Update: Yankees name Kevin Reese new farm system head

Reese during his playing days. (Getty)
Reese during his playing days. (Getty)

Friday: The Yankees announced Reese’s move this morning. His official title is senior director of player development. There’s no word yet on who will replace him as the head of the pro scouting department.

Thursday: According to George King, the Yankees will name Kevin Reese their new farm system head, replacing the departed Gary Denbo. Denbo ran the farm system from 2015-17 before leaving to join Derek Jeter and the Marlins last month. The Yankees have not yet officially announced Reese as the player development chief. I imagine it’ll happen soon.

Reese, 39, spent the 2002-07 seasons as a depth outfielder in the farm system, and he did manage to appear in 12 games with the Yankees from 2005-06. He joined the club as a scout in 2008 and has gradually worked his way up the ladder. Most recently, Reese was the director of pro scouting. He took over the department when Billy Eppler left to join the Angels.

Over the last three years Denbo turned the farm system into a player development machine after it’d been unproductive for years under Mark Newman. It’s not just the Aaron Judges and Gary Sanchezes and Luis Severinos. Others like Jordan Montgomery are quite valuable too. Now Reese will be in charge of making sure the pipeline remains productive. If nothing else, he still has a lot of talent to work with.

The Yankees reportedly interviewed four candidates to replace Denbo, all internal: Reese, director of minor league operations Eric Schmitt, director of performance science John Kremer, and field coordinator Carlos Mendoza. The Yankees tend to promote from within for these jobs. Now they have to replace Reese as the pro scouting department head, though I’m sure they have someone lined up.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: October & November 2012

(Jeff Gross/Getty)
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

We’re now into yet another new month, which means it is once again time to go back through the MLB Trade Rumors archives. We have two months to cover, actually. I forgot skipped October because things were hectic during the postseason. October is a slow month for trade and free agent rumors anyway. So I’m going to combine October and November here. Easy enough, right?

Anyway, the Yankees finished the 2012 season in first place at 95-67. They beat the Orioles in five games in the ALDS before getting swept by the Tigers in the ALCS. A disappointing finish to the season, that was. The big story going into the 2012-13 offseason was the futures of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, as well as the impending free agencies of Nick Swisher and Hiroki Kuroda, and Rafael Soriano‘s opt-out clause. Let’s go back through October and November rumor mill.

October 2nd, 2012: AL East Notes: Banuelos, Farrell, Ortiz, Steinbrenner

Though the Yankees went from a big AL East lead in mid-summer to fighting for the division title with two games left, managing general partner Hank Steinbrenner told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) that the team’s minor collapse won’t lead to any offseason changes.  “Are jobs riding on this? Not that I know of,” Steinbrenner said. “Jobs are not riding on this, but that’s not something I’m concerned about right now. We look at everything in the offseason, as we always do.”

There was a lot of talk about coaching staff changes following the 2012 season because the Yankees collapsed. No one remembers because they won the AL East anyway, but they had a ten-game lead on July 18th. It was gone completely by September 4th, and the Yankees eventually won the division by two games. Joe Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long were on the hot seat, at least in the minds of many fans and media members, though that wasn’t really the case. Hal Steinbrenner said so.

October 8th, 2012: Pettitte Likely To Return Next Season

Throughout the 2012 season, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte has been non-commital when asked whether he would return next year.  However, the 40-year-old gave a strong indication that he will be back in 2013 as he gets ready to take on the Orioles in Game 2 of the ALDS, writes Mark Hale of the New York Post.

I know one thing: I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don’t feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year,” Pettitte said.

Ah yes, another offseason of “will Pettitte retire or won’t Pettitte retire?” I love Andy. He’s the man. But the annual offseason waffling got old after a while. Of course, this time things were different, because Pettitte had retired and unretired earlier in the year. He came back and had his leg broken by a comebacker, cutting his comeback short. Andy eventually admitted he was planning to call it quits (again) after the season before the injury. He didn’t want to go out like that though.

October 8th, 2012: Yankees Designate Cory Wade For Assignment

The Yankees have designated right-hander Cory Wade for assignment, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).  In a related move, Dellin Betances was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Awww, Cory Wade. He was a personal favorite. The Yankees grabbed him from the Rays at midseason in 2011 and he threw 39.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA (3.76 FIP) that year. What a find. It didn’t last though. Wade couldn’t keep the ball in the park in 2012, and finished with a 6.46 ERA (4.51 FIP) in 39 innings. An upper-80s fastball never left him much margin for error.

As for Betances, he started the 2012 season in Triple-A and eventually earned a demotion to Double-A. His line in the minors that year: 6.44 ERA (5.11 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts and 15.7% walks in 131.1 total innings. Shoulder inflammation sent him to the disabled list in mid-August. That was back in the “please figure out how to throw strikes, Dellin” days. Funny how history repeats itself.

October 18th, 2012: Yankees, Marlins Had Preliminary A-Rod Talks

THURSDAY: Marlins president David Samson told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com that there have been “no conversations between the Yankees and the Marlins.”

WEDNESDAY: Earlier today, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman shot down a report from Keith Olbermann which indicated that the club has talked with the Marlins about a possible trade involving Alex Rodriguez.  However, Yankees president Randy Levine and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria have in fact had a casual conversation about relocating the embattled third baseman to Miami, a source tells Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com

Good times, good times. This was shortly after Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the postseason, kicking off the annual “how will the Yankees get rid of A-Rod this offseason?” chatter. Every year, like clockwork. This time we had organizational higher ups involved. Levine said he talked to the Marlins about an A-Rod trade. Samson said no, that conversation didn’t happen. Hmmm, which completely unlikable team president to believe?

October 25th, 2012: Latest On Ichiro, Yankees

Ichiro Suzuki strongly wants to re-sign with the Yankees, a person close to the free agent outfielder told Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Ichiro enjoyed playing in a winning atmosphere with players in his age range this past season, Sherman reports

The “enjoyed playing … with players in his age range” line is too funny. Sad, but funny now looking back on it. Ichiro was 39 years old at the time of this report! Among his teammates in 2012: 38-year-old Derek Jeter, 37-year-old A-Rod, 40-year-old Ibanez, 40-year-old Pettitte, 37-year-old Kuroda. Oy vey.

October 29th, 2012: Yankees Exercise Options For Aardsma, Cano, Granderson

The Yankees announced that they have exercised the 2013 options for right-hander David Aardsma, second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielder Curtis Granderson.

The Cano and Granderson options, both worth $15M, were easy calls. I forgot the Yankees picked up the Aardsma option. They signed him the prior offseason, as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. He had a few setbacks and wound up pitching one whole inning in pinstripes in September 2012. The Yankees picked up his $500,000 option for 2013 … and then released him at the end of Spring Training.

October 31st, 2012: Rafael Soriano Opts Out Of Contract

7:45am: Rafael Soriano will opt out of his contract with the Yankees and elect free agency today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Soriano’s contract includes a $14MM player option for 2013 with a $1.5MM buyout.

Rivera blew out his knee on the Kauffman Stadium warning track, pushing Soriano into the closer’s job, and he was great. Dude went 42-for-46 with a 2.26 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 67.2 innings. After that, Soriano used the (second) opt-out clause in his contract and eventually landed a two-year deal worth $28M with the Nationals. Fun fact: that contract included a ton of deferred money, and the Nationals have to start paying it next year. Soriano will get $2M each January 5th from 2018-24.

October 31st, 2012: East Links: Ortiz, Hunter, Oliver, Marlins, Phillies

The Yankees have some interest in Torii Hunter, reports Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News (on Twitter). Since the Angels are unlikely to make Hunter a qualifying offer, it wouldn’t cost a draft pick to sign him.

I was very much against signing Hunter at the time. He was 36 and I wanted the Yankees to get younger. They had an opening in right field given Swisher’s free agency, and it seemed like a chance to find a younger player to potentially build around going forward. The Yankees wound up re-signing Ichiro. Womp womp.

  • Hunter (two years, $26M): .295/.327.456 (116 wRC+) and +2.7 WAR
  • Ichiro (two years, $13M): .271/.308/.341 (79 wRC+) and +2.6 WAR

WAR says their production was equal from 2013-14. Me? I’ll take the good bat/bad glove guy over the bad bat/good glove every day of the week.

November 2nd, 2012: Soriano, Swisher, Kuroda Obtain Qualifying Offers From Yankees

The Yankees extended qualifying offers to Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher and Hiroki Kuroda, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The players now have one week to accept or decline the offers.

Fun fact: the qualifying offer was worth only $13.3M during the 2012-13 offseason. It’s $17.4M this offseason. It was an easy decision to give all three guys the qualifying offer. And they all declined it. Kuroda wound up re-signing with the Yankees. Swisher went to the Indians and Soriano went to the Nats, and with the compensation draft picks, the Yankees took Aaron Judge and Ian Clarkin, respectively. That Swisher trade, man. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Four great years from Swisher and now at least one MVP caliber year from Judge.

November 3rd, 2012: AL East Links: Swisher, Orioles, Ross, Cabral

The Yankees intend to keep 2011 Rule 5 Draft pick Cesar Cabral and give him another look in Spring Training, reports Chad Jennings of The Journal News. Cabral, a left-hander, missed all of this season with an elbow injury.

