Mailbag: McCutchen, Sabathia, Chatwood, Miller, Britton

We’ve got ten questions in this week’s mailbag, which I guess this makes this a small mailbag by today’s standards. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything.

(Justin Berl/Getty)
(Justin Berl/Getty)

Chris asks: Assuming that the Yankees move Brett Gardner this off season, are you in or out on Cutch22 if he is made available? He only has 1 year left @ $14 million with a team option for another $14.7 million for 2018 which is quite reasonable and he’d defiantely benefit from 82 games at YS. That being said would he be worth an Aaron Judge and then some?

I’m surprised it hasn’t come out that Andrew McCutchen was playing the entire season hurt. I’m not sure how else to explain it. The guy hit .313/.404/.533 (157 OPS+) from 2012-15 and averaged 25 home runs and 19 steals per season. This year he dropped down to .256/.336/.430 (103 OPS+) with 24 homers and six steals. What the hell happened? McCutchen is only 29 too. (He turns 30 next week.) It’s not like he’s over the hill.

There’s been speculation the Pirates will look to trade McCutchen this winter, opening a spot for top prospect Austin Meadows — the team has acknowledged discussing moving McCutchen to left and the defensively superior Starling Marte to center — and I’m sure they’ll listen to offers. There’s no reason not to. I don’t see this as a buy low situation though. McCutchen is the face of the franchise and they’re going to want full value for him, as if he’s still a star.

Hypothetically, I love the idea of going after McCutchen because he is still a megastar and a franchise cornerstone type of player. Without looking into it too deeply, I think his down year is more likely a fluke or injury related than a decline in skills. The Pirates needs arms, so they’ll probably want Luis Severino as part of the package, plus other stuff. At least one more top prospect for sure, probably two. I’m in and I acknowledge there’s basically no chance this happens.

Warren asks: In your middle infield power makes up for outfield post you mentioned you think the ball is juiced. Please explain!

Power numbers were up substantially this season. There is more to it than just home runs — power-on-contact and exit velocities were up too — but check out the homer-per-game rates over the last few seasons:

2016: 1.155 homers per game
2015: 1.010
2014: 0.861
2013: 0.959
2012: 1.015

There were 1,424 (!) more home runs hit in 2016 than there were in 2014. It’s no secret offense had been lagging in recent years. Look at the 2012-14 homer rates. Commissioner Rob Manfred has talked about wanting to increase excitement and more dingers sure seems like a way to do that. In fact, this year was the second most homer happy year on record, behind only 2000 (1.171 HR/G).

I think MLB started juicing the baseball in an effort to add more offense, hence the homer spike. “Juicing” the baseball simply means the core of the ball is wound tighter, so it jumps off the bat more. It’s been suggested — I’m not sure it’s ever been proven though — that MLB has done this at various points in history when offense sagged too low for the league’s liking. This is just a conspiracy theory. It sure would explain the massive and sudden spike in power numbers.

Dean asks: Better move: (1) sign Encarnacion to bat behind Sanchez and Bird or (2) trade (everyone but Sanchez, likely) for Mike Trout? Yanks clearly need a big bat and Edwin may be the best option in terms of age, AL East pedigree, and production at age 33. Allows them to spot him for Bird at 1B and mostly DH. But getting Trout…

Trout. Trout Trout Trout. The 33-year-old DH or 25-year-old Mickey Mantle? Yeah, easy call. I know you’d have to trade basically your entire farm system to get Trout, but I think it’s worth it. It’s not like all the prospects are going to work out anyway. Trout’s not just the best player in baseball at this point. He’s historically great and on his way to becoming a top ten (top five?) player all-time. And he’s only 25! You dream of acquiring players like that.

As good as he is, there’s a new Edwin Encarnacion available every other year or so. Trout’s a once in a generation player. The Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement, right? Well, there’s no better centerpiece for that youth movement than Mike freaking Trout. Prospects are a renewable resource. Any GM saying they wouldn’t back up the truck to get Trout is either lying or hugging their prospects too tight.

