Weekend Open Thread

Friday: Happy Friday folks, assuming you can read this and aren’t stuck with the massive internet outage sweeping across the country. I haven’t been able to check Twitter for hours. It’s quite liberating, I must say. Anyway, there is no baseball this evening. It’s a travel day for the NLCS. The Dodgers and Cubs will be back at it tomorrow night with Game Six. The Cubbies are looking to claim their first NL pennant since 1945.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Islanders are pretty much the only local sports team in action, so you’re on your own for entertainment tonight. Have at it.

Saturday: Once again, this is the open thread. The Dodgers and Cubs are playing Game Six of the NLCS tonight (Kershaw vs. Hendricks, 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1), plus there’s all sorts of college football on too. The (hockey) Rangers and Devils are both paying as well. Talk about whatever here.

Sunday: Here’s the open thread for one last time. There’s no baseball game today and there isn’t one tomorrow either. There’s plenty of NFL action today though, so talk about that stuff.

Random Thoughts

Andrew Miller

The World Series

With the Chicago Cubs clinching the NL pennant, earning a spot in the World Series opposite the Cleveland Andrew Millers, one of the two longest World Series droughts in baseball will come to an end. Many have noted all the stuff that’s happened since the Cubs had last been in the Fall Classic (1945) and this will be the first time the Cubs franchise will play in a World Series that features players of color.

As it has been since 2009, rooting in the World Series will be relatively stress free. That’s the one upside of the Yankees missing the playoffs that I always mention this time of year. Watching playoff baseball–or any sport’s playoffs, for that matter–without having to live and die with each pitch is a wonderful experience. Granted, the combination of having an infant with me and the 8 PM start times, I really only get a few innings of stress-free enjoyment until the Sandman–and I don’t mean Mariano Rivera–comes and gets me.


Awards Season

When the World Series ends, awards season begins to kick off the Hot Stove season. I used to be very into this time of year, getting very passionate about whom I thought should win, spilling a lot of digital ink and dying on a lot of digital hills about this. Still, that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the idea of having opinions about this thing. Without doing any sort of real research, my picks for the awards are:

AL MVP: Mike Trout. It should just be Trout until…whenever? I know there are cases for other players this year, but the MVP is Mike Trout and probably will be Mike Trout next year, too.

NL MVP: Kris Bryant. Great year? Check. Successful team? Check. A narrative? Check. Dude’s probably got this in the bag and has for a long while.

AL Cy Young: Masahiro Tanaka. Why? Because I’m being a homer, dammit, that’s why.

NL Cy Young: Jose Fernandez. Call this a sentimental pick, but I don’t care. Jose Fernandez and the way he approached baseball represent everything good and right about the game. His attitude made baseball fun for him and those around him in myriad ways. The voters should honor his spirit with this year’s award, then create an award named after him from here on out.

AL ROY: Gary Sanchez. I’m still a homer.

NL ROY: Cory Seager. This one is so obvious it’s almost boring. If you wanna throw Trea Turner a vote or two, fine, but it’s likely to be Seager, as it well should be.


Once again, the Yankees are going to look way different next year than they did this year. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are gone. It’s possible that one of Brett Gardner or Brian McCann will be gone. It seems that the team’s only constant has been change lately, though this year’s additions may be a bit harder to predict. I’m sure they’ll go after a big bullpen arm, but beyond that, I’m really not sure. But, either way, I’m looking forward to seeing a new group out there for 2017, especially when that means full years from Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and hopefully Greg Bird.

