2015 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Monday

2016 Winter Meetings

The 2015 Winter Meetings begin today in Nashville. Well, they actually began yesterday with some minor league presentations and stuff, but the fun stuff starts today. As always, there will be a ton of rumors and trades and free agent signings out of the Winter Meetings this week. Will the Yankees be in on the action? Maybe!

“Our team is fairly set, but we’re open to exploring any and all trade opportunities. If we can improve our team, we’ll do it. If we can’t, we won’t,” said Brian Cashman to Wally Matthews recently. He told Dan Barbarisi the team is focused more on trades than free agency — the Yankees are said to be seeking young pitching in any deal — but thinks they’ll end up holding onto Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. We’ll see.

We’ll keep track of any and all (legitimate) Yankees-related rumors right here throughout the day. Use this thread to talk about all the Winter Meetings action and keep the other threads on topic. Thanks in advance. All time stamps are ET. (Last year they were in San Diego and the time difference created a big headache.)

  • 11:30am: Andrew Miller remains available and the Yankees continue to seek a huge package in return. The Astros, who previously inquired about Miller, remain in the mix. [Joel Sherman]
  • 11:30am: At least one team has inquired about Nathan Eovaldi. Talks did not progress much, but Eovaldi isn’t off the table. Ivan Nova remains in play as well. [Sherman]
  • 11:30am: The Yankees are monitoring the market for Jose Fernandez, though the Marlins are seeking a massive haul for their ace. “The cost is so overwhelming that I don’t think he is really available,” said one executive. [Sherman]
  • 11:39am: The Yankees are interested in Asdrubal Cabrera to play second base. Cabrera is cool with that, according to his agent. The team insists they don’t have much money to spend. Asdrubal would give the Yankees a backup shortstop, allowing them to jettison Brendan Ryan and keep both Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley on the roster. [Jon Morosi, Brendan Kuty]
  • 12:22pm: Teams are expecting the Yankees to lose outfielder Jake Cave in the Rule 5 Draft later this week. The Mets could be a possible fit. As a left-handed hitter capable of playing center field, Cave is prime Rule 5 Draft fodder. [Adam Rubin]
  • 2:31pm: For what it’s worth, two team executives and one agent insist the Yankees’ unwillingness to spend on free agents is legitimate and not a smokescreen. [Mark Feinsand]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Joe Girardi: Some Questionable Second Half Decisions In An Otherwise Strong Season [2015 Season Review]


Evaluating a manager is a very difficult. First and foremost, the most important part of the job happens behind closed doors, in the clubhouse, where 25+ personalities are managed. Secondly, front offices are getting more and more involved in day-to-day decision making. Lineup construction, bullpen usage, stuff like that. Sometimes it can be hard to tell who is really calling the shots.

Joe Girardi just completed his eighth season as Yankees manager — can you believe it’s been eight seasons already? — so by now we’ve been able to pick up on some tendencies. He likes having a designated eighth inning reliever and, when possible, a designated seventh inning reliever too. Having the platoon advantage is important. He goes to great lengths to rest his players, particularly the veteran everyday position players.

Since we’re not in the clubhouse, all we can do is evaluate Girardi’s on-field performance, and even that is tough. He doesn’t swing a bat and he doesn’t throw any pitches. In the end, it’s up to the players to execute. All Girardi can do is put them in the best possible position to succeed. This is baseball. Sometimes you do everything right and it still doesn’t work out. Let’s review the on-field aspect of Girardi’s performance in 2015.

Bullpen Usage

Girardi likes to have designated seventh and eighth inning guys, but has shown he will be flexible when necessary. Dellin Betances appeared in 74 games this season and on 19 occasions he was brought into the game in the seventh inning to put out a fire. Andrew Miller missed a month due to injury and still had four saves of at least four outs, fifth most in baseball.

Here’s a really quick graph plotting Leverage Index against FIP for relievers who threw at least 30 innings in 2015. There were 205 of them. Generally speaking, the best relievers have the lowest FIP, and you want them pitching the most important innings, so they should have a high LI.

2015 Reliever UsageGirardi was very good at using his best relievers — specifically Miller, Betances, and Justin Wilson — in the most important situations this past season. At same time, he used his worst reliever (Esmil Rogers) in the least important innings. That’s how it should work.