The Yankees liked Cabral so much they traded up to get him in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft — in a prearranged deal, the Royals selected Cabral and traded him to the Yankees for $100,000 (Cabral wouldn’t have made it to New York’s pick) — then kept him around for a second Rule 5 year. Rule 5 players have to spend 90 days on the active roster, and since Cabral missed 2012 with the elbow injury, the Rule 5 Draft rules carried over to 2013. All told, he allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings for the Yankees. He plunked three batters in his final appearance, you may remember.

November 3rd, 2012: Mariano Rivera To Return In 2013

Mariano Rivera informed Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman that he wants to return next season, tweets Erik Boland of Newsday.  The closer is now a free agent after finishing up his two-year, $30MM contract.

This was when we found out Rivera was planning to retire following the 2012 season. Then he blew out his knee in Kansas City, and decided he didn’t want to go out like that. I wonder what would’ve happened had Mo not hurt his knee, and instead followed through on his plan to retire following 2012. Hmmm. Do the Yankees re-sign Soriano to close? Do they hand the reins to David Robertson a year earlier? And if so, do they re-sign Robertson after two great years as closer? That likely means no Andrew Miller, and then no Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield. Intrigue!

November 5th, 2012: Yankees Claim Eli Whiteside

The Yankees announced that they claimed catcher Eli Whiteside off of waivers from the Giants.

In the coming days lots of players will hit the waiver wire as teams clean up their 40-man roster. These days the Yankees are a team that loses players on waivers in November, like Blake Parker and Kirby Yates last year. Once upon a time they were a team claiming random players for depth. That was the case in 2012.

A complete list of players the Yankees claimed on waivers during the 2012-13 offseason: Eli Whiteside, David Herndon, Josh Spence, Mickey Storey, Jim Miller, Russ Canzler, Dan Otero, Sam Demel. Whiteside, Storey, Canzler, and Otero were all lost on waivers later in the offseason. Otero’s gone on to have a few solid years as a middle reliever for the Athletics and Indians. Everyone else? Nope. Yet they all spent time on the 40-man roster. Miller actually had cups of coffee with the Yankees in both 2013 and 2014. Huh. Had a 20.25 ERA both years too. Gave up Xander Bogaerts’ first career dinger.

I embedded that just so any visiting Red Sox fans can remember what it looked like Bogaerts had power.

November 5th, 2012: Soria Would Set Up For Yanks; Eight Other Teams Interested

Oscar Suarez, the agent for Joakim Soria, has received calls from eight contending teams expressing interest in his client, writes Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Suarez has yet to hear from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, but says that Soria would be more than willing to pitch in a setup role for his idol, Mariano Rivera.

Remember Greg Holland last offseason? That was Soria back during the 2012-13 offseason. He was a formerly elite closer who hadn’t pitched at all the prior season as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. In Soria’s case it was his second career Tommy John surgery, which adds another layer of concern.

Everyone wanted Soria back then. It’s so very easy to dream on these guys coming back from elbow reconstruction good as new, and dominating. How often does that happen? Very rarely. Soria eventually signed a two-year deal worth $8M with the Rangers, and gave them 57 innings with a 3.16 ERA (2.15 FIP). That one worked out. Texas traded Soria to the Tigers for Corey Knebel at the 2014 trade deadline, then a year later they traded Knebel to the Brewers for Yovani Gallardo. D’oh.

November 12th, 2012: Yankees, Red Sox Interested In Napoli

2:38pm: The Yankees are also interested in Napoli, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter). The Yankees have a need at catcher, since Russell Martin has also hit free agency. Both Napoli and Martin have strong career numbers against left-handed pitching.

The Yankees lost Martin to the Pirates during the 2013-13 offseason without even making him an offer, which annoyed me to no end. He only wanted a three-year deal and later said he’d take a one-year deal, but nope, Yankees let him go, and we were saddled with the Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli/Austin Romine mishmash in 2013. Next time you feel like complaining about Gary Sanchez‘s passed balls, remember that season.

Martin and Napoli were the two top free agent catchers that offseason. And Napoli never caught again. He agreed to a three-year, $39M deal with the Red Sox, but it was discovered he had a degenerative condition in both hips during his pre-signing physical, so they cut their offer to one-year and $13M, and moved him to first base. I was very Mad Online about the catcher situation going into 2013.

November 13th, 2012: AL East Links: Ibanez, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox

Dan Martin of The New York Post reports that the Yankees have had “preliminary discussions” about bringing Raul Ibanez back as a platoon player next season. The 40-year-old played more than the club would have liked this year due to Brett Gardner‘s injury.

