Poll: Should the Yankees sign a top free agent reliever?

Chapman. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Chapman. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

According to various reports, the Yankees are in on all the top free agent relievers this offseason. That includes ex-Yankee Aroldis Chapman as well as Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. They’ve even been connected to second tier relievers like Brett Cecil and Boone Logan. Clearly the bullpen is a priority this offseason. That figured to be the case as soon as Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded away at the deadline.

At this point it seems like a foregone conclusion the Yankees will end up with one of the top free agent bullpen arms. My money’s on Chapman, though Jansen or Melancon wouldn’t surprise me either. A strong and deep bullpen is a necessity nowadays with starters throwing fewer and fewer innings with each passing season, so it’s understandable why the Yankees would focus on adding a top notch bullpen arm this winter. Is it the right move at this point in time though? I think that’s up for debate. Here are both sides of the argument.

The Case For Spending Big

1. Elite talent is elite talent. This free agent class is very weak overall, so much so that the only place it offers serious depth is the bullpen. You’re not going to find a No. 1 starter or an above-average middle infielder in free agency this winter. But a dominant closer? There are several available. The bullpen is the best (only?) place to get a truly elite performer — I’m talking one of the very best players at their position — in free agency. Elite talent is elite talent. Want to sign a difference-maker? The best option is a reliever.

2. Relievers cost too much on the trade market. Did you see what the Yankees got for Chapman and Miller at the trade deadline? Lordy. Those weren’t anomalies either. Ken Giles and Craig Kimbrel were both traded for huge prospect packages as well. Even Fernando Rodney fetched a nice prospect at midseason. There is no painless way to acquire an elite reliever these days. You’re either going to have to give up a ton in a trade or spend a boatload of cash. Spending money is always preferable to trading prospects.

3. Future free agent classes are thin on top relievers. This free agent stinks overall but has some top relievers. The upcoming free agent classes are the opposite — they’re good overall but thin on bullpeners. Assuming the Red Sox pick up Kimbrel’s option, the best reliever scheduled to hit free agency next offseason is either Addison Reed or Francisco Rodriguez. The offseason after that it’s either Kimbrel or Miller — or perhaps David Robertson — depending how they age. Catch my drift? This offseason figures to be the best chance to sign a dominant closer at the top of their game for the foreseeable future.

The Case Against Spending Big

Jansen. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Jansen. (Rob Carr/Getty)

1. Long-term deals for relievers rarely work out. The history of long-term contracts for relievers — I’m talking four and five-year deals — is so very ugly that it’s impossible to ignore. There’s B.J. Ryan and Steve Karsay, Justin Speier and Scott Linebrink, Danys Baez and Brandon Lyon … on and on it goes. Here are 2014’s top ten relievers (per bWAR) with a note on their 2016 status:

  1. Wade Davis — still awesome but had an arm injury
  2. Dellin Betances — still awesome but struggled throwing strikes at times
  3. Kelvin Herrera — still awesome
  4. Jonathan Papelbon — released at midseason
  5. Jake McGee — hurt and ineffective
  6. Huston Street — hurt and ineffective
  7. Drew Storen — hurt and ineffective
  8. Joe Smith — hurt and ineffective
  9. Zach Britton — maybe the best reliever season ever
  10. Craig Kimbrel — still awesome but struggled throwing strikes at times

Yeesh. And that’s looking back only two years. Look back four years and we start seeing guys like Ryan Cook and Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Soriano among the top ten relievers in bWAR. Relievers, man. Can’t live without them, can’t count on them to hold their value long-term.

To be fair, some long-term contracts for relievers have worked out well. Mariano Rivera‘s three-year contract from 2008-10, for example. Miller’s contract is looking mighty good right now. Even Papelbon performed well during his original four-year deal with the Phillies. Generally speaking though, relievers are so damn volatile — even the very best ones — that most long-term deals come with a ton of regret.

2. It would hurt their chances of getting under the luxury tax. Like it or not, the Yankees intend to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon. The 2018 season seems to be their target. Signing a reliever to a big money contract — signing any player to a big money contract — hurts the team’s chances to get under the threshold. To put it another way, every dollar the Yankees spend on a reliever is a dollar they can’t spend elsewhere. This is a team with lots and lots of needs. They need long-term rotation help, first and foremost. The Yankees still have a high payroll, but it is not infinite, and spending big on a reliever might not be the best allocation of resources.

