2017 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Monday

2017-winter-meetingsSo this offseason went from boring to crazy in a hurry, huh? After weeks of inactivity, Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels and the Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton (!!!) in the span of 48 hours. Just like that, the two most intriguing storylines of the offseason were resolved. Ohtani is an Angel and Stanton will be mashing dingers in the Bronx.

That doesn’t mean the Winter Meetings will be boring this week, of course. There are still plenty of quality free agents on the board — nearly every top free agent remains unsigned — plus surprise trade candidates always emerge. The Stanton trade is all but certain to be the Yankees’ biggest move of the offseason. They do still need some pitching though, and possibly a second baseman.

“I do think that the future is bright. We’ve got a lot of good stuff that is already in place, and we’ve got more good stuff coming. I thought everybody got a chance to see that on the baseball stage this year play out. It has a chance to play out that way even further in the future. I don’t think there is a lot for us to have to do. I think we’re going to be patient, and we’re going to be diligent,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch, barely three days before the Stanton trade.

Stanton will be introduced at a 2pm ET press conference this afternoon, which I assume will be on MLB Network and MLB.com. Now that the Winter Meetings are underway, we’re going to keep track of all the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here. I honestly don’t know what to expect in the wake of the Stanton trade. The Yankees could very easily sit back and let the market come to them now. We’ll see. Make sure you check back often for updates throughout the day. All timestamps are ET.

  • 2:37pm: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees talked to the Marlins about Stanton at the GM Meetings a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until they lost out on Shohei Ohtani that they pursued him seriously. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 2:01pm: The Yankees are interested in Gerrit Cole, their 2008 first round pick. The “initial impression” is the Pirates are not trading him, however. [Heyman]
  • 10:57am: The Stanton trade is official. The Yankees made the announcement this morning. Here’s the press release. The trade is as reported: Stanton and cash for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers.
  • 10:30am: The Angels and CC Sabathia have had contract talks. Sabathia said many times he wants to remain with the Yankees, so maybe he’s using the Angels for leverage? [George King]
  • 10:30am: The Yankees are continuing to weigh Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley trade options. Ellsbury has a no-trade clause and apparently wants to stay in New York. The Yankees are said to be willing to eat half the $68M left on his contract to facilitate a deal. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:30am: The Marlins initially asked for Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, or Estevan Florial in Stanton trade talks. They settled for Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. [Heyman]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Fan Confidence Poll: December 11th, 2017

2017 Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE
2017 Postseason Record: 7-6 (51 RS, 42 RA), won AL WC Game, won ALDS, lost ALCS

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Two Weeks On The Road

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So I have been traveling a lot for work lately and the hot stove really hasn’t been really a priority.  I was in Vegas the week after Thanksgiving when most of the talk around the Yankees was “Who’s the Manager” and “What about Ohtani?”  News was mostly silly chatter about potential candidates and what a failure Brian Cashman was beginning to look like in his “bungling” of the Joe Girardi situation.  It’s kinda funny though what can happen in a week.

Aaron Boone happens around the time I am packing my suitcase to head back from AWS re:Invent (for you nerds, I work for MongoDB and love it, sorry RAB they paid for my trip) and I kind of giggled to myself.  I had been in a cab on the way from McCarran to the Encore the beginning of the week and I was absolutely convinced that this was going to be Carlos Beltran‘s job.  Like many other fans I felt that his connection to the group currently on the field, his skill set as a player and mind for baseball was something that Brian Cashman was looking for.  At this point it was either Hensley Meulens or Beltran in my mind.  But all of a sudden the news of Beltran’s elimination came out, which was not the biggest shock, and the realization that there’s a big chance the needle was starting to move in the Bronx.

The news leaks, and we all find out Aaron Boone is the new Yankees manager.  I get wifi on the flight back to Newark in the morning and follow along until I lose streaming audio (thanks airplane wifi) and just start keeping up on Twitter.  Like most, the Aaron Boone selection was a shock because of the lack of experience.  I started thinking about Joe Girardi a bit and the 2007 Yankees season.

Joe had just come off a Manager of the Year victory over his stupid old boss, Jeff “literal dumb person” Loria and took a job with the YES Network doing color.  Girardi was smart on the microphone and really made me look at what Joe Torre was doing a bit more.  By the end of the 2007 season I was completely convinced that the right manager for the Yankees wasn’t in the dugout, he was in the booth with Kay.