We all remember the clutch homers. They were awesome. The fact of the matter though was Ibanez was 40 years old, and he’d hit .240/.308/.453 (102 wRC+) in 2012, which pretty much sucks for a bad defense corner outfielder-slash-DH. There were plenty of reasons to stay the hell away. Then Ibanez went back to the Mariners and hit .242/.306/.487 (121 wRC+) with 29 homers in 2013. Go figure.

November 14th, 2012: Marlins Shopping Morrison; Nolasco May Be Traded

The Yankees are among the teams with an interest in Nolasco, Erik Boland of Newsday reports (on Twitter). The right-hander has one year and $11.5MM remaining on his contract with Miami. The Rockies had interest in Nolasco last winter and could inquire about him, Troy Renck of the Denver Post suggested this morning (on Twitter).

I was pro-Nolasco back then, when most baseball analysis was “ignore the hundreds and hundreds of innings of crummy run prevention because one of these years his ERA will match his FIP!” Nolasco had a 4.48 ERA (3.57 FIP) in 2012 and was a good bet to chew up innings. The Marlins didn’t trade him that offseason though. They sent him to the Dodgers at the deadline, a few months before he became a free agent, for nothing in particular. I’m pretty sure Nolasco in Yankee Stadium would’ve set a new single-season home runs allowed record. (Current record: 50 by Bert Blyleven in 1986.)

November 20th, 2012: Yankees Agree To Terms With Hiroki Kuroda

The Yankees have retained their most consistent starter from 2012 as the club has agreed to terms on a one-year, $15MM contract with Hiroki Kuroda, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter links).  Kuroda is represented by the Octagon agency.

Welcome back, Hiroki. Kuroda was just the best, wasn’t he? Three years with the Yankees, all one-year contracts, totaling 620 innings with a 3.44 ERA (3.68 FIP) and +12.0 WAR.

Man it would be so awesome to add 2012-14 Kuroda to the 2018 Yankees. What a stud.

November 20th, 2012: Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees Interested In Stephen Drew

Shortstop Stephen Drew is drawing interest from such clubs as the Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees, reports CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.  Drew became a free agent after the A’s declined their half of a $10MM mutual option in October, though Oakland is still interested in re-signing the Scott Boras client at a lower price.

The Stephen Drew love goes back a long, long time. The Yankees wanted him long before getting him at the 2014 trade deadline. They were after him during the 2012-13 offseason. Drew signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox that offseason and hit .253/.333/.443 (108 wRC+) in 2013. Why couldn’t he do that in pinstripes?

November 24th, 2012: Yankees Have Interest In Jeff Keppinger

The Yankees have “renewed (their) longstanding interest” in free agent utility man Jeff Keppinger, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. People within the industry think the team may be laying groundwork to use Alex Rodriguez as the primary DH as soon as 2013, which GM Brian Cashman refuted.

Good gravy Jeff Keppinger was still a thing in 2012? Apparently so. The internet tells me he hit .325/.367/.439 (128 wRC+) with the Rays in 2012. What the what. The White Sox gave him three years and $12M, then he hit .253/.283/.317 (62 wRC+) in 2013 and was released in May 2014. The Yankees always seemed to be connected to Keppinger because he could kinda sorta hit and play a few different positions. Keppinger, Ty Wigginton, Mark DeRosa … the Yankees were always connected to those dudes without ever actually signing one of them.

November 26th, 2012: Seven Teams Interested In Victorino

B.J. Upton‘s name has dominated the conversation regarding free agent center fielders lately, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Indians, Rangers, Yankees, Giants, Rays, Red Sox and Reds all have interest in another free agent center fielder — Shane Victorino.

Victorino, like Hunter, was not someone I wanted the Yankees to sign. He was 32 at the time, which isn’t old by any means, but he’d just hit .255/.321/.383 (94 wRC+) in 2012, and was trending down. I thought the Red Sox were asking for trouble when they gave him a three-year deal worth $39M. Then he hit .294/.351/.451 (119 wRC+) in 2013. Pretty much every free agent the Red Sox signed in 2013 worked out perfectly. Annoying! Victorino was awful in 2014 and 2015, but by then, no one cared. The 2013 World Series title made the contract worth it.

November 28th, 2012: Yankees To Sign Andy Pettitte

The Yankees announced that they have signed Andy Pettitte to a one-year, Major League contract. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, who first reported the deal, adds that it’s worth $12MM (on Twitter). The contract also includes $2.5MM in awards bonuses according to Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News (on Twitter). Excel Sports Management now represents the 40-year-old left-hander. 

Welcome back, Andy. He retired after the 2010 season and yet here were the Yankees, giving him $12M in November 2012. And everyone was totally cool with it.

