Eric Hosmer’s impending free agency and the luxury tax plan

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The Royals took a really big gamble this year. So many of their core players are due to become free agents after the season, but they decided to hang on to everyone at the trade deadline and try to make a run in the second half. Kansas City was in the second wildcard spot on July 31st so hey, it wasn’t an unreasonable decision. It was still a gamble.

That gamble has not worked out. The Royals are 17-23 since the trade deadline and they are now three games behind the second wildcard spot with 18 games to play. They’re not out of it by any means, but things aren’t looking great right now. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 9.1%. General manager Dayton Moore was hoping for a big second half and another deep playoff run. Probably not going to happen.

Among Kansas City’s impending free agent core players are center fielder Lorenzo Cain (this offseason’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Heyward) and third baseman Mike Moustakas, as well as first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has been a household name for a while now, ever since his days as a prospect and top three draft pick, though it wasn’t until this season that he’s really lived up to the hype. He’s hitting .328/.394/.517 (141 wRC+) with 24 homers in 2017.

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees like Hosmer “very much,” and usually when the Yankees like an impending free agent “very much,” it means they’re going to go after him in the offseason. And the Yankees might pursue Hosmer. Who knows? The plan to get under the $197M luxury tax plan is a real thing though, and that might stand in the way of a Hosmer pursuit. A few things about this.

1. On paper, Hosmer is a great fit for the Yankees. Chase Headley has been, far and away, the best Yankees first baseman this season. It’s not even close. And that’s a problem because ideally Headley wouldn’t be your best anything. Hosmer, despite his up-and-down track record, offers the following, in no particular order:

  1. A left-handed bat. New York’s lineup leans right-handed these days and it’s only going to get worse as righties Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier work their way into the full-time lineup.
  2. Youth, relatively speaking. Hosmer will turn 28 in October, so whichever team signs him will get several peak seasons, at least in theory. This isn’t a 30-something. He’ll spend all of 2017 at 27.
  3. World Series experience. This isn’t nothing! It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing either. Hosmer has been a key member of two AL pennant teams and one World Series champ. He knows all about winning and how ridiculously difficult it is to win a championship.
  4. Contact skills. Hosmer’s worst single season strikeout rate is 19.8% last year, which was better than league average. It’s 15.6% this year and 16.3% for his career. Putting the ball in play is good.
  5. Quality defense. The defensive stats don’t like Hosmer for whatever reason, but defensive stats struggle with first basemen anyway. The eye test tells me he’s above-average, especially at scooping the ball. He’s a vacuum over there.

My concern with Hosmer is that he’s the first base version of Heyward, a 20-something who gets overrated based on name value and potential. Whoever signs Hosmer will be doing so hoping his offense ticks up the next few years — and it very well might as a lefty hitter in Yankee Stadium — rather than hoping he maintains his decidedly meh .284/.344/.440 (111 wRC+) career batting line. I wanted the Yankees to sign Heyward for that reason and boy was I wrong.

Adding a young-ish left-handed hitter who doesn’t strike out a ton and plays a strong first base and knows what it takes to win the World Series sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? It does. On paper, Hosmer really fits what the Yankees need going forward. How would it actually play out? Who knows. Big name free agent signings have a way of disappointing.

2. The Yankees have luxury tax space for a big signing (probably). My real quick back of the envelope math suggests the Yankees have about $40M to spend this offseason even if Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t opt-out. Some of that money will be earmarked for a new starting pitcher given CC Sabathia‘s impending free agency. Also, the Yankees aren’t to spend right up to the luxury tax limit. They need some wiggle room for in-season additions.

Point is, there appears to be enough space under the luxury tax threshold to sign Hosmer, who is surely looking at $20M+ per year. Elite players are getting $30M+ per season these days, but I don’t see that happening, even with Scott Boras calling the shots. If Tanaka opts out, the Yankees will definitely be able to afford a prime free agent. That said … Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Imagine not being about to sign one of those dudes because you’re paying Hosmer big bucks. Oy vey. Anyway, yes, there looks to be payroll space to sign Hosmer, should the Yankees choose to go in that direction.

3. The free agent compensation is nothing. The Royals are of course going to make Hosmer the qualifying offer. The Yankees will pay luxury tax this year, so according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they will have to surrender their second and fifth highest draft picks, plus $1M in international bonus money to sign any qualified free agent this offseason. That’s not bad at all. You do lose draft bonus pool money, but you get to keep your first rounder, and you could always trade for more international money. As far as I’m concerned, the new free agent compensation rules are negligible. They’re not going to deter anyone from anything.

