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.
The 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.
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
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.
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:
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:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- C Gary Sanchez
- DH Matt Holliday
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 2B Starlin Castro
- 1B Greg Bird
- RF Aaron Judge
- 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.
2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot
Top stories from last week:
- A few hours before the current deal was set to expire, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here are the details. The CBA is good and bad for the Yankees.
- The Yankees agreed to sign Matt Holliday to a one-year deal worth $13M to be their new DH. Carlos Beltran opted to sign with the Astros two days earlier. The Yankees could go into Spring Training with two open rotation spots.
- Jacob Lindgren signed with the Braves after being non-tendered by the Yankees. Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Rumbelow, and Joe Mantiply were all released after being designated for assignment.
- Minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson left the Yankees to join the Twins as their Major League hitting coach. Rowson left worked with all the team’s top prospects over the years.
- Dellin Betances has committed to pitch for Dominican Republic, not Team USA, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
- The Today’s Game Era Committee did not vote George Steinbrenner into the Hall of Fame.
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Earlier tonight, the Today’s Game Era Committee announced former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime executive John Schuerholz have been voted into the Hall of Fame. George Steinbrenner was one of eight others on the ballot who did not receive enough votes for induction.
The Today’s Game Era Committee is one of four new Hall of Fame committees. They’re the descendant of the old Veterans Committee. Each of the four committees — Early Baseball (1871-1949), Golden Days (1950-69), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Today’s Game (1988-16) — meets every few years.
Each committee consists of 16 members (Hall of Famers, executives, media) and 12 votes are needed for induction into the Hall of Fame. Steinbrenner received five. For shame. Schuerholz, the long time Royals and Braves general manager, was voted in unanimously. Selig received 15 votes.
Steinbrenner was been up for Hall of Fame induction several times over the years. He purchased the Yankees in 1973 and brought the franchise back to prominence. There’s no doubt Steinbrenner was polarizing. He was also a key figure in baseball for over 30 years. Is that enough to get into the Hall of Fame? Apparently not.
Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire, and Lou Piniella were also on the Today’s Game ballot this year. The BBWAA’s Hall of Fame selections will be announced next month.
- R.J. Anderson profiled Jonathan Judge, a full-time attorney and part-time baseball analyst who developed Deserved Run Average, or DRA. It’s an insanely complicated pitching metric that attempts to account for … well, everything. Make sure you check that out.
- This is from October, but I didn’t get around to reading it until today: Andrew Marchand spoke to both Brian Cashman and Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti about how the Andrew Miller trade went down. Cashman started doing the legwork weeks in advance, before he even knew whether Hal Steinbrenner would give him the okay to sell at the deadline.
- A non-baseball link: Marah Eakin put together an oral history of the obstacle course on Double Dare, the old Nickelodeon show. I grew up watching the show and not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could go through that mess of an obstacle course. What a fun trip down memory lane.
- On more non-baseball link: Nick Paumgarten wrote about America’s most exclusive restaurant, called Damon Baehrel and located south of Albany. The one-man show features almost all homegrown ingredients, and the tables are booked through 2025. Or at least that’s what the owner claims.
Friday: This is tonight’s open thread. Not a whole lot going on in the world of sports this evening. Just the Knicks and one college hoops game. It’s Friday night though. Go out and get some fresh air.
Saturday: Once again, this is the open thread. The Rangers and Devils are playing right now while the Nets will be in action a little later. There’s also a boatload of college basketball and football. Have at it.
Sunday: Here is the open thread for the last time. The Islanders and Knicks are on, plus there’s all the day’s NFL action and college hoops as well. Talk about all that stuff and more right here.