November 29th, 2012: Yankees Agree To Terms With Mariano Rivera

The Yankees have agreed with closer Mariano Rivera on a one-year contract for 2013, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).  The deal is worth $10MM in guaranteed money, plus extra performance and awards incentives.  Rivera is represented by SFX.

Welcome back, Mariano. In the span of ten days the Yankees handled three major pieces of offseason business by re-signing Kuroda, Pettitte, and Rivera. They committed $37M to three players who averaged 41 years of age, and they were basically the three best pitchers on the team in 2013. Those three gave the team 450.2 innings of 3.32 ERA ball.

November 30th, 2012: Yankees Designate Jayson Nix For Assignment

The Yankees have designated Jayson Nix for assignment, the team announced. The move creates room on the 40-man roster for the recently re-signed Mariano Rivera.

We all thought this would be the end of the Nixy (Nixie?) era, but nope, just some clever roster manipulation by the Yankees. We later found out they signed Nix to a one-year deal worth $900,000 prior to this move, which was quite a bit more than everyone expected him to get. About $900,000 more then expected. The relatively pricey one-year deal meant he’d get through waivers, so the Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster, Nix agreed to stick around as a non-40-man player until Opening Day, when he was re-added to the roster. The essentially bought a temporary 40-man roster opening by giving their utility infielder a few extra grand. Seems …. unnecessary?

Chase Headley: A Tale of One Horrendous Month [2017 Season Review]

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was writing Chase Headley‘s season preview piece, which focused largely on how his unimaginably awful April essentially torpedoed his 2016 season as a whole. That wasn’t the first time that we saw him forget how to hit for a full month, either, as he closed 2015 on the lowest of notes. And, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time, either.

A Hot Start

Headley spent the first month of the season reminding us of the hitter we thought the Yankees had acquired way back in 2014. He hit .301/.402/.494 (142 wRC+) with 3 HR and 4 SB in 97 PA in April, and the underlying numbers didn’t stand out as particularly unsustainable. His 14.3% HR/FB was right in-line with league-average, and his .361 BABIP wasn’t terribly uncharacteristic for a player with a career BABIP of .328. Given his previous two seasons, nobody really expected Headley to keep it up – but he looked as good as he ever had in pinstripes, and nothing screamed fluke. And then…

Worst … Month … Ever

How bad was Headley in May, you ask? He was bad enough that his April of 2016 looked mildly appealing. He batted .165/.211/.235 in 90 PA, which is “good” for a 14 wRC+. That’s not a typo – he had a 14 wRC+ in the month of May. Headley struck out in 29 of those 90 PA, while walking just 4 times; for comparison’s sake, he drew 14 walks in April, and struck out just 19 times. What happened?

It’s difficult to explain the lack of patience and bat-to-ball skills, but Headley did see his batted ball profile change completely from one month to the next. His line drive rate dropped by nearly 12 percentage points, and his ground ball rate jumped by just over 18 percentage points. His infield fly rate also jumped from 4.8% all the way up to 20% – and the percentage of infield flies that turn into hits is just about as close to zero as one can get. In the span of a month, Headley went from a well-rounded hitter with patience and power to the type of production you’d expect from a pitcher. And it was ugly.

As a result of this, Headley’s wRC+ dropped from 142 to 81, and those who even contemplated getting on-board with a resurgence felt foolish.

Four Months of Competence

Something miraculous happened on June 1, though. Headley went 2-for-5 with a couple of RBI against the Blue Jays that day … and he kept hitting after that. He hit .294/.372/.427 (114 wRC+) with 9 HR in 399 PA the rest of the way, and didn’t have another truly awful month. Headley wasn’t good in September, posting an 89 wRC+ – but it was palatable when compared to the lowest of lows that he has reached with the Yankees in his three-plus years in pinstripes. His bat was good enough to stay in the lineup, for the most part, and that represented a massive upgrade over 2015 and 2016.

For those who may be curious, Headley hit .295/.377/.440 in his 496 non-May PA, with 12 HR. That’s a wRC+ of around 120, and it’s quite good. Unfortunately…

He Forgot How to Play Defense Again

The Yankees shifted Headley from the hot corner to first base this season, and some of that was due to necessity; it was a revolving door of a position while Greg Bird was on the mend, and his solid bat and capable glove represented the best-case scenario there.

He made it an easy decision, though, with 13 errors, -7 Defensive Runs Saved, and -4.3 UZR/150 at third in 85 games. Headley’s defense has been all over the place for the Yankees – it was amazing in a small sample size in 2014 (6 DRS, 39.9 UZR/150), bad in 2015 (-6 DRS, -3.0 UZR/150), very good in 2016 (7 DRS, 8.6 UZR/150), and bad again last year. The acquisition of Todd Frazier was as much about solidifying the team’s infield defense as it was adding a powerful bat to the lineup, and that’s why he never played another position for the Yankees.