Mickey asks: Given CC’s resurgent season, how much does this help his hall of fame case? Seems to me the league is rooting for him, especially after admitting he had a problem and getting clean in rehab. Thanks.

It helps but I don’t think it has him back on the Hall of Fame track. He’s going to need a few more years like this, possibly three or four, to get serious Hall of Fame consideration. I love CC Sabathia, but if Mike Mussina still can’t get in, he doesn’t have much of a prayer, even with the Cy Young and World Series ring. Sabathia seems to be one of those players who is universally beloved by fans and respected throughout the league. That helps. At the end of the day, those rough three years took a huge bite out of his Hall of Fame candidacy. A plaque in Monument Park would be a fine alternative.

Chatwood. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Chatwood. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Anonymous asks: How much would it cost to get Tyler Chatwood? His home/road splits are unreal, with an ERA under 2 on the road so if you get him out of Coors could have a legitimate young front line starter.

It’s weird, the Rockies actually have some young pitching now, enough that they could entertain trading a spare starter. Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, and Jeff Hoffman are a nice rotation core. Chatwood and Chad Bettis are depth, as is German Marquez. Anyway, here are Chatwood’s splits this season:

At home: 6.12 ERA (4.97 FIP) in 78 innings
On the road: 1.69 ERA (3.60 FIP) in 80 innings

That works out to a 3.87 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 158 innings. I don’t think we can simply take a Rockies’ player’s numbers on the road and assume that’s the real him though. That applies to everyone, pitchers and hitters. It’s more complicated than that. There are three big pitcher’s parks in the division too, after all.

Chatwood will turn 27 in December and he’s actually going to be a free agent after next season, so it’s not like you’re getting this guy long-term. He debuted with the Angels in 2011 and has had a lot of injury issues throughout his career, most notably two Tommy John surgeries. The second sidelined him for most of 2014 and all of 2015. That’s pretty scary.

My thinking right now is pass on Chatwood given three things: One, his injury history. Pretty self-explanatory. Two, his lack of team control. This guy can be a free agent in a year. And three, we still don’t know exactly who he is, performance-wise. Is he really an above-average starter outside Coors? Or was his road performance just a mirage this year? Chances are the real him is somewhere in the middle of his home and road numbers, but where?

David asks: After Adam Warren pitched on Sunday, 10/2/16 you wrote in your recap ” Bold prediction: none of the four relievers used Sunday are on the 2017 Opening Day roster.” I think Warren is a useful player. Please explain your logic. Will he be traded or released?

The Yankees used four relievers Sunday and one (Blake Parker) is gone already. He was claimed off waivers by the Angels earlier this week. Tommy Layne, Richard Bleier, and Warren are still hanging around. With the 40-man roster crunch looming following the World Series, their spots may not be secure much longer.

Anyway, I threw that line in the recap basically as a guess. I don’t have any inside info and nothing leads me to believe the Yankees are looking to dump Warren. He’s a good player and you don’t release those guys, especially not when you have New York’s pitching situation. That said, I didn’t think Warren would be traded last offseason and he was. We shouldn’t rule out something similar happening this offseason.

Sam asks: Could Robin Ventura be targeted to replace Girardi? Thanks for a great season, as usual!

Brian Cashman made it pretty clear during his end-of-season press conference that Joe Girardi will remain the manager next season. Once his contract is up after that, who knows? It’ll ultimately be ownership’s call. Same with Cashman. His contract is up next year too. Cashman likes Girardi and ownership seems like him too. I’m not surprised they’re not making a change.

Whenever they do make a change — it’s going to happen eventually, if not next year then down the line — I think Ventura would actually be among the managerial candidates the Yankees consider. When they hired Girardi, the Yankees interviewed only three people, and all three were familiar with the franchise: Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena. That makes it seem they wanted someone who knew firsthand how chaotic New York can be.

Ventura wasn’t a Yankee very long but he was reportedly an extremely popular teammate and he’s highly respected around the league. Does that make him a good manager? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it hurts. I can’t speak to Ventura’s managing ability in terms of on-field decisions. I didn’t watch him enough the last few years. I do think he’s someone the Yankees would consider when the time comes to make a managerial change though.

Brendan asks: Something I was wondering while washing the dishes last night: Let’s say the Yankees make all the same moves at the trade deadline except they hold on to Andrew Miller. Do you think they’re playing in the Wild Card game? The bullpen blew a lot of leads down the stretch, three in the Boston series alone, and just having a weapon like Miller at the ready eases Betances’ workload and maybe he doesn’t implode the way he did.

No. The Yankees finished five games back of the second wildcard spot and Miller was not adding five wins by himself in the final two months. As much as Dellin Betances struggled down the stretch, he blew two saves after the trade deadline — the Yankees came back to win after one of the blown saves too — and suffered only two losses. One of the blown saves and losses was the same game too, the Hanley Ramirez walk-off homer game. It just seems worse because Betances was bailed out in those two games against the Blue Jays (the Gardner catch and Layne’s escape job).

Miller. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Miller. (Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees unquestionably would have been better with Miller after the trade deadline than without, and of all the moves they made at the deadline, that’s the one only you can second guess. Trading the impending free agents was a no-brainer. Miller had two years left on his deal, so the Yankees theoretically could have kept him and traded him at a later point. There was zero indication the team would go on a run in August and early-September though. They stunk in July. Turning a reliever, albeit a great reliever, into prospects as good as Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield plus two others was a fantastic rebuilding move for a team in need of a rebuild.

Michael asks: Would this offseason be a good time to deal Dellin Betances? He has been used a lot by Girardi and is going to get increasingly more expensive. We can get Chapman to return as closer. Also what would be a good return for Dellin? My wish Giolito and Koda Glover.

As I’ve said a million times, no one should be untouchable, and that includes Dellin. His trade value is basically Miller, right? Elite reliever with three full years of team control left. (Miller had two and a half years of control left, but close enough.) The market for that player has been established. Two top prospects and two others. A few months ago I was hoping for one top prospect and one or two others. I way undersold the bullpen market. It’s bonkers.

I’m comfortable with Betances in any role next season. Well, except starter, but you know what I mean. His poor September didn’t scare me into thinking he doesn’t have what it takes to close. (Funny, no one said that in August.) If the Yankees can flip him for more great young players, go for it, especially since there are several high-end relievers in free agency. Relievers are fetching a ton even though they’re no less volatile, especially a dude like Dellin.

Mike asks: In that crazy AL Wild Card game, when would you have used Zach Britton? To start the 9th? Middle of the 9th? Start the 11th? Middle of the 11th? Or at some other point during the game?

I would have used him to start the ninth inning. The game was tied 2-2 and Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista were due up. The Blue Jays were sending their best to plate in a winner-take-all situation and I would have wanted my best on the mound. The Orioles got through that inning unscathed, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea to use Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. Bad decisions someones lead to good results.

Ideally you’d like to squeeze two innings from Britton in that situation, maybe even three if he gets some quick ground balls and keeps his pitch count low. Ubaldo Jimenez is literally the last reliever I would have used. After everyone else pitches, Ubaldo’s the guy you sent out there and ride into the sunset. Whatever happens at that point, happens. Can’t believe Buck Showalter lost an extra innings Wildcard Game without using Britton. Unreal.

Thursday Open Thread

The two Wildcard Games were mighty fun this year, weren’t they? There have been some Wildcard Game duds over the years, especially last year’s at Yankee Stadium, but those games the last two nights were riveting. I’m posting the open thread a little earlier than usual because there are multiple postseason games today. Here’s the schedule:

  • ALDS Game One: Blue Jays at Rangers (Estrada vs. Hamels), 4:30pm ET on TBS
  • ALDS Game One: Red Sox at Indians (Porcello vs. Bauer), 8pm ET on TBS

Also, make sure you check out this Chicago Tribune feature chronicling Aroldis Chapman‘s first attempt to defect from Cuba in 2008. That attempt failed and led to all sorts of legal proceedings, which landed several people in prison. These defection stories are pretty scary. Many players refuse to talk about them because they don’t want to put anyone in danger.

Here is an open thread for the night. Talk about the two postseason games, the Chapman story, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Brian Cashman’s End-of-Season Press Conference Recap: Offense, Pitching, Youth Movement, More

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

With the 2016 season now over, Brian Cashman held his annual State of the Yankees press conference at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon. Some actual news came out of it, though nothing major. You can watch the entire press conference in bits and pieces right here, if you’re interested. As we did with Joe Girardi’s end-of-season press conference the other day, here are the important points from Cashman’s presser as well as some thoughts.

The Offense

  • On the 2016 offense: “We weren’t very consistent with runs scored and (the offense was not) as dynamic as it was the previous year … I think a lot of the opportunities for better run production is going to come from improved results with runners in scoring position.”
  • On improvement going forward: “It’s going to be coming from improved play from the younger guys coming up through the system … Hopefully they solidify things moving forward and provide more consistent production than what we got in 2016. So lots of competitions taking place. Right field and first base.”
  • On considering right field and first base settled for 2017: “I think there will be some hesitancy (to bring in outside help) … I would say that that would be the way that we would like to approach Spring Training next year. The kids get a shot at it. That doesn’t (stop me from) being open-minded to the opportunities that present themselves.”
  • On signing a big bat: “I can’t really speak to the free agent market because some of these guys are still playing … My initial thought would be to allow us to go into the spring with competitions coming from the youth movement, which I admit is risky … I’m willing to be flexible, and those dialogues will be very important.”

Cashman is very candid and at one point he said flatly “our offense was bad.” No sugarcoating it. Now, that said, it doesn’t sound as though the Yankees are planning to jump into anything big in an effort to score more runs going forward. Plan A is to stick with the kids and hope guys like Aaron Judge and Greg Bird and others contribute more next season than they did this season. That seems to be their perfect world scenario.

Will the Yankees close the door on signing a big name free agent? Never. It just doesn’t seem like there’s anything that makes sense right now. They could spend a ton of money on a DH like Edwin Encarnacion, and where does that get them? Back to where they were with Alex Rodriguez four years ago, basically. Something might fall into their lap that makes sense, but based on everything Cashman said, if the offense improves next year, it’ll be because the young players come into their own.

The Pitching Staff

  • On trading for an ace (coughChrisSalecough): “I think that type of deal is a deal where you’re that final piece away. I think we have an exciting young nucleus that’s coming … But there are some flaws, honestly, in this roster still. That doesn’t mean you can’t compete for a postseason berth. That doesn’t mean you can’t play in October. But the type of concept that you’re speaking of — I’m sure that everybody knows who you’re talking about by asking that question — but that to me (is a trade you make if) you’re an organization that’s one piece away, you back up the truck (and trade) four and five players. You have to be one piece away, and I would not recommend that type of decision as we approach the 2017 season. I think that would be dangerous.”
  • On adding an elite reliever: “My job is to get as much as we can find. In the front end of the season last year 7-8-9 was special … So my job is just to find as much quality arms, whether they’re fireballers or sidewinders or soft-tossers. The only important thing is getting outs and we had trouble getting outs in the middle (innings) there and that’s unacceptable. Continue to try to fortify. The more the merrier.”
  • On non-tendering Nathan Eovaldi: “We’ll just wait for that process play out. Clearly this is a Tommy John situation, and I know it’s obvious (he’s going to be non-tendered), but I’d rather not speak to any of it until the process plays out.”
  • On pitching help from within: “We’re still young but we have other guys pushing their way into the mix, and we’ll see what they look like in Spring Training.”

As with the offense, Cashman doesn’t sound eager to spend huge dollars — there’s no one to spend it on anyway this offseason — or gut his prized farm system to add an impact pitcher. I’d argue Sale is a piece you go get no matter what because he’s so good, so young, and so cheap that he makes any team better. He could help get the Yankees over the hump and into the postseason next year, and still be ace caliber when the kids hit their primes.

