Weekend Open Thread

Friday: How about that Dodgers-Cubs game last night? That was pretty awesome. This entire postseason has been really entertaining. Lots of nail-biters. I’m pretty sure this postseason would kill me if the Yankees were still playing. Anyway, the Blue Jays and Indians open the ALCS tonight (8pm ET on TBS), so that’s fun. Go team that employs Andrew Miller.

Here is tonight’s open thread. You’re pretty much on your own for entertainment aside from the ALCS. You folks know how these things work, so do what you do. Enjoy the game.

Saturday: Once again, here is today’s open thread. We’ve got two LCS games today, so that’s cool. Here is today’s schedule:

  • ALCS Game Two: Blue Jays at Indians (Happ vs. Tomlin), 4pm ET on TBS (Indians up 1-0)
  • NLCS Game One: Dodgers at Cubs (Maeda vs. Lester), 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1

There’s also a full slate of college football on as well. The three hockey locals are playing too. Talk about those games or whatever else is on your mind. Just not politics or religion.

Sunday: For one last time, this is today’s open thread. The Cubs and Dodgers will play Game Two of the NLCS at 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1. Kyle Hendricks and Clayton Kershaw are the scheduled starters. The Dodgers are getting their money’s worth out of Kershaw this October, huh? The Cubbies lead that series one game to one. Aside from the NLCS, you’ve also got all the day’s NFL action plus the Islanders later tonight. Go nuts.

Checking in on Didi’s Discipline

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

In January of last year, I wrote a piece about what room for improvement Didi Gregorius had after his modestly successful 2015 debut campaign with the Yankees. At the end, I suggested that Didi work on his plate discipline to become a better hitter:

Didi Gregorius is never going to be an elite hitter, and he doesn’t need to be, given his position and his defense at that position. Still, any improvement helps and since it’s unlikely that he starts popping homers over the short fence any time soon, Didi should focus on improving his discipline to round out his offensive game a little bit. He’s already given Yankee fans plenty to be happy about, so hopefully more is on the horizon.

Part of that concluding paragraph was right: Didi certainly gave us more to be happy about in 2016. Aside from his generally joyous attitude towards the game, he managed to reach a career high in homers with 20 as well as in wOBA (.319) and wRC+ (98). A shortstop who does those things in 2016 is pretty darn valuable and the Yankees seem to have picked the right guy for the job. Back to that conclusion, though, and the thing that didn’t happen. Sir Didi most definitely did not improve his plate discipline in 2016.

His walk rate dipped to a more-than-minuscule 3.2%, leading to just 19 unintentional walks, lower than his home run total. In the post last year, I mentioned his chase rate–his O-Swing%–and this year, that percentage went up to 38.3%, a jump of almost five percentage points. This was part of a trend, as his overall swing percentage jumped from 51.6 to 55.4%. In conjunction with the jump in O-Swing%, his contact rate on those pitches also jumped from 62% to 70.8%. I’ve often posited that O-Contact can be a double-edged sword: making contact is good, but if the pitches are out of the zone, you risk bad contact and fewer hits. Did, however, seems to have defined that.


Using Brooks as a guide, we see that in 2015, Didi had 50 hits outside the zone. In 2016, he was able to bring that up to 63. Granted, his batting average on these balls wasn’t great either year; he hit .219 on balls out of the zone that he put in play in 2015 and .235 in 2016. That improvement mirrored Didi’s overall improvement, though, as he raised his average to a career high (again) of .276.

Didi didn’t quite follow my “advice” in 2016, but it didn’t really seem to matter, did it? He showed that he can be a productive player even without a traditional sense of plate discipline. He did swing at more pitches in the zone than he did last year, too, so perhaps it was a matter of Didi just getting the right pitches to hit and doing something with them.

DotF: Wade begins center field experiment in AzFL

(Clint Frazier on Twitter)
(Clint Frazier on Twitter)

Instructional League is over now, but as you can see in the photo above, the Yankees had their top prospects mingle with some big time guest instructors the last few weeks. That’s SS Jorge Mateo on the left, and OF Clint Frazier and OF Billy McKinney on the right. Tino Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Swisher, Orlando Hernandez, and Alex Rodriguez were among the guest instructors to stop by. Jim Callis has a great article on Instructs up that I recommend checking out. Here are some other minor league notes.