If it’s any consolation, Headley did grade out as a good defender at first.

The Bottom Line

Headley finished the season with a .273/.352/.406 slash line (104 wRC+), 12 HR, 9 SB. That essentially made him a league-average offensive third baseman, as they hit .256/.330/.438 (102 wRC+) as a group. Headley’s 104 wRC+ was his best since 2013, but his subpar defense at third dragged his WAR down by about half a win, to 1.9, which would make him fringe average there. If only he hadn’t forgotten how to hit in May…

2018 Outlook

As is the case with Starlin Castro, Headley is something of a placeholder. Miguel Andujar is knocking on the door (he had a 139 wRC+ at Triple-A), and would have garnered a longer look in 2017 had his defense been up to snuff. And top prospect Gleyber Torres was taking to the position, as well, and may’ve replaced Headley had it not been for his season-ending injury. Put it all together and you have a player that’s on borrowed time with the organization.

Headley is entering the last year of his contract, and he’s owed $13 MM. I am confident that the Yankees will try to shop him this off-season, and his contract shouldn’t be a deterrent for many teams – particularly if they are confident in his ability to play defense at third base. Should he make it through the winter without being dealt, though, I think he’ll end up in the team’s Opening Day lineup at third.

Mailbag: Carpenter, Ellsbury, Gregorius, Judge, Healy, Carroll

Got a dozen questions and eleven answers this week, in the first mailbag of the official offseason. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send all your questions throughout the week.

Carpenter. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Carpenter. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

David asks (short version): What about Matt Carpenter?

The Cardinals are a difficult to figure out, aren’t they? They seem to be stuck in the middle. Not really good enough to be a World Series contender and not bad enough to tear it down and rebuild. That’s not a good place. Carpenter would be one of their better trade chips, if they decided to shake things up. He hit .241/.384/.451 (123 wRC+) with 23 homers and nearly as many walks (17.5%) as strikeouts (20.1%) in 2017.

Carpenter, who turns 32 later this month, appears to fit the Yankees for a few reasons. One, he’s a left-handed hitter with power and patience, two Yankees trademarks. Two, he’s versatile. He can play both corner infield spots as well as second base, and he even has some outfield experience. And three, he’s signed affordably. His contract calls for $13.5M in 2018 and $14.5M in 2019, with an $18.5M club option for 2020.

The downside here is Carpenter is not a good defender anywhere. His best position is first base. And he’s really slow. Shockingly slow, really. These days Carpenter is a +3 WAR player or thereabouts, yet I fell like the Cardinals would ask for a king’s ransom should you ask about him in a trade. Yes, Carpenter would make sense for the Yankees. I wouldn’t trade Clint Frazier or Justus Sheffield for him though. Chance Adams plus secondary stuff? Sure, but that won’t happen.

Michael asks: I’d love it if Hal spent $400MM a year on payroll, but given that he doesn’t, would it be worth it to attach a couple prospects to Ellsbury to aid in dumping salary? Every dollar that goes to him is a dollar not going to signing Tanaka or someone else who can help the team win, and prospects have a certain volatility to their value – Billy McKinney, for instance, might be at a high point from which his value only sinks going forward.

Reuvy asks: Would including Betances in a trade be enough of an incentive for other teams to take Ellsbury off of the Yankees hands? Would the Yankees be willing to part with Betances for virtually nothing if it means getting rid of Ellsbury’s contract?

Going to lump these two questions together. I do not at all like the idea of attaching a prospect or Dellin Betances to Jacoby Ellsbury as a way to unload salary. I’d rather see the Yankees keep the prospect/Betances and use their greatest resource (money) to get rid of Ellsbury. Yes, the Yankees want to unload as much of Ellsbury’s contract as possible given the luxury tax plan. But the goal should be opening a roster spot and retaining talent. The Ellsbury contract is a sunk cost. The Yankees owe him that money no matter what and his salary is already earmarked for the 2018 payroll under the luxury tax threshold. Save what you can in a salary dump and move on from the mistake signing. Don’t compound problems by giving away talent on top of it.

Noa asks: I have never understood this and was wondering your thoughts on it. Why do managers always tell the media (especially in playoff games) that Pitcher So-and So is unavailable or that they’d be surprised if a certain pitcher got into a game for workload reasons. Even if its 100% true, it seems that it only gives the opponent an advantage in knowing that certain pitchers aren’t available. Thoughts?

