Game 22: Follow-Up

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The best and worst thing about baseball is that they play every single day. The Yankees mounted a huge comeback for a fun and memorable win last night, and roughly 14 hours later, they’re back at it this afternoon with another game. Baseball never lets you enjoy the highs long, eh?

Anyway, the Yankees have a chance to do something today they haven’t done since August 22, 2015: have sole possession of first place in the AL East. The Yankees and Orioles are both 14-7 right now — the Yankees have a huge edge in run differential, for what it’s worth (+38 to +6) — so a win today means first place. That’d be cool. Just keep winning series though. Win series and everything will work out. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Michael Pineda

We had some pretty serious thunderstorms overnight here in New York, but it’s cleared up and the weather is fine for the game. Hot, humid, and a little cloudy. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Gary Sanchez (biceps) threw to the bases for the first time today and everything went well. He’s on track to start his rehab assignment Tuesday with Triple-A Scranton.

Yankees 14, Orioles 11: Judge, Castro, Holliday help Yankees come back from 9-1 deficit

This team. THIS TEAM. I love them. Even when things are going bad, they’re worth watching. They have Fighting Spirit. The Yankees were down 9-1 — 9-1! — after the top of the sixth inning Friday night. They outscored the Orioles 13-2 the rest of the way to earn a 14-11 walk-off win in ten innings. Love this team, you guys.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

You Can’t Make A Huge Comeback Without Bad Pitching
You know, the game started out so well for CC Sabathia. Seven up, six down on 16 total pitches in the first two innings. Sabathia got two quick outs to start the third inning, then Joey Rickard reached on a dinky well-placed infield single. Fine. Whatever. Get out of it. Sabathia couldn’t. He walked the generally un-walked-able Adam Jones, then served up a rocket double to Manny Machado. Machado’s double was the first hard hit ball of the game for the O’s, and it came at the wrong time.

A two-run third inning shouldn’t be the end of the world. The Orioles didn’t stop there though. Sabathia plunked Chis Davis in the shoulder in an 0-2 count to start the fourth inning — 0-2 hit batsmen are so annoying — before Welington Castillo lifted a two-run home run into the short porch in right field. Eight quick outs to start the game, then four runs allowed in the span of the next six batters. Sigh. Machado made it 5-0 Orioles in the fifth with this moonshoot of a home run:

Unless I’m forgetting one, and I doubt I am, Machado is the first player to clear the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar entirely and hit a ball into the seats above. Well, the camera row, not the seats, but you know what I mean. Aaron Judge hits balls over the bar and into the concessions area in batting practice all the time, but during the game? Never happened before. Machado is the first to hit it up there during a game. Can’t even be made about that. I’m amazed.

The end result was seven runs on nine hits, two walks, and one hit batsman in 5.2 innings for Sabathia. He was yanked with men on the corners and two outs in the fifth — Joe Girardi wasn’t about to let him face Machado a fourth time — and replaced by Bryan Mitchell, who promptly walked Machado and gave up a grand slam to Mark Trumbo to make it 9-1 O’s. Womp womp. The Yankees came into the game with a team 2.90 ERA, best in MLB. The correction was never going to be pretty.

I suppose the good news is Sabathia’s velocity came back. He averaged 88.2 mph with his cutter against the Pirates last weekend and did not look good at all. On Friday night it was back up 91.0 mph. Yay? Late career Sabathia is going to have dud starts like this one, with or without the 90-something mile an hour velocity. The Yankees were due for a disaster start and they got it out of the way in this one. Thankfully, the offense picked them up.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sentenced To Two Home Runs
Even when the 2017 Yankees are getting blown out, they’re still fun to watch. Judge, who has alternated homer games and no-homer games for a week now, clobbered two home runs Friday night. It was his first career multi-homer game. The first was a solo shot with the Yankees down 5-0, a line drive into the visitor’s bullpen. The second was a two-run shot — the Yankees were down 9-2 at this point — on a line into Monument Park. ON A LINE.

That ball left Judge’s bat at 119.4 mph. It is the hardest hit home run since Statcast launched on Opening Day 2015. (Giancarlo Stanton had the previous record at 119.2 mph.) The two-run shot brought the Yankees to within 9-4. Judge is only the seventh player in Yankees history to hit nine homers in April. The last? Alex Rodriguez. He hit 14 during that hilariously incredible April in 2007. Judge has two games left to join A-Rod and Graig Nettles (eleven in 1974) as the only Yankees with double-digit homers in April.

Fighting Spirit
The two Judge home runs gave the Yankees some life. Mitchell tried to snuff it out quickly. He went back out for the seventh inning and retired only one of the six batters he faced. Jonathan Holder had to come bail him out, but by then the Orioles had tacked on two more runs to build an 11-4 lead. That was deflating. 9-4? Eh, that’s kinda within reach. 11-4? That feels less so. Not for these Yankees though!

The comeback started in earnest in the bottom of the seventh inning. An infield single (Austin Romine), a double (Chase Headley), and a walk (Matt Holliday) loaded the bases with one out. Cleanup hitter Jacoby Ellsbury did a cleanup hitter thing and smashed a grand slam into the right field bleachers. How about that? It was his 100th career homer and first career grand slam. Suddenly the Yankees were within 11-8.

Cleanup Hitter. (Presswire)
Cleanup Hitter. (Presswire)

Following a scoreless eighth inning, O’s closer du jour Brad Brach — Zach Britton is on the disabled list with a forearm issue — got the game-tying rally started for the Yankees with a leadoff walk to Headley. Holliday followed with a very long single off the wall in right-center field. It was one of those “he hit it too hard and he runs too slow” singles. For a normal hitter, it’s a double. Either way, the Yankees had men on the corners with no outs. They were in business.

Ellsbury got Headley in from third with a fielder’s choice to second base that maybe could have been a double play. The defender bobbled the ball slightly but was able to recover to tag Holliday as he approached the second base bag. Ellsbury reached first and Headley crossed the plate to cut Baltimore’s lead to 11-9. Then Starlin Castro, who I’m starting to think might actually be good now, crushed a game-tying two run home run. To the very necessary video:

The best part of the game-tying home run? Other than the fact it tied the game? The follow through:

starlin-castro1

Castro dropped to one knee, Adrian Beltre style. He did that following his ninth inning run-scoring single against the Red Sox on Thursday night too. I can get on board with this becoming a thing. The Yankees tied the game and man, Yankee Stadium was alive. I haven’t heard this ballpark this loud during a random regular season game in a long time. The Wild Card game in 2015? Sure. The various farewell games (A-Rod, Derek Jeter, etc.)? Yep. It was loud then too. This was an otherwise nondescript regular season game on April 28th, and the place was lit.

Starlin’s game-tying home run was just that though: game-tying. The Yankees still needed to score again to win. They did that in the tenth inning thanks to O’s reliever Jayson Aquino. He walked Aaron Hicks to start the inning then walked Kyle Higashioka — Hicks hit for Austin Romine earlier in the game — who was trying to bunt. Higashioka was giving Aquino an out and he couldn’t throw a damn strike. That, by the way, was the first time Higgy has reached base as a big leaguer. He’s come a long, long way to get here.

Runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the tenth inning of a tie game seems like a good time for a terrible strikeout, and Headley obliged. Aquino got him to fish for soft stuff out of the zone. Blah. Headley’s been awesome this season, but that was a yucky at-bat. Thankfully, Holliday picked him up one pitch later. Do the damn thing, Matty H.:

Holy crap. What an incredible ending to an incredible game that probably half of New York turned off after the fifth inning. This team, man. They’ve got something special going right now. The kids are contributing, the veterans are coming up big … it’s all coming together.

(Presswire)
My favorite photo of the season so far, easily. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Welcome back, Didi Gregorius. Sir Didi celebrated his return to the lineup by going 2-for-5 with a double and a run-scoring ground out. He also made several sparkling plays in the field. Ronald Torreyes is awesome — his celebration of the walk-off homer was amazing — but it sure is nice to have Gregorius back, isn’t it? He made an impact right away, on both sides of the ball.

Shout to the bullpen. Well, the bullpen sans Mitchell. He was crummy tonight. Holder, Tyler Clippard, and Aroldis Chapman combined to retire ten of the eleven batters they faced to give the offense a chance to get back in the game. Couldn’t have done it without those guys. (Chapman took a chopper to his pitching hand but remained in the game. Didn’t seem to be much of an issue.)

Fun fact: the Yankees hit for the home run cycle in this game. They had a solo homer (Judge), a two-run homer (Judge and Castro), a three-run homer (Holliday), and a grand slam (Ellsbury). I wish I could look up the last time the Yankees did that or the last time any team did that. Seems like kind of a rare thing, no? Maybe Katie can dig that up somehow.

The Yankees had 14 hits total and the middle of the lineup, the 3-4-5-6-7 portion, went a combined 11-for-20 (.550) with two doubles and five home runs. They drove in all 14 runs. Goodness. Headley had a double and two walks as the second place hitter as well. What a job by the offense. In years past, they had no chance of coming back in a game like this.

And finally, Judge has nine home runs through 21 team games. I bring this up because the Yankees rookie record is 29 home runs by Joe DiMaggio in 1936. I’m not say Judge is going to do it. But gosh, he sure does have a nice head start, huh?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our ultra-useful Bullpen Workload page too. Ultra-useful isn’t hyperbole, is it? Nah. Here’s the amazingly awesome probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

At one point in the seventh inning the Orioles had a 99.5% chance to win the game. The Yankees had a 1-in-200 chance to win the game. This was the one.

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday afternoon for the middle game of this three-game series. That’s a 1pm ET start, thankfully. Been getting kinda sick of those weird Saturday start times. Michael Pineda and Ubaldo Jimenez are the scheduled starters. Good luck predicting the outcome of that one. Anyway, RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game. Weather’s supposed to be great.

DotF: Torres returns in Trenton’s loss

A few quick notes to pass along:

  • Welcome back, SS Gleyber Torres. Torres, the Yankees’ top prospect, was activated off the Double-A Trenton disabled list today. He missed nine days with mild right rotator cuff tendinitis. Torres hit .237/.341/.342 (100 wRC+) in ten games before the injury.
  • IF Donovan Solano was placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list with a calf injury yesterday and it’s not minor. Solano has a second degree strain and will miss “a while,” manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan. With Solano hurt and Pete Kozma in DFA limbo, the Yankees lost some infield depth this week.
  • RHP Erik Swanson has been activated off the disabled list and assigned to High-A Tampa. Not sure what was wrong with him, but it couldn’t have been too bad if he’s back already. Swanson was part of the Carlos Beltran trade. RHP Colten Brewer was sent to Extended Spring Training to clear a roster spot, which kinda surprises me. The minor league Rule 5 Draft pick has been dealing out of the bullpen so far this year.
  • Ben Badler (subs. req’d) has some notes from a recent Double-A Trenton game. It’s behind the paywall, so I can’t give away too much. Most notable info: 3B Miguel Andujar could play some first base later this year, and Torres will DH this weekend before he starts throwing again Monday.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 loss to Indianapolis)

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • DH Dustin Fowler: 2-2, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 CS — second triple of the season after leading the minors with 15 last year
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K — 11-for-34 (.324) during his nine-game hitting streak
  • 3B Ruben Tejada: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB — hitting .383/.466/.638 with nine walks and four strikeouts
  • LHP Daniel Camarena: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 5/5 GB/FB — 60 of 86 pitches were strikes (70%) … 18/2 K/BB in 22.1 innings so far
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (66%) … 16/5 K/BB in ten innings
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — eleven of 17 pitches were strikes (65%)

[Read more…]

Game 21: Didi’s Return

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are getting closer to being whole. Didi Gregorius, who has not played at all this season thanks to a shoulder strain suffered during the World Baseball Classic, returns tonight and is in the starting lineup. Hooray. I’ve missed Didi. Let’s not forget Ronald Torreyes though. Dude stepped in and hit .308/.308/.431 (106 wRC+) as the starting shortstop while Gregorius was out. He was pretty rad.

Anyway, the Yankees are back home for a quick little six-game homestand, and this weekend they’ll play the Orioles, the team they’re chasing for first place in the AL East. Hey, it’s never too early to start thinking about the division title, right? The Yankees have won 12 of their last 15 games. If you’re not going to look at their current situation in terms of the postseason race, when will you? Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

Perfect baseball weather in New York today. Not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the 80s pretty much all afternoon. It’ll be a little cooler tonight though. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: As expected, Pete Kozma was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Gregorius. That leaves the Yankees with an open 40-man roster spot, which will likely go to Tyler Austin whenever he’s activated off the 60-day disabled list.

4/28 to 4/30 Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)
Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx to continue their three-series stretch against divisional opponents. It’s too early for this to feel terribly significant, but it’s interesting nevertheless that this series could determine who is in first place in the AL East on May 1.

The Last Time They Met

It was just three weeks ago that the Orioles hosted the Yankees, taking two out of three in a rather frustrating series. The Yankees dropped the first two despite holding leads of four and three runs, respectively, with the bullpen taking the loss in both games (one-run losses, at that). In fact, the Yankees outscored the Orioles 16-14 that weekend, while also accumulating seventeen more base-runners. And, as if that wasn’t bothersome enough, it was also the series in which Gary Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting tidbits.

Injury Report

Closer Zach Britton is on the disabled list with a left forearm strain, and was initially expected to be back sometime in May. He’s slated for a rehab assignment on Friday, though, and could be activated for Sunday’s game. Starter Chris Tillman is also on the disabled list, and has been since Spring Training due to right shoulder bursitis that required a platelet-rich plasma injection. He made a rehab start at High-A Frederick on Thursday, so he won’t be back in time for this series.

Their Story So Far

The Orioles sit atop the AL East (and the American League as a whole) with a 14-6 record. Their offense has struggled at times (95 wRC+, 3.95 runs per game), but their pitching has been excellent, placing fifth in the majors with a 3.42 ERA. As per usual, and despite Britton’s injury, the bullpen has been particularly strong, maintaining a 2.73 ERA thus far; surprisingly, the rotation has been more than adequate, as well, with a 3.82 ERA.

Starter Dylan Bundy is their feel good story of the moment, as the former top prospect has been excellent through four starts (26.1 IP, 20.4 K%, 4.1 BB%, 1.37 ERA, 1.88 FIP). He missed the vast majority of 2013 through 2015 due to various injuries, and was all but written off as a result. It’s still very early in the season, of course, but it’s a promising start on the heels of a decent (and mostly healthy) 2016 season.

The Lineup We Might See

Buck Showalter employs a few platoons, so the lineup will likely be dependent upon who is starting for the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery will probably see something like this:

  1. Craig Gentry, LF
  2. Adam Jones, CF
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Mark Trumbo, RF
  5. Chris Davis, 1B
  6. Trey Mancini, DH
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

Whereas Michael Pineda will probably face a lineup along these lines:

  1. Seth Smith, RF
  2. Jones, CF
  3. Machado, 3B
  4. Davis, 1B
  5. Trumbo, DH
  6. Castillo, C
  7. Hyun Soo Kim, LF
  8. Schoop, 2B
  9. Hardy, SS

The Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

The Yankees roughed Gausman up on April 8, to the tune of 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in just 4.2 IP. It was a welcome sight, considering that the 26-year-old held the Yankees to a 1.10 ERA in 41.0 IP last year (and a 4.35 ERA against every other team). Last year did appear to be something of a breakout for Gausman, as he pitched a full, healthy season, but the early returns have not been too encouraging (particularly his 5.63 BB/9 and 7.50 ERA).

