Thoughts following the Chris Sale blockbuster trade

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Earlier today, the White Sox agreed to trade ace lefty Chris Sale not to the Nationals, but to the Red Sox. Boston is giving up four prospects: infielder Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Basabe, and right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz. Moncada and Kopech are the headliners. That is quite the blockbuster. I have some thoughts on the trade and its indirect impact on the Yankees.

1. First things first: I though the Red Sox were the clear AL East favorites before adding Sale and the trade only reinforces that belief. They added a bonafide ace, one of the five best pitchers in baseball, and gave up nothing off their projected Major League roster to do it. That’s pretty awesome for them. The Yankees are in the middle of this transition phase and the Sale trade doesn’t change their short-term outlook much. They’ll have to face him a few more times a year going forward and things like that, but it’s not like their 2017 postseason chances just took a big hit. Meh.

2. Don’t expect the Yankees to go out and make some kind of knee-jerk reactionary move. They haven’t operated that way — meaning make a move to counter a move by a rival — in a very long time. It would be kinda pointless too. The Yankees and Red Sox are playing for two very different things right now, like it or not. The Yankees have a clearly defined goal. They want to develop a new young core while getting under the luxury tax threshold in the near future to create payroll flexibility, so when those young players are ready to win, they’ll be able to spend and spend big. Not everyone likes it or agrees with it, but that’s the plan. Going out and doing what, spending big on Edwin Encarnacion?, would be counterproductive. It’d do more harm than good.

3. I never really bought the “this isn’t a good time for the Yankees to get Sale because they’re not legitimate World Series contenders” logic. Brian Cashman said something to that effect at his end-of-season press conference. There is never a bad time to get a guy like Sale, a 27-year-old legitimate No. 1 starter signed for another three seasons at a very affordable rate. You go get him and figure out the rest. He’d be the centerpiece of this transition and speed the process up. Whether the Yankees had the pieces to get a deal done (they certainly do) and would have been willing to go that high is another matter. Point is, acquiring a player of this caliber should never be ruled out just because you may not be a World Series contender right now. The logic is faulty.

4. The Red Sox swooped in and pulled the rug right out from under the Nationals, who were reportedly ready to send top prospects Victor Robles and Lucas Giolito (and others) to the ChiSox for Sale. Washington reportedly came up short with Mark Melancon this offseason and Yoenis Cespedes last offseason too. Ouch. Clearly they want to improve their rotation, so would it make sense for the Yankees to offer up Masahiro Tanaka? Tanaka isn’t as valuable as Sale for a few reasons (opt-out clause, more expensive, injury history), but he’s really freaking good, and the Nationals just might be desperate enough to bundle top prospects to get him at this point. It would be foolish for the Yankees to not check in, at least. You never know what the other team might say. Now that Sale is off the board, New York should put Tanaka on the table and gauge the trade market, especially if they’re expecting him to opt-out next year. It never hurts to listen to offers.

Quintana. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Quintana. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

5. I assume the White Sox are open for business now. Trading Sale for prospects and keeping everyone else would be pointless. How could the Yankees take advantage? The first name that jumps to mind is Jose Quintana. He’s not Chris Sale, but he’s really good himself, and he’s signed affordably for another four years (owed $37.85M total). The Yankees have a clear need for long-term rotation help and southpaws in Yankee Stadium are always appreciated. Quintana is a long-term buy who makes so much sense for the Yankees. Todd Frazier could be of interest too, though he’ll be a free agent next winter. Relievers Nate Jones and David Robertson would be lower cost alternatives to Aroldis Chapman. I suppose the Yankees could go after Jose Abreu for first base, but they already have a new DH and need to keep at-bats open for Greg Bird and/or Tyler Austin. Abreu would have made more sense before the Matt Holliday signing. Quintana’s the prize here. He’s the player the Yankees should target if (and when?) the White Sox continue their fire sale. You can’t keep all the prospects, you know. Some are more valuable as trade chips.

6. So I guess it’s good the Yankees have all these young right-handed bats, huh? Gary Sanchez is the obvious centerpiece of the offense, but Austin and Aaron Judge arrived this past season as well, and both Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres aren’t too far away either. (Frazier is closer than Torres.) The Red Sox have four left-handed starters under control for the foreseeable future (Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz) and both the Blue Jays (J.A. Happ, Francisco Liriano) and Rays (Blake Snell, Drew Smyly) have some southpaws too. Who knows whether the timetables will match up and those southpaws will still be in the AL East when the bats are all ready in a year or two, but I do know watching Sanchez take Sale deep over the Green Monster will be fun as hell next summer.

Scouting the Trade Market: Brandon McCarthy

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Now that they have a new DH, the Yankees figure to focus on “pitching, pitching, pitching” this offseason. The free agent class really stinks though, especially with Rich Hill now off the board. Hal Steinbrenner recently said the Yankees could go into Spring Training with competition for two rotation spots, but I know I’m not alone when I say I’d like to see the Yankees add some pitching depth. Starters and relievers, ideally.

Because the free agent class is so thin, the Yankees and every other team figure to turn to the trade market. A young pitcher with considerable upside would be ideal given the club’s long-term outlook. Unfortunately every other team is looking for the exact same player, which complicates things. Acquiring a pitcher like that is going to cost you. The Yankees might have to get creative to address their rotation this winter, both short and long-term.

The Dodgers are among the few teams with excess pitching depth, so much so that Buster Olney reports they are shopping some veteran starters, including Brandon McCarthy. This isn’t the first time the Dodgers have shopped McCarthy — reports at the trade deadline indicated he was part of a proposed Yasiel Puig-for-Ryan Braun trade as a way to offseason salary — so he’s very available. Does a reunion make sense? Let’s look.

Recent Performance

The Dodgers gave the 33-year-old McCarthy a four-year deal worth $48M two offseasons ago, and in the first two years of the contract, he threw only 63 total innings due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 5.29 ERA (4.62 FIP) in those 63 total innings, including a 4.95 ERA (3.70 FIP) in 40 innings this past season. McCarthy’s strikeout rate (25.7%) was good. The walk (15.2%) and ground ball (34.7%) rates … not so much.

McCarthy returned from Tommy John surgery as a starter this past July, and after five good starts back, the wheels came off. He completely lost the zone in August and walked exactly five in three consecutive starts. McCarthy is usually an extreme strike thrower — he hadn’t walked as many as four in a start since 2009 — and he admitted to developing a case of the yips.

“Coming back from Tommy John, you’re not worried your career is over. The yips was a whole different thing,” said McCarthy to Eric Stephen in September. “(You’re thinking) ‘I don’t ever know if I can throw a baseball in a competitive Major League Baseball game.'”

McCarthy bounced back with a strong start in September — he walked one in 5.2 innings — before being shifted to the bullpen as part of a postseason roster audition. He made one relief appearance, faced six batters, and retired none of them. Five hits, one walk, six runs, zero outs. Ouch. That disaster outing raised McCarthy’s overall season numbers from a 3.60 ERA (3.62 FIP) to that 4.95 ERA (3.70 FIP).

Back in 2014, his last healthy season, McCarthy authored a 4.05 ERA (3.55 FIP) in exactly 200 innings. That includes a 2.89 ERA (3.22 FIP) with 22.2% strikeouts, 3.5% walks, and 49.1% grounders in 14 starts and 90.1 innings with the Yankees after coming over from the Diamondbacks. That’s the McCarthy whatever team acquires him will be hoping to get.

Current Stuff

When the Yankees had McCarthy for those few months in 2014, he operated with three low-to-mid-90s fastballs (four-seam, sinker, cutter) and a hard low-80s slurve. The Yankees famously allowed him to start throwing the cutter again after Arizona had him put him on the shelf for whatever reason. “I feel like myself again … I feel like I need that pitch to be successful,” he said after the trade.

That was two years and one elbow ligament ago. Things change. In his nine starts back following Tommy John surgery this year, McCarthy averaged right around 92 mph with his three fastballs — he did hump the four-seamer up as high as 95.5 mph — and 80 mph with the breaking ball. That’s down a tick from his time in New York. Here’s some video from his first start back from elbow reconstruction this year:

Let’s quickly compare the effectiveness of McCarthy’s individual pitches this year to his time with the Yankees, just to see how far away he is from being that guy.