This used to annoy me too, but it’s really not that a big a deal. Teams keep tabs on the workload of the opposing pitching staff, especially in the postseason, so it’s not like this is a surprise. We mention the status of the other’s team bullpen in our series previews. If we’re keeping tabs on it, the other team is keeping tabs on it. The other day Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kenley Jansen was only available for three outs, then he got a six-out save that night. Did that catch the Astros off-guard? Probably not. And besides, it’s not like the other team can’t see who’s warming up in the bullpen. Announcing who and who isn’t available used to bother me. It’s not worth the energy though. Teams keep tabs on their opponents, including their potential bullpen options.

Travis asks: True or false: If McKinney succeeds at 1B in the AFL, Austin will likely lose his 40 man spot? They are redundant players with McKinney having options and a brighter future at this point.

False. Tyler Austin might lose his 40-man roster spot this offseason, but not because McKinney played 15 or so games at first base in the Arizona Fall League. If Austin loses his 40-man spot, it’ll be because the Yankees consider Garrett Cooper the better right-handed first base depth option. I’m not sure the Yankees need both. McKinney is still an outfielder, first and foremost. That’s his best position. The Yankees are trying to find a way to make him more versatile, and first base is pretty much the only option. There’s room for both Austin and McKinney on the 40-man. Probably not enough for Austin, McKinney, and Cooper, however. Either Austin or Cooper is likely to go at some point because they are redundant.

Air Didi. (Abbie Parr/Getty)
Air Didi. (Abbie Parr/Getty)

Dana asks: Should the Yankees sell high on Didi if he can headline a deal for a young, controllable starting pitcher? Gleyber is just about ready and his defensive value would be wasted at third or second. Even if Torres isn’t ready at the beginning of the season, the Yanks could play Toe or Wade there as a stop gap.

No! I mean, maybe. Always be willing to listen because you never know what offers will come along, but no, don’t actively shop Didi Gregorius. Keep him. Even if 2017 was a career season, Didi is still a very productive player in the prime of his career. He’s part of the solution. As long as third base remains unsolved long-term and the replaceable Starlin Castro mans second base, keep Gregorius. There’s room for both on the infield. Did you see Alex Bregman this postseason? He’s a natural shortstop playing third base, and his defensive value sure as heck isn’t being wasted at the hot corner. Didi and Gleyber is better than Didi or Gleyber.

Dan asks: What should the Yankees be willing to give up for Schwarber? He seems like a good fit as a buy low candidate with really good upside.

There is no such thing as buying low on Kyle Schwarber. Theo Epstein and the Cubs front office love him. Love love love him. Would they trade him? Yeah, probably, in the right deal. I can’t see them selling low on him, however. I’m not a big Schwarber fan. Never have been. He was healthy all season and he hit .211/.315/.467 (102 wRC+) with 30 homers, 30.9% strikeouts, and 12.1% walks. The power and walks are nice, but geez, the way this guy’s been hyped you’d think he’s a potential MVP candidate. Bad defense, no position, massive platoon split. The Cubs should be very open to trading Schwarber, especially given their pitching staff. I just don’t see them selling low on him. If the Yankees want him, they’d have to pay full price, which is way too much in my book considering how Chicago reportedly turned down Andrew Miller for injured Schwarber last year.

Ben asks: Curious your take on this; why was it so frowned upon that A-Rod opted out from his contract during the 2007 World Series? Everyone reported that it was (yet another) unwritten rule that no major news should come out during, and potentially upstage, the World Series. Now Yankees make the Girardi announcement during the World Series, and no one has a problem with it. Seems to be a double standard to me. It isn’t like the Yankees HAD to decide (or announce) this week. Thoughts?

Alex Rodriguez opted out literally in the middle of a World Series game. I can’t find the clip on YouTube, but I remember seeing Ken Rosenthal in the photographers’ well at Coors Field during the 2007 World Series, breaking the news. MLB does not want teams announcing news during the World Series because it draws attention away from the World Series itself. Rosenthal is not an MLB employee though. He got a huge scoop and had a chance to break the news on national television, so he took it, as he should have.

News still leaks and gets reported during the World Series. That’s unavoidable. MLB wants to limit it though, so the league prohibits teams from formally announcing anything during the World Series without their permission, and the teams comply. The Yankees had to receive an okay from MLB to announce they parted away with Girardi last Thursday, which was a World Series off-day. The A-Rod news broke in the middle of a World Series game and that was all anyone talked about the rest of the night. You can understand why MLB would be annoyed.

Toshiki asks: Let’s pretend Otani signs with an American League team. Can he pitch and bat DH in the same game?

No. Players can only do one or the other, pitch or be the DH. Can’t do both in the same game. The Yankees or any other AL team that signs Shohei Otani could let him hit for himself on the days he pitches, though they’d be forfeiting the DH. You couldn’t, say, start Otani and let him hit for himself, then keep him in the batting lineup after a reliever replaces him on the mound. They be playing with NL rules, basically. Once he’s out of the game as a pitcher, he’s out of the game as a hitter.