DotF: Gleyber Torres raking in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is in full swing and the various Caribbean winter leagues are getting underway as well. Before we get to the winter ball action, here are some minor league links and notes:

  • LHP Nestor Cortes has been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the AzFL transactions page. He’s replaced an injured pitcher with another organization. Cortes will pitch in relief and RHP Brody Koerner will move into the Scottsdale rotation.
  • SS Gleyber Torres landed in the top spot of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. “Torres is a powerful hitter who’s shown the ability to hit for both average and power as well as the ability to stick at shortstop … He is ready for his first taste of the upper levels next season at Double-A Trenton,” said the write-up.
  • It appears OF Aaron Judge (oblique) is healthy. George King (subs. req’d) says Judge is currently working with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson. “It’s not about making any major overhaul. He just needs to get back to doing what got him here, and the important thing is not to panic. We know that’s not going to happen because he’s been through this before,” said Rowson.
  • A few things on RHP Dillon Tate: Keith Law (subs. req’d) said his stuff has come back, but he might need to try a two-seamer to keep hitters off his “pin-straight” fastball. A scout told Randy Miller that Tate works hard but is too stubborn to succeed in MLB. How silly. Bill Mitchell spoke to Tate about his stint in the AzFL.
  • Miller has a series of posts with things to know about Torres, 3B Miguel Andujar, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, and SS Tyler Wade. Also, Mark Cannizaro spoke to 1B Greg Bird about his summer rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He hated it. “I mean, when was the last time I took a summer off from baseball?” said Bird.
  • And finally, the Yankees have re-signed C Francisco Diaz, reports Matt Eddy. The 26-year-old depth catcher hit .212/.294/.237 (56 wRC+) in 65 games at three levels in 2016. Diaz figures to again spend next season going from level to level depending where a catcher is needed at any given time.

AzFL Scottsdale

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 7 G, 9-23, 4 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K (.391/.481/.478) — he cooled down a bit towards the end of the regular season, so it’s good to see him starting strong out here
  • 1B Greg Bird: 6 G, 6-23, 2 R, 4 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K (.261/.346/.435) — so far so good following shoulder surgery
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 6 G, 9-21, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, 2 CS (.429/.520/.810) — reminder: he’s 19
  • SS/OF Tyler Wade: 4 G, 1-14, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 SB (.071/.278/.071) — he’s played one game at second, one in left, and two in center
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 4 H, 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP)
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 2 G, 2 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K (1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP) — like Bird, so far so good following the injury
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 2 G, 3.1 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR (24.30 ERA and 3.90 WHIP) — he missed most of the season with an unknown injury
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 3 G, 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (9.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP)

The Dominican Winter League season started last weekend. IF Jorge Mateo, IF Abi Avelino, OF Cesar Puello, UTIL Jose Rosario, RHP Anyelo Gomez, and RHP Adonis Rosa are all on rosters but haven’t played yet. And they might not, either. Being on the roster just means that team controls their winter ball rights, not that they will actually play.

Mexican Pacific League

  • OF Tito Polo: 4 G, 3-16, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 5 K, 3 SB (.188/.235/.250) — he was one of the guys the Yankees got in the Ivan Nova trade
  • C Sebastian Valle: 6 G, 3-21, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K (.143/.250/.190) — he’ll be a minor league free agent soon
  • No other Yankees farmhands are on league rosters.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season begins next week. Only partial rosters have been released so far. IF Cito Culver, IF Vince Conde, and OF Aaron Judge are listed on rosters. Maybe Judge will actually play after missing time with knee and oblique injuries this summer. He only played 120 games this year.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • SS Angel Aguilar: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K
  • C Francisco Diaz: 9 G, 8-25, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 SB (.320/.393/.520) — well look at that, a catcher with two triples and a steal in the span of nine games
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP David Kubiak: 2 G, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K , 1 HR (6.75 ERA and 1.65 WHIP) — the Yankees signed the 6-foot-7 righty out of an independent league over the summer
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 4 G, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (10.13 ERA and 2.25 WHIP)
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters.

The Second Half Setup Men [2016 Season Review]


The Yankees opened the season with maybe the most dominant bullpen trio in baseball history. For a few months a lead after six innings was close to an automatic win. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman protected basically every lead they were given. The Yankees weren’t very good overall, but they always had the advantage in the late innings.

Things changed dramatically at the trade deadline. The Yankees were far back in the wildcard race with no real indication they could make a run in the second half. So, the front office acted appropriately, and cashed in Chapman and Miller as trade chips. Betances remained and took over as closer. The seventh and eighth innings looked much different the rest of the way.