  • Four-seamer: 11.9% whiffs/25.0% grounders in 2016 vs. 12.3%/40.4% in 2014
  • Sinker: 5.4%/54.5% in 2016 vs. 10.6%/54.1% in 2014
  • Cutter: 8.9%/30.0% in 2016 vs. 7.9%/44.4% in 2014
  • Slurve: 5.6%/34.2% in 2016 vs. 12.5%/61.7% in 2014

A decline pretty much across the board, which isn’t the most surprising thing in the world considering it was his first few starts back from major elbow reconstruction. Also, keep in mind we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. We have no choice, really. McCarthy didn’t spend much time with the Yankees and he hasn’t thrown much since returning from Tommy John surgery.

There are two pieces of good news, I’d say. One, McCarthy retained most of his velocity. He didn’t come back throwing in the upper-80s or anything like that. And two, he still has all his pitches. He’s regained feel for everything. Acquiring McCarthy means hoping he looks more and more like the 2014 version of himself as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction. Reasonable? Sure. Not guaranteed to happen though.

Injury History

This is where it gets really ugly. McCarthy has been on the disabled list every season but one since 2007. That was his 2014 season with the D-Backs and Yankees, conveniently his contract year. Good timing, I’d say. McCarthy’s list of injuries is scary. He’s not a guy who missed some time here and there with a pulled hamstring and things like that. Check it out:

  • 2007: Missed more than two months with a blister and a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2008: Missed almost the entire season with a finger tendon strain and forearm soreness.
  • 2009: Missed more than three months with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2010: Missed almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2011: Missed seven weeks with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2012: Missed three months with a shoulder strain. Also took a line drive to the head in September that required emergency surgery to treat a skull fracture and epidural hemorrhage. Eek.
  • 2013: Missed two months with shoulder soreness.
  • 2014: Healthy!
  • 2015: Missed almost the entire season with Tommy John surgery.
  • 2016: Missed the first three months of the season with Tommy John surgery. Also missed six weeks late in the season with a hip issue.

Goodness. Guys get blisters and the line drive to the head was nothing more than a tragic fluke. But fractured shoulders and torn elbow ligaments? That’s scary. The stress fractures are recurring too. If it happens once, you kinda hope that’s the end of it. When it happens year after year, you have to be concerned going forward. How could you not be?

It’s important to note McCarthy changed up his workout program during the 2013-14 offseason in an effort to keep his shoulder healthy. It wasn’t just offseason workouts either. He does more intense work during the season as well. Nick Piecoro wrote about it a few years ago. The new workouts and elbow ligament could bode well for the future. Given his history though, it’s hard to count on McCarthy to be a 30-start guy going forward.

Contract Status

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

The Yankees tried to re-sign McCarthy two years ago, but they weren’t going to come anywhere close to guaranteeing him four years given his injury history. I wanted McCarthy back too, and I was hoping two years would get it done. Three years made me really nervous. Four years? Forget it. It was perfectly reasonable to walk away at that point.

Los Angeles gave McCarthy that four-year deal worth $48M, and guess what? It was front-loaded. He received a $6M signing bonus and $11M in salary in both 2015 and 2016. He’s owed $10M in both 2016 and 2017. What kind of pitcher can you buy for $10M annually in this free agent class? Not a very good one. Ivan Nova might get $13M a season this winter. Maybe more. Ivan Nova!

Now, $10M a season is not nothing. In the world of starting pitchers though, paying $20M across two years would be a relative bargain if McCarthy gives you, say, 300 league average innings. The pitching market is getting out of hand. The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon, and taking on a $10M luxury tax hit for a starter who is no lock to a) stay healthy, or b) be effective, is a bit dicey.

What About The Yankees?

The key to a potential McCarthy trade would be the intentions of the Dodgers. Are they looking to salary dump him? The Dodgers are reportedly working to lower payroll, partly because they have to meet MLB’s mandated debt limit within two years. Trading McCarthy and freeing up $10M this year and next would certainly help do that.

Or do the Dodgers see him as a legitimate trade piece and expect something of substance in return? That’s my guess. The free agent pitching market stinks and I’m sure more than a few teams would be willing to roll the dice with McCarthy on what is essentially a two-year deal worth $20M. His trade value isn’t high given the injuries, but chances are you won’t get him for a player to be named later or cash either.

The Yankees know McCarthy, and the fact they tried to re-sign him two years ago is an indication they like something about him. Maybe the Tommy John surgery and case of the yips — to be fair, McCarthy seemed to get over that, he walked only two of the 26 batters he faced after those three straight starts with five walks — has changed their mind. It’s certainly possible. Lots can change in two years.