3. They’re not one reliever away from contention. The Yankees had maybe the best bullpen trio in baseball history this season. At least prior to the trade deadline. It didn’t do them a whole lot of good though because the rest of the team stunk. Great relievers usually only come into the picture after the starter and the offense do their job, and on too many occasions this year, the starter and offense didn’t do their jobs.

Signing Chapman or Jansen for huge money is something a team does when they’re ready to win because those guys are in their primes. Are the Yankees ready to win right now? I’m willing to hear both sides of the argument but I lean no right now. The timelines don’t match up. An expensive closer is pretty much the last thing a non-contender needs, and there’s a decent chance the Yankees end up a non-contender with an expensive closer in 2017 should they sign a top free agent bullpen arms.

* * *

Obvious statement is obvious: there’s never a bad time to add good players. The Yankees would be better with Chapman (or Jansen or Melancon) on their roster next year than without. I mean, duh. That said, the Yankees are going young at several positions, and it’s possible if not likely there will be growing pains. When you go young on a mass scale, things tend to get worse before they get better. Does adding a top reliever — and using relatively limited dollars to do so — to this roster make sense in the big picture? It’s a valid question. Anyway, poll time.

Should the Yankees sign one of the top free agent relievers?
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Monday Night Open Thread

Jonesin’ for some baseball talk? The first Yankee Hot Stove show of the offseason will air at 7pm ET on YES tonight. They’re going to show the first part of a two-part interview with Hal Steinbrenner, I understand. (The second part will air later in the week.) Don’t miss it.

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to Yankee Hot Stove, you’ve got Monday Night Football (Packers vs. Eagles), the Knicks, the Islanders, and college hoops. Talk about all that right here.

Yankees release Eovaldi, Mantiply, and Rumbelow

Eovaldi. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Eovaldi. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Earlier today the Yankees unconditionally released righties Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Rumbelow, as well as lefty Joe Mantiply, the team announced. All three were designated for assignment ten days ago, on the deadline for teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. They were cut to clear 40-man roster space for others.

Today was the deadline for the Yankees to do something with these three. When a player is designated for assignment, the team has ten days to trade, release, or waive him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Yankees end up re-signing all three to minor league contracts, especially Mantiply and Rumbelow. They might already have an agreement in place.

Eovaldi’s situation is a little different because of his injury. He’s going to miss the entire 2017 season following his second Tommy John surgery, so there’s no rush to get him locked up right now. Eovaldi could look for a two-year deal a la Kris Medlen and Mike Minor in recent years, though Greg Holland remained unsigned all season under similar circumstances.

Mantiply, who was claimed off waivers from the Tigers earlier this offseason, figured to be a shuttle reliever going forward. Ditto Rumbelow, who is rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery and is due back at midseason.

Betances commits to Dominican Republic for 2017 WBC

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dellin Betances will indeed pitch in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but not for Team USA. He told George King he has committed to pitch for the Dominican Republic instead. “Both teams want me to play (for them), but I made a commitment to the DR. That is where my family is from, and I want to make them proud,” said Dellin.

The Dominican Republic won the 2013 WBC and there’s no reason to think they won’t be among the top contenders next spring. Fernando Rodney was their closer and most heavily used reliever in 2013, throwing 7.1 innings in the tournament. Pedro Strop (6.2 innings), Santiago Casilla (5.0), and Kelvin Herrera (4.1) were also on the roster.

The WBC has pitch limits that really only apply to starters, not relievers. Still, no manager is going to push their players too hard. If anything, they’ll be overly cautious. Yankees first base coach Tony Pena will manage the Dominican Republic team, so Betances will have a familiar face looking over him. Pena knows how important Dellin is to the Yankees. He won’t overdo it.

Betances, 28, had a 3.08 ERA (1.78 FIP) with 126 strikeouts in 73 innings this past season. That is both outrageously good and Dellin’s worst season since breaking into the big leagues for good three years ago. Betances has worn down in September the last few years and throwing high-leverage innings in mid-March is not ideal, but what can you do?

Betances was the only Yankee on theĀ preliminary 50-man roster Team USA filed last month. The final rosters aren’t due until January, and Team USA can still add players to their preliminary roster. They’re not obligated to select their final roster from that pool of 50 players or anything like that.

Didi Gregorius (Netherlands), Masahiro Tanaka (Japan), and Gary Sanchez (Dominican Republic) are the other prominent Yankees with a chance to be selected for the WBC. The Yankees can not prevent a player from playing in the WBC unless they’re coming back from a injury.

The 2017 WBC begins with pool play on March 6th. The Championship Game will be played on March 22nd at Dodger Stadium. Here’s the full WBC schedule.