Return of the Bullpen Handyman

Second base was a priority for the Yankees over the winter. The Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew types weren’t cutting it, and it has been made pretty clear the team doesn’t believe Rob Refsnyder can hack it at the position defensively. At least not on an everyday basis. At the Winter Meetings the Yankees acquired their second baseman of the present and the future by picking up Starlin Castro from the Cubs. Chicago had just signed Ben Zobrist and Castro was superfluous.

The cost to get Castro: Adam Warren. It was a straight up, one-for-one trade. Warren was rock solid for the Yankees from 2013-15 in a variety of roles, but Castro has obvious natural talent, plus he’s young and signed affordably. That was the price they had to pay. I didn’t love the trade, but I understood it. Starlin was good enough with the Yankees in the first half. Warren was a mess with the Cubs, pitching to a 5.91 ERA (5.83 FIP) in 35 innings.

Warren was so bad with Chicago that when time came to complete the Chapman trade, the Cubs were willing to send him back to New York. In fact, Brian Cashman indicated getting Warren back was a key to the trade. “We got a Major League piece that was a high-performer for this franchise for the last few years,” said the GM. “That was important. I think I can represent that was important for Hal Steinbrenner.”

In the past, Joe Girardi used Warren to do whatever was needed at the time. Two innings to bridge the gap between the starter and Betances? Go to Warren. Fill-in eighth inning guy for a day? Warren. Spot start? Warren. He did it all for the Yankees, and when he returned this summer, his job was setup man. In fact, he took over the eighth inning guy after Miller was traded, albeit briefly.

Warren’s first seven weeks back with the Yankees were typical Warren. He had a 2.91 ERA (3.70 FIP) in 22 games and 21.2 innings, with strikeout (22.1%) and walk (8.1%) numbers that were more in line with 2013-15 Warren than Cubs Warren. Of the seven runs he allowed in those 21.2 innings, four came in one game. Otherwise he was rock sold. Warren slipped little at the end of the season — he allowed a run in four of his last seven appearances — though it wasn’t a total meltdown.

All told, Warren finished with a 3.26 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 games and 30.1 innings with the Yankees. His strikeout (20.0%), walk (8.0%), and ground ball (44.3%) rates were right where they were from 2013-15 (20.5%, 7.8%, 45.3%). The only difference between this year’s version of Warren and previous versions was home runs. He had a 1.52 HR/9 (14.5 HR/FB%) this season, including 1.19 HR/9 (1.18 HR/FB%) with the Yankees, compared to 0.75 HR/9 (9.1 HR/FB%) from 2013-15.

Home runs were up around the league overall, so I’m sure that contributed to Warren’s long ball issues in 2016, especially since he played in two hitter friendly home parks this year. One thing the Yankees did is get Warren to throw his slider more often. He was at his best from 2014-15 when he threw his slider as often as his fastball. The Cubs had him throwing more changeups and fewer sliders. The Yankees put an end to that.

Adam Warren pitch selection

Maybe I’m just a giant homer, but I don’t think Warren’s success with the Yankees was a fluke. They know him a heck of a lot better than the Cubs and they used him more regularly. Warren routinely went four, five, six days between appearances in Chicago. “I never really had a set role. It’s tough because I pride myself on my versatility, but not really knowing when you’re coming in — that was the hardest thing, the unpredictability,” he said after the trade.

Warren will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018 — MLBTR projects a $2.3M salary in 2017 — and while there’s little reason to think he won’t be back in pinstripes next year, a trade is always possible. I didn’t think the Yankees would trade Warren last offseason, after all. I’m an unabashed Warren fan. I love that he does whatever the Yankees need and that his arm is resilient. He bounces back after heavy workloads no problem. That’s a nice guy to have in the bullpen.

Back in the day the Yankees brought Warren to Spring Training stretched out and ready to start, and if they don’t trade him this winter, I expect the same to be true next year. The team has a lot of back-end options (Luis Cessa, Luis Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell) and there’s no reason not to throw Warren into the mix too.