McCarthy wouldn’t solve New York’s need for long-term rotation help, but he would give the team some depth behind Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. They wouldn’t have to reply on youngsters like Luis Cessa and Luis Severino quite as much right out of the gate next year. Taking pressure off the kids would be pretty cool, I think. McCarthy’s contract is not a burden and it might not cost much to get him in a trade. If that’s the case, I think the Yankees should definitely be interested.

Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on May 14th

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Captain is officially heading to Monument Park.

On May 14th, the Yankees will retire Derek Jeter‘s No. 2 and honor him with a plaque on Monument Park, the team announced. That’s a Sunday game against the Astros, which means former teammates Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will be there. Pretty cool.

This, of course, comes as no surprise. It was a matter of when the Yankees would retire No. 2, not if. Jeter is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits (3,465) and games played (2,747), among other things, plus he helped the team to five World Series championships. He’s on the very short list of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.

Now that No. 2 will officially be retired, the Yankees are out of single-digit numbers. Every single one is retired:

  1. Billy Martin
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Lou Gehrig
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Joe Torre
  7. Mickey Mantle
  8. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
  9. Roger Maris

No. 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 20 (Jorge Posada), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 46 (Andy Pettitte), 49 (Ron Guidry), and 51 (Bernie Williams) have all been retired as well. Twenty-one retired numbers in all.

Single-game tickets do not go on sale for a few weeks. Needless to say, tickets for May 14th are going to go fast.

Monday Night Open Thread

Day One of the 2016 Winter Meetings is mostly complete, and while the Yankees didn’t make a move today, other teams made moves that could impact New York. The Dodgers re-signed Rich Hill (three years, $48M) and the Giants signed Mark Melancon (four years, $62M), two players who were connected to the Yankees are various times. Both are off the board now. There are still two really good closers available. Starters? The free agent class is a wasteland now. Yeesh.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Colts and Jets are this week’s Monday Night Football Game, plus the Nets are playing. There’s one college basketball game as well. Discuss those games, the Hill and Melancon deals, and the Winter Meetings in general right here.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Monday

2016-winter-meetingsThe four busiest days of the offseason begin today. Well, three busiest days. Usually everyone heads home following the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. Anyway, the 2016 Winter Meetings begin today at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The Yankees are expected to get down to business today after taking some time to review the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I said, ‘Listen, give me at least 24, 48 more hours to see what sort of information we can get from baseball,'” said Brian Cashman to Ken Davidoff last week. “So hopefully we’ll be able to hit the ground running Monday at the latest, but it’s in our best interest to know what we’re dealing with, first and foremost … Speeding up the process and going with the youth movement is going to play an even more important part now, more than ever with what appears to be some of the restrictions in the marketplace that are occurring here.”

The Yankees picked up Matt Holliday to be their DH last night, but they’re still in the market for “pitching, pitching, pitching.” All types. Starters and relievers, so much so that they’re said to be in on the all the top free agent closers. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often for updates. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 10:30am: Cashman confirmed teams have asked about Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gleyber Torres, and Justus Sheffield this offseason, among others. The GM added he is “open-minded to listen on anything.”. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 10:30am: The Yankees have not yet made a formal offer to Rich Hill, who is said to be closing in a deal with the Dodgers. New York has been connected to Hill all offseason because he is, by far, the best available free agent starter. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:30am: Chase Headley and Brett Gardner both remain available, though “interest is relatively mild” at the moment. [Heyman]
  • 11:47am: The Yankees are among the teams looking for a lefty reliever. I assume this means a matchup guy for the middle innings, not simply Aroldis Chapman. [Heyman]
  • 12:41pm: One of the three top closers is off the board: Mark Melancon has agreed to sign with the Giants. No word on the contract terms yet. I’ll guess … four years and $60M. (Update: It’s four years and $62M.) [Buster Olney]
  • 1:16pm: Rich Hill is off the board. The Dodgers have re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $48M, the team announced. The Yankees had been in contact with him.
  • 1:36pm: The Yankees are one of several teams in “ongoing” talks with Luis Valbuena. He’s looking for multiple years and right now the team thinks his asking price is too high. [Joel Sherman]
  • 1:50pm: Chapman wants a six-year deal and says he deserves $100M+. “The only thing I have expressed is that I would like a six-year contract … There are rumors out there that I requested $100M and that’s not true at all. I believe he who deserves something, does not need to demand it,” he said. [Marly Rivera]
  • 2:45pm: The Yankees have checked in with the Twins about second baseman Brian Dozier. Interesting. He’s better and cheaper than Starlin Castro. Whether the Yankees are willing to give up pretty good prospects to get it done is another matter. [Heyman]
  • 4:07pm: Cashman shot down the Dozier rumor. “I haven’t had any dialogue with the Twins about Dozier. That’s a false report,” he said. So much for that. [MLB Network Radio]
  • 4:21pm: Cashman acknowledged the Yankees are after Chapman, but won’t go all out to sign him. “It’s going to be costly. We’re prepared to a degree to compete for that,” he said. [Casey Stern]
  • 5:15pm: The Yankees are still talking to Kenley Jansen in addition to Chapman. There are also some bullpen trade opportunities, according to Cashman. [Hoch]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Monday Notes: Sabathia, Tanaka, WBC, Otani