Hot Stove Notes: Cecil, Cespedes, Napoli, Holliday, Moss

Cecil. (Elsa/Getty)
Cecil. (Elsa/Getty)

One week from today the 2016 Winter Meetings will begin at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, DC. Will MLB and the MLBPA agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before then? I sure hope so. The current CBA expires Thursday. If they don’t hammer out a deal, the baseball world could come to a standstill. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous bits of hot stove news.

Yankees had interest in Cecil

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees were in on lefty reliever Brett Cecil before he signed with the Cardinals last week. St. Louis gave him a four-year deal worth $30.5M. Goodness. Sherman says the Yankees never did make Cecil a formal offer, though they did talk parameters with his representatives. What they player wanted, what the team was willing to do … that sort of that stuff.

Cecil, 30, had a 3.93 ERA (3.64 FIP) in 36.2 total innings around a lat injury this past season. He had stellar strikeout (28.7%) and walk (5.1%) rates, though lefties managed a .254/.310/.364 batting line against him. You’d like your primary southpaw reliever to do a little better than that against same-side hitters. Although the Yankees didn’t present Cecil with an offer, their interest shows how seriously they’re looking for bullpen help. It’s not just to the top guys like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. They’re zeroing in on the second tier free agents too.

Cespedes not in Yankees’ plans

The Yankees are not planning to pursue Yoenis Cespedes even though they have checked in with his representatives, reports Christian Red. Cespedes is arguably the best overall free agent on the market and he figures to land a hefty contract. The Yankees checked in just because they check in with everyone. It’s due diligence. How else are you going to find out whether a free agent is interested enough in your team to take a discount?

Cespedes, 31, hit .280/.354/.530 (134 wRC+) with 31 home runs for the crosstown Mets in 2016. The Yankees, who were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this summer, could certainly use a bat like that in their lineup. They’re also trying to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon, plus they have a ton of talented outfield prospects in the upper minors, so a pricey corner outfielder is not a pressing need. It’s worth making the call to check in. Spending huge on Cespedes doesn’t seem wise at this point in time though.

Yankees have checked in with several bats

In addition to the usual cast of characters (Cespedes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, etc.), the Yankees have also checked in on other free agent bats like Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday, and Dexter Fowler, reports Jon Heyman. Napoli, Moss, and Holliday are all short-term DH candidates — or at least they should be — while Fowler figures to be more of a long-term addition.

With Brian McCann gone, the Yankees suddenly have an opening at DH for a big veteran bat. They’re said to be interested in a reunion with Carlos Beltran. If the Yankees are going to spend on a free agent bat, I would greatly prefer a short-term contract. Short-term as in one year. Napoli, Beltran, Holliday, and Moss make more sense for the Yankees right now than Cespedes or Encarnacion. Remember, the Yankees are still paying Alex Rodriguez. I’m not sure how eager they are to commit big money to another DH at the moment.

The Lessons of the Trade Deadline [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2016 trade deadline was, truly, a monumental event for the Yankees. The team’s mediocre on-field performance pushed ownership to give Brian Cashman the authority to sell at the deadline, something the club hasn’t done in nearly three decades. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this year’s trade deadline a franchise-altering event.

Will the deadline alter the franchise for the better? That’s what we’re all hoping. The Yankees made five trades in the week leading up to the deadline, four of which qualify as “seller” trades, and those trades netted them two big leaguers and 12 total prospects. After the deadline Jim Callis said the Yankees have “the deepest system in the game.” The five trades told us five different things about the Yankees.

The Chapman Trade: The Yankees Are Opportunists

The first of the five trades was the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. It happened a full week prior to the deadline. I wanted the Yankees to trade Chapman even if they were in the race. I wrote that for I don’t know how many months before the trade actually happened. The club bought low in the offseason and had a chance to sell outrageously high at the deadline.

The Yankees did exactly that. They were 50-48 on the morning of the day of the Chapman trade, and they’d just won six of their last eight games. Rather than hang on to Chapman and try to get back into the race, they were smart about their situation. Contenders around the league were lining up for Aroldis and the offers were impressive. Far better than the draft pick the Yankees would have received after the season.

The Chapman trade told us the Yankees are going to be opportunistic. They acquired him at a deep discount (for terrible off-the-field reasons) and flipped him for a massive return. Getting Gleyber Torres alone would have been a major win. The other three players are gravy. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used the domestic violence incident to buy low on Chapman, but the team showed when an opportunity that is too good to be true presents itself, they’re going to pounce.

