After that, use this as tonight’s open thread. The Giants and Bengals are the Monday Night Football game, plus the Knicks, Nets, and Islanders are in action. There’s a whole bunch of college hoops on the schedule as well. Talk about the Rookie of the Year award(s) and those games right here.
According to J.J. Cooper, MLB’s international free agency rules may prevent the Nippon Ham Fighters from posting right-hander Shohei Otani this offseason. Otani is still only 22, which means if he comes over this winter, he’d only be able to sign a minor league contract. He still qualifies as an international amateur and would count against the bonus pool. Even through the posting process.
Furthermore, because the Yankees are still subject to the penalties from their 2014-15 international spending spree, they would only be able to offer Otani a $300,000 bonus. Obviously that won’t be enough to sign him. The Red Sox, Dodgers, and Angels are in the same boat. Otani doesn’t turn 23 until next July too, so it’s not a matter of waiting a few extra weeks.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 1st, so it’s possible the international free agency rules will change and make it more realistic for Otani to be posted. That seems unlikely though. Every change made to international free agency these days further limits spending. There’s no reason to think that’ll change this time around.
Otani would be, by far, the best available pitcher this winter. The (Ham) Fighters could still post him, but they know he’s not going to sign a minor league contract, so there’s no real point. They figure to instead keep him one more year, then post him next offseason, when he’ll be able to sign a contract of any size at age 23. We’ll see. Maybe the upcoming CBA will change things for the better.
This season Otani had a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings while also hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances. The consensus is his future is much brighter on the mound, though when it comes time to sign him, the team that gives Otani the chance to pitch and hit may be the one that gets him.
Once again, Adam Warren will be given a chance to win a rotation spot in Spring Training. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland that Warren will come to camp as a starter next year, and if he doesn’t win a rotation spot, he’ll move to the bullpen. Cashman said Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard are the only bullpen locks at the moment, because duh.
Warren, 29, had a 4.68 ERA (5.12 FIP) in 65.1 total innings this past season, including a 3.26 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 30.1 innings with the Yankees. He made one start with the Cubs and allowed one run in five innings against the Reds. For his career, Warren has a 3.88 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 111.1 innings as a starter and a 3.51 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 243.1 innings as a reliever. I have some thoughts on this.
1. Of course Warren should come to camp as a starter. There’s no reason for the Yankees not to bring Warren to Spring Training stretched out a starting pitcher. There’s nothing to lose. They can see what he looks like as a starter, decide where he fits best, then put him there. If that’s in the bullpen, so be it. Nothing wrong with having a stretched out reliever.
With close to an entire offseason to go, the Yankees have Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda ticketed for the 2017 rotation. I’ll be surprised if they don’t bring in someone from outside the organization for the fourth spot. Then there are all the kids for the fifth spot. Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell … those guys will all be in camp as starters too. Warren is another name to throw into the mix. That’s all.
2. The best value starters may be relievers. This free agent pitching class is so impossibly bad that one team (Angels) has already signed a reliever (Jesse Chavez) with the intention of turning him into a starter. Rather than spend big money for a potential fifth starter, the Halos found a cheaper and more creative alternative. I wouldn’t be surprised if Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill get jobs as starters this winter too.
If Warren were a free agent right now, wouldn’t teams look at him as a rotation option? Of course they would. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t. Sign him and see what he can do as a starter, knowing the bullpen is always a fallback option. The Yankees are in position to do exactly that without the hassle of a free agent bidding war or anything like that. Warren is already on the roster.
3. Trade value! Because the free agent class is so thin, trades are going to be very popular, and not only in the offseason. It’ll carry over into the regular season too. Teams that can’t get the pitching they need this offseason — and it figures to be a lot of teams — will keeping looking for arms next summer leading up to the trade deadline.
Should Warren have success as a starter, even as a serviceable fourth or fifth starter, his trade value will increase. He’d only have so much value as a middle reliever. Back end-starter with an extra year of control though? Forget it. Those guys are in demand. I’m not saying Warren would fetch a big return as a starter. Just a bigger return than he would as a reliever.