  • Both Josh Norris and Eric Longenhagen have reports up on RHP James Kaprielian‘s first Arizona Fall League outing earlier this week. He struck out six in three scoreless innings. The links include video and some notes on other Yankees in the AzFL, including SS Gleyber Torres.
  • Following the regular season, the Yankees sent RHP Bryan Mitchell to Instructs to log more innings, according to Chad Jennings. He missed most of the season after breaking his toe covering first base in Spring Training. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was in Tampa to work with Mitchell.
  • Brian Cashman told Dan Martin he’s glad Yankees prospects are getting to play with Tim Tebow in the AzFL. “I know he’s known for great leadership qualities and that’s a good thing for our guys to be around. And he’s gonna have a lot of media and fan attention and that will benefit the entire team,” said the GM.
  • Kaprielian and 1B Greg Bird both made the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the AzFL. Kaprielian was second and Bird was sixth. “(Bird is) back in the AFL rehabbing that injury, and so far has shown the same smooth, powerful stroke that has him firmly embedded in the Yankees’ long-term plans,” said the write-up.
  • Not surprisingly, C Gary Sanchez and RHP Chance Adams were named MLB.com’s Yankees Prospects of the Year. Sanchez was also the catcher for Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team. The write-up says Gary “looks like a perennial all-star catcher.” That’ll do.
  • 1B Chris Parmelee elected free agency after Triple-A season, according to Matt Eddy. No surprise. The Yankees signed Parmelee following Bird’s shoulder surgery and he ended up appearing in six games with New York. He went 4-for-8 with two dingers. Go figure.
  • Couple articles to check out: Brendan Kuty on Mateo, Kevin Kernan on Frazier, and Sam Dykstra on C Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka talked about changing his swing plane this year in an effort to hit more fly balls, leading to the power spike.
  • And finally, Amanda Farinacci writes Staten Island officials are worried about the potential new names for the Staten Island Yankees. They don’t like the idea of the “Pizza Rats” or “Rock Pigeons” representing Staten Island, apparently.

Arizona Fall League

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3 G, 4-10, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 1 K (.300/.455/.600)
  • 1B Greg Bird: 3 G, 4-13, 2 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K (.308/.357/.615) — so far, so good following shoulder surgery … I wonder if he can become the first two-time MVP in AzFL history
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 2 G, 3-8, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.375/.444/.875) — played second base yesterday … he also had an opposite field double (video) and a walk-off single (video, video) … Keith Law, who hates every Yankees prospect, says Gleyber’s going to be a star, so that’s cool
  • SS/CF Tyler Wade: 2 G, 0-8, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB (.000/.111/.000) — played center field for the first time yesterday
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (9.00 ERA, 2.50 WHIP) — Josh Norris says he sat 94-96 mph in one of his appearances … I didn’t realize he threw that hard
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 1 G, 1 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP) — the results are nice but they don’t really matter … is he healthy? has his stuff returned following his injury? that’s most important
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 1 G, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K (6.20 ERA, 4.20 WHIP) — rough start to the AzFL season
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 HR (12.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) — Keith Law had him at 93-95 mph with a good slider and changeup, so that’s another report that his stuff is getting back to where it was last year, when he was the fourth overall pick in the country

The Dominican Winter League season begins today, though the rosters still have not been announced. A couple Yankee farmhands will play in the league this year, inevitably. There’s always a few.

The Mexican Pacific League season started last weekend. The only Yankee prospect on the rosters is C Sebastian Valle, who a) isn’t really a prospect, and b) will become a minor league free agent soon.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season starts in two weeks. The rosters have only been partially released, and there are no Yankees.

The Venezuelan Winter League season began last weekend. RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Miguel Sulbaran, C Francisco Diaz, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Luis Cedeno, RHP David Kubiak, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters. Montgomery and Sulbaran are the big names there. Montgomery has allowed two runs in 1.1 innings so far. That’s about it.

McCann hopes to remain with Yankees despite Sanchez’s emergence as the No. 1 catcher


I can’t imagine the 2016 season was easy for Brian McCann. He had a good year statistically, hitting .242/.335/.413 (103 wRC+) with 20 home runs, but he also lost his starting catching job to Gary Sanchez. McCann had been a full-time big league catcher since he was 21, then bam, he was the full-time DH. That couldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow.