Cashman mentioned the Justin Wilson trade as “Exhibit A” of how they’ll likely attack the rotation this offseason, meaning trade for youth and depth so they have as many options as possible. Given how hard it is to acquire even decent pitching this year — a team traded two real live prospects for two months of Ivan Nova, remember — acquiring as much cheap depth as possible seems like a smart move. I liked what I saw out of Chad Green and especially Luis Cessa this year. Another one of those deals would be sweet.

The Catching Situation

  • On Gary Sanchez‘s role in 2017: “Gary Sanchez is our starting catcher next year. That’s his position to lose. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose it. We saw Severino last year helping us get to the postseason. This year, he struggled. We’re very excited about Gary, who always projected to be (a middle of the order bat).”
  • On expectations for Sanchez after his huge season: “It’s hard to expect that and I wouldn’t expect that over the course of a six-month period next year. But I think we have an exciting everyday talent that is going to be one of the best catchers in our game as we move forward, if he stays healthy and stays committed as he’s done the last two seasons now.”
  • On Brian McCann‘s role going forward: “That’s a valuable combination — both (Sanchez and McCann) on the same roster — for us, both being excellent defenders and certainly strong leaders of staff … I didn’t waste my time to see if he would waive his no-trade (at the deadline) because I’ve got to be satisfied first.”
  • On Kyle Higashioka: “We have some young guys that kind of did a nice job for us this year. (Higashioka) has always been a tremendous defender and he’ll be added to our 40-man roster this winter … We’ve been very good here in the last five or so years at developing (young catchers).”

Cashman did not sound eager to move McCann, though I guess he would try to give off that impression even if he were ready to move him. There’s no sense in tipping your hand. He did talk about the value of McCann’s veteran leadership, how nice it is to have a power-hitting lefty/righty tandem behind the plate, and how there are DH at-bats available. Cashman said he’ll listen on McCann, but he values him highly, and he wants something significant in return.

As for Higashioka, adding him to the 40-man roster is a no-brainer. You don’t cut loose a good defensive catcher who hit 20 homers at the upper levels of the minors. At worst, you add him to the 40-man and trade him. Letting him go for nothing is a non-option. I don’t think Higashioka joining the 40-man means McCann or Austin Romine will be traded though. The Yankees could easily send Higashioka to Triple-A and stash him there next season. They don’t have to make a move.

The Coaching Staff & Front Office

  • On the job Joe Girardi did in 2017: “We the front office did what we felt was necessary (at the trade deadline), and his job description is do everything in his power to win with whenever you get … I appreciate his efforts and everything he did from start to finish.”
  • On Girardi favoring veterans over young players: “I don’t think that’s the case at all … I think it has more to do with just assessing the talent. Sometimes it plays into the decision and sometimes it doesn’t. I was really satisfied with the team’s competitive spirit from start to finish.”
  • On Girardi as a lame duck manager next year: “We will go through next year and ownership will decide what they want to do as we move forward. There is that built in assumption in the process, where we play our contracts out. My contract expires the next year too … We’re going to focus on the present, which is the cast of characters currently, and how we can maximize value out of all of this right now.”
  • On bringing the coaching staff back: “Everybody is signed except for Larry Rothchild. His contract expires and I will meet with Larry today … I don’t have interest in recommending changes.”

I both am and am not surprised the Yankees are not making any coaching changes. I didn’t think they’ve overhaul the staff, but when you miss the postseason three times in four years, someone usually takes the fall. That’s why hitting coach Kevin Long was let go two years ago. Cashman wants to bring everyone back though — I’m not thrilled with keeping Joe Espada as third base coach, but it is what it is — and I’m sure they’ll get a deal worked out with Rothschild soon.

As for Girardi, Cashman made it clear that he was speaking about both Girardi and himself when he said “ownership will decide what they want to do as we move forward.” In the past, both have played out their contracts and gone a year as a lame duck. Once their deals expired, they went to the negotiating table. There were no extensions and there was no reason to think this year would be any different. Business as usual.