Gausman is a three-pitch guy, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s splitter (against which hitters whiffed 20.7% of the time last year), and a low-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 4/23) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

The Yankees knocked Jimenez around, as well, scoring 5 runs on 7 hits (including two home runs) in his 4.1 IP. Jimenez somehow avoided the Yankees in 2016, which seems all but impossible for a pitcher that spent the entire season in the AL East, making 25 starts along the way; that may have been by design, though, given his career 5.50 ERA in Yankee Stadium. Am I alone in remembering when fans of most every team wanted a shot at Jimenez back in 2011? That seems even more impossible, with the benefit of hindsight.

Jimenez used to pump his two- and four-seam fastballs into the mid-to-upper 90s, but they currently sit right around 90 MPH. He also throws a splitter and a slider, both of which sit in the low-80s. He’ll also sprinkle in a mid-70s curveball every now and then.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/24) – 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Wade Miley

Miley held the Yankees scoreless on April 9, despite walking seven in 5 IP. The Yankees won that game anyway, scoring 7 against the bullpen, but it was an irritating first five innings. The 30-year-old Miley has quietly been an innings eater for some time now, having made at least 29 starts and thrown at least 166 IP in each of the last five seasons. He’s a rock solid back of the rotation starter, although he is coming off of his worst full season by ERA (5.37) and FIP (4.45).

It may be a bit of a cop-out to call Miley a crafty lefty, but that’s exactly what he is. He throws a couple of low-90s fastballs, a low-80s change-up, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s curveball, and he threw all of his offerings regularly last season. As per PITCHf/x, Miley has thrown his change-up significantly less this season, so that may be something to watch.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/25) – 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 8 K

Yankees Connection

Buck Showalter’s four-year tenure as the Yankees manager (1992 to 1995) is always brought up when these teams meet, so much so that you’d think that the Orioles stole him from the Yankees. He was a fine manager in the Bronx, winning AL Manager of the Year for the strike-shortened 1994 season (they had the best record in the league when the season was cut short), and guiding the Yankees to the playoffs in 1995. His departure from the organization wasn’t on good terms, though, as he resigned after George Steinbrenner demanded that he fire his pitching coach.

LHP Vidal Nuno is the only other real connection, having pitched for the Yankees for parts of two seasons. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy back in 2014. I suppose you could also count Chris Davis, who was drafted by the Yankees out of high school in the 50th round of the 2004 draft, but opted to go to college instead.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Machado’s defense at the hot corner is must-see TV, and that may well be the only reason to watch the Orioles this weekend. The offense does hit plenty of home runs, too, if dingers are your thing, which reminds me – you should also follow Sung Min Kim on Twitter, on the off-chance that Hyun Soo Kim goes deep (or just because he’s a great follow).

Yeah, the Yankees missed the boat on Thames, but they didn’t match up well during the offseason anyway

(Dylan Buell/Getty)
(Dylan Buell/Getty)

Barry Bonds has returned to Major League Baseball. Or at least an approximation of Barry Bonds has arrived. Eric Thames, the former Blue Jays outfield prospect, is currently hitting .370/.489/.904 (251 wRC+) with an MLB leading eleven home runs as a first baseman for the Brewers. Thames has always had power — he swatted 27 home runs in 130 Double-A games years ago — but now he’s paired it with Joey Votto level plate discipline. He doesn’t chase off the plate, and when pitchers throw a pitch in the zone, he crushes it. It’s very Bonds-esque.

Thames, as I’m sure you know, returned to MLB this past offseason after spending the previous three seasons with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. He washed out with the Blue Jays and Mariners years ago, hit .349/.451/.721 with 124 home runs in 390 games with the Dinos from 2014-16, then signed a three-year deal worth $16M with Milwaukee in November. They signed him very early in the offseason. (The Brewers cut Chris Carter to clear a 40-man roster spot for Thames.)

