warm bodies for the rotation and while adding depth isn’t a bad thing, I think they should look for an impact starter this winter. Not another depth guy like Niese. He doesn’t move the needle a whole lot. Also, I think the Mets will keep Niese as rotation insurance. Their young starters sure are throwing a lot of stressful innings this postseason. They have to be mindful of any carryover effect next year.
James asks: Tino Martinez is listed as a special assistant to the General Manager. What are the responsibilities of that position? The list I saw on Wikipedia also shows Reggie Jackson & Stump Merrill as holding the same position.
Tino and Reggie do a lot of work on the minor league side, from what I understand. They’re roamers, basically. They travel to the various affiliates and work with the team’s prospects during the season. I believe Tino also helped do some trade deadline prep work, going out and scouting players and whatnot. I have no idea what Merrill does but I think he’s based in Tampa. George Steinbrenner handed out a lot of these “special assistant” jobs — George was generous if nothing else, he made sure guys had jobs for life — and a lot of them were do-nothing gigs. That’s not the case with Tino and Reggie though. They’re constantly going around and working with minor leaguers.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Dolphins and Patriots are the Thursday NFL game, plus the Devils, Islanders, and Knicks are all playing as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.