Reliever usage is tough to evaluate — we often have no idea who is and who isn’t available on a specific day — but there is evidence Girardi is among the best managers in the game at running a bullpen. Every manager makes questionable decisions from time to time, but Girardi does seem to make less than most. He’s good at using the right guy in the right spot.

Rest, Rest, Rest

The Yankees were the only team in baseball to not use a reliever three days in a row this past season. Two days in a row happened all the time, it has to in this day and age, but not a single Yankees reliever pitched three consecutive days at any point in 2015. Not even down the stretch when the team was fighting for a postseason spot..

“It’s the thought process from the beginning (of the year),” said Girardi to reporters in early September. “I don’t throw guys three days in a row. If they’ve thrown three out of four, I don’t throw them another. That’s thought, I think, really hard about that, how we use our relievers and how you keep them healthy during the course of the year.”

Resting relievers is obviously important, and for years Girardi has done an excellent job making sure he doesn’t overwork guys. The only glaring exception is Betances — he’s thrown 18.2 innings more than any reliever the last two seasons — and it’s possible his late-season control problems were the result of all those high-stress innings. Then again, Dellin has a history of control problems, so it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary either.

I think we can all agree Girardi is very good at giving his relievers the appropriate rest. Whether it leads to improved performance — or simply sustained performance later in the season — is another matter. There’s no real way to know that. Girardi is also pretty good at resting his position players, so much so that it might be overkill at times. Then again, he has a veteran team, and they need more rest.

Here’s a stat that blew my mind (that maybe shouldn’t have): the longest streak of consecutive games started in the field by a Yankee this year was 12 by Chase Headley, spanning July 23rd to August 4th. Twelve! Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury each started eleven straight games in the field at one point, though Beltran’s streak had an off-day mixed in. (Headley’s streak was 12 starts in 12 days.) No other Yankee started more than nine (!) straight games in the field.

Isn’t that wild? The Red Sox were the only other team in baseball who didn’t have a player start at least 15 straight games in the field at some point this season. (Mookie Betts was their leader at 13.) Part of this is platoons, which we’ll talk about a little more soon, but a lot of this is Girardi’s tendency to rest his regulars. If not once a week, then close to it. Did it help? It’s easy to say no considering the second half offensive collapse, but who’s to say the collapse wouldn’t have started in June without the rest?

Platoon Advantages

According to Baseball Reference, the Yankees had the platoon advantage in 73% of their plate appearances this season, easily the most in baseball. The Indians were second at 71% and no other team was over 67%. This is no fluke either. The Yankees were third in MLB last season (70%), 14th in 2013 (55%), fifth in 2012 (64%), and second in 2011 (65%).


Roster construction plays a significant role in this, but ranking top five in plate appearances with the platoon advantage four times in the last five years indicates Girardi is putting his hitters in position to succeed. That’s all he can do. Put guys in spots that optimize their skills. He certainly does that offensively.

On the pitching side, the Yankees had the platoon advantage in 47% of their plate appearances, 12th most in MLB. The league average was 46%, so the Yankees were basically middle of the pack. Last season it was 45% and the year before it was 40%, again right around the league average. I wish there were a way to separate starters from relievers, but there’s not. That would be more instructive.

Anecdotally, Girardi does seem to understand which relievers can face which hitters. Miller and Betances can face anyone, and Wilson and Chasen Shreve were not pigeonholed into left-on-left work. Girardi knew they could get righties out. Maybe Girardi doesn’t deserve much credit here because the Yankees haven’t had a regular reliever with a massive platoon split since Clay Rapada a few years ago. Offensively though, Girardi really maximizes those platoons.

Questionable Decisions in the Second Half

For the most part, the 2015 season was a pretty typical Girardi season from a decision-making standpoint. He did, however, make some curious move down the stretch. Two stand out the most to me. First, Girardi left a struggling Ivan Nova in to face Justin Smoak with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning on August 8th. Nova’s pitch count was over 100 and the game was scoreless.

Adam Warren was warming in the bullpen the entire inning and yet Nova was left in to load the bases and give up the grand slam. Two of the first three base-runners reached on walks, including a four-pitch walk to Edwin Encarnacion immediately prior to the grand slam. It was obvious Nova was fatigued, yet Girardi stuck with him even though Warren was ready. Maybe it doesn’t matter in the end, but geez, that was an obviously bad decision at the time.