To McCann’s credit, he never complained about his playing time, and in fact he went out of his way to praise Sanchez. That’s not surprising. By all accounts McCann is a good dude and a leader in the clubhouse. He knows what’s up. He saw Carlos Beltran get traded away and Alex Rodriguez get cut loose. McCann knows the Yankees are going young and Sanchez is the future behind the plate.

“Listen. Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time,” said McCann to Chad Jennings at the end of the season. “Just have to kind of see where my role fits in; see where everything fits … I hope I’m back. I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”

The Yankees listed to trade offers for McCann at the deadline and Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says the expectation is the team is “far more likely” to move their erstwhile catcher than keep him for next season. The free agent catching market is thin, especially following Wilson Ramos’ knee injury, and the Yankees have a chance to take advantage, the same way they took advantage of the bullpen market at the trade deadline.

Brian Cashman made it clear during his end-of-season press conference that he values McCann highly. I believe a) that is completely true, and b) Cashman was making sure not to tip his hand going into the offseason. Having two starting caliber catchers sure is a nice luxury, especially when they hit from opposite sides of the plate. At the same time, the Yankees are going young, and McCann doesn’t fit.

One other thing to keep in mind: the option year in McCann’s contract. Right now it’s a $15M club option for 2019 with no buyout. McCann can turn it into a player option by meeting the following criteria:

  • Rack up 1,000 plate appearances from 2017-18;
  • Play 90 games at catcher in 2018;
  • Do not end 2018 on the DL.

McCann has to meet all of that criteria to turn the club option into a vesting option. It’s not one of the three like CC Sabathia‘s vesting option. It’s all three. With Sanchez entrenched as the new No. 1 catcher, McCann’s going to have a hard time meeting that playing time criteria with the Yankees. The option could make him more receptive to waiving his no-trade clause.

Then again, maybe McCann doesn’t care about the option. He’s signed over $110M worth of contracts in his career. His priority may be winning a World Series, and with young talent the Yankees have coming up, McCann may see New York as his best chance to win a ring. At least compared to other possible landing spots, like the Braves or Astros. He genuinely seems to like New York too.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think keeping McCann makes a lot of sense. He can mentor Sanchez, provide left-handed pop, and serve as one heck of a Plan B behind the plate. I like Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. They’re no McCann though. That said, if a trade comes up that makes sense, preferably something involving a young pitcher, then go for it. There’s always a point where the price is right.

For now, the Yankees are in the driver’s seat. They don’t have to trade McCann. The free agent catching market stinks and the Yankees are in position to let the trade market come to them. The same was true at the deadline with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees controlled the market and got themselves big returns. With any luck, the McCann trade market will play out the same way.

The End of the Summer of Al [2016 Series Review]

Now that the 2016 season is complete and the dust has settled, it’s time to begin our annual season review series. This year was a complicated one. That’s for sure.


A year ago at this time, Alex Rodriguez had just wrapped up a memorable comeback season, one that earned him an MVP vote (!) and an unquestioned place in the middle of the 2016 lineup. Thirty-three homers and a 130 wRC+ will do that. No, he couldn’t play the field anymore, but A-Rod could still hit, and that was awfully cool. At least for those of us who remain unabashed fans of dingers and fun.

Fast forward to today, and the Alex Rodriguez era in New York is over. He didn’t even make it through the 2016 season. Skills can erode quickly in this game, even with all-time greats like A-Rod. I still remember the day the Yankees acquired Rodriguez in that trade with the Rangers. It’s one of my most vivid memories as a baseball fan. Hard to believe it’s all over now, isn’t it?

An April to Forget

For a veteran player like A-Rod, Spring Training performance is pretty meaningless. Guys like him know exactly what they have to do to prepare for the regular season. They use their spring at-bats to work on things — track the ball, go the other way, whatever — because they know their spot in the lineup is secure. Alex hit .245/.302/.306 with one home run in 18 Grapefruit League games and I don’t think anyone blinked an eye.

Once the regular season started, it took A-Rod more than a month to get off the interstate. He went 12-for-65 (.185) with 19 strikeouts in his first 18 games, though the four home runs were nice. Rodriguez did start to show some signs of life three weeks into the regular season, when he went 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs in a four-game span at the end of April. See? Everything was fine. Just a slow start for the veteran.