As the year moved on I started thinking about the tech industry and the problem I’ve seen with talent that’s just not properly placed in the organization.  A person who writes code can also be someone who contributes solid ideas and proper organization of an application or product.   It’s sometimes about recognizing the talent you have in your organization, in this case Girardi, and moving them to the right place so that you can succeed.  Torre had proven to be no longer in the favor of the Steinbrenners and the “correction” of talent was made.  YES was only partially owned by the Yankees at the time, but my feeling was that he went with YES for a broadcasting job because he knew he wanted to stay close to the Yankees as the organization began to change.

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Boone and his scar.

Now Boone didn’t work for YES, but he did for ESPN and for the last eight years all he did was watch, talk and study baseball for the enjoyment of the fans.  While he was paid well for it, it made me think about how much you as a player have to love baseball after years of playing to stay in the game somehow.  Aaron Boone is a young man, but he’s one who’s seen hardship personally as his health suffered from a heart defect in 2009 while playing for the Astros.  But he came back, and he played just months after the procedure to repair the big heart we all saw on display after his heroic crack of the bat in 2003. That story always stuck with me.  So I felt that Boone was probably the right guy.  He was a baseball lifer who grew up in the game and understood the type of person the Yankees needed for 2018 and beyond.

So the dust settles in Yankees world and most of us wait to see what’s next as the Winter Meetings approach.  I am in San Francisco with my wife at the time working at another conference.  I take small breaks to catch up with news, but honestly I am pretty busy and staying on top of things with the Yankees was a bit difficult.  It can be funny how a storm can hit and change everything so quickly … Ohtani was only the rumbling of what was really behind the clouds.  After he rejected the Yankees, many of us began really paying more attention to those rumors Jon Heyman had been floating about the reigning NL MVP.  Well, that storm was Giancarlo Stanton.

Ben, Mike and myself tend to try to keep up with things so we can keep the Twitter up to date.  Mike of course is doing his job for CBS.  So we’re all online watching what’s cooking until Hank Shulman bombed Baseball Twitter.  I am in SF and finally went bed at like 12AM local when nothing was quite done but I couldn’t stop checking. The morning was wonderful though as Heyman told the world that the Yanks and Marlins had a deal.

I had a flight to catch at 10am as the details started to come together.  I start grabbing my stuff and trying to get ready while furiously reading updates.  We hop on the plane and I get wifi and try to keep up as Brian Cashman basically blows up the whole baseball world before the Winter Meetings can even get started.

In a week we watched Cashman get himself a big raise, a new manager and the biggest fish in the 2017 trade ocean.  He caught himself a friggin Marlin.  In a week we watched the Yankees add a new manager, add a new star and take a ton of attention away from the rest of the 29 teams in the league.

Finally after two weeks, I am back home and I am looking forward to more hot stove news.  Mike will be all over it, so keep reading us on the site or check our twitter.  Thanks again for making RAB part of your Yankees baseball life.

Weekend Open Thread

The Shohei Ohtani saga is already over. After being posted last Friday, Ohtani agreed to sign with the Angels earlier today. GM Billy Eppler, formerly Brian Cashman‘s right-hand man, reeled in the biggest fish of the offseason. If nothing else, adding Ohtani to Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons will make the Angels extremely watchable next season. Anyway, I have some links to check out this weekend:

Friday: Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers and Devils are both playing, plus there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Ohtani signing with the Angels, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics, please.

Saturday: So, that was quite a day, huh? Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. Or will be once the trade is made official. Pretty cool. Anyway, this is the open thread again. All the local hockey and basketball teams are in action, plus there is plenty of college basketball on the schedule as well. You know how these things work now, so have at it.

Sunday: This is the open thread for the final time. The Knicks are playing tonight, plus there’s all the day’s NFL and college basketball action as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Sorting Things Out

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A year and a half or so ago, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran. A year and a half ago, the Yankees were looking at a rebuilding process that, hopefully, wouldn’t be too painful. A year and a half ago, the present reality of the Yankees seemed completely unfeasible. But here we are: after a season of unexpected success from unexpected avenues, the Yankees made their biggest splash in an already splashy year by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro and two prospects.

With Stanton aboard and Castro gone, there’s plenty to sort out, but let’s start with the emotions of this. Hell, yeah, huh? A week ago, it seemed like Stanton would land in San Francisco or St. Louis, but as the week went on, that all went away and we got word he’d listed the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros as his preferred destinations. Even then, I thought that there was little or no shot he’d actually end up on the Yankees. To say this was a pleasant and invigorating surprise would certainly be an understatement. Thanks to my son being sick, I was up for most of the morning hours on Saturday and caught a lot of the development of the trade that way. I woke up with him at around 2 AM and didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep–I didn’t want to miss anything.

This felt like a slower version of what happened when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira out of no where in 2008. Were the Internet the way is now back then, I’m sure the Alex Rodriguez trade would’ve felt the same, too. Regardless of the comparison, the level of shock that this actually happened is sky high. I can’t wait to see what Stanton does in this lineup. Speaking of, things are a bit crowded now, aren’t they?

Even before acquiring Stanton, the Yankees were probably heavy one outfielder. Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and (maybe? Probably?) Clint Frazier were all going to have to figure out how to share time in the field and at DH.  As has been the looming case for a while, it seems that time has run out for one of Ellsbury and Gardner as well; if the Yankees–and, I’m willing to bet, most of us–get their way, Ellsbury will be gone with Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton as the main outfielders and DHs. Perhaps they let Frazier hang on the bench and fill in depending on matchups, as I’ve suggested in the past. Or, they could send him to AAA again and let him get every day at bats there.

Minus Starlin Castro, the Yankees now have a void at second base. Enter Gleyber Torres? Eventually. Unless he has a Spring Training like Aaron Judge did last year, I don’t see him breaking camp with the team. If he doesn’t, though, the Yankees could sign a stop gap for one year, or run a platoon of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes out there, or run a competition between those two during Spring Training. No matter what they do, the Yankees won’t need to get much production out of second, given what the lineup will look like with Stanton included now.

I’m still in shock this trade happened, frankly, but it’s a damn good shock. And even when the shock wears off, the feeling will be great, grand, wonderful. In a cliche of cliches, the Yankees have certainly given their fans an early holiday gift; given the surprise of this one, I can’t help but wonder if more is in store.

Now that Shohei Ohtani is no longer an option, the Yankees are circling back to CC Sabathia

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees found out they will not land Japanese ace-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani last weekend. He prefers the West Coast, and informed the Yankees he will not sign with them. Bummer. Ohtani is a lot of fun. He also has a chance to be insanely good. He’d have fit into the youth movement nicely. Alas.

With Ohtani out of the picture, the Yankees have circled back and reached out to CC Sabathia‘s people about a reunion, reports Jon Heyman. I thought the Yankees would’ve been smart to bring Sabathia back even if they had landed Ohtani, but without him, getting another starter is a must, and Sabathia is an obvious target.

“We know CC and he’s a tremendous asset for us,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “We know everything about him, what a competitor he is and that he can perform on the biggest stage. Does that guarantee that everything is going well in this process? No. Nothing is guaranteed.”

Typical Cashman, downplaying the odds. Sabathia has been very open about wanting to stay with the Yankees — “This is my home. I want to see this thing through. I want to come back here and finish things off. This is where I want to be,” he said after ALCS Game Seven — and I have no reason to doubt him. A few things about this.

1. Sabathia is still effective, which is pretty important. It’s kinda hard to believe we’re talking about re-signing Sabathia for 2018 given how poorly he pitched from 2013-15. He had a 4.81 ERA (4.40 FIP) in 424.1 innings those years, and has a 3.81 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 328.1 innings in two years since. Pretty amazing late career turnaround.

That turnaround has been fueled by Sabathia’s relatively new cutter, which has turned him into one of the best soft contact pitchers in baseball. Soft contact can turn into hard contact real quick as a pitcher ages, that’s the risk here, but Sabathia has succeeded with this new approach for two years now. It’s not a fluke. No, he doesn’t pitch deep into games anymore, but there’s something to be said for his knowing you’ll get five good innings each time out.

2. The price may be too good to pass up. Sabathia turned 37 in July, and over the last five years only two starting pitchers age 37 or older signed a multi-year contract: John Lackey and Bartolo Colon. The Cubs gave Lackey two years and $32M two offseasons ago, and the Mets gave Colon two years and $20M four years ago. Both of them were coming off much better years than Sabathia, however.

Contract Year IP ERA ERA+ FIP fWAR bWAR
Colon 2013 OAK 190.1 2.65 147 3.23 +3.8 +5.0
Lackey 2015 STL 218 2.77 142 3.57 +3.6 +5.7
Sabathia 2017 NYY 148.2 3.67 122 4.49 +1.9 +2.8

Perhaps Sabathia can lean on his track record and inflation to demand two years from the Yankees, but yeah, the list of pitchers his age getting multi-year contracts is very short. Colon and Lackey needed outrageously good seasons — their best seasons in several years, in fact — to get their contracts.