The Miller Trade: Committed To The Rebuild

Okay, fine, it’s a transition, not a rebuild. Whatever. The Yankees were in a very unique position at the trade deadline because they had not one, but two top notch relievers to peddle to contenders. Chapman was the first to go. Following that deal, the Yankees took offers for Andrew Miller, as they did last offseason. And of course everyone wanted him. Pretty much every contender was in on Miller.

Unlike Chapman, the Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller. I mean, they didn’t have to trade Chapman either, but it was such an obvious move. He was an impending free agent and his value was through the roof. Miller had two more affordable years left on his contract — plus he is insanely good and very popular — and keeping him would have completely justifiable. Teams wish they could have 25 guys like Andrew Miller on their roster.

Rather than keep Miller for those reasons, the Yankees acknowledged the bullpen market had exploded, and they capitalized on the opportunity. They’re so committed to the rebuild transition that they traded exactly the kind of player they want to acquire: affordable, effective, and likeable. The timetables didn’t line up though. A top notch reliever is not what they need right now. They need Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more.

The Clippard Trade: A Complete Tear Down Isn’t Happening

The Yankees won’t say it, but they’re rebuilding. They’re just not rebuilding all the way. A complete Astros style tear down isn’t going to happen because a) it can’t due to some unmovable contracts, and b) ownership doesn’t want it to happen. Hal Steinbrenner has made that very clear. They want to remain in quasi-contention to keep fans interested (i.e. sell tickets, etc.).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Tyler Clippard trade, which went down a few hours after the Miller trade, is the perfect example. Rather than turning Miller’s vacated roster spot over to a young reliever, the Yankees brought in a productive veteran to help them win. The cost was minimal — the Yankees gave up Vicente Campos, who got hurt (again) a few weeks after the trade — and the message was clear. The Yankees are still trying to win, which is commendable. There’s something to be said for refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field.

Now, does it makes sense to try to remain competitive even though the team on the field is telling you the postseason isn’t going to happen? That’s up for debate. I’m sure some fans appreciate the wins while others would rather a slightly better draft pick and larger bonus pool. That’s not for us to decide though. The Yankees have made their position clear. They’re going to try to win while rebuilding. The Clippard trade is the latest example.

The Beltran Trade: The Yankees Aren’t Afraid To Take Risks

The Yankees made five trades prior to the deadline this year but only two actually came on deadline day. The first sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for three Single-A pitching prospects in a deal that was more or less inevitable. Once Chapman and Miller were traded, there was no real point in hanging on to Beltran, another impending free agent. Yeah, he was the team’s best hitter, but that also increased his trade value.

As part of the Beltran trade, the Yankees acquired right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. Just last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. Tate’s stock took a hit in the first half because he hurt his hamstring and his velocity wavered, so much so that he sat in the upper-80s rather than the mid-90s at times. His stock was down quite a bit.

Rather than be scared away, New York targeted Tate in the Beltran trade and was willing to take on some risk in order to get premium talent. The Yankees never have access to players like Tate (and Frazier) in the draft. They never pick in the top ten. They were able to acquire that kind of talent at the deadline. To get Frazier, they gave up a great player in Miller. To get Tate, they had to roll the dice and trade their best hitter for a reclamation project. The Yankees didn’t play it safe. They’re shooting for the moon.

The Nova Trade: A Small Return Is Better Than No Return

Minutes prior to the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. Two! That’s one more than I expected. Nova was another impending free agent, and again, there was no reason to keep him. He wasn’t a qualifying offer candidate and it wasn’t like he was pitching well either. A few teams were interested, including the Rangers, but ultimately Cashman connected with his favorite trade partner and sent Nova to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot for Nova. Tito Polo could maybe be a speedy fourth outfielder down the line, and Stephen Tarpley figures to get plenty of chances as a hard-throwing lefty, but neither player is likely to have much of an impact. They’re spare parts. They’re also better than nothing, which is what the Yankees would have received had they kept Nova and let him finish out the season in pinstripes. Keeping Ivan would have been pointless given the team’s place in the standings.

The Nova trade was a common sense trade. Get whatever you can and move on. Polo and Tarpley probably won’t amount to much, but you never really know. Tarpley could figure out how to throw his breaking ball for strikes, or perhaps some team wants Polo as the third piece in a trade. Point is, the Yankees had an asset in Nova whose value was rapidly approaching zero. They accepted a small return at the deadline because a small return is better than no return.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 28th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

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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 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?
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