Then, on September 23rd, Girardi attempted to use James Pazos, Caleb Cotham, and Andrew Bailey to navigate the middle of Toronto’s lineup in the sixth and seventh innings of a scoreless game. It went from 0-0 to 4-0 Blue Jays in the span of nine batters. Wilson and Betances were left sitting in the bullpen waiting for the eighth and ninth innings, which proved to be meaningless. (Miller was unavailable that day.)

That September 23rd game was more or less New York’s last chance to stay in the AL East race. The Yankees went into that game 2.5 games back of Toronto with 12 games to play. A win would have brought them to within 1.5 games of the division, but instead a bunch of September call-ups relievers gave the game away and created a 3.5-game deficit. Girardi didn’t show a whole lot of urgency there.

Those two moments in particular stand out as glaring mistakes and they contributed to the Yankees losing the division, though every manager makes major blunders throughout the season. Girardi has his moments like everyone else. I think he’s a net positive on the field through his bullpen usage and platoon work, and the same was true in 2015. September wasn’t the best month of his Yankees career, but the season overall was strong.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 7th, 2015

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

Top stories from last week:

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.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

The Winter Meetings begin next week and my hunch right now is the Yankees will indeed do something in Nashville. Not necessarily anything major, but something. There’s been too much talk about not doing anything from Brian Cashman & Co. for me to think it’ll actually happen. Anyway, here are the weekend links:

  • I enjoyed David Laurila’s interview with Rockies GM Jeff Bridich, who discussed the challenges of building a team in baseball’s most extreme park environment. It’s been more than 20 years now and still no one seems particularly close to figuring out what kind of pitcher can consistently succeed in Coors Field. Pitches don’t move the same way they do at sea level because they react to the thin air differently.
  • Here’s a neat little article by Ryan McKenna on Jim Stevenson, the scout who drafted both Dallas Keuchel and Jake Arrieta, the 2015 Cy Young award winners. Stevenson was with the Astros when they took Keuchel in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, and he was with the Brewers when they drafted Arrieta out of junior college in the 26th round of the 2005 draft. (Arrieta didn’t sign and instead transferred to TCU.)
  • This is a few months old but it’s totally worth reading: Susan Dominus wrote about two sets of identical twins raised in Colombia. Due to a hospital error, two of the babies were switched at birth, and they were raised separately as sets of fraternal twins. They all found each other as adults, basically by chance. It’s an insane story. No other way to describe it.

Friday: This is your open thread for the evening. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are in action except the Rangers, plus there’s some college hoops on as well. Discuss those games, the links, or anything else here.

Saturday: Here’s the open thread again. The Islanders and Knicks are playing, plus you’ve got a ton of college football and basketball as well. Have at it.

Sunday: This is your open thread for the final time. You’ve got all the afternoon NFL action plus the late game (Colts at Steelers) later tonight. The Rangers, Devils, and Nets are playing as well, and there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about any and all of that here.

Room for Improvement: Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Ellsbury. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

For Jacoby Ellsbury2015 couldn’t have started any better and couldn’t have finished any worse. Borrowing from Mike’s post, Ellsbury hit to a .324 average and a .412 OBP with 14 steals in the first 40 games of the season. There isn’t much more you could ask of your leadoff hitter. But if the beginning of the season was the best of times for Ellsbury, the end of the season was certainly the worst of times for him. In a move that would’ve been unimaginable in April, Ellsbury did not start the Wild Card playoff game against the Astros and their brilliant lefty starter Dallas Keuchel. By that time, of course, it was apparent that Taco was struggling mightily against lefties and that putting Chris Young and Brett Gardner in the outfield with Carlos Beltran gave the Yankees their best shot to win that game. Injuries obviously played a big part in this along the way, but to return to his normal form in 2016, Jacoby needs to rebound against left handed pitching.