That little hot streak came to an abrupt end on May 3rd, when Alex pulled his hamstring running out a ground ball. That sent him to the disabled list for a little more than three weeks and opened up the DH spot for Carlos Beltran.

At the time of the injury, A-Rod as hitting .194/.275/.444 (90 wRC+) with five home runs in 80 plate appearances. The Yankees were 8-16 at the time because they were completely unable to generate any consistent offense. Rodriguez, who had spent most of the season hitting in the middle of the order up to that point, was a big part of the problem.

The Beginning of the End

Alex returned from his hamstring injury on May 26th and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. There were a lot of hitless games after that. In fact, Rodriguez went 1-for-16 (.063) with nine strikeouts in his first four games back from the injury. It was bad. Bad bad bad. Average fastballs were chewing him up, and because he had to start his bat early to handle good velocity, breaking balls were fooling him consistently. Yuck.

Joe Girardi, who has always been patient with his veterans, kept running A-Rod out there. An early-June hot streak (12-for-34, .353) didn’t last very long; Alex closed the month in a 9-for-40 (.225) rut. Come the end of June, with his batting line sitting at .219/.257/.382 (66 wRC+), Rodriguez’s lack of production became too much to bear. He sat three straight games from July 1-3 because the Yankees were in San Diego, and when they returned to AL parks, A-Rod remained on the bench.

Including that series against the Padres, A-Rod started only one of the team’s final ten games of the first half. Beltran was getting regular DH at-bats with Aaron Hicks and Rob Refsnyder splitting time in right field. They gave the Yankees a better chance to win at that point. We all came into the season hoping Alex would again be a middle of the force. Instead, he was a liability.

The End of the Road

To Girardi’s credit, he gave A-Rod one last chance to show he belonged in the lineup. Rodriguez started seven of the first eight games after the All-Star break, and in those seven games he went 2-for-23 (.087). So much for that. Those seven games were Alex’s last hurrah. His last attempt at a hurrah, really. He started only one of the next 17 games. One of the next 17! The Yankees were playing with a 24-man roster, essentially.

Beltran was traded at the deadline, and rather than put A-Rod back into the lineup at DH, the Yankees called up Gary Sanchez and gave him Beltran’s at-bats. The Yankees were pretty much out of the race at this point, and I figured they would suck it up and bench Alex until rosters expanded on September 1st, when it would be easier to carry the dead roster spot. They could then reevaluate things in the offseason.

The Yankees did not do that. Instead, they called a press conference on September 7th. That could only mean one thing: A-Rod’s career was coming to an end. Was he retiring? Did the Yankees release him? Was he getting suspended again? The mechanics were unclear. But it was over. We all knew it. That Sunday morning, A-Rod and the Yankees announced he would be released the following Friday, after one last game at home.

“I’m at peace with the organization’s decision,” said A-Rod, making it clear this was not his call. To the team’s credit, they handled this as graciously as possible. The Yankees could have simply released Alex and been done with him. Instead, they gave him that final home game and a chance to say goodbye to the fans. And vice versa. Lots of people still love A-Rod.

The farewell tour was short and not sweet. Girardi kept Rodriguez on the bench following his retirement press conference. He did play one final road game, fittingly at Fenway Park, where he played his first career game. Many fans, myself included, were pretty bummed A-Rod was not playing that final week. The Yankees weren’t going anywhere at the time and these were our last days with Alex. We wanted to see him play! Alas.

Goodbye, Al

August 12th. The date of A-Rod’s final game with the Yankees. He was in the lineup, batting third as the DH. The Yankees were playing the Rays, the same team they played in A-Rod’s first game in pinstripes. The night started with a pregame ceremony that was so perfectly awkward. It literally rained on A-Rod’s parade.

Amazing. Only A-Rod. The Bleacher Creatures gave Alex an extra long (and extra loud) Roll Call in the first inning, and several Yankees wore high socks to honor Rodriguez, including Chase Headley, the guy who replaced A-Rod at third base two years ago. Yankee Stadium was never louder this season than it was that night.

Given his recent lack of production, there was a chance Rodriguez’s final game would be ugly, especially against a strikeout pitcher like Chris Archer. Alex instead went out with a bang, lining a run-scoring double into the right-center field gap to give the Yankees their first run of the night.

The double was the final hit of A-Rod’s career. He grounded out, struck out, and grounded out in his next three at-bats to close out the game. Alex went 1-for-4 with a double against the (Devil) Rays in his first game with the Yankees and 1-for-4 with a double against the Rays in his last game with the Yankees. Baseball.

With the Yankees staked to a three-run lead, Girardi gave A-Rod one last goodbye moment by sending him out to play third base in the ninth inning. The Yankees Stadium crowd went wild.

It had been 447 days since Rodriguez last played the field. At one point he was one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and early in his time with the Yankees he was one of the better fielding third basemen as well. Now, at age 41, he was playing one last inning at third base. It wasn’t even a full inning. A-Rod came out of the game after one out. It was his idea.

“I’m very grateful that Joe gave me the opportunity to play third for one out. I was actually excited,” he said after the game. “I was also stressed because once Joe made me the full-time DH, I retired my cup. So then I was very stressed. I screamed to [Dellin Betances] — the same thing Cal Ripken screamed to Roger Clemens in the All-Star Game in 2001, when we switched, he said, ‘Strike him out Roger’ — and I said exactly the same thing.”

Following the final out, A-Rod went back out onto the field to wave goodbye to the fans one last time. He walked over to third base, scooped up some dirt, stuffed it in his pocket, then descended into the clubhouse. His playing career was over, four home runs shy of becoming the fourth player in history with 700 home runs.

“It’s going to be tough to top that. That’s a memory that I will own forever,” said A-Rod after the game. “With all the things that I’ve been through, and to have an ending like tonight, I don’t know what else a man can ask for. I’m extremely thankful for everything the Steinbrenners — and especially the fans — did for me tonight.”

Outlook for 2017

As planned, A-Rod was released the following day — that opened a roster spot for Aaron Judge — and he finished the season with a .200/.247/.351 (56 wRC+) batting line and nine home runs in 243 plate appearances. The Yankees still owe him the balance of his contract, so they’re keeping him aboard as a special advisor. He’ll primarily work with prospects in the minors, and Alex has already spent time in Instructional League working with players.

Despite being a special advisor, Rodriguez is free to sign with another team, though he did seem to close the door on that following his final game. Also, teams aren’t exactly interested in a 41-year-old DH who can’t hit anymore. Maybe someone will sign him. I seriously doubt it. For now, A-Rod is going to his analyst work on FOX — he’s awesome, by the way — and continue working with the team’s prospects. Love him or hate him, the Yankees were never boring during A-Rod’s time in pinstripes. This truly is the end of an era.

Mailbag: White Sox, Moss, Valbuena, Kennedy, Hernandez

We’ve got 15 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week. Questions, comments, links, whatever.

No bats, only rebar. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
No bats, only rebar. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Chris asks: Do you think the White Sox could be a potential landing spot if the Yankees want to trade McCann? Obviously, McCann would need to waive his no-trade clause. The White Sox seem intent on competing and really need a catcher.

Interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. Chicago’s catching depth chart is capital-U Ugly. Look at this, from the team’s official site:

White Sox catchers

Alex Avila signed a one-year deal last offseason and will become a free agent after the World Series. Omar Narvaez hit .239/.291/.314 (74 wRC+) between Double-A and Triple-A and isn’t ranked among the team’s top 30 prospects according to MLB.com. Kevan Smith is a 28-year-old rookie who hit .219/.291/.399 (98 wRC+) while repeating Triple-A this season. So yeah, the ChiSox need catching.

Brian McCann would certainly fit with the White Sox given their roster and needs. Would he accept a trade to Chicago? Who knows. McCann might not even know right now. The bigger question is what can the ChiSox send to New York? McCann for David Robertson crossed my mind, but I think you need more back. I’ve said this before, but I wouldn’t trade McCann for the sake of trading him. Having two starting caliber catchers is quite a luxury.

If the White Sox want McCann, I’d focus on Carlos Rodon. The Yankees can (and would have to) add pieces to make it work, but that’s the guy I’d focus on. A young lefty starter with five years of team control and upside. McCann would be massive upgrade behind the plate for the ChiSox and he’d bridge the gap nicely to Zack Collins, a catcher and their first round pick this year. Outside Rodon, I’m really not sure what else Chicago has to offer. I’m not trading McCann for two or three Grade-B prospects.