4. Warren starting doesn’t have be permanent. This is kinda important. Winning a rotation spot in Spring Training doesn’t mean Warren will be in the rotation all season. The Yankees have all those young starters, so Warren may only have to hold down the fort until Green gets over his elbow issue, or until Severino finds his changeup, or until Cessa stops giving up dingers. That sort of thing.
I’m a Warren believer and think he could be a solid starting pitcher. The chances of him being more effective as a starter than, say, Severino or Green in the short-term seem pretty high to me. The Yankees stuck with Austin Romine and sent Gary Sanchez to Triple-A for more seasoning this year, and they were rewarded in the second half. Going with Warren in the rotation while some of the kids get more time in Triple-A could be the best possible thing for the Yankees long-term.
Coming into the 2016 season, the bullpen was an undeniable strength for the Yankees. At least in the late innings, anyway. The trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman were basically automatic for the few months they were together. Getting the ball from the starter to those guys was often a challenge, however.
By and large, the middle relief was too often a weakness for the Yankees this past season. It wasn’t just getting the ball from the starter to the end-game guys either. It was getting the job done when those guys weren’t available, or holding the other team down when the Yankees were trailing and the offense was trying to get back into the game. Joe Girardi wound up with a revolving door of trusted “fourth” relievers this year.
The Still Broken Shreve
Man, Spring Training was such a tease. Chasen Shreve had such a horrible finish to last season, a horrible finish everyone hoped was nothing more than fatigue, that when he showed up to Spring Training and dominated, it was easy to think he was back on track. The 26-year-old southpaw allowed one hit and one walk in ten scoreless Grapefruit League innings. He struck out eight. Woo! Too bad it didn’t carry over into the regular season.
Shreve made the Opening Day roster and he was Girardi’s go-to reliever behind the big three. (Big two, really, since Chapman was suspended.) He started his season with six straight scoreless outings, then the runs came. Two in an inning against the Athletics on April 21st. One more against the Rangers five days later. Another two runs four days after that. From April 21st through May 25th, Shreve allowed eleven runs and seven homers (!) in 13.2 innings.
Following a three-run meltdown against the Blue Jays on May 25th, Shreve was placed on the 15-day DL with relatively minor shoulder sprain. He did his rehab, and two and a half weeks later, he was activated off the DL and optioned to Triple-A Scranton. Shreve spent the rest of the season as an up-and-down arm. He was called up and sent down three different times from June 12th through September 1st, when rosters expanded.
Shreve’s best moment of the season came in Kansas City on August 30th. He inherited a one-run lead in the tenth inning, though the contact happy Royals had the bases loaded with one out. Shreve escaped the jam by striking out Kendrys Morales and getting Salvador Perez to fly out harmlessly to center. It was his first career save and two of the biggest outs of the season.
Shreve was so good the first four months last season that it was worth giving him another shot this year, to see if fatigue really was the root cause of his second half issues. Obviously it wasn’t. He struggled again this season. Basically all summer. Shreve tried different things too. At midseason he shelved his trademark splitter and went with a slider.
By the end of the season Shreve was so far down the depth chart that he barely pitched. He appeared in two of the team’s final 19 games. The Yankees were down three runs and seven runs in the two appearances. Girardi didn’t even give Shreve any token “let’s see if we can get him back on track” outings late in September after the Yankees fell out of the race. He was unusable.
The Yankees currently have five healthy lefty relievers on the 40-man roster, and while none are lockdown Andrew Miller types, that depth could make Shreve expendable. Either way, it’s hard to see him carving out a consistent role with the Yankees at this point. Given the entirety of his career, Shreve’s great four months last season are the outlier, not all the problems he’s had since.
A Few Good Weeks From Yates
I’m mad at myself for not seeing it coming. In recent years the Yankees have developed a habit of picking up a scrap heap reliever in the winter who was very easily to overlook, then, before you knew it, he found himself on the Opening Day roster. Turns out the Yankees liked him more than we realized. Guys like Chris Martin and Cody Eppley are perfect examples.
This year that guy was Kirby Yates, who came over from the Indians in a cash deal in January. Yates shoved in camp — he allowed two hits and one walk in eight scoreless innings while striking out eleven — and bam, he was on the Opening Day roster. Incredible. Kirby had a tough start to the season, allowing three runs in his first six outings, before settling into a nice little groove. From April 24th through May 31st, Yates allowed two runs in 14.2 innings.
