Manfred indicates NL adopting DH is gaining momentum

Nope. Nope nope nope. (Al Bello/Getty)
Nope. Nope nope nope. (Al Bello/Getty)

During the quarterly owners’ meetings earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged adopting the DH in the NL is starting to gain some momentum. The league is talking to owners and GMs about a possible change. It doesn’t sound like the MLBPA has been looped into talks just yet.

Here’s some more from Manfred, via Ken Davidoff:

“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some heretical comment,” Manfred said, upon the conclusion of Major League Baseball’s quarterly owners’ meetings. “We have a newer group. There’s been turnover. I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans. Always respecting the history and the traditions for the sport.”

“I do think there’s a certain purity to the idea that everybody plays by the same rules,” Manfred said. “The significance of that purity goes up when you have interleague play every day. …Particularly given the difference between leagues, in interleague play, pitchers who don’t hit on a regular basis probably are more likely to have a problem than pitchers who do.”

Manfred called the DH the “biggest remnant of (the NL’s) identity,” and some NL folks are very much opposed to the idea. “We would like to remain real baseball,” said Phillies chairman Dave Montgomery. Turns out we’ve been watching fake baseball all these years, