The back of the bench [2017 Season Review]

Higgy looking for hits (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Higgy looking for hits (Al Bello/Getty Images)

We’ve gone through just about every player who made an appearance for the Yankees this year. The good ones. The bad ones. Now let’s get to some of the players in between, the players who are easy to forget. These are the players that you miss on the 2017 New York Yankees Sporcle quiz.

First, let’s go a little more in-depth on a few players I went over in the miscellaneous first basemen review and then touch on the true bottom of the roster.

Rob Refsnyder

While Refsnyder had a five-game stint at first base, the Yankees didn’t use him primarily at first this year. He was called up on May 2 to replace an injured Greg Bird on the roster. Six days later, he was sent down for Chad Green.

In all, Refsnyder was up-and-down three times in May, once for the single-admission Derek Jeter/Mother’s Day doubleheader and another time to take the spot of Jacoby Ellsbury post-concussion.

I’ve already gone into his inability to hit this year. It was painful. But his fielding also reared its ugly head. The moment that sticks out was when he replaced Dustin Fowler after the rookie’s devastating knee injury. Refsnyder almost immediately misplayed a ball in right field during a game the Yankees lost by one run.

The dream was that Refsnyder could be a Zobrist-type, but he could neither hit nor field particularly well and it’s why he’s currently on his third organization in the last year (Yankees to Blue Jays to Indians). He played six games against the Yankees with the Blue Jays in the final two months of the year and went 2-for-12.

Tyler Austin

With 40 more at-bats in 2017, Austin is six at-bats shy of no longer being a rookie. And after a sub-par season due to injuries, it’s worth wondering where he fits in New York.

Two separate DL stints this season really set him back from a chance to prove himself as at least a bench bat, if not the righty side of a platoon. Now, he’ll likely start 2018 in Triple A if he makes it through the offseason on the 40-man roster.

Fun note: He is Pikachu in Didi’s postgame tweets. I don’t think any of these other players got an emoji.

Kyle Higashioka

Higashioka had an impressive 2016 in the minors, earning himself the opportunity as the No. 3 catcher out of spring. His calling card in 2016 was his power, although we didn’t get a chance to see it in the majors.

In his age-27 season, he walked twice and picked up no hits in 20 plate appearances while playing nine games in April. He got the chance after Gary Sanchez went down with a forearm injury, but Higgy couldn’t hack it in an extremely short sample size after debuting in the Yankees’ home opener.

As he did for much of his minor league career, Higashioka dealt with injuries for much of the season. The team had to have hoped he’d turned the corner health-wise in his breakout 2016, but alas, he was unable to do so.

The team had to seek out a new third catcher for September after he couldn’t make make it back from his back injury. Now he’ll have to prove himself again to make it through 2018 on the 40-man.

Mason Williams

The former top prospect spent his final games in pinstripes this season. Sad to see his time as a Yankee come to an end, but he became expendable this season with the team’s glut of young outfielders.

He made five starts in June and picked up four hits, stealing two bases. No extra-base hits though, which has been part of his issues. He just couldn’t hit for much pop, nor could he work many walks.

He was designated for assignment on June 29 to make room for Dustin Fowler. He spent the rest of the year in Scranton where he continued to show very little power but still produced with his legs (19 steals in 24 attempts).

Williams is now with the Cincinnati Reds, having signed with the club as a minor league free agent after the season.

Williams steals a base on Kozma! (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Williams steals a base on Kozma! (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Pete Kozma

Kozma may be the easiest 2017 Yankee to forget. He wouldn’t have made the roster at all if it wasn’t for Didi’s injury during the World Baseball Classic/Spring Training.

He played just 11 games in pinstripes and made just 10 plate appearances. He had just one hit and one walk. Didn’t do anything remarkable. He was DFA’d to make room for Didi on April 28 and spent the next 3.5 months with the Rangers. He was cut from their Triple A squad in mid-August.

Erik Kratz

The Yankees needed a third catcher down the stretch, so Kratz was acquired at the waiver deadline. He played in just four games and had just two at-bats. He delivered in both of them with a single and a double, finishing the season with a sterling 2.500 OPS. That’s good for a 600 wRC+. Oh snap!

He hung around the team during the postseason and stood up for Aaron Judge in a postgame interview after ALDS Game 5. That’s about it for his brief Yankees career.

Yankees trade Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Padres in salary dump deal

(David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(David Maxwell/Getty Images)

1:31pm ET: The Yankees have announced the trade. They get Blash from the Padres for Headley, Mitchell, and cash considerations. Mark Feinsand says the Yankees are sending $500,000 to the Padres. Jon Heyman says the two teams are splitting the $1M assignment bonus in Headley’s contract.

11:17am ET: The Yankees have cleared up more payroll space under the luxury tax threshold. According to Joel Sherman and Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have traded Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the Padres for outfielder Jabari Blash. San Diego is taking on Headley’s entire $13M salary. It’s a straight salary dump trade. The Yankees also open a 40-man roster spot. Neither team has confirmed the deal.

For all intents and purposes, the Padres purchased Mitchell from the Yankees for $13M. That’s what it boils down to. Mitchell clearly has quality stuff, including a high spin curveball, though he’s been unable to find success in the big leagues the last few years — he has a 4.94 ERA (4.26 FIP) in 98.1 career innings — and had fallen way down the depth chart. The Yankees managed to attach Mitchell to Headley to dump Headley’s entire salary. That seems pretty good to me.

Furthermore, Mitchell is out of minor league options, meaning he can’t go to the minors without passing through waivers. He was on the 40-man roster chopping block as it is — I thought he might get the axe when the Yankees needed to clear 40-man space for their Rule 5 Draft protections last month — and there was little chance he’d break camp with the team next year. The Yankees might’ve lost Mitchell for nothing had they held on to him. Going to the Padres will be a good opportunity for him. Mitchell is a classic change of scenery candidate.

Headley, who is entering the final year of his four-year contract worth $52M, hit .273/.352/.406 (104 wRC+) with 12 home runs in 2017. He moved from third base over to first, and was tentatively scheduled to start at third base again next year. Headley could be very streaky, his highs were very high and his lows were very low, but overall he was an okay player for New York. Nice guy, did whatever the team asked, etc.

The 28-year-old Blash is a former Rule 5 Draft who went from the Athletics to the Padres in the Drew Pomeranz-Yonder Alonso trade two winters ago. He’s a career .200/.323/.336 (84 wRC+) hitter with eight homers in 99 big league games, and his one standout tool is his huge raw power. Blash can do this to a baseball:

There’s not much Blash can do other than hit the ball a mile when he connects, and hey, that’s a good skill to have. He put up a .285/.419/.617 (165 wRC+) line with 20 homers in 72 Triple-A games this past season, though that happened in the very hitter friendly Pacific Coast League and in a very hitter friendly home ballpark in El Paso. El Paso as a team hit .283/.349/.473 this season, so yeah.

Blash has a minor league option remaining, though I get the sense he is not long for the 40-man roster. He was included in the trade because the rules say the Padres had to send the Yankees something, and Blash was it. If anything, maybe he’s another layer of outfield depth should the Yankees trade Clint Frazier for a pitcher? Even then, they still have Jake Cave and Billy McKinney on the 40-man. Jabari’s time in pinstripes may be short.

This trade definitely feels like a precursor to another move (or moves). The Yankees now have approximately $35M in payroll space under the $197M luxury tax threshold, though keep in mind they need to set some money aside for midseason call-ups and additions. Starting pitching has been most talked about, though I have to think the Yankees will dip their toe into the infield market now that Headley and Starlin Castro are gone. Would they really go with kids at second and third bases? Maybe! We’ll find out soon enough.

Tampa Yankees rebranded as the Tampa Tarpons

Let's call them the Tarps for short. (MiLB.com)
Let’s call them the Tarps for short. (MiLB.com)

As part of MLB’s directive to rename all minor league teams sharing a name with their parent club, the High Class-A Tampa Yankees have been renamed the Tampa Tarpons, the team announced today. The Yankees retain ownership of the Tampa franchise, which plays its games at George M. Steinbrenner Field. It’s a rebranding only.

“We wanted to establish our own identity that connected us with the Tampa community and its baseball history,” said Tampa GM Vance Smith. The original Tampa Tarpons were a Class-D and later High-A minor league affiliate for several teams from 1957-87 before the franchise was relocated to Sarasota, so the name is being recycled.

MLB does not want minor league teams sharing a name with their parent club to avoid confusion. When someone says “Yankees,” they want people thinking New York Yankees and not Tampa Yankees. I know, it’s silly, but that’s the thought process here. MLB wants the New York Yankees to be the only Yankees, and the same for every other team.

As part of MLB’s directive, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees changed their name to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders back in 2013. Fans voted for the new name. The Staten Island Yankees are currently in the process of rebranding, though the fan vote was put on hold. It’s only a matter of time until the Pulaski Yankees rebrand as well.

Monday Night Open Thread

What a day. What a day what a day what a day. The Yankees introduced Giancarlo Stanton with a press conference this afternoon and gosh, he did not hold back. He roasted the Marlins. It was refreshingly candid. Stanton was also so obviously thrilled to be a Yankee though. He said can’t wait to get into the clubhouse, he’ll hit wherever in the lineup, play wherever in the outfield, all that stuff. Stanton said everything you wanted to hear.

Video of the Stanton press conference is embedded above. He also sat down with the YES Network afterward. So did Aaron Boone and Hal Steinbrenner. You can see those videos here. Everyone sure sounds excited and understandably so. What a fun day.

* * *

Here is the nightly open thread. The Patriots and Dolphins are the Monday Night Football game, the (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are playing, and there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Stanton’s press conference, or anything else right here, as long as it is not religion or politics. Have at it.

Update: Yankees add Josh Bard, Phil Nevin, and Reggie Willits to coaching staff

Bard. (Dodgers Photog Blog)
Bard. (Dodgers Photog Blog)

Monday: Bard will be the bench coach, Phil Nevin will be the third base coach, and Reggie Willits will be the first base coach, Boone told reporters today. Also, George King says Carlos Mendoza will be the infield coach and in uniform for games. It’s likely Marcus Thames will be promoted to hitting coach and Mike Harkey will be retained as bullpen coach as well, says King. The Yankees have not yet officially announced any coaching assignments.

Nevin, 47 in January, has coached and managed throughout the minors in recent years, and has interviewed for several big league managerial jobs as well. He managed the Triple-A Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) from 2014-16 before spending last season as the Giants’ third base coach. Nevin and Boone were high school teammates, so those two have some history. (Nevin went to high school with Bret Boone, not Aaron. My bad.)

Last week we heard the 38-year-old Mendoza and 36-year-old Willits were under consideration for big league coaching jobs. Willits has been the organization’s minor league outfield and baserunning instructor for three years now while Mendoza has held a variety of minor league coaching and managerial roles since 2009, most recently serving as the minor league infield coordinator. Mendoza would give the team a Spanish-speaking coach. The Yankees seem to be going real young with the coaching staff next year, huh?

Sunday: According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will name former big league catcher Josh Bard their new bench coach. Ken Davidoff says Bard interviewed last week and was impressive. The Yankees have not confirmed anything as of yet, and there’s no word on any of the other coaching staff positions.

Bard, 39, was new manager Aaron Boone‘s teammate with the Indians in 2005. He spent the last five seasons in a variety of roles with the Dodgers, going from special assistant (2013) to scout (2014-15) to bullpen coach (2016-17). I suppose it’s possible, if not likely, Bard will take over catching instructor duties with the Yankees.

Last week both Boone and Brian Cashman said they weren’t necessarily looking for a bench coach with managerial experience despite Boone’s inexperience. They want who they believe is the right person rather than the most experienced person. Bard has some coaching and front office experience, but not much.

Bard will join holdover pitching coaching Larry Rothschild on the coaching staff. Boone still needs a hitting coach (and likely an assistant hitting coach), first and third base coaches, and a bullpen coach. Cashman admitted the coaching search could take weeks.

The Prospect Debuts [2017 Season Review]

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

Even though the Yankees were not considered a slam dunk contender going into the 2017 season, there were plenty of reasons to be excited. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge were two of them. We were also looking forward to seeing some of the team’s top prospects make their MLB debuts at some point. Gleyber Torres and Chance Adams didn’t debut this year for different reasons, but plenty of others did.

Because so many things went right at the MLB level (Aaron Hicks breaking out, for example) and because the Yankees went out and made in-season upgrades (Todd Frazier trade), the Yankees did not have to lean heavily on any of their position player prospect call-ups. They came up, got their feet wet, and that’s about it. Time to review the four young position player prospects who made their MLB debuts this summer.

Miguel Andujar

Andujar finally had that big breakout season in 2016, and after hitting .312/.342/.494 (126 wRC+) with seven homers in 67 games with Double-A Trenton to start 2017, the Yankees moved him up to Triple-A Scranton. Nine days later he was in the big leagues, replacing the ill Matt Holliday. Against the White Sox on June 28th, his first MLB game, Andujar went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base. He also drove in four runs.

Andujar became the first player in Yankees history to drive in four runs in his MLB debut. He was the first player with three hits and four runs driven in in his big league debut for any team since … Steven Matz? Steven Matz. Matz went 3-for-3 with a double and four runs driven in during his MLB debut on June 28th. Okie dokie. He’s a pitcher, you know.

The Yankees sent Andujar back down the next day — he returned for a day as an injury replacement a few days later, but did not play — because their plan was to use him against the left-handed Carlos Rodon before bringing up a more permanent replacement. Andujar returned in September and appeared in three games, all as a late-inning replacement in blowouts. He went 4-for-8 with two doubles as a big leaguer while hitting .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) with 16 homers and a 13.6% strikeout rate in 125 games split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Andujar of course survived the 40-man roster purge last month and, more surprisingly, he was not included in the Giancarlo Stanton trade. That surprised me. A cheap, young, and talented MLB ready third baseman seemed like someone the Marlins would target in the deal, but nope. Third base is open long-term for the Yankees, especially now that second base is clear for Torres. Andujar needs to work on his defense, sure, but chances are he’ll get a longer opportunity to help the Yankees at some point next year.

Dustin Fowler

Hands down, the worst moment of an otherwise wildly fun and exciting 2017 season for the Yankees was Fowler’s injury. The injury itself wasn’t particularly gory or gruesome, though the circumstances were awful. In literally his first inning as a big leaguer — Fowler was called up on June 29th, as the more permanent replacement for Andujar — Fowler crashed into the side wall chasing a foul pop-up at Guaranteed Rate Field, and blew out his knee.

Fowler suffered an open rupture of the right patella tendon and needed emergency surgery, which ended his season. In his first inning as a big leaguer. Terrible. The kid didn’t even get an at-bat. He was due to lead off the next inning. Fowler spent the rest of the season on the disabled list — at least he got to accrue 95 days of service time and big league pay while on the disabled list, as if that’s some consolation —  and was included in the Sonny Gray trade at the deadline. Had he been healthy, I’m not sure he gets traded. It might’ve been Estevan Florial instead.

Prior to the injury Fowler ripped up Triple-A, hitting .293/.329/.542 (138 wRC+) with 13 home runs and 13 steals in 70 games before getting called up. He is no longer with the Yankees, but the good news is that according to John Shea, Fowler’s rehab is progressing well and he is current working out at the A’s complex in Arizona. MLB.com ranks him as the third best prospect in Oakland’s system and their center field depth chart is very weak. Fowler is expected to be ready for Spring Training. I hope he wins the center field job in camp.

Clint Frazier

Spring Training got off to a pretty ridiculous start for the headliner in last summer’s Andrew Miller trade. First the Yankees made a spectacle of Frazier getting a haircut to conform to the team’s hair policy rules. Then there was a flat out made up story that Frazier asked to wear Mickey Mantle’s No. 7, which required an apology from Suzyn Waldman. The damage had already been done though. Clint became the new media whipping boy.

Anyway, Frazier opened the 2017 season with Triple-A Scranton, where he got off to a bit of a slow start, but he eventually picked it up and hit .256/.344/.473 (123 wRC+) with 12 home runs in 74 games before being called up on July 1st. Frazier replaced Andujar, who replaced Fowler, who replaced Andujar, who replaced Holliday. Got all that?

Frazier’s big league debut — and his first few weeks in pinstripes, really — was quite eventful. He went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer in his first MLB game, and in his first 15 games, Clint went 17-for-56 (.304) with five doubles, two triples, and three homers. That’s ten extra-base hits and seven singles. One of those three homers was a walk-off three-run shot against the Brewers on July 8th.

That bat speed, man. Frazier turned around a 97.3 mph heater from All-Star Corey Knebel like it was a batting practice lob. By both win probability added and championship probability added, the walk-off blast was the second biggest regular season hit of the year for the Yankees, behind only Brett Gardner‘s three-run jaw-dropper at Wrigley Field.

Frazier stayed in the lineup on an everyday basis because Holliday was hurt, Hicks was hurt, and Jacoby Ellsbury was largely ineffective. He wound up on the disabled list himself on August 10th, after tweaking his oblique during batting practice. The injury kept Frazier out until mid-September, and when he returned, he was largely a bench player who played in blowouts. All told, he hit .231/.268/.448 (82 wRC+) with four homers in 142 MLB plate appearance.

Like Andujar, Frazier somewhat surprisingly wasn’t included in the Stanton trade, so he remains in the organization. The Stanton trade does create some uncertainty about Frazier’s long-term role, however. In Judge and Stanton, the Yankees now have two of best corner outfielders in baseball, so where does Frazier fit? Triple-A depth/injury replacement? DH? Make him fake center field long-term? Trade bait? I’m not sure, and the Yankees might not be sure right now either.

Oh, and by the way, Frazier initially wore No. 30 after being called up, though he gave it up when David Robertson was reacquired. His new number? No. 77. I have no idea whether that is a troll move following the Spring Training nonsense, but I’m going to pretend it is.

Tyler Wade

The players in this post are listed alphabetically, but it all started with Wade. He was the first in the parade of prospect debuts. Wade started the season in Triple-A before being called up on June 27th. He debuted the day before Andujar, who debuted the day before Fowler, who debuted two days before Frazier. That was quite a week. Arguably the four best non-Gleyber position player prospects in the system made their MLB debuts in the span of five days.

Unlike the other guys in this post, Wade did not make his debut as a starter. He came off the bench. Wade hit .313/.390/.444 (135 wRC+) with five homers and 24 steals in 71 Triple-A games before coming up, and his first taste of the big leagues came as a pinch-hitter. He pinch-hit for former teammate Rob Refsnyder against future teammate Tommy Kahnle. Wade worked a seven-pitch walk against Kahnle that sparked the go-ahead rally. Too bad the bullpen blew that game.

Wade started in left field the next day and went 1-for-5 with a double, his first MLB hit. He started the next day at second base and went 1-for-4. He started in right field the day after that and went 0-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. Three different positions in three days in his first three starts as a big league ballplayer. You can do that when you have the athleticism to make plays like this:

After those three starts at three different positions, Wade slipped into a utility role, and he barely played. He accrued 81 days of service time and had only 63 plate appearances. There was also a short Triple-A stint in August mixed in there. Joe Girardi stuck with Ronald Torreyes at second base while Starlin Castro was injured, so from July 1st through the end of the season, Wade was on the MLB roster for 73 games and appeared in only 26.

One of those 26 games came against the Rays on July 27th, in a rare start. Wade had a brutal game, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a double play. Two of the strikeouts and the double play came in the late innings with either the tying or go-ahead run in scoring position. Ouch. At least the Yankees won. Wade finished the season with a .155/.222/.224 (17 wRC+) batting line in his 63 big league plate appearances, and a .310/.382/.460 (136 wRC+) line in 85 Triple-A games.

As with Andujar and Frazier, Wade was not included in the Stanton trade, so he remains in the organization. And depending what the Yankees do the rest of the offseason, it’s entirely possible Wade will go into Spring Training with a chance to win the starting second base job. I imagine it would be between Wade, Torreyes, Torres, and the journeyman infielder the Yankees will inevitably sign to a minor league deal. I like Wade. His MLB stint this year was terrible, no doubt about that, but he has some skills and can be a nice contributor as soon as next season.

Thoughts after the Yanks trade for Giancarlo freaking Stanton

(Mark Brown/Getty)
(Mark Brown/Getty)

It came together so quickly. Less that 24 hours after the Giants and Cardinals publicly declared themselves out on Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees swooped in to grab the reigning NL MVP and MLB home run king over the weekend for the bargain price of Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers. Pretty incredible. The press conference is at 2pm ET today. I imagine it’ll be on MLB Network and MLB.com. (Update: YES will have it for sure.) There’s a lot to say about this trade. More than should be squeezed into one post. Let’s start with some miscellaneous thoughts.

1. Know what I love about this trade? The Yankees are back to being the Evil Empire. They went out and got the biggest name and the best player available even though they didn’t really need him. It was an old school George Steinbrenner move made with those new school “wow the Yankees got a great deal” smarts. Didn’t trade top prospects, didn’t give up draft picks, didn’t blow up the luxury tax plan, nothing like that. The Yankees used to be a rich team that threw money at everything. Now they’re rich and smart. I truly believe it is good for baseball when the Yankees are a great team and everyone hates them. The Yankees being the villain is good for the sport, and the Yankees are back to being that villain. It’s also good for baseball that a player like Stanton is now in the game’s largest market. This past season a lot of outsiders fell in love with the young plucky underdog Yankees, though that was never going to last. The Evil Empire is back and it is glorious.

2. This is the epitome of a “too good to pass up” trade. I don’t think the Yankees had any intention of seriously pursuing Stanton when they went into the offseason, even after asking about him at the trade deadline. Another corner outfielder and more right-handed power was hardly a priority. The Yankees did what they always do. They kept an eye on the market, and if the stars aligned and they could get themselves a good deal on a great player, they’d pounce. And that’s exactly what happened. Stanton backed the Marlins into a corner with his no-trade clause, and with Miami’s leverage basically non-existent, the Yankees took advantage. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Stanton fell right into their laps. It takes a perfect storm for a deal like this to come together. It takes a great player, a team desperate to unload him, and an opportunistic team ready to take advantage. Brian Cashman & Co. are nothing if not opportunistic.

3. Speaking of being opportunistic, the Stanton trade is eerily similar to the Alex Rodriguez trade. During the 2003-04 offseason, A-Rod had just completed his age 27 season, in which he led the league in home runs and was named MVP. Yet his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Stanton just completed his age 27 season, a season in which he led the league in homers and was named MVP. And yet, his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Both contracts included an opt-out clause too. Stanton can opt out in three years. A-Rod opted out four years after the trade. Pretty freaky how similar the A-Rod and Stanton situations are, huh? The A-Rod trade was great. The problem was giving him a ten-year contract at age 32, after he opted out. Stanton is signed “only” through age 37, and his salary for luxury tax purposes is more favorable than A-Rod’s was during his contract. I would be quite surprised if the Yankees give Giancarlo a massive A-Rod contract should he opt out in a few years, though let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

4. Let’s take a second to remember how this all came together. It took a series a moves — a series of opportunistic moves, to use that word again — to get from Point A to Stanton. Here’s a recap:

  • Traded Adam Warren to the Cubs for Castro, who’d been pushed out by Ben Zobrist.
  • Traded four prospects no one misses for Aroldis Chapman, who’s trade value was kaput.
  • Traded Chapman to the Cubs, who were contending thanks in part to Zobrist, to get Warren back.
  • Re-signed Chapman as a free agent after the season.
  • Traded Castro to the Marlins for Stanton, who were desperate to unload his contract.

Pretty ridiculous. There are some other branches on the trade tree — the Yankees traded Brian McCann to the Astros for Guzman, who is going to the Marlins in the Stanton — but that’s the gist of it. This started as Warren (and Brendan Ryan!) for Castro and ballooned into Giancarlo (joining Warren!) in pinstripes. What the what.

5. So apparently I’ve been calculating luxury tax salaries wrong for traded players all these years? I was under the impression that once a player is traded, his luxury tax hit is recalculated based on the remainder of his contract. That is not the case though. Stanton’s huge 13-year, $325M contract has a $25M average annual value (and thus luxury tax hit). There are ten years and $295M left on the contract, so I thought his luxury tax hit going forward would be $29.5M. Apparently not. It is still $25M. Huh. That means I’ve been wrong all these years with guys like Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Castro, who the Yankees acquired in the middle of multi-year contracts. My bad, folks. Anyway, Ken Rosenthal says Stanton’s luxury tax hit going forward will be $22M because the $30M the Marlins will pay Stanton if he doesn’t opt out reduces the luxury tax burden on the Yankees. The Yankees might never actually see a dime of that $30M because Stanton may opt out, but they still get the tax credit. Pretty awesome. The Yankees have Stanton with a $22M luxury tax hit, and when you subtract out Castro, they only increased their 2018 luxury tax payroll roughly $11M with the trade. They still have about $20M in payroll space before reaching the $197M luxury tax threshold, though keep in mind they have to leave some of that open for midseason call-ups and additions. There’s still enough money to make more moves though. The Yankees just gave up a painless package for the largest contract in the sport, and it doesn’t even blow up the luxury tax plan. Amazing.

6. To state the obvious, assuming a ten-year contract and $265M in salary obligation is quite risky. The luxury tax hit may only be $22M a year, but the Yankees are on the hook for $265M in real dollars once you subtract out the $30M they’d get from Miami should Stanton not opt out. The good news is Giancarlo is only 28 — he turned 28 last month, so he’ll spend all of next season at that age — so the contract doesn’t take him into his 40s. That’s still a lot of years and a lot of money. It’s risky. That’s just the way it is. At same time, Stanton’s contract is probably going to look pretty good about 14 months from now, after Bryce Harper signs his inevitable monster contract. Think about it. The Yankees have Stanton at $22M against the luxury tax. Harper could end up at $40M against the luxury tax. Is Stanton as good as Harper? No, I don’t think so. I’d take Harper’s next ten seasons over Stanton’s next ten seasons, no question. But is the difference between Stanton and Harper on the field as great as the difference between Stanton’s contract and Harper’s upcoming contract? Almost certainly not. As big and as scary as Stanton’s contract is, it’s going to look a whole lot better once Bryce gets his payday.

Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)

7. It stands to reason adding Stanton will take the Yankees out of the running for Harper next offseason. I mostly agree with that — I’d never completely rule out the Yankees pursuing a generational talent like Harper — though I don’t think the Stanton addition means the Yankees will automatically steer clear of another monster contract. Instead of Harper, they might instead shift their focus next winter to Manny Machado, who’d address an obvious long-term need at third base. After all, second base is wide open for Gleyber Torres now. I’m a Miguel Andujar fan. You know that if you’ve read RAB long enough. But you don’t let a guy like Andujar stand in the way of adding Machado. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s see how the season goes for everyone, what the payroll and luxury tax situations look like going into next winter, then circle back and talk about Machado (and Harper).

8. So what’s the best outfield alignment? Given their size, both Stanton and Aaron Judge are deceptively good defensive right fielders. Stanton is at +23 DRS over the last three seasons, including +10 DRS in 2017. Judge was at +9 DRS this year. Left field is pretty spacious at Yankee Stadium, so, in a perfect world, the Yankees would keep Brett Gardner out there. There’s more to range than pure speed (reads and routes are important too), but Statcast’s sprint speed says Judge (27.7 feet per second) is slightly faster than Stanton (27.5 feet per second), so that doesn’t help us figure out who is better suited for left. Stanton has played right field exclusively in the big leagues. So has Judge, though at least he played seven games in left field in Triple-A last year. Right now, I have no idea whether it would be best to keep Judge in right and move Stanton to left on the days they both play the field, or keep Stanton in right and move Judge to left. This might be one of those things the Yankees have to figure out in Spring Training. Get them both some looks out in left field during Grapefruit League play and see who is more comfortable. Chances are the players will make the decision for the Yankees.

9. It is entirely possible the best outfield alignment has Stanton at DH, but not for defensive reasons. For health reasons. He’s had some injury problems in his career, most notably a series of lower body injuries (groin in 2016, knee in 2012, hamstring in several years), and giving him the majority of the at-bats at DH could keep him healthy, both short and long-term. The Yankees have a lot invested in Stanton financially. They want to get as much out of him as possible, and the key to a more productive Stanton down the road could be giving him more DH time now. The same is true of Judge. These are two massive humans — Judge is listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 lbs., and Stanton isn’t far behind him at 6-foot-6 and 245 lbs. — and the more running around they do, the worse it’ll be for their legs. The Yankees would surely love to use the DH spot to get Judge off his feet regularly as well, but the fact of the matter is Stanton has to be the priority because of his contract. The Yankees don’t have much invested in Judge. If things ever go south in the future, they can non-tender him if necessary. There’s no walking away from Stanton. Given his history of leg injuries, giving Giancarlo the majority of the playing time at DH could be the best thing going forward.

10. The outfield alignment is boring. The batting order is much more fun. There is how I would fill out the lineup card if I were manager Aaron Boone (it’s still weird writing that):

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B TBD

Don’t get too hung up on the outfield spots and the DH spot. I’m not worried about who plays where right now, just who hits where. Anyway, yeah, that’s my lineup. Judge is the better on-base player and Stanton is the better power hitter, so Judge before Stanton seems the way to go to me, not Stanton before Judge. I’ve seen some folks in the comments and on Twitter say Bird or Didi should hit third to break up the righties, and while I get it, it seems unnecessary. Among the 111 right-handed hitters who batted at least 300 times against right-handed pitchers this past season, Judge ranked second behind Mike Trout with a 179 wRC+. Stanton was ninth with a 144 wRC+ and Sanchez was 21st with a 130 wRC+. These are not your run of the mill right-handed hitters. These dudes crush righties. I say stack them up high in the lineup and let ’em eat. Maybe Bird will stay healthy and mash, and force a move to the three spot. That’d be cool. Right now though, squeezing Bird or Didi in there to split up the righties, and thus knocking Stanton and Sanchez down a spot, is unnecessary in my opinion.

11. So that TBD I have at second base, what’s going to happen there? This is something we’re going to have to discuss more in the coming days and weeks, but my guess right now is the Yankees will look for a low cost veteran to plug in for the time being, and if nothing really comes along, they’ll stick with their internal options. Those internal options being Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade (or Thairo Estrada?) until Torres is ready. If the Yankees don’t sign a free agent for second base, boy oh boy are the calls for Gleyber to start at second going to be loud in Spring Training. I think the chances of Torres breaking camp with the team next year are much better than they were this year, though I still think the Yankees would send him down to Triple-A Scranton for a few weeks, for two reasons. One, to make sure he’s back up to speed after suffering a major elbow injury and missing half the season. I mean, that’s obvious. Give the kid a chance to shake off the rust in a low pressure environment — Torres only had 96 plate appearances with the RailRiders before the injury, and has 235 above Single-A total, so it’s not like the extra at-bats would be a bad thing — before asking him to take over second base. And two, service time. The Yankees usually don’t manipulate service time, but in this case, it is worthwhile. Two weeks in Triple-A in 2018 equals gaining control of Gleyber’s age 27 season in 2024. That is pretty huge. We’re talking about buying a peak year of a potentially great player. Possibly his career year. The Yankees didn’t manipulate Judge’s service time because he’s already 25 and under control through his prime. That wouldn’t be the case with Torres. There is definitely something to be said for taking the best players regardless of service time. In this case, the potential reward is too great to not send Gleyber down for a bit, second base situation be damned.

12. Literally the only thing I do not like about the trade is that it adds more strikeouts to the lineup, but that is more of a minor nuisance than a major problem. Stanton is effectively replacing Matt Holliday in the lineup and Holliday struck out a ton this season (26.7%). Travis Sawchik wrote a neat post examining some adjustments Stanton made at the plate this past season, specifically the way he closed up his stance, which stops him from flying open and swinging through pitches on the outer half, and the result was a significant drop in strikeout rate:

giancarlo-stanton-strikeout-rate

Stanton cut his strikeout rate from 29.8% in 2016 to a career low 23.6% in 2017, which was only a bit north of the 21.6% league average. Two extra strikeouts per 100 plate appearances. Not a huge deal. His previous career low was a 26.6% strikeout rate in 2014. Stanton has made adjustments to cut down on his strikeout rate and that’s great. He’s still going to strike out a bunch. The Yankees ran into some problems at times last season (especially in the postseason) when they couldn’t put the ball in play, and adding Stanton won’t solve that. But, when you’re getting the game’s premier power hitter in his prime, you live with the strikeouts because the reward is so great.

13. I can’t help but feel a little bad for Castro. He spent all those years with the Cubs while they rebuilt, got to the NLCS with them in 2015, then was traded away the offseason before they won the World Series. He went through all the rebuilding pain without reaping any of the reward. Now Castro spent two seasons with the Yankees, made it to the ALCS this year, and got traded right before the club looks poised to take off. That must suck. This is a business though. That’s the way it goes. I can’t imagine Starlin will be with the Marlins long — they’re probably going to flip him elsewhere for prospects since he’s making real money ($22M total from 2018-19) — so maybe he’ll get traded to a contender (the Angels and Mets jump to mind as possible landing spots). The timing just stinks. Castro was with the Cubs and got traded before they won the World Series. He was with the Yankees and now they traded him right when it looks like they’re on the verge of being a powerhouse. Poor Starlin.

14. This is another one of those things worth a full post (or a series of posts) at some point in the future, but Clint Frazier is going to shopped around for a starting pitcher now, isn’t he? I like Clint, he’s pretty awesome, but Stanton and Judge aren’t going anywhere, so he is capital-B Blocked as a corner outfielder. It only makes sense to put him out there on the trade market and see what offers come along. The Yankees could try to package Frazier for an established controllable big leaguer like, say, Gerrit Cole or Sean Manaea or Danny Duffy, though I wonder if they’ll look to trade him for a pitcher version of Frazier. A young guy with a some MLB time under his belt who is not yet established in the show. A prospect-for-prospect challenge trade, essentially. Someone like Diamondbacks lefty Anthony Banda (they have to replace J.D. Martinez) or Braves lefties Max Fried or Luiz Gohara (Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are sooo bad) might work. I dunno. Just spitballin’ here. A trade doesn’t have to happen now. The Yankees could hang on to Frazier and stash him in Triple-A when the season starts, then see what materializes at the trade deadline. This isn’t something that has to be taken care of right now, before Spring Training. My point is it’s just hard to see where Frazier fits now. Cashman and his staff wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t at least put Clint’s name out there to see what kind of return they’d get.

15. A cool thing about the trade is that the Yankees gave up lower level prospects in Guzman and Devers. Guzman is really good, he could be a top 100 guy by midseason next year, but he’s yet to pitch in a full season league. Devers is in rookie ball. You trade guys that far away from MLB for a dude like Stanton every single time. Anyway, my larger point is that the Yankees didn’t give up any of their upper level depth pieces. They kept Frazier, they kept Wade, they kept Billy McKinney, they kept Luis Cessa, they kept guys like that. Are they great? No. But they’re useful pieces who are a phone call away. Keeping Cessa means no scrambling for a spot starter at midseason, for example. I thought the Marlins would seek upper level talent in their salary dump trades but that has not been the case. Not with the Stanton trade and not with the Dee Gordon trade. They went with lower level players who aren’t particularly close to contributing at the big league level. The Yankees got Stanton and got to keep their depth players. That shouldn’t be overlooked. One of the reasons the Yankees look so formidable going forward is the way they’ve been able to raise their own internal replacement level, if that makes sense. They have quality players waiting in Triple-A as reserves.

16. Beyond his on-field impact, Stanton is going to boost television ratings as well as ticket and merchandise sales massively. The Yankees were already trending up in ratings and attendance. They’re going to jump even more now. Stanton is one of the few players in baseball whose value transcends what he does on the field. He puts butts in the seats and gets people to tune in regularly. Know what the Yankees should do now? They should open the gates a little earlier prior to home games so fans can watch batting practice. Gates open two hours before first pitch now, so by time you walk in the door, the Yankees are pretty much done with batting practice. You get to see the bench guys hit their final round and that’s it. Open the gates a half-hour earlier and fans will get to see Stanton and Judge do their thing, and as someone who has seen both of them take batting practice multiple times, it is fun as hell. The Yankees wouldn’t necessarily make money from that (other than getting 30 extra minutes of concession sales) but it would still be a cool thing to do for fans. If they don’t want to do it every single game, maybe do it once a homestand or something. Make these great players more accessible. There’s the Judge’s Chambers in right field. Put Stanton Island in the left field bleachers or something. Market the hell out of them.

17. And finally, wow does the trade look terrible for MLB and the Marlins. The Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group bought the Marlins for $1.2 billion a few weeks ago and now they’re crying poor and salary dumping their best players because they came into this venture without much capital. They’re already looking for new investors for a cash infusion. They don’t have any money and I don’t see much of a plan to make the team competitive down the road. Their only focus seems to be eliminating debt. What are the odds the Marlins are going to spend all that revenue sharing money they receive next year on players? The Sherman/Jeter group knew the team’s financial situation going into the purchase and so did MLB. They league reviews the finances of every prospective buyer. They knew this fire sale was coming, yet they approved the sale anyway. Pretty terrible. Forget the conspiracy theories about Jeter helping the Yankees. That’s nonsense. Stanton would be a Giant or Cardinal if Jeter had his way. But instead, Stanton is a Yankee because instead of turning the franchise over to owners ready to invest, MLB allowed them to be sold to a cash-strapped outfit. Yeesh. Bad look.