Coming into 2015, Ellsbury more than held his own against lefties. For his career up through 2014, he hit to a .330 wOBA against them with a 6.8% walk rate and a .116 ISO. In 2014 itself, he hit lefties very well, going for a .360 wOBA, an 81% walk rate, and a .172 ISO. In 2015, though, things cratered. Southpaws limited him to a .295 wOBA with a 6.9% walk rate, and a measly .071 ISO. Did same-handed pitchers attack Ellsbury differently to lead to a dramatic drop in production against them? No, not really, actually. In both 2014 and 2015, lefties threw mostly fastballs, sinkers, and sliders to him. The differences in performances against those pitches tell us part of the story of Ellsbury’s apparent demise against left handed pitchers.

In 2015, Ellsbury put 49 fastballs against lefties into play. When he did, his numbers looked pretty good. He hit .286 against lefty fastballs with a .429 SLG, good for a respectable .143 ISO. The same, generally, goes for sinkers, though without the power; despite not getting any extra-base hits on the 31 sinkers he put into play against lefties, Ellsbury still managed to hit .323 against that pitch. Sliders from lefties, however, did him in. He hit just .211 against lefty sliders and put up an ISO of only .089. That performance is definitely a carryover from 2014, when he also hit .222 against sliders, but managed to ISO just .074 then.

To a certain extent, his performances against fastballs and sinkers were holdovers from 2014 as well, but that extent is rather limited. Ellsbury absolutely mauled fastballs and sinkers from lefties in 2014. He hit .359 against number one while slugging .547. He hit for a lower average against sinkers–“just” .341–but crushed them to a .636 SLG, good for a .296 ISO.

Like many things in baseball, his performance against lefties may’ve been a matter of degrees. He still hit certain pitches fairly well in 2015, just not well enough. And like everything in baseball, there is not one explanation for why these things happened. Perhaps it just wasn’t his year against lefties. Perhaps he faced better lefties. Perhaps he just didn’t get the bounces. Most likely, though, it has to do with the fact that he just wasn’t healthy in 2015. Injuries tend to bring out the worst in players and that was no different for Ellsbury in 2015. Hopefully he goes into 2016 feeling better, allowing him to rebound and make those good numbers from April stretch out all season.

Shark off the board: Giants agree to sign Jeff Samardzija

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

The free agent pitching dominoes are starting to fall. David Price and Zack Greinke signed in recent days, and now the Giants have agreed to a five-year contract with Jeff Samardzija, reports Alex Pavlovic. Tim Brown says the deal is worth $90M. That seems totally reasonable to me.

Samardzija, 30, had a miserable walk year with the White Sox, pitching to a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP) in 214 innings. He was damn near ace-like in 2014 though, throwing 219.2 innings of 2.99 ERA (3.20 FIP) ball. The true Samardzija is probably somewhere in the middle of 2014 and 2015.

I wrote a Scouting The Market post on Samardzija because the Yankees have been connected to him in recent weeks. They weren’t actively pursuing him as far as we know, but they were said to be monitoring the market and lying in the weeds. The Yankees are reportedly taking the same approach with Wei-Yin Chen.

Even with Price, Greinke, and Samardzija (and Jordan Zimmermann and John Lackey) off the board, there are still a ton of quality free agent pitchers available. Chen, Johnny Cueto, Hisashi Iwakuma, Scott Kazmir, and Mike Leake are the best of the unsigned guys. Whether the Yankees spend money to sign one of them is another matter.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Teixeira, Eovaldi

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Yesterday morning, Brian Cashman went for some practice runs rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford for the Heights & Lights ceremony. This is an annual thing for Cashman now and it’s for a good cause, so don’t be a jerk and complain. Anyway, Cashman passed along some injury updates between runs. Here’s the latest, courtesy of Chad Jennings and Bryan Hoch.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) has finished his physical therapy following surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. He’s heading home to Japan soon and will begin a throwing program. “He’s got a throwing program, so he should be good to go in the spring, but I’m sure we’ll be careful with him nonetheless,” said Cashman.
  • Mark Teixeira (shin) has shed his walking boot and is going through workouts. He’s not scheduled to begin running until after the holidays though. “He’s out of his boot. He’s, I’d say, healthy. He’s walking around, doing activities,” said the GM.
  • Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is fine. He was ready to be added to the ALDS roster had the Yankees advanced. Eovaldi is going through his normal offseason routine. “No concern. He’s got a normal winter routine that he can execute,” said Cashman