4. Don’t forget about Bird. The Yankees still have a pretty talented young first baseman in Greg Bird, and they’d love love love him to develop into a left-handed complement to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Remember, Brian Cashman said Bird is still the first baseman of the future a few weeks ago. The Yankees really like this kid. Maybe a little too much. Signing Hosmer would presumably turn Bird into trade bait or a full-time designated hitter, which might not be such a bad thing given his ongoing injury issues. The youth movement is real though. Signing someone else’s big name to block your talented young kid is an old Yankees move.

* * *

An undeniable fact: Greg Bird has not been a productive big leaguer in two years now. Not since his 2015 debut. He missed last season with the shoulder injury and most of this season with an ankle injury. And he’s missed the last two games with lower back tightness, which might not seem like such a big deal, except a back injury is what led to him transitioning from catcher to first base back in the day. Bird, two years after that big debut, is still an unknown.

My guess is yes, the Yankees do like Hosmer as a player, but not enough to displace Bird and potentially put the luxury tax plan in jeopardy. Hosmer is a good player, not a truly great one, and tying up considerable payroll space on a good player when you already have a talented youngster at that position doesn’t seem like a great idea. Bird’s injuries worry me. How could they not? I’m still not ready to move on and spend big on a first baseman though.

Rays 2, Yankees 1: Sonny gets no run support (again)

This had all the feel of a game that would be decided by some scrub hitting a solo home run in the late innings, and you just had to hope your scrub hit it. Instead, one of their scrubs hit it, and the Yankees lost Tuesday’s game 2-1 to the Rays. Frustrating loss is frustrating.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Sonny With No Chance Of Runs
For the fifth time in Sonny Gray‘s eight starts as a Yankee, the offense scored no more than one run. They did score one run Tuesday night, but that’s all. It came in the very first inning. Aaron Judge drew a walk and Matt Holliday doubled him home with line drive that I’d guess most non-Corey Dickerson left fielders catch. It looked like it hung up long enough, but Dickerson made an awkward slide and the ball got under him. His defense is not good.

That Holliday double was the last time the Yankees had runner reach second base. For real. Todd Frazier drew a one-out walk in the fifth and didn’t advance. Brett Gardner ripped a leadoff single in the sixth and didn’t advance. Chase Headley lined a one-out single in the seventh and didn’t advance. And that was it. The Yankees had three baserunners after Holliday’s double and none made it beyond first base. Tampa’s pitchers retired the last eight batters they faced and 12 of the last 13 batters they faced. Gross. The Yankees scored 60 runs in their previous eight games going into Tuesday night. Then they fell completely flat.

Splendid Sonny
Poor Sonny. What did this dude do to deserve no run support? He now has a 2.66 ERA in eight starts and 50.2 innings with the Yankees … and they’ve won three of his starts. Good grief. Gray allowed a solo home run on his first pitch of the night (Kevin Kiermaier) and a solo home run on his 90th pitch of the night (Adeiny Hechavarria), and that was enough for the loss. Baseball can be so stupid sometimes. Sonny gets charged with the L but screw that. He’s the last Yankee who deserves an L for this game.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The final pitching line: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. The biggest jam came in the fifth inning, when the Rays had the runners at the corners with one out. Gray bounced back to fan Hechavarria and Kiermaier to escape the jam. He let out a little fist pump after Kiermaier went down swinging. I’m not really sure what else there is to say here. Gray was fantastic and has been fantastic pretty much every time out since the trade. The Yankees have been trying to acquire someone like this for years. Now they have him, and it is glorious.

The bullpen was a little short Tuesday night because the late inning guys have worked a lot recently, so Gray’s complete game (loss) was welcome. Tommy Kahnle warmed up in the eighth, though he tossed the ball more than really get hot. Had the Yankees taken the lead in the top of the ninth, I wonder if Sonny would’ve gone out for the bottom half. His pitch count was at 94 and he was great all night. Alas.

A Dickerson-aided double for Holliday, singles for Gardner and Headley, and walks for Judge and Frazier. That’s all the offense right there. Clint Frazier returned the lineup for the first time since his oblique injury and went 0-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, though he hit the ball hard both times. His line out to right field in the fifth might’ve landed in the short porch. Again, alas.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. has the video highlights and FanGraphs has the postseason odds, if you’re into such things. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will wrap up this neutral site series at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1:10pm ET start. Jaime Garcia will make his hopefully triumphant return to the rotation in that one. He hasn’t pitched since August 31st, in the first game of the doubleheader against the Indians. Chris Archer will be on the mound for Tampa Bay.