Return of the Yankee Clippard


The Yankees did make one buyer’s trade at the deadline. With Chapman and Miller gone, the team acquired Tyler Clippard from the Diamondbacks to help replenish some bullpen depth. Someone had to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, after all. The cost to complete the one-for-one trade: Vicente Campos, the second piece in the Michael PinedaJesus Montero trade back in the day.

Clippard’s days as a dominant workhorse reliever ended a few years ago, though he is still a reliable late-innings option. Just not with the D’Backs, for whatever reason. He had a 4.30 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 40 games and 37.2 innings with Arizona. The D’Backs decided to gut their bullpen and shed salary at the deadline — they traded Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox as well — so Clippard became a Yankee again.

At first, Clippard was the seventh inning guy and Warren was the eighth inning guy. Girardi flipped them before long and wisely so. Not necessarily because Clippard was better than Warren (he was), but because Warren was better equipped to go multiple innings if Girardi needed him in the sixth inning too. It made sense to flip them, though either way, they were the new setup tandem.

Clippard was phenomenal immediately after the trade. He allowed three runs (one earned) in his first 21 games and 19 innings with New York. Opponents hit .164/.253/.224 against him. Like Warren, Clippard hit the skids a bit by the end of the season — he allowed six runs in his last 6.1 innings, including a pair of game-losing homers to Hanley Ramirez and Jose Bautista — but otherwise he was excellent in pinstripes.

All told, Clippard had a 2.49 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 29 games and 25.1 innings in his second tour of duty with the Yankees. His underlying stats were damn near identical to his career rates:

Clippard with Yankees: 24.3 K%, 10.3 BB%, 30.9 GB%, 1.07 HR/9, 7.9 HR/FB%
Clippard career: 26.8 K%, 10.1 BB%, 28.3 GB%, 1.08 HR/9, 8.7 HR/FB%

Clippard is a very unconventional pitcher. His fastball is mostly 91-93 mph these days and he pitches up in the zone with it an awful lot. The deception in his delivery allows him to do that, and the result is a lot of weak infield pop-ups. His pop-up rate was an unfathomable 34.2% (!) with the Yankees. That’s double his career rate, which is one of the highest in history.

The Yankees let Clippard throw his slider again after the trade, which helps explain why he was much more effective in New York than he was in Arizona. Clippard is primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher, those are his moneymakers, but the slider gives him another weapon against righties. Something to keep them honest. He started messing with the pitch last year, shelved it with the D’Backs, and brought it back with the Yankees.

Arizona signed Clippard to a two-year contract worth $12.25M and the Yankees took on the remainder of the deal, so they owe him $6.15M in 2017. Perfectly reasonable. I don’t think Clippard has a ton of trade value — Campos was basically a reclamation prospect trying to regain his form, and I can’t imagine the Yankees could get more in return now — but we can’t rule out a trade. More than likely, he’ll be back next season in a late-inning capacity.

Mailbag: Cubs, Torres, Mateo, Miller, Judge, Bird, Tigers

I’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us questions at any time.

Soler. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Soler. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Michael asks: The Cubs right now have a surplus of position players, and it seems either Jorge Soler or Ben Zobrist will be the odd man out. Do you think the Yankees could look to trade for either one of those guys?

Soler’s going to be the odd man out, I bet. Zobrist does too many things to trade. He can play anywhere and he’s productive. Soler stinks in the field and there are more than a few holes in his swing. The Cubs shopped him around for pitching last offseason — I remember Shelby Miller and Alex Cobb rumors — and I bet they’ll do it again. They’re stuck with Jason Heyward in right, they have Albert Almora for center, and then Kyle Schwarber figures to take over left field again because there’s nowhere else to play him. There’s no room at the inn for Soler.

I don’t love Soler — I think he’s more likely to be the next Juan Encarnacion than the next Yoenis Cespedes — but there’s always a point where it makes sense to take a chance on the talent. I’m not really sure what the Cubs would want in return. Still pitching? The Yankees don’t have much of that to offer. Luis Cessa and Chad Green ain’t getting Soler. Luis Severino straight-up in a change-of-scenery deal? I’d be surprised if the Yankees went through with that.