Paul asks (short version): Cashman said: “Ultimately, we know when the dust settled, when it’s all said and done, the 2016 season did not achieve the stated goal, which was the first get to the playoffs and try to compete for a championship in October.” Am I reading too much into him saying the objective is playoffs first, then -compete- for a championship?

Yes, you’re reading too much into it. Based on Brian Cashman‘s tone during his press conference, it was clear winning the World Series is the priority, and getting to the postseason is step one. Both Cashman and Joe Girardi were asked whether the “World Series or bust” mentality has to change as the Yankees go through this rebuild transition, and both emphatically said no. While I understand the merits of a full blown Astros style tear down, I do appreciate the Yankees refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field. This past season was their worst in a long time, and they still won 84 games. We’re spoiled.

P.J. asks: With basically all of the “expensive” contracts off the books after the 2017 season. What are the chances that the Yankees might be willing to eat a portion of what’s remaining on Ellsbury’s deal $65MM+/- to move him?

I don’t know what the chances are, but I do think the Yankees would be more receptive to eating money to move Jacoby Ellsbury once they shed some more payroll. Mark Teixeira is gone this year, and next year CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez‘s contract will be gone too. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka as well. With all that money going away, eating say $10M to $15M a year to move Ellsbury may be more palatable. There will only be three years left on his contract after next season too, so they might not have to eat $65M. It might only be $30M.

Michael asks: If Gardner gets traded this off season, who do you think starts in left to start 2017?

My guess is the Yankees would go with Aaron Hicks and Mason Williams in some sort of timeshare, with Rob Refsnyder and Tyler Austin getting a look out there in Spring Training for show. Clint Frazier is the obvious long-term solution out there, though eventually Ellsbury is going to have to move to left — a move is inevitable, center field is a young man’s position, not somewhere you stick a guy in his mid-30s — so it’s possible Frazier could end up in center long-term with Ellsbury in left. Frazier has the speed for center. To start next year though, Hicks and Williams with a little Austin and Refsnyder mixed in is my bet.

Dan asks: If the Yanks trade away a veteran bat, what do you think of them going after Moss or Valbuena? Both have lefty pop and position versatility. They shouldn’t cost that much, and probably won’t have have a QO attached.

Either guy could work. Both can play first base, but Luis Valbuena has the advantage of being able to play third base. Poorly, but he can play it. Brandon Moss can play the corner outfield spots, and while that’s not nothing, the Yankees are pretty well covered there. Here are their 2016 numbers:

Valbuena: .260/.357/.459 (123 wRC+) with 13 homers, 12.9% walks, 23.7% strikeouts
Moss: .225/.300/.484 (105 wRC+) with 28 homers, 8.4% walks, 30.4% strikeouts

Valbuena only played 90 games this season because of a hamstring injury, otherwise he would have cleared 20 homers rather easily. He doesn’t have Moss’ power, but he’s a better all-around hitter because he makes more contact and draws more walks. Valbuena’s on-base ability would be a welcome addition to a lineup that needs more OBP.

Part of me thinks the Astros will slap the qualifying offer on Valbuena. The crop of free agent third basemen is so bad — it’s basically Justin Turner and that’s it — that there could be quite a bit of competition for Valbuena. He’d give the Yankees protection at the corner infield spots and another DH option. Could be a nice fit. I really have no idea what it’ll cost to get him though. Chances are more than you think. That’s a good rule of thumb these days.

Valbuena. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Valbuena. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Pounder asks: Ian Kennedy. I know his contract is a financial mine field, should we consider trading for him?

Kennedy will turn 32 in December (we’re all old and going to die soon) and he had a nice year with the Royals, pitching to 3.68 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 195.2 innings. He’s owed $62.5M through 2020 and he can opt-out next offseason. Doing so would leave three years and $49M on the table. I think you have to assume he won’t opt-out right now. You have to plan for that money to be on the books.

Anyway, I’m going to say no to Kennedy because he’s such an extreme fly ball pitcher. He had a 33.2% ground ball rate this season and his career rate is 37.4% in over 1,400 innings. This is who he is. The Yankees have a chance to field a pretty good defensive outfield next season, but the big concern is home runs. Kennedy had a 1.52 HR/9 this past season. It was 1.66 HR/9 the year before. Only once in the last five years has he had a sub-1.20 HR/9. Put him in Yankee Stadium and it could get ugly. I don’t see Kennedy as a fit because his fly ball tendencies and the ballpark don’t mix.

Doug asks: Tyler Austin.What do you see for his Yankee future? After his walk-off I think he struck out 10-11 times in a row? I saw him getting pull happy and he didn’t touch a ball. He missed everything by 4-10 inches while trying for left field. Joe sat him for two weeks and he came back with his opposite field stroke!

Last year at this time Austin was a non-factor. Now he at least has a chance to be part of the Yankees going forward. I think we learned two things about Austin during his relatively short big league time: his opposite field power is very real, and he should be limited to first base defensively. You can run him out there in right field if necessary, but he’s not an everyday option out there. He looked rather Trumbo-esque in right.

I see Austin as a good role player, not a cornerstone piece. He complements Greg Bird well at first base and he could also get at-bats at DH. Play him at first base everyday and Austin will probably leave you wanting more. Play him, say, half the time or two-thirds of the time, and he could really help. I guess that makes him a Mark Reynolds type? Less power, fewer strikes, but same general role. It’ll be interesting to see how Austin and Bird co-exist at first base next season.

Dan asks: I was just reading the MLB.com prospect page and noticed that Vicente Campos in No. 3 on their list (!!!). Is the Dbacks farm system really that bad or did we really overpay for Tyler Clippard?

No, their farm system is really that bad. Probably the worst system in baseball besides the Angels. I don’t remember where Campos ranked on the Yankees’ list before the trade, but it was in the 20s somewhere. That was before the trade deadline moves beefed up the farm system too. Campos got called up in September and threw a handful of innings for the Diamondbacks before suffering a fracture in his elbow. He needed surgery and will miss eight months. Brutal. Poor guy has really good stuff, but he can’t stay on the field. At least he’s on the Major League disabled list and will pick up service time and big league salary while rehabbing next year.

Frank asks: How much say do the Yankees have in how much their players play in AZ? One would think they’d want Bird to play everyday to get AB’s. And is Tebow stealing AB’s something other teams would get upset about – or are they just happy ESPN is covering the team because he is playing?

Total control, essentially. Each Arizona Fall League team includes prospects from five MLB organizations, and those organizations get together ahead of time and pick positions. They negotiate the roster spots and then pick players accordingly. The Mets had a starting outfield spot and used it on Tim Tebow. He’s not taking at-bats away from players in other organizations. I’m sure the Yankees lobbied hard for a first base/DH spot for Greg Bird’s rehab. It’s not like the Yankees sent Gleyber Torres to the AzFL and hope he’ll get time at second base. They already knew that spot is open when they picked him for the roster.

Tom asks: What do you think about trading Headley, moving Castro to third, and signing Utley?

Eh. Two or three years ago I was in favor of acquiring Chase Utley, when the Yankees were cycling through guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew. Utley will be 38 in December and while he still plays super hard and gives a quality at-bat, he basically stopped hitting in May. I’m talking .236/.292/.381 (83 wRC+) after June 1st. Can’t hit lefties either (27 wRC+). Chase Headley is a better player at this point. I’d sign Utley as an emergency stopgap only. I wouldn’t trade Headley to make room for him.

Hernandez. (Justin Berl/Getty)
Hernandez. (Justin Berl/Getty)

Torrey asks: I saw an article recently about how Cesar Hernandez is the type of young, improving player the Yankees should target. He doesn’t hit for much power but he has good contact skills, gets on base, has speed and seems like a good number 2 hitter. Would be fit with the Yanks? If so, what do you think it would take to acquire him?

Hernandez is a nice little player and one of the league’s best kept secrets. The 26-year-old switch-hitter put up .294/.371/.393 (108 wRC+) batting line with lots of walks (10.6%) and not an excessive amount of strikeouts (18.6%) in 2016. Add in quality second base defense and the guy was a +3 WAR player in 2016. (+4 WAR per FanGraphs.) He’s not going to hit for power. That’s the biggest knock against him.

The Yankees could put Hernandez at second — he has shortstop skills but lacks the arm for the left side of the infield — and slide Starlin Castro to third, where I think he’d do well. That’d allow them to flip Headley elsewhere. I’m not sure what the Phillies would want for Hernandez, but he’d give the Yankees some much-needed on-base ability in addition to improved up-the-middle defense. I like the idea. I doubt the Phillies will give him away cheap though.

Mike asks: I have three Rule 5 questions: 1) If a team loses a player in the draft can that team withdraw their remaining eligible players from the draft? 2) And if the team cannot remove their eligible players but have lost a player in the draft can that team move a player from the eligible list to their 40 man roster, thus “saving” at least one player from the draft? 3) Can a team with a full 40 man roster draft a player in the Rule 5 pool if they lost a player in the draft and their roster is then at 39?

Consider this a quick Rule 5 Draft primer. Here are the answers to Mike’s questions:

  1. No. There’s no limit to how many players you can lose. The Yankees lost four players in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, for example (Reegie Corona, Zach Kroenke, Jason Jones, Ivan Nova).
  2. No. If the player is not added to the 40-man roster by the deadline, usually November 20th, he’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. You can’t add him later.
  3. No. You can’t lose a player off your 40-man roster in the Rule 5 Draft. Only non-40-man players are eligible. If you have open 40-man spots, you can pick a player. If not, then you can’t.

Generally speaking, college players from the 2013 draft and high school/international kids signed in 2012 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. If those guys are not on the 40-man roster, they can be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. This is a way to give players an opportunity in the big leagues. The MLBPA doesn’t want teams to be able to stash guys in the minors forever.

John asks: The Giants. While their system is thin, could they have (reasonably) put together a MLB/MiLB package for Chapman or Miller that you would have preferred over the deals the Yankees did make?

Sure, if they were willing to trade Joe Panik or one of the Brandons (Crawford or Belt). That wasn’t going to happen, obviously. The Giants actually had five players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects list, but all five were on the back half of the list. Give me quality over quantity. I’d rather get one top notch prospect like Frazier or Torres (plus stuff) than two second tier guys (plus stuff). Riskier? Sure. But the Yankees have prospect depth already. Give me the upside.

Travis asks: With the Giants losing because of the bullpen implosion and the fact they wouldnt part with Panik for Miller, I wonder if the Yankees could get the Giants to part with Panik plus others for Betances?

I assume the Giants are just going to throw money at their bullpen this offseason. Why trade Panik for Dellin Betances when you could sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon? San Francisco is a high payroll team — they’ve been top five or six in payroll for several years now — and they have a lot of money coming off the books this winter (Jake Peavy, Angel Pagan, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez). Spending big for a closer doesn’t figure to be an issue. There’s always room for another great reliever in the bullpen, but I’d be surprised if the Giants parted with Panik to make it happen. They’re smart. The ninth inning meltdown the other night won’t push the front office to make a knee-jerk move.

Bobby asks: I’m confused about what teams owe guys who are up for arbitration. If the Yankees cut Eovaldi, for example, are they on the hook for anything or because he hasn’t signed a free agent deal does he have nothing guaranteed to come his way?

They don’t owe him anything. Nathan Eovaldi, like most pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players, was on a one year contract that expires after the end of the World Series. The Yankees control his rights for next season, that’s why he won’t become a free agent, but they figure to non-tender him because he’s going to miss 2017. Players signed to multi-year contracts are owed the balance of their contracts if they’re released. Guys on one-year deals have nothing coming to them.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Good news: baseball is back. That one day without postseason games was pretty lame. Even better news: tonight is a winner-take-all Game Five between the Dodgers and Nationals (8pm ET on FOX Sports 1). Who doesn’t love an elimination game? Rich Hill (on three days’ rest) and Max Scherzer are the scheduled starters. Tonight’s game will determine who gets to lose to the Cubs in the NLCS.

Here is tonight’s open thread. In addition to Dodgers-Nats, there’s also the Thursday NFL game, plus the three local hockey teams all begin their seasons as well. Not sure I’m ready for Rangers-Islanders intensity right out of the gate. Could have used some warm up games against the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets first. Anyway, talk about whatever.