Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today, before the Yankees agreed to re-sign Chase Headley, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) ranked the six divisions based on where they stand right now. The AL Central, which I think has four legitimate contenders in the non-Twins teams, claims the top spot and is followed in order by the NL Central, AL West, NL West, AL East, and NL East. I might flip the NL West and AL East — the NL West is just one superpower and one other very good team while the AL East is five okay-ish teams, any of whom could probably win the division if things break right — but otherwise it seems like a good list to me. The AL East was the undisputed best division for a very long time, but that definitely isn’t the case anymore.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the night. The Saints and Bears are the Monday Night Football game, plus the Devils and Islanders are playing (each other). There’s also some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Headley coming back, the division rankings, or anything else right here.

Update on the RAB Daily Digest

We’ve recently received a few complaints that people signed up for the RAB Daily Digest but weren’t receiving them. That’s a shame. It’s been a fun couple of weeks producing this daily email, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Of course, I goofed.

That sign-up bar atop the site? Yeah, it wasn’t pushing signups to our list.

I’ve gone and imported the email addresses, so you should be getting tomorrow’s edition. I’m sorry. This error is totally on me.

If you signed up by another means and are receiving the Daily Digest, no worries. You won’t get doubles or anything. Although if you signed up with two email addresses you might get doubles. There is that.

Also, the sign-up bar on top of the site now works. Hooray!

If you signed up for the top bar and no longer want the email — understandable, given the circumstances — email me, josephp at riveraveblues dot com, and I’ll have you removed. If you get one tomorrow morning and don’t want it, just click that unsubscribe button and you’ll never see another email from us again.

Again, I’m sorry.

Eddy: Yankees re-sign Jose Campos to minor league contract


According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have re-signed right-hander Jose Campos to a minor league contract. Campos was non-tendered a few weeks ago along with David Huff and Slade Heathcott. Last week Brian Cashman confirmed they were hoping to re-sign both Campos and Heathcott to minor league deals. There’s no word on whether they’ve re-signed Heathcott yet.

Campos, 22, was the other player the Yankees received in the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade a few years ago. He was a very good pitching prospect at the time but has battled elbow injuries these last three seasons, including Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season. Campos has a 3.55 ERA (3.23 FIP) in only 111.2 innings since the trade, all with Low-A Charleston.

Last we heard, Campos was throwing from 90 feet as part of his rehab, though that was way back in early-October. The typical Tommy John surgery rehab schedule would have him throwing off a mound by now and introducing breaking balls very soon if he hasn’t already. The Yankees could be taking it slow after a series of elbow injuries, of course. Either way, he should be game ready at some point early in 2015.

Once healthy and all rehabbed from the elbow reconstruction, I expect Campos to head to High-A Tampa next summer and spend the remainder of the season there. It’ll be interesting to see if the Yankees move him into the bullpen after two major elbow injuries in the last three years. There’s always been some thought Campos would be best suited for relief due to his delivery and his secondary pitches. We’ll see.

Front office perception and the Yankees

They ate how much money and traded him for what? (Harry How/Getty)
They ate how much money and traded him for what? (Harry How/Getty)

The 2014 Winter Meetings came and went last week, and although the Yankees didn’t make any moves, it was the busiest Winter Meetings I can remember. The 2008 Winter Meetings were pretty hectic — the Yankees signed both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett that week — but nothing compared to this year. There were a ton of high profile signings and trades in San Diego last week, and yet there are still more on the way. Max Scherzer and James Shields are unsigned and Justin Upton is still on the trade block.

The busiest team during the Winter Meetings last week was the Dodgers, who swung three major trades and landed a notable free agent in the span of about 18 hours from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning. As those deals were going down, I saw nothing but approval for the job ex-Rays GM Andrew Friedman was doing. Whether it was real time reaction on Twitter or analysis posts filed later, it was nothing but love for what the Dodgers were doing. Universal praise.

And yet, of all their moves, the only one that struck me as great was the Jimmy Rollins trade. (I really like Rollins as a one year stopgap shortstop.) The Dee Gordon trade? I mean, didn’t anyone actually stop to think that maybe he’s good now? (Drew Fairservice did.) Or that the Marlins are legitimately excellent at player development, so maybe there’s a reason top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney was available? Trade four years of Gordon for six of Heaney? Brilliant! Flip six years of Heaney for one of Howie Kendrick? Somehow also brilliant! Also, isn’t it amazing how almost no one is questioning four years for Brandon McCarthy now?

Then there’s the Matt Kemp trade, in which the Dodgers ate so much money that they turned his contract into a five-year, $75M deal. Isn’t that entirely reasonable for a just turned 30-year-old who is one of only 18 players to slug .500+ over the last four years? All the Dodgers got back was a catcher who has been lauded for his pitch framing (Yasmani Grandal), a broken young pitcher (Joe Wieland), and a Single-A prospect (Zach Eflin). The ultimate win now team just traded one of their two best hitters for that package. I guess I don’t see that as deserving of the instant, unquestioned praise it received.

So anyway, those moves and the reaction to those moves got me thinking about how people perceive certain front offices. If anyone other than Friedman had made those moves, I’m pretty sure they would have been viewed differently. No doubt about it in my mind. Theo Epstein & Co. are treated the same way as Friedman. On the other side of the coin, we snicker at everything Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik or Royals GM Dayton Moore does. Or at least we did until Moore’s team went to the World Series. Giants GM Brian Sabean was the butt of many jokes until he built a dynasty.

How do people perceive the Yankees front office? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Based on what I’ve seen and read over the years, it seems like the majority of non-Yankees fans generally like the team’s moves more than Yankees fans. I’ve seen very few non-Yankees fans think the Didi Gregorius trade was a mistake, for example. Almost zero. Is that because they hadn’t seen enough of Shane Greene to fall in love with him? Or because they better understand just how hard it is to get a young shortstop because they haven’t been watching Derek Jeter for two decades? I don’t know. Could be both.

Here is a relevant tweet from a non-Yankees fan:

Patrick’s talking about handing out some market value contracts and making one big trade. The Yankees, because of their payroll, tend to buy big money free agents rather than mid-range free agents like the ChiSox, but the idea is the same. Market value signings and a big trade. When the Yankees do it, it’s bad. When the Rick Hahn does it, it’s genius. (Full disclosure: I really like what Hahn’s done this winter.)

These biases exist and that’s perfectly fine. It’s human nature. We have biases about players and that extends into the front office. The Dodgers’ moves drew praise last week because Friedman was excellent while with the Rays, consistently building a contender with a shoestring budget. He earned the benefit of the doubt. But these days it isn’t so much benefit of the doubt as it is unquestioned approval. We don’t even consider the “what if Friedman just made a big mistake?” option. Doesn’t even cross our minds. Meanwhile, it feels like “what if Cashman just made a big mistake?” is the default setting for many fans.

As someone who writes a lot about baseball, especially about the Yankees, I can’t tell you how many times a move has been made, my initial reaction is “it sucks” or “this is awesome,” and I find myself writing a post that fits my opinion. Happens way too often, especially when I’m trying to crank something out quickly. I’m not going to sit here and tell people what to think. I just think we’d all be better served if we removed our preconceived notions — that’s very difficult! — and took a second to consider the alternative. What if Friedman did make a mistake? What if this relatively quiet Yankees offseason is, in fact, the best thing for the Yankees long-term?

Yankees re-sign Chase Headley to four-year deal


4:57pm: Sherman says the contract does not include any no-trade protection. Headley will receive a $1M assignment bonus if he is traded during the life of the contract, however.

1:54pm: The Yankees have officially announced the signing, so it’s a done deal. Here are the (very favorable) ZiPS projections for the contract, if you’re into that sort of thing. Steve Adams says it’s a four-year deal worth $52M guaranteed, plus Headley can earn an additional $1M each season when he reaches 550 plate appearances, so the contract can max out at $56M. As with the Gregorius trade and Andrew Miller signing, the Yankees went from rumor to agreement to press release in less than four hours. They run a pretty tight ship in the Bronx. Not many leaks at all.

10:53am: After doing not much of anything at the Winter Meetings last week, the Yankees handled one of their most important remaining pieces of offseason business on Monday by filling out the infield. The club has agreed to re-sign Chase Headley to a four-year contract worth approximately $51M to $52M. There are no option years and the deal is still pending a physical. Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and Joel Sherman all had a hand in breaking the news.

A few weeks ago we heard Headley had a four-year offer worth $65M in hand from an unknown team (rumored to be the Astros), and Jack Curry says Yankees officials do believe that offer was legitimate. If true, Headley took a whole lot less money to return to New York. The Yankees, for what it’s worth, initially said they wouldn’t give Headley four years until caving last week and saying they would do it as long as the contract came with a lower annual salary.

Headley, 30, hit .262/.371/.398 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 58 games with the Yankees after being acquired at the trade deadline this past season. He hit .243/.328/.372 (103 wRC+) with 13 homers in 135 games overall between New York and San Diego in 2014. That came with his usual standout defense at the hot corner as well. That’s where he’ll have his biggest impact, in the field. All you need to know about Headley — including his often overstated history of back problems — is in our Scouting The Market post.

After the season, Headley reportedly told friends he enjoyed playing in New York more than he thought he would, and that he would consider returning as long as he was an everyday player. “I know they have a player under contract,” he said after the season, referring to Alex Rodriguez. “We’ll see how that shakes out. We’ll see what my role would look like … I want to be a guy that plays. At what position? Obviously, third base I think is my strongest position. I don’t want to be a part-time guy.”

With Headley on board, the Yankees figure to play Martin Prado at second base and use A-Rod as the primary DH. It also means Carlos Beltran will see most of his action in right field. At least as long as he and Alex are both healthy at the same time, anyway. Rob Refsnyder will presumably return to Triple-A and wait until injury strikes. When that happens (inevitable), Prado can move around to fill in and Refsnyder can take over at second. Jose Pirela still has a clear path to a bench job.

Although Headley will probably never get back to being the hitter he was in 2012 (31 homers and a 145 wRC+), he’s still no worse than a league average hitter and a well above average defender, making him a huge upgrade at third based compared to whom the Yankees have been running out there the last two or three years. With Didi Gregorius recently acquired to play short, the Yankees now have an average or better defender at all four infield positions. The ground ball heavy pitching staff will appreciate that.

Now that the lineup and position player group has been settled, the Yankees can focus on improving the pitching staff, which still needs at last two starters and maybe another reliever as well. Max Scherzer and James Shields remain unsigned but the team continues to insist they will not hand out the massive contracts it would take to sign them. They’ll scour the second and third tier pitching options, maybe hope Hiroki Kuroda returns, and go from there.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 15th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

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

Weekend Open Thread

Between RAB and CBS, the Winter Meetings really wore me down this week, especially Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t have much time to reach anything worthwhile, so I don’t have any links to pass along this weekend. Sorry. I do want to point that, during a conference call this afternoon, Didi Gregorius told reporters he was knighted back in 2011. The Yankees literally have a knight at shortstop. Sir Didi of Gregorius now roams the infield in the Bronx. Amazing.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks and Nets are both playing, plus I’m sure there’s some college basketball on somewhere. Talk about anything and everything right here. Enjoy.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. The Rangers, Devils, Islanders, and Nets are all playing, plus there’s college sports too. Have at it.