DotF: Scranton and Trenton drop championship series openers

Some quick notes to get us started:

  • OF Estevan Florial has been added to the Double-A Trenton roster for the Eastern League Championship Series, reports Josh Norris. He effectively replaces Clint Frazier on the roster. Matt Kardos says Florial may not start, however. He may only pinch-run or come in for defense, or serve as an injury replacement.
  • Randy Miller spoke to a scout about a whole bunch of Yankees prospects, so make sure you check it out. “(He) can play in multiple All-Star Games. I’ll put my neck out on the line for that one … This kid for me has a chance to be special,” said the scout of Florial. Also, SS Gleyber Torres got a Miguel Cabrera comp. Huh.
  • Baseball America released their Classification All-Stars this week. The Yankees have prospects on the Short Season (RHP Jorge Guzman), Low-A (Florial), and Triple-A (RHP Chance Adams) teams.
  • The Tampa complex suffered “minimal damage” during Hurricane Irma, farm system head Gary Denbo confirmed to George King. The Tampa offices reopen tomorrow, the team announced.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 loss to Durham) they trail the best-of-five International League Championship Series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 K — 7-for–20 (.350) in the postseason so far
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 1-4, 2 K — 8-for-20 (.400) in the postseason so far
  • LF Billy McKinney, 3B Miguel Andujar, DH Mike Ford, C Kyle Higashioka & RF Jake Cave: all 0-3 — McKinney and Higashioka struck out
  • 1B Garrett Cooper: 0-2, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 7/3 GB/FB — 55 of 77 pitches were strikes (71%) … allowed three runs in the first, so they were playing catch-up right from the start
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — half of his 22 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 144: Sonny at Citi

(Corey Perrine/Getty)
(Corey Perrine/Getty)

The Yankees are on a bit of a roll right now. They’ve won three straight series and seven of their last nine games — the two losses were very winnable too — so tonight is a chance for a fourth straight series win, and eight wins in ten games. A four-game lead over the Twins for the top wildcard spot and a five-game lead over the Angels for a wildcard spot in general is looking pretty good with 19 games to play.

Tonight the Yankees are going to need Sonny Gray to soak up some innings, because the bullpen is really short. Chad Green, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances all figure to be unavailable given their recent workloads. A big night for the offense — the Yankees have scored 65 runs in their last nine games — would be nice too. How about a blowout win and a bunch of mop-up inning for the September call-ups? Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 1B Chase Headley
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. LF Clint Frazier
    RHP Sonny Gray

It is quite cloudy at Citi Field tonight, but there’s no rain in the forecast, and that’s all I care about. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (back) had a precautionary MRI today. He feels better, though Joe Girardi is going to try to stay away from him tonight. Bird could play tomorrow.

2018 Schedule Announced: Yankees open in Toronto


Earlier today MLB officially announced the 2018 regular season schedule, and the Yankees will open the season on the road for the second straight year. Opening Day is Thursday, March 29th, in Toronto. Earliest Opening Day ever. MLB and MLBPA agreed to more off-days during the season as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and to accommodate those extra off-days, the season now starts in the middle of the week. All 30 teams start the same day.

The Yankees opened the 2015 season against the Blue Jays, though at home in Yankee Stadium. They haven’t opened in Toronto since way back in 2003. March in Canada can’t be too fun. Opening Day is the first game of a four-game series with the Blue Jays. The Yankees then come home for a six-game homestand with the Rays and Orioles. The home opener is Monday, April 2nd. Here’s the full 2018 schedule. Here are some highlights.

Interleague Play

As expected, the Yankees will play the NL East during Interleague Play next season. It rotates divisions each year and the NL East is due up. Derek Jeter‘s Marlins will visit the Bronx early in the season (April 16th and 17th), so that’ll be awkward. I wonder if Jeter will make the trip? The Yankees will visit Washington (May 15th and 16th), Philadelphia (June 25th to 27th), and Miami (August 21st and 22nd). They won’t visit Atlanta. The Braves are coming to Yankee Stadium (July 2nd to 4th). So is Bryce Harper (June 12th and 13th). The Yankees will play at Citizens Bank Park for the first time since the 2009 World Series.

Subway Series

The Subway Series gets wrapped up in Interleague Play next year, so rather than a four-game home-and-home series, the Yankees and Mets will play two three-game series next season. I prefer that. Give me a series winner and bragging rights. The Yankees will go to Citi Field for a weekend series from June 8th through the 10th. The Mets then come visit Yankee Stadium from July 20th to 22nd. That is the first series after the All-Star break. The All-Star Game is in Washington next season, by the way.