Bob asks: Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo are two highly rated SS prospects currently on the Yankees Tampa class A farm team. Can you compare and contrast their abilities and potential upside since the their scouting reports seem similar in content? Also, why did the Yankees assign Torres to the AzFL and not Mateo?

I don’t really have an answer for the Arizona Fall League question. The Yankees are giving Torres time at second base and they may have felt the AzFL was a good chance to get him reps there. In some cases, like Greg Bird, it’s easy to understand in the AzFL assignment. In others it’s not so clear. It’s not arbitrary though. The Yankees have their reasons.

Torres is a better prospect than Mateo. For starters, he just out-performed him at the same level (by a lot) despite being 18 months younger. I mean, hitting .273/.355/.428 (121 wRC+) with 33 doubles, 13 homers, 24 steals, 10.5% walks, and 20.4% strikeouts as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League is nuts. Torres had an unbelievable season in 2016. Mateo had pretty much the exact opposite.

Let’s compare Torres’ and Mateo’s scouting grades using the 20-80 scouting scale. Quick primer: 20 is terrible, 50 is average, and 80 is great. Here are their MLB.com and FanGraphs grades (MLB/FG).

Hit Power Run Throw Field Overall
Torres 55/50 50/50 55/50 60/55 55/55 55/45
Mateo 55/50 45/45 80/80 60/55 55/55 55/50
Advantage Push Torres Mateo Push Push Mateo?

These are future grades, not present grades. A present 55 hit tool means you’d expect these guys to hit like .275 in MLB right now, and no. Just, no.

Anyway, these two are pretty close! Mateo has a major advantage in speed but Torres has a touch more power. I’m a bit surprised to see FanGraphs so low on Torres’ overall future potential (45), though they’re the outlier. Almost every report on Torres has been glowing. The bottom line is both guys are excellent prospects. Torres had a better 2016 season and is younger, which is why he’s more highly rated at the moment. The Yankees have both, so this isn’t an either/or situation. Having two great shortstop prospects is pretty awesome.

Wai asks: To continue the discussion on Mike Freaking Trout, if you can choose any one single player to build your team from scratch, would you choose the best position player or the best pitcher? Who would that guy be in terms of today’s baseball?

Best position player. Pitchers get hurt too much. I’d target an up-the-middle player because those positions are so hard to fill. If I were building a team from scratch, my top three cornerstone targets would be Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Francisco Lindor, in that order. I’m not overreacting to Lindor’s postseason. Longtime readers, especially folks who frequent the weekly chat, know I’ve been on the guy for years. He’s a star. Your franchise building block would ideally be an up-the-middle player with two-way impact. Harper’s raw talent is just too great to ignore though, which is why he’s second. (Plus he could probably play a good enough center field if given the chance.)

Adam asks: Can you see any scenario in which the Yanks Reacquire Miller in the offseason if A) Indians win the WS and B) decide they don’t want to pay the remaining salary?

I was talking to someone about this the other day, the possibility of the Indians trading Andrew Miller in the offseason after running him into the ground in the postseason. I could see it. They’re a small payroll club — they were 22nd in Opening Day payroll — and they might not be able to afford a $9M reliever, even with the financial windfall that comes with reaching (and possibly winning) the World Series.

I do think the Indians will keep Miller though. He’s a bargain at that salary. What would he get as a free agent right now, $15M a year? Maybe $18M? The Yankees need young players like Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more than they need a dominant reliever at the moment, but Miller is so good and he is under control another two years that it would make sense to go after him. Now, that said, the Yankees could just sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen this winter and keep their prospects. Either way, I think the Indians keep Miller for at least 2017.

Miller. (Elsa/Getty)
Miller. (Elsa/Getty)

Drew asks: Anthony Rizzo struggled upon his MLB debut with a 30.1% strikeout rate. He always had a lot of power, but the strikeouts were a big concern early on. This takes me to Aaron Judge. Do you think that if the strikeout problems continue well into next season for Judge that the Yankees should consider modifying his approach and develop a Rizzo-esque short, compact protection swing?