Nico asks: Judge’s big strike zone. I know this is a little crazy, but do you think the fact that Judge wears high socks contributes? The high sock ends below the knee, but it creates a kind of visual cue that might make the knee look lower than it is. The umps might be calling his zone as the “top of the sock”, when really it should be a couple inches higher than that.

It might! That’s a good question. It’s too bad Statcast doesn’t have a socks option so we could see whether there’s a strike zone difference between players who wear low socks and high socks. Judge should go with the old Bobby Murcer mid-calf stirrup look next season.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Anything to help the guy get a fair strike zone. All those strikes below the knees this season were ridiculous.

Fernando asks: The A’s have made Ryon Healy available. Dh and sometime 1b with good power but not much defense. Is he worth pursuing? A’s have interest in relievers and Yankees have surplus there with Shreve, Holder, Gallegos, Mitchell, Rumbelow, Heller, Feyereisen, Mesa, Tarpley, etc. Some of these guys are going to be roster casualties for Rule 5 purposes.

Nah. I don’t really see it. Healy’s not even that good of a hitter. He hit .271/.300/.451 (100 wRC+) with 25 homers in 605 plate appearances this season. The power is nice, but he never walks (3.5% in 2017) and is a negative in the field and on the bases. A player who is a league average hitter and contributes nothing else whatsoever isn’t all that appealing to me. Healy turns 26 in January, so it’s not like he super young and you could reasonably expect a lot of improvement going forward. He’s the rich man’s Tyler Austin, basically. Maybe Healy’s worth it if you can get him for one of those fringe 40-man roster players. Something tells me the Athletics would just keep him if that’s all you’re offering though.

Dennis asks: Thoughts on Cody Carroll? He’s huge and throws in the upper 90’s. Sounds like a Betances style guy. Misses bats but walks people. At 25 and was in AA, do you think he can be anything or just a career AAA/injury replacement guy?

Carroll is a little too well known right now to be considered a sleeper. The Yankees drafted him out of Southern Mississippi (22nd round in 2015), where he worked as a starting pitcher, and moved him to relief. Suddenly his fastball went from 90-92 mph to 96-98 mph. This season he had a 2.54 ERA (3.04 FIP) with 32.1% strikeouts and 10.8% walks in 67.1 innings split between High-A and Double-A.

The biggest knocks on Carroll are his general lack of command and his good but not great breaking ball, a hard mid-80s slider. The Yankees have him out in the Arizona Fall League right now just to get more reps. You don’t need perfect command to be a very effective reliever (e.g. Betances), but it sure does help. Right now I think Carroll is more of an up-and-down depth arm than a true bullpen prospect. If he can begin to locate better going forward — the lack of command is a career long thing — then he’d become real interesting real quick. There are lots of dudes who throw hard but have no idea where it’s going down in Double-A.

Erik Kratz, Yankees all-time leader in OPS, elects free agency

Kratz isn't here to play, he's here to party. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Kratz isn’t here to play. He’s here to party. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

So long, Erik Kratz. Earlier today the Yankees announced Kratz has elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to the minors, which was completely expected. The move opens a 40-man roster spot.

The Yankees acquired Kratz from the Indians in a cash trade to serve as their third catcher in September, while Kyle Higashioka was out injured. The 37-year-old journeyman went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs driven in during his time in pinstripes. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in OPS (minimum two plate appearances):

  1. Erik Kratz: 2.500 OPS
  2. Chris Latham: 2.000 OPS
  3. Chris Parmelee: 1.875 OPS

Drop the minimum to one plate appearance and the Yankees all-time leader in OPS is Branden Pinder at 3.000. How about that? Anyway, Kratz did travel with the Yankees throughout the postseason, mostly because the team wanted him close by in case there was an injury and they needed to add a catcher to the roster.

The Kratz move begins the annual early offseason 40-man roster purge, in which clubs clean up their rosters and prepare for the winter ahead. Aside from Kratz, the Yankees don’t have any obvious outright candidates right now. Guys like Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve may be at risk of losing their 40-man spots this winter, though they’re probably minor trade bait rather than outright candidates.

Thursday Night Open Thread

I’ve gotta admit, I’m a little surprised we didn’t hear anything about Brian Cashman‘s new contract today. It’s pretty obvious he’s coming back, and I figured the team would make the announcement as soon as the World Series ended. I guess not. I’m sure it’ll happen soon. Anyway, a total of 149 players became free agents today. Here’s the list, if you’re interested.

Here’s an open thread for the night. Bills vs. Jets is the Thursday Night Football game, plus the (hockey) Ranges and Islanders are playing. Talk about those games or anything else here tonight, as long as it’s not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.