Things could get interesting if the Yankees miss the postseason against next year. That’ll be four October-less years in five seasons. Girardi and/or Cashman might not survive that. Then again, I guess it depends how they miss the postseason. Did they crash and burn because all the kids flopped? Or did the fall a handful of games short while the young players established themselves as bonafide big leaguers? That’ll play a factor in Girardi’s and Cashman’s next contracts.

The Rebuild & Youth Movement

  • On the fan response to selling: “We have a worldwide network (of fans) that we’re proud to have … They’re very sophisticated. This was something that we think is something that they wanted to transpire, and they wanted us to press the reset button. And you know, in many cases I was tired of seeing what was transpiring in the first few months this year. Been there, done that, it’s time to do something that wasn’t part of the DNA … I think our fanbase recognizes what we did in July, and responded in kind with a lot of excitement.”
  • On Luis Severino‘s future: “(His performance in) the bullpen is not changing anything for me. That’s where guys go when they can’t be quality starters. I certainly hope that he can be a starter as we move forward. Certainly you’ve got to factor in and keep in mind his age. I think he’s 22, 23. But at the end of the day I have to have patience. I have to be objective that way. There’s a starter profile on him … He will get that opportunity (to start), whether it’s New York or it’s in Scranton next year remains to be seen.”
  • Can Clint Frazier make the Opening Day roster? “I don’t think so … But I remember when Robbie (Cano) — I know he was coming out of our system, the number one pitching prospect at that time was (Chien-Ming) Wang — we anticipated that at Double-A he would be being ready in two years, (but he arrived a) full year in advance after a good winter ball. (Alfonso) Soriano was the same way. It was just like, ‘how we get this guy on the roster?’ When you take the full package, once it all comes together — Gary Sanchez, I guess, is a more recent example too — it’s just like a flood.”
  • On Jorge Mateo playing center field: “We’re trying to diversify. We’ve got a lot of shortstops … It’s just to give us more flexibility. He’s played shortstop, second base, DH, and center in Instructs. We just gave him a crash course. It’s something that’s been part of the evaluation process from the beginning.”

No surprise Cashman isn’t giving up on Severino as a starter. That would be silly. He has the stuff to start, at least when he has a feel for and confidence in his changeup, and he’s so young that you give him a chance to figure things out in that role. I think at worst, Severino showed he can be a really great reliever. He still offers upside as a starter and the Yankees should without question allow him to continue developing in that role.

I thought the Cano and Soriano comparions for Frazier were interesting. They were all highly regarded prospects with high-end skills, and Cano and Soriano forced the issue. They were too good to keep down in the minors any longer. Frazier has the potential to do the same this year. The big difference here is position. The Yankees needed a new second baseman when Soriano and later Cano came up. They’re not desperate for outfielders right now. Still, once Frazier is ready, you make room for him. He’s a special talent.

Injured Players

  • On James Kaprielian and the Arizona Fall League: “(Instructional League is the) process to finish him off so he goes to the Fall League. That’s the plan. So the public has been alerted … He’s not on the official roster. The roster on the website is not the official roster. I know Twitter will look at it like ‘OMG what’s going on here?’ … He’s healthy and he’s throwing max potential.”
  • On CC Sabathia‘s knee: “I think CC is going to have a knee (procedure). He’s going next week … It’s just going to be a routine cleanup. It’s not something that is a concern or considered serious. It’s something that is expected and was expected the last two months.”

My audio was all garbled and I couldn’t get a clean transcription, but Cashman said that while Kaprielian is not on the AzFL roster, the league is aware the Yankees plan to send him as long as he comes through Instructs in one piece. He pitched in a game the other day and by all accounts everything went well. And yes, Cashman actually said OMG. Oh em gee.