The thing is Judge already has a compact swing relative to his size. I’m not sure how much more he can shorten it considering his arms are like four miles long. Rizzo made the adjustments on his own and he deserves a ton of credit from transforming himself into a superstar after it looked like his career might stall out in the minors. Judge’s size makes him extremely unique. I’m not sure how much the Yankees could realistically shorten a 6-foot-7 dude’s swing. Strikeouts are just going to come with the territory with Judge. It sucks, but it is what it is. As long as he smacks some dingers, gets on base, and plays strong defense, they’ll be worth it.

Drew asks (short version): Greg Bird question. Right now it looks like the 1B is his to lose. What is a viable plan B if Bird needs more time to develop? His MLB sample size is small and now one year removed because of injury. I’m not sold that he can just walk right into the starting role, but I hope I’m wrong.

I think it’s Tyler Austin all the way. I really do. If Bird needs more time in minors to get back to being himself following shoulder surgery, the Yankees just might stick Austin at first base everyday. I’ve been beating the Steve Pearce drum for a while and maybe they’ll sign him or someone like him, but I would bet against a huge money signing like Edwin Encarnacion. The Yankees want Bird to be the guy at first base, but they’re not going to push it. If he needs more time in the minors, they’ll give it to him. Austin and I suppose Rob Refsnyder are the backup plans. Maybe they’ll pick up a James Loney type (groan) to stash in Triple-A next year too.

Travis asks: If the deadline for adding players to the 40-man (for Rule 5 protection) has passed, and a trade occurs which sends an eligible player to a new team (that has room on the 40-man), can that player be added by his new team or does the new team have to wait to see if he is claimed?

Eligible players can not be traded between the 40-man roster deadline — that’s usually November 20th — and the actual Rule 5 Draft. So if the Yankees don’t add, say, Dietrich Enns to the 40-man this offseason, they can’t officially trade him until after the Rule 5 Draft. The workaround here is the ol’ player to be named later move. The Yankees could trade Enns as a PTBNL between the 40-man deadline and the draft, then wait until after the Rule 5 Draft to actually name him. That happens a few times every year.

P.J. asks: If James Kaprielian pitches well in the AzFL and builds upon that when the minor league season resumes if there a chance he will join the Yankees sometime during the 2017 season even if it’s as a Sept. 2017 call up? Or is 2018 the earliest we will see him in pinstripes.

It’s possible he arrives in 2017, though I think the Yankees will be very conservative with Kaprielian next year given the injury this year. They might limit his starts to four or five innings or so for a few weeks early in the season before really turning him loose. There’s still definitely a chance Kaprielian can reach Triple-A next year, in fact I expect it to happen as long as he stays healthy, though they may not push him to the big leagues. He has the ability to force the issue though. The most important thing is his health. Let Kaprielian get a full season in and see where he’s at come September.

Adam asks: GM Al Avila said there would be changes coming to the Tigers this off-season. How can that benefit the Yankees?

Avila kinda sorta hinted at a rebuild, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch still wants to win and soon. And even if they do decide to rebuild, the only players on their roster I’d really want are potential building blocks: Nick Castellanos and Michael Fulmer. Those are guys you keep and build around, right? Fulmer is self-explanatory. Castellanos is starting to tap into his power and the Yankees have a long-term need at third. He stinks defensively, but you can make it work for another few years. I don’t want the Yankees to take on big salaried veterans like Justin Upton or Justin Verlander. Castellanos and Fulmer would be the guys to target.

Castellanos. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
Castellanos. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

Steve asks: The new CBA is obviously a factor here, but are the Yankees now clear of their bonus limits from the 2014-2015 spending spree? If they can, do you see them overspending one more time before an inevitable international draft?

Yes. The current signing period, which began this July 2nd and ends June 25th (or thereabouts) is the last one in which the Yankees are limited to bonuses of $300,000 or less. They’ll be able to spend freely again during the 2017-18 signing period when it opens next July 2nd. MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the report said the draft wouldn’t happen until March 2018. That gives the Yankees one last chance to spend wildly on international amateurs and I think they’ll do it. We could see another huge international spending spree a la the 2014 haul against next year. It could be the team’s last chance to do it.