West Coast Trips

The Yankees have two West Coast trips next year. They travel from New York to Anaheim without an off-day for a three-game series starting April 26th, then they go to Houston and come back home. Not too bad. The second West Coast is in September and that always stints. The Yankees go from New York to Oakland — again, without an off-day — on September 3rd. Three games in Oakland, off-day, three games in Seattle, three games in Minnesota, off-day. Not great, but what can you do?

Final Road Trip

This year the Yankees will play 17 of their final 20 regular season games in New York, counting the neutral site series with the Rays at Citi Field. Next season the Yankees will play 16 of their final 25 games on the road, including that West Coast trip. Know how the Yankees played their last game against the Red Sox on September 3rd this year? That won’t be the case next season. They close the season at Fenway Park.

The Yankees will play their final home series against the Orioles from September 21st to 23rd. They then go out on a seven-game road trip through Tampa and Boston to close out the season. Four games at Tropicana Field and three games in Boston. Game 162 will be Sunday, September 30th. How much will be on the line that series? The Yankees also play the Red Sox at home from September 18th to the 20th, so six of their final 13 regular season games are against the BoSox. That’ll be fun.

Poll: The best way to use Chad Green

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Sunday afternoon ace fireman Chad Green allowed one run on four hits and threw 47 pitches in 2.1 innings against the Rangers. That’s a poor outing by his standards. Throwing 2.1 innings and 47 pitches is not unusual for Green — it was his 11th appearance of at least 2.1 innings and ninth of at least 40 pitches — but doing so with a seven-run lead is. He entered with a seven-run lead and exited with an eight-run lead.

That happened three days after Green entered a game against the Orioles with the Yankees leading by seven. Once again, they were up by seven when he entered and up by eight when he exited. That’s … unusual. Green has been truly outstanding this season (2.00 ERA and 1.73 FIP) and using him in blowout games is suboptimal. Teams bring up hordes of September call-up relievers to mop up games like that.

Of course, context is necessary. In Thursday’s game against the Orioles, Green entered the sixth inning with an 8-1 lead, yes, but also with two on and two outs. One swing of the bat makes it an 8-4 game. And on Sunday, he entered the fourth inning with 9-1 lead and two on with two outs, so one swing could’ve made it a 9-4 game. Overkill to use Green like that? Yeah, maybe. But the Yankees also let a four-run lead and five-run lead slip away last week, so you can understand Joe Girardi‘s desire to snuff out those rallies.

Green’s usage Sunday left him unavailable for last night’s series opener against the Rays and probably for tonight’s game as well. Maybe even tomorrow’s game too. He threw six innings and 104 pitches across three appearances last week. Green could probably use a little breather. David Robertson bailed the Yankees out in the middle innings last night. Hopefully a situation doesn’t arise tonight where Green is needed in a close game but not available because he threw so many pitches with huge leads the last two times out.

There are only 19 games remaining this season and one of Girardi’s balancing acts the rest of the way will be maximizing Green’s usage. No, he doesn’t want to keep using him with seven-run leads like his last two outings. He’d prefer to use Green in close games and let the mop up guys mop up. What’s the best way to use Green going forward? These are some different options.

Multi-Inning Setup Guy

This is essentially what Green has done most of the season, save these last few outings. Green would enter a close game, fire two or three innings, and hand the ball off the late-inning guys while giving the offense a chance to add runs. He would then be unavailable for a few days, but that’s life. The upside here is multiple innings of dominance that allow the Yankees to take control of a close game. The downside is Green can only do this once every few days. The days of a multi-inning setup guy throwing 100+ innings like Mariano Rivera in 1996 are pretty much over.

Traditional Short Reliever

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

This is so very tempting anytime a young reliever has instant success. Bottle him up and assign him an inning, and move on. Instead of letting Green continue to do the multi-inning thing every few days, the Yankees could shorten his outings and use him as a traditional setup man, say as their seventh or eighth inning guy. The upside here is Green will be available for more games. He won’t necessarily need two or three days off after each appearance.

The downside is no longer having that dominant multi-innings presence out in the bullpen, so when the starter goes four or five innings — that seems to be happening more and more frequently, by the way — the Yankees would be stuck cobbling together the rest of the game with five or six relievers. And hey, maybe that’s no big deal with expanded rosters. Then again, if Girardi trusted the call-ups, he wouldn’t have used Green with a seven-run lead the last two times out.