Miscellany

  • On the disappointment of 2016: “It was a series of twists and turns of this year. We obviously had high hopes … It was a mixed bag. It was a very frustrating and difficult process in the first three months of the season, and I think it was a very exciting dynamic that transpired in the final three months this season. Ultimately, we know when the dust settled, when it’s all said and done, the 2016 season did not achieve the stated goal, which was the first get to the playoffs and try to compete for a championship in October. “
  • On the luxury tax: “Haven’t had any open discussions since no one has any idea what the CBA is going to be like … We’ll certainly be very interested in ‘resetting the clock’ and not being in position to lose more money than any other clubs because we’re penalized more than ever.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka and the World Baseball Classic: “I don’t think we have say in that … Even though he felt healthy and looked fine and all that stuff, we made the right choice in saying you know what, see you in the spring, whether it’s going to be in Tampa or in the WBC.”
  • On trying to win in 2017: “Every decision we have to make — whether it’s deciding support staff, coaches, the manager, anybody in the front office, and most importantly the players — every decision is designed to get us closer to being the last team standing, and that’s the approach that’s got to take place. And that can happen in 2017. That’s the goal, but every decision (has be made with a) World Championship in mind.”

If I recall correctly, teams can hold players out of the WBC if he finished the previous season injured. Did Tanaka finish the season hurt? Technically, yeah. He missed his last two starts with a forearm injury. But he was never placed on the DL though, and both the GM and manager admitted he would have made his final start had the team not already been eliminated. We’ll see. If Tanaka wants to go and the Yankees can’t stop him, what can you do other than help he doesn’t get hurt?

The luxury tax stuff is just the worst. Hate hearing about it. Every time we do it’s a remainder the Yankees are willfully throwing away their market advantage and scaling back payroll at a time every other team is raising payroll. The Yankees seem to have convinced a lot of fans that resetting the tax rate is good and necessary. Is the luxury tax saved enough to make up for the lost postseason and ticket revenue? I hope so. Otherwise this will all have been a giant waste of time.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

One postseason game is in the books, and boy, was that a doozy or what? Imagine not using the best reliever on the planet in a winner-take-all game that went to extra innings. Say what you want about Joe Girardi, but he’d never ever ever ever do that. Anyway, check out Bruce Schoenfeld’s profile of Daren Willman, MLB.com’s Statcast guru. Teams have millions of Statcast data points and no idea how to use them. Pretty interesting stuff.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets and Giants will play the NL Wild Card Game at 8pm ET (Syndergaard vs. Bumgarner). The television broadcast will be on ESPN, and you can stream the game online at WatchESPN. Hopefully tonight’s game is as good as last night’s.

Quick Notes: Sabathia, Higashioka, Kaprielian, Waivers

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

Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference this afternoon, and while it brought no major news, he did mention some important stuff. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Sabathia having knee surgery. CC Sabathia is having a “routine cleanup” on his troublesome right knee at some point soon. This has been planned for weeks and it’s not a serious concern.
  • Higashioka going on 40-man. Kyle Higashioka will be added to the 40-man roster, Cashman confirmed. Higashioka had a big year in Double-A and Triple-A and forced the issue. He was due to become a minor league free agent after the season.
  • Kaprielian healthy, still trying for AzFL. James Kaprielian is healthy and pitching at max effort, and if all goes well in Instructional League, he’ll report to the Arizona Fall League. He’s officially not on the AzFL roster right now. The league’s website is not correct.
  • Several players on waivers. Without saying who, Cashman acknowledged the Yankees have started their 40-man roster cleanup and placed several players on waivers. We’ll find out the results soon.

I’ll have a full recap of Cashman’s press conference tomorrow. This is only the important stuff.

Update: Both Kirby Yates and Blake Parker were claimed off waivers by the Angels, the Yankees announced. Also, Anthony Swarzak elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A. So those are the waiver moves Cashman talked about.

Wednesday Links: Rothschild, CBA, Steinbrenner, YES

(Presswire)
Rothschild. (Presswire)

At noon today, Brian Cashman will hold his annual end-of-season State of the Yankees press conference. These things rarely bring major news — usually the only announcements are coaching changes — but Cashman is very candid by GM standards, so it’ll be interesting to hear what he has to say about the 2016 season and the team going forward. Until then, here are some links and bits of news to check out.