Luke asks: In the last mailbag you guessed some sort of Aaron Hicks/Mason Williams timeshare in LF if Gardner gets traded in the off season. You also speculated that Frazier could end up in CF long-term with Ellsbury in LF (due partially to Ellsbury’s shortcomings). If Gardy is traded, why wouldn’t we jettison Ellsbury to LF now? Hicks and Williams are clearly better defensively, and Ellsbury’s arm (lack thereof) makes me want to break down and cry.

I don’t think the Yankees will do that yet. Jacoby Ellsbury is still a capable center fielder and I don’t think they’ll move the big money free agent until it’s necessary. My comment about moving Ellsbury to left wasn’t so much about his current defensive limitations. He’s still really good in center. It’s just that at some point he’ll lose a step and have to move to a corner. Bernie Williams did it. Johnny Damon did it. Are the Yankees better defensively with Ellsbury in left and Hicks/Williams in center? Yeah, probably. It just seems unlikely they will move the veteran right now, especially since Hicks/Williams aren’t guaranteed to stick long-term. They don’t want to move Ellsbury to left only to have to move him back to center because the kids are hitting like .150.

Liam asks: Let’s say CC Sabathia has a similar season next year compared to this season, would you re-sign him? I think he would be good to keep around as a veteran presence for what should be a younger team in the near future.

If Sabathia repeats his 2016 in 2017, yes, absolutely I’d re-sign him. There’s the obvious risk that he’ll continue to decline with age, but pitching figures to be so hard to acquire that rolling the dice with Sabathia another year (or two?) makes sense. The Yankees know him, so there’s no concern about an adjustment period, and that’s not nothing. Also, Sabathia’s family lives in New Jersey full-time, and he might be willing to take less to stay at home. He’s not an ace anymore, but there’s always room for another average-ish innings dude at the back of the rotation. Let’s see how the 2017 season plays out, but right now, yes, I’d re-sign Sabathia if he repeats his 2016 effort in 2017.

Duffy asks: Do you think the Yankees could turn to the Rule 5 Draft to potentially patch up the middle relief corps? The Blue Jays had success taking a mediocre minor league starter and letting his stuff play up in the pen with Biagini. Could you see the Yankees doing the same? Is there anyone you would be interested in targeting?

Teams seems to be getting better at digging up quality players in the Rule 5 Draft. They’re not stars or anything, but Joe Biagini had a nice year in relief for the Blue Jays, ditto Matt Bowman with the Cardinals. Odubel Herrera has been good for the Phillies the last two years after being a Rule 5 Draft pick. The problem for the Yankees is 40-man roster space. Will they have an open 40-man spot on Rule 5 Draft day? It seems unlikely. The 40-man crunch is real. If they don’t have an open spot, they can’t make a pick. My guess is the 40-man will be full this winter, but if it isn’t, sure, they would look to add a bullpen arm in the Rule 5 Draft.

Julian asks: I know a retired number is unlikely, but is it possible that Teixeira gets a plaque in Monument Park?

Possible but unlikely, I’d say. Mark Teixeira was a very good player for the Yankees overall, but he only had one truly great full season, and just the one World Series title. Don’t get me wrong, the World Series is cool, though it would probably take two or three rings for Teixeira to get serious Monument Park consideration. The Yankees have been pretty liberal with plaques in recent years, so maybe he gets in. I would be surprised though.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Cleveland Andrew Millers are going to the World Series! Cleveland beat the Blue Jays in Game Five of the ALCS yesterday to win the pennant. They await the winner of the Dodgers-Cubs series. Those two clubs will play Game Five of the NLCS tonight (8pm ET on FOX Sports 1). Kenta Maeda and Jon Lester are the scheduled starters. That series is tied at two games apiece, so Game Six is definitely happening Saturday. Hooray for that. Hopefully we get a Game Seven too.

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to the NLCS, you also have the Thursday night NFL game, the Devils, and some preseason basketball. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

(Today is the anniversary of Game Four of the 2009 ALCS, hence the video. Here’s the box score.)