That stretch combined with Shreve’s meltdown earned Yates a spot as Girardi’s most trusted non-big three reliever. And for a while, he was great. Then June happened. The Blue Jays tagged Kirby for four runs in one-third of an inning on June 1st. Two weeks later the Rockies tagged him for three runs in one-third of an inning. At one point he allowed at least one run in five of six outings. Ouch.
The final straw came on June 27th, when a long rain delay — long as in three hours and 35 minutes (!) — forced Chapman from the game in the ninth inning. The Yankees had a one-run lead but the Rangers had a man on first with no outs. Yates replaced Chapman after the rain delay and allowed four runs before getting three outs. The inning went strikeout, hit batter, hit batter, single, hit batter, fly ball, single, strikeout. Sigh.
Yates was one of the first to go when time came to unclog the 40-man roster after the season. The Yankees dropped him from the roster a few days after the end of the regular season and the Angels claimed him off waivers, so he’s with Anaheim now. His time in pinstripes is over. Like most middle relievers, Yates had his moments with the Yankees, mostly in May, but for the most part his tenure was forgettable. C’est la vie.
The First Late-Season Addition
The Yankees remade their middle relief unit with two small moves on August 9th. The first of those two moves was a signing. The Yankees inked veteran southpaw Tommy Layne to a Major League contract not long after he was released by the Red Sox. Boston added Fernando Abad at the trade deadline and deemed Layne expendable, so they cut him loose. Not the best series of moves for them.
At the time Shreve was the only lefty in the bullpen — Miller and Chapman were gone by this point — and he was far from reliable, so the Yankees gave Layne a chance. And you know what? He pitched pretty darn well, all things considered. He had a 3.38 ERA (4.83 FIP) in 16 innings overall, but, more importantly, Layne held left-handed hitters to a .147/.237/.147 batting line in his limited time in pinstripes.
Oddly enough, Layne’s biggest outing with the Yankees came against a bunch of righties. It was September 26th in Toronto, and although New York was up four runs in the ninth, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and an error by Dellin Betances. Layne walked in a run and allowed another on a single, but ultimately he escaped the jam thanks in part to his own great play at the plate.
Although he’s already 32 years old, Layne is arbitration-eligible for the first time as a Super Two this offseason. The Yankees control him through 2020, though let’s not think that far ahead yet. Let’s get through 2017 first. MLBTR projects a $1.2M salary for Layne next year, which isn’t nothing, but it’s not enough for the Yankees to consider walking away at the non-tender deadline.
Right now Layne is the team’s best lefty reliever, and he figures to come to Spring Training with an inside track on an Opening Day bullpen spot. I wouldn’t call him a lock for the roster, guys like this can go poof in a hurry, but he’s penciled into a spot for sure.
The Second Late-Season Addition
A few hours after signing Layne, the Yankees claimed righty Blake Parker off waivers from the Mariners. Parker’s one of those guys who reminds you to basically ignore minor league reliever stats. He had a 2.72 ERA (3.12 FIP) with a 37.3% strikeout rate in 39.2 Triple-A innings for Seattle. With the Yankees, he had a 4.96 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 16.1 innings.
To be fair, Parker had two disaster outings with New York that skewed his overall numbers. He allowed nine runs with the Yankees and seven came in two appearances. Parker allowed three runs in one-third of an inning against the Royals on August 29th, and four runs in one-third of an inning against the Blue Jays on September 23rd. In his other 15.2 innings, he allowed two runs.
Like Layne, Parker’s biggest moment in pinstripes came when he bailed out Betances during a messy ninth inning against the Blue Jays. It was September 6th and the Yankees took a three-run lead into the ninth. Three walks, a wild pitch, and two singles put two runs on the board and loaded the bases with one out. Yikes. Parker took over with the sacks full and got the final two outs. It was … eventful.
Good times, good times. Parker, like Yates, is no longer with the Yankees. I mean exactly like Yates too. Parker was claimed off waivers by the Angels a few days after the end of the regular season. The Yankees were clearing their 40-man roster and the Halos deemed Parker and Yates better than what they had in their bullpen. The two lefties stayed and the two righties are gone. The bullpen circle of life.