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The 2017 Winter Meetings are in full swing down at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center just south of Washington, DC. Here are the day’s Yankees-related rumors and here are some other bits of news and notes.

Sabathia doing well after knee surgery

At a charity event over the weekend, CC Sabathia told Evan Drellich he is doing well following right knee surgery earlier in the offseason. His throwing program is set to begin today. Sabathia had what the Yankees called a “routine clean-up” procedure on his knee after the season, the knee that has given him all that trouble in recent years. The procedure was planned well in advance. It wasn’t a surprise or anything.

Sabathia, 36, is entering the final year of his contract, and he’s probably the second best starter on the team right now. I know if the Yankees were facing a must win game and my choices to start were Sabathia or Michael Pineda, I’d go with Sabathia. Don’t know about you. Sabathia reinvented himself as a cutter pitcher this summer and had his best season since 2012. I’m hopeful the new approach will allow him to remain effective at least one more year. Given his age and all those innings on his arm though, you never really know.

Tanaka wants to pitch in WBC

Even after pitching in the 2009 and 2013 events, Masahiro Tanaka would like to pitch in the World Baseball Classic next spring, he told the Japan Times. “There’s been no development (in my roster status), but of course I have the motivation (to play),” he said. Tanaka threw 9.1 innings across one start and seven relief appearances in the 2009 and 2013 WBCs. He won the title with Japan in 2009.

Japan nor any other team has released their final 2017 WBC roster. Those aren’t due until January. Interestingly enough, Japan did not take any MLB players in the 2013 WBC. Not even Ichiro. It was all NPB players. It’s unclear if that’s a new policy or just a one-time blip. They did use MLB players in the 2006 and 2009 WBCs. If Tanaka wants to pitch, the Yankees can’t stop him. I don’t like the idea of him throwing intense innings in March any more than you do. Blah. Tanaka is one of several Yankees who could wind up playing in the WBC.

Otani hopes to come to MLB next offseason

According to the Japan Times, Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani has told the team he wants to be posted next offseason. He signed a new one-year contract with the (Ham) Fighters over the weekend, ensuring he won’t be posted this winter, but next winter is apparently his target. “I know that the club will respect my will whenever I decide I want to go (to MLB). It is pleasing to get that support and I’m thankful for it,” said Otani.

Otani, who has been working out with Tanaka this offseason, is the best player in the world not under contract with an MLB team. You could argue he’s the best hitter and pitcher not in MLB. Otani will turn 23 in July, meaning he will be subject to the international hard cap put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. My guess is MLB and the MLBPA will agree to make Otani exempt from the hard cap. Either that, or he’s going to come over when his earning potential is severely limited.

Thoughts following the Matt Holliday signing

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees addressed one of their major offseason needs and landed a new DH. The team agreed to sign veteran Matt Holliday to a one-year contract worth $13M. Once he takes his physical and all that — I guess that’s something less than a formality considering a broken thumb effectively ended his season in August — the deal will be official. Until then, here are some thoughts.

1. My quick personal take: I like the signing. I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. It’s a solid, reasonable move. I would have preferred Carlos Beltran on a one-year contract myself, but Carlos had other ideas, so the Yankees moved on to the next best thing. I didn’t want Chris Carter’s or Mike Napoli’s strikeouts, or Brandon Moss’ or Pedro Alvarez’s pulled grounders into the shift. Holliday is, as announcers like to say, a professional hitter who is going to grind out at-bats. That’s pretty cool. The Yankees have lacked that in recent years. Plus Holliday is said to be a great clubhouse guy, and that’s important, especially with the team focusing on getting younger. The kids need someone to show them the way.