Also, we have no idea how Green will handle pitching back-to-back days, which is something short relievers are asked to do quite often. He’s done it once this season. Green threw 14 pitches in a perfect inning against the Mariners on July 22nd, then came back to throw 37 pitches in 2.1 perfect innings the next day. So maybe back-to-back days won’t be a problem? I dunno. There is definitely some merit to the “he’ll be available to impact more games as a one-inning reliever” idea.

Montgomery’s Caddy

In each of his last two starts, and in three of his last four starts overall, the first guy out of the bullpen to replace Jordan Montgomery was Green. Montgomery’s starts are mighty short these days — he hasn’t gone six innings since July 25th and he hasn’t complete five innings in any of his last three starts — either by design (workload control) or by performance (getting hit hard). Green has picked up the slack.

The downside here is obvious. Saving Green specifically for the days Montgomery pitches means he won’t be used as often the other days. The upside? Well, it better allows the Yankees to control Montgomery’s (and Green’s?) workload, I suppose, and it also theoretically improves their chances of winning on the days he starts. Montgomery to Green might be the team’s best hope for six solid innings every five days.

* * *

Keep in mind the season is winding down. The marathon is over. Now we’re in sprint mode now. The best way to use Green right now, over the final 19 games of the season as the Yankees try to secure a postseason berth, may be different than the best way to use him over the first 143 games of the season. I know how I want the Yankees to use Green. Now it’s time for you all to vote.

How should the Yankees use Chad Green the rest of the season?
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David Robertson has quickly become the Yankees’ best and most indispensable reliever


The Yankees ran into a bit of a predicament last night. CC Sabathia labored through the first four innings against the Rays — he allowed only one run, but he had to work hard for just about every out — and Tampa was again threatening in the fifth. They had two on with one out, and the middle of the order due up. The Yankees were up 5-1 at the time, so with one swing of the bat, it could’ve been 5-4.

Normally, that’s a Chad Green situation. He’s been the middle innings monster all season, often throwing multiple innings when the starter’s outing is cut short. It was a classic Green situation. The problem: Green was not available. He threw 2.1 innings and 47 pitches Sunday. So, Joe Girardi did the next best thing. He went to David Robertson. And he stuck with him. Nine up, eight down, 2.2 scoreless innings to get through the seventh.

The role of Green was played by Robertson last night. Green is the guy we’re used to seeing enter in the middle of the game, fire off 2.2 scoreless innings, then hand things over to the late-innings guys. Robertson is usually the one-and-done reliever. He pitches the seventh or the eighth or the ninth, and that’s usually it. But, with Green unavailable, he went out and threw those 2.2 innings. Needed only 36 pitches too.

“That was his last hitter. I had (Dellin Betances) ready to come in. It was his last hitter. He kept his pitch count down and we felt comfortable running him back out there,” said Girardi of Robertson’s lengthy performance following last night’s game (video link). “I think he’s really adopted the attitude that ‘I’m a real team player and I’ll do whatever you want.’ He said that from Day One … Let’s win. Whatever you need to do, do it.”

It has now been eight weeks since the Yankees re-acquired Robertson, and in those eight weeks he’s thrown 26.2 innings with a 1.35 ERA (2.36 FIP) and stellar strikeout (35.6%) and walk (7.7%) numbers. After the trade Robertson told Girardi to use him whenever and not worry about a set role, and the manager has obliged. Robertson has appeared in 22 games with New York. Here’s when he’s entered:

  • Fifth Inning: One game (last night)
  • Sixth Inning: Two games
  • Seventh Inning: Six games
  • Eight Inning: Eight games
  • Ninth Inning: Four games
  • Extra Innings: One game

“I look at the spot in the fifth inning when I came in as being the same as coming in in the eighth inning. That was point where we needed to stop their momentum,” said Robertson following last night’s game (video link). “I don’t care when I pitch. I’ll do whatever it takes to get us back to the playoffs and give us a chance to get another ring.”

Since returning to the Yankees, Robertson has been the team’s best reliever. Well, second best behind Green, I’d say, but Green seems to be in his own little world of awesomeness. Robertson has been the best among the team’s regular late-inning guys. Betances has had walk trouble all year, and it has been extreme at times. Aroldis Chapman has had his ups and and downs too. Tommy Kahnle has disappointed and Adam Warren is hurt. Robertson has been steady and reliable.

Acquiring Robertson was never a luxury — remember how bad the bullpen was at the time of the trade? — though he’s become even more of a necessity than I think even the Yankees expected. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery are no longer locks for five innings, nevermind six, and Green isn’t available for days at a time given his multi-inning role. It’s been Robertson who has stepped in to fill in the gaps, and do whatever the team needs. Sometimes it’s get three outs, and sometimes, like last night, it’s been get eight outs.