2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees have identified a trade partner for Brian McCann, whatever that means. The Astros are among the interested teams.
- Brian Cashman has already reached out to the representatives for Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees also attended Greg Holland’s workout.
- The Yankees had interest in Kendrys Morales before he signed a three-year deal with the Blue Jays. They’ve also checked in on Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista.
- The focus this offseason is “pitching, pitching, pitching.” The Yankees have been connected to free agents Rich Hill and Boone Logan. They claimed Joe Mantiply and designated Branden Pinder.
- Ten farmhands became minor league free agents, most notably Cito Culver and Cesar Puello. The Blue Jays signed Lourdes Gurriel to a seven-year contract.
- Gary Sanchez is a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year. Brett Gardner won his first career Gold Glove.
- The 2017 Spring Training scheduled has been announced.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Saturday: This is the open thread again. All five local hockey and basketball teams are playing, and there’s more college football and basketball on than anyone could ever possibly watch. Talk about whatever here.
Sunday: For the last time, this is your open thread. You’ve got a full day of NFL action, plus the (hockey) Rangers are playing and there’s a bunch of college hoops on as well. Enjoy the final few hours of the weekend.
I have repeated this recently and will likely keep doing so until it either happens or doesn’t: the Yankees shouldn’t trade Brian McCann this offseason. The necessary caveat of ‘never say never’ applies, but as I see things, that perfect scenario is unlikely to occur. Like Mike laid out in his offseason plan, I’m of the belief that McCann should be retained:
Yes, I am keeping Brian McCann. I think he’s way more valuable to the Yankees on their roster as a part-time catcher/part-time DH than anything he could realistically fetch in a trade. He’s the perfect guy to mentor Gary Sanchez, and hey, if Sanchez falls on his face next year like Severino did this year, it’ll sure be nice to have McCann around. Quality lefty hitting catcher: worth keeping.
Unless the Yankees get supremely blown away by some deal that includes the other team taking on money AND sending back a prospect (not gonna happen), he’s likely to be more valuable to the Yankees than the trade pieces he fetches. After seeing the team shed Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran last season — all good moves, all right moves — it seems that a lot of fans got blood lust for trading veterans at any cost. And with Alex Rodriguez gone by mid-August, Mark Teixeira retiring, and CC Sabathia (and Jacoby Ellsbury) virtually unmovable, fans set their sights on a desire to deal McCann. And that sentiment is totally understandable, but perhaps a bit misguided.
Unlike those players traded at the 2016 deadline, McCann still has time left on his contract. And unlike Sabathia — fairly good 2016 notwithstanding — and Ellsbury, he’s still close enough to his true-talent level to keep around. Since joining the Yankees in 2014, McCann leads all AL catchers with 69 homers and is tied with Salvador Perez for first in fWAR at 6.7. He’s also second in wRC+ at 101, just behind Russell Martin and Stephen Vogt’s tied tally of 106.
Keeping McCann allows the Yankees patience in the further development of Gary Sanchez, as Mike noted above, and keeps strong bats in the lineup most every day. Both players have bats — and gloves, for that matter — that are worth keeping in the lineup each day and putting them in some sort of catching rotation maximizes their time at the plate and keeps them healthy for the times they’re behind it. Having them split time at catcher and DH — and maybe on occasional day a first for McCann in the event of Greg Bird needing a rest — is good for them personally and good for the team; not having a ‘backup’ type catcher means less chances of essentially punting games when the primary guy needs a day off.
For now, the Yankees should hold off on trading Brian McCann. That’s the stance I’m going to take and the hill I’m going to defend until further notice. Would trading him save the team some cash? Definitely. Would it bring back impact talent? Maybe. That second question needs to be a lot more sure, as does the Yankees’ roster situation. While it’s not horribly likely the team will be a 90+ win team competing for more than the wild card spot, that outlook could change by the end of the Hot Stove season. McCann could be a big part of a wining team. If it doesn’t work out that way, though, I’m always willing to reconsider around deadline time. But for now, don’t trade McCann.