2. I’m really glad the Yankees did the sensible thing and stuck to a one-year contract. Edwin Encarnacion is awesome — that dude is absolutely terrifying at the plate — but committing huge dollars to a DH is not something the Yankees should be doing right now. They just got rid of how many expensive DHs this year, three? Maybe four? Whatever the number is, it was too many. The Yankees are trending young and that’s pretty damn exciting. Spending big on an inflexible DH would have complicated things, especially since the team is trying to get under the luxury tax threshold. Encarnacion would make sense if the Yankees were on the postseason bubble and trying to get over the hump, not trying to groom their next young core. A one-year deal was always the way to go.

3. One reason to expect Holliday’s numbers to bounce back next season: his .253 BABIP was by far a career low and well below his career .333 BABIP. That happened even though his hard contact rate (38.5%) was comfortably above the MLB average (31.4%) and his career average (35.6%). In fact, among the 375 players to put at least 100 balls in play this past season, Holliday had the third highest average exit velocity (94.7 mph). Only Nelson Cruz (95.9 mph) and Giancarlo Stanton (95.1 mph) were better. Miguel Cabrera (94.5 mph) was fourth. That is some good company. Also, according to Mike Petriello, Holliday put 42.5% of his balls in play at 100 mph or better, the fourth best rate in baseball. Exit velocity isn’t everything — it’s possible to hit a 100 mph pop-up, you know — but it’s not nothing either. Holliday can still strike the ball with authority. That suggests that .253 BABIP, which was so far out of line with the rest of his career, might not last.

4. One more reason to expect Holliday’s numbers to bounce back next season: the guy hits to all fields. A right-handed hitter who can go to right field will be rewarded in Yankee Stadium. Handsomely too. Here is Holliday’s spray chart from this past season, via Baseball Savant:

matt-holliday

That is a beautiful thing. Holliday, even at age 36, still hit for power to all fields this summer. Homers and doubles, from foul pole to foul pole. (I won’t hold my breath waiting for triples.) There’s nothing wrong with pulling the ball. Not at all. But being to hit for power to all three fields is what separates great hitters from good hitters, and over the course of his career, Holliday has truly been a great hitter. That .303/.382/.515 (137 wRC+) batting line in nearly 7,500 plate appearances ain’t no accident. This dude is a total pro at the plate.

5. The key to the Holliday signing is keeping him out of the outfield. He’s a very poor defensive left fielder and has been for years. Both the eye test and the defensive stats agree on that. The Yankees should consider him an emergency option out there only. The team has enough outfield depth that I’m hopeful Holliday won’t have to play left field at all. Even if the Yankees trade Brett Gardner, there’s still Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, and Mason Williams, and those are only the 40-man roster guys. Holliday has ten games of experience at first base, all in 2016, so if he does need to play the field, hopefully it’s there. The entire point is getting off his feet though. Holliday’s an older player, and the entire idea behind the signing is that limiting him to DH will help keep him healthy and prevent him from wearing down later in the season. If he ends up playing the field regularly, either at first base or left field, it’s a problem.

6. There is still an awful lot of offseason left to go, so it’s silly to think the Yankees are done making moves. But, as it stands right now, the lineup probably looks something like this, realistically:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 3B Chase Headley

Eh? That leaves Austin Romine, Ronald Torreyes, Hicks, and either Austin or Refsnyder on the bench. Gardner and/or Headley could still be traded, which would obviously change things, but that’s the lineup right now, on December 5th. I have no idea whether that lineup can score runs at an above-average rate. At least it’s mostly young with some upside. That’ll be fun.

7. Ridiculously premature 2017-18 offseason thought: I hope the Yankees are in on Carlos Santana, who will be a free agent. He’s always been a personal favorite — switch-hitters with power and patience are my jam — and he’d step right into Holliday’s roster spot and annual salary slot nicely. Santana, who turns 31 in April, will command multiple years though, which could throw a wrench into the long-term payroll plans. Otherwise he’d be a really great fit as a most of the time DH/part-time first baseman/emergency catcher. I’ll spend the next eleven months pretending Holliday is a placeholder for Santana. That sounds good.