That $16M contract is looking like a massive bargain right now — for what it’s worth, FanGraphs values Thames’ production at $15.3M this month alone — even though we know Thames probably won’t keep up this pace all season. Or maybe he will. Who knows? Either way, there are 29 teams in baseball kicking themselves right now for not pursing Thames more aggressively during the offseason, including the Yankees, who originally drafted him in the 39th round of the 2007 draft. (He didn’t sign and went back to Pepperdine for his senior year.)

“We talked to his agent, but the financial considerations weren’t a match. It looks like (the Brewers) got a bargain. Good for them,” said Brian Cashman to George King recently, acknowledging the Yankees checked in on Thames this offseason. The Yankees went into the offseason planning to sign a designated hitter, and, well, they’re now paying Carter and Matt Holliday a combined $16.5M in 2017. Thames will make $16M total from 2017-19. D’oh!

Joel Sherman recently spoke to Adam Karon, Thames’ agent, who explained he went into this past offseason with very specific demands. From Sherman:

Karon established three criteria to sign his player back in the majors or else Thames would either enlist back in Korea or perhaps go to Japan: 1) a three-year contract; 2) contractual language that prevented him from being sent back to the minors (he has one option left); 3) no platoons.

Add those three small demands together and you get one big “he needs to play every single day” demand. Right now that sounds silly. Of course he’s going to play everyday! But back during the offseason, no one knew quite what to expect from Thames. After all, Byung-Ho Park put up Thames-level numbers in KBO, then came to MLB and found himself in Triple-A after three months. Park went unclaimed on waivers in Spring Training.

Knowing what they know now, of course the Yankees would have gone after Thames more aggressively, as would every team. They’d love to drop his military style plate discipline and Yankee Stadium friendly left-handed power into the middle of their lineup. A missed opportunity, this was. That all said, Karon’s demands indicate Thames and the Yankees were never really a match from the start, for two big reasons.

1. The Yankees want to get under the luxury tax threshold soon. As good as Thames has been, no one really knew what to expect when he came back from Korea. The Yankees are trying like crazy to get under the luxury tax in 2018 and any multi-year contract will make it more difficult. That’s why the Yankees focused on one-year deals with Holliday and Carter. Anything longer would make it harder to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

That three-year, $16M deal Thames signed with the Brewers comes with a $5.33M average annual value — that’s his luxury tax “hit,” so to speak — which is little in baseball terms, but is real dollars. The Yankees would have had to outbid the Brewers — what if it would have taken, say, $9M a year to get Thames after a bidding war? — and they weren’t willing to do that. Not with so much uncertainty surrounding his potential impact. Thames was a mystery as recently as four weeks ago, and the Yankees didn’t want to tie up luxury tax space on an unknown.

2. The Yankees wanted to retain roster flexibility. The Yankees have a wonderful farm system with several high-end prospects close to the big leagues. Clint Frazier should arrive at some point this year and I don’t think it’s out of the question we’ll see Gleyber Torres at some point too. Others like Tyler Wade and Dustin Fowler are also knocking on the door, and the Yankees want to be able to give these kids a chance when the time comes.

Between the three-year contract and the fact he can’t be sent to the minors or platooned, Thames doesn’t offer much roster flexibility. He’d get a set lineup spot, good or bad, which meant less playing time available for the prospects whenever they arrived. As it stands, the Yankees are already looking for ways to get Aaron Hicks in the lineup more often, and it won’t be long before they’re looking for ways to get Tyler Austin at-bats too.

* * *

Keep in mind free agency is a two-way street. A rebuilding team — a true rebuilding team like the Brewers, not a “transitioning” team that is trying to contend like the Yankees — always made the most sense for Thames because they could afford to give him a long leash. Do I wish the Yankees had signed Thames? Of course! Now I do. Back during the offseason, I was totally cool with looking elsewhere for a short-term DH. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of committing multiple years to the DH, nevermind one with zero MLB success to his credit. Thames would look wonderful in the lineup right now. Back during the offseason though, the two sides didn’t seem to match up all that well. C’est la vie.