Rothschild hopes to return in 2017

The contract of pitching coach Larry Rothschild expired after the season, and he told Dan Martin he hopes to return in 2017. “We’ll see what happens,” said Rothschild. This is probably one of the things Cashman will discuss at today’s press conference. Rothschild has been New York’s pitching coach since the 2011 season, and since then the Yankees lead all AL teams in pitching WAR. They’re third among all 30 clubs.

Of course, evaluating a pitching coach (or any coach) is not nearly as simple as looking at WAR. I said what I had to say about Rothschild last month. I think the vast majority of the team’s pitching issues stem from their obsession with raw stuff over command and refinement. The Yankees have now missed the playoffs three times in the last four years, and they’ve replacing their hitting coach each of the last two offseasons. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rothschild is let go in a scapegoat move. We’ll see.

Manfred hopeful new CBA will be done soon

While speaking to reporters over the weekend, commissioner Rob Manfred said he is hopeful MLB and the MLBPA will finalize the new Collective Bargaining Agreement soon after the end of the postseason, according to Bob Nightengale and Ben Nicholson-Smith. “Both parties still have significant issues on the table,” said Manfred, who added this is not a “rip the agreement up, start over type of negotiation.”

I’m not in any way worried about a work stoppage — revenue is at an all-time high and both sides have too much to lose — though I am curious to see how the new CBA changes free agent compensation, the draft, and international free agency. My guess is the IFA system is changed pretty drastically. I don’t think MLB likes teams making a mockery of the system, like the Yankees did with their 2014-15 signing spree. Either way, change is on the horizon.

Steinbrenner among ten on Today’s Game Era ballot

Earlier this week, the Hall of Fame announced the ten-person Today’s Game Era ballot, according to the Associated Press. Among the ten are former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The Boss was previously up for Hall of Fame election through the Expansion Era committee, though he didn’t receive enough votes. The Today’s Game committee will announce their voting results during the Winter Meetings in December. Twelve of 16 votes are needed for induction.

The Hall of Fame restructured their voting committees recently — the Veterans and Expansion Era committees are no more, and have been replaced by the Today’s Game (1988-present), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Golden Days (1950-69), and Early Baseball (1871-1949) committees — and the new ones meet every few years. Steinbrenner, who I think should be in the Hall of Fame, is on the Today’s Game ballot with Mark McGwire, Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, John Schuerholz, and Bud Selig.

YES ratings down in 2016

Surprise surprise: YES Network ratings were down this past season, according to Eben Novy-Williams. YES averaged approximately 218,000 viewers per game in 2016, down from roughly 233,000 per game last year, as best I can tell. Part of that is the squabble with Comcast; Comcast stopped carrying YES this year because they didn’t want to pay the rights fee. There are 900,000 or so Comcast subscribers in the Tri-State Area and I’m sure more than a few are Yankees fans.

From 2002-11, the first decade of the YES era, the network averaged about 400,000 viewers per game. Interest has waned in recent years thanks to some retirements (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, etc.) and non-playoff seasons. Novy-Williams says SNY had higher ratings than YES for the first time ever this season — SNY averaged a little less than 264,000 viewers per game in 2016 — which isn’t surprising given the Comcast issue and the fact the Mets went to the World Series a year ago.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Day two without Yankees baseball is complete. To make up for it, I recommend checking out David Laurila’s two-part interview with Tyler Clippard (part one, part two). Clippard’s a smart guy who really studies the art of pitching, and he had some interesting things to say about fastball plane and pitch variation, stuff like that. Check it out. Pretty great stuff.

Here’s the open thread for the night. The Orioles and Blue Jays are playing the AL Wildcard Game in Toronto (Tillman vs. Stroman). That’s an 8pm ET start and you can watch on TBS. You can also stream the game on MLB on TBS. Talk about that game, Clippard’s interview, the upcoming offseason, or anything else right here.