The market indicates Sabathia is looking at one year and $12M or so, which is in line with what Colon and R.A. Dickey received last year. Maybe Sabathia succeeds and gets two years. It could happen. Point is, Sabathia is going to come affordably and on a short-term deal. That’s good for the luxury tax plan and good for flexibility moving forward.

3. You know what you’re getting off the field. Any time you sign a free agent or trade for a new player, how he’ll fit into the clubhouse is always a bit of an unknown. Teams do plenty of homework — players (and coaches) change teams so often these days that chances are someone on the roster has played with the guy before — but in the end, you just don’t know how someone will react to a new environment until he gets there. That’s especially true in New York.

With Sabathia, there are no such concerns because he’s been here for so long already. He’s beloved in the clubhouse — if Brett Gardner is the unofficial captain of the position players, Sabathia has been the unofficial captain of the pitching staff all these years — and has taken on a leadership role, and he knows all about playing in Yankee Stadium and in New York in general. Those are adjustments he won’t have to make. Plug him into the roster and go.

4. There are reasons not to sign Sabathia. As much as I love Sabathia — I think everyone loves Sabathia, right? he’s the man — we have to acknowledge the reasons not to re-sign him. One, he’s 37 and will turn 38 in July. Sabathia is firmly in the “this can fall apart in a hurry” age range. In the past five seasons, only eight different pitchers age 37 or older finished a season at +1 WAR. Recent history is not really on Sabathia’s side.

Secondly, Sabathia’s right knee is a wreck. It’s bone-on-bone at this point, hence the regular lubrication injections, and Sabathia has admitted he’ll likely need a knee replacement once his career is over. Remember when he left that game in Toronto and everyone thought his career is over? It wasn’t, thankfully, but that’s pretty much the risk you’re running here. The knee could give out at any moment. Between his age and the knee, we probably wouldn’t be talking about Sabathia as a free agent target at all had he not spent the last nine years with the Yankees.

* * *

Coming into the offseason I thought it was inevitable the Yankees would re-sign Sabathia, with or without Ohtani. It makes too much sense. He’s not going to cost a ton, you know what you’re getting on and off the field, and there’s no such thing as too much pitching depth. Now that Ohtani has spurned the Yankees, adding another pitcher is a must, and in a weak free agent class, bringing Sabathia back on a short-term deal sure seems like an obvious move right now. The Yankees have been contact with Sabathia’s camp lately and I get the sense something could happen soon.

Yankees, Cashman reportedly finalizing five-year contract

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees and Brian Cashman and putting the finishing touches on a new five-year contract worth $25M. The team hasn’t confirmed anything, but that’ll happen soon enough. The contract puts Cashman’s salary at a notch below the Andrew Friedman ($7M annually) and Theo Epstein ($10M annually) pay grade, though he did get a five-year deal. Each of Cashman’s last four contracts were three-year pacts.

Cashman’s previous contract expired on October 31st, so he had been working without a contract for a while now. There were never any serious rumors or even much idle speculation Cashman and the Yankees would part ways. It was an open secret he would be coming back ever since ownership followed his recommendation to part ways with Joe Girardi, and that was only confirmed when he led the charge to hire Aaron Boone as the new skipper.

Cashman, now 50, has been with the Yankees basically his entire adult life. He started with the team as an intern in 1986 and gradually worked his way up through the player development and baseball operations departments. Cashman was an assistant general manager under Gene Michael and Bob Watson from 1992-98 before taking over as general manager when Watson resigned in February 1998.

Needless to say, sticking around as a general manager for two decades is quite an accomplishment, especially in New York. Cashman worked under George Steinbrenner for a long time before Hal took over. Only Brian Sabean (Giants) and Billy Beane (Athletics) have a longer active tenure running a baseball operations department. The Yankees haven’t yet jumped on board with the “president of baseball operations” trend, so Cashman remains general manager.

With Cashman re-signed, Boone taking over as manager, and Shohei Ohtani rejecting the Yankees, the next orders of business are finding another starting pitcher and building the coaching staff. The Yankees have an impressive young core at the big league level right now and more top prospects coming soon. Cashman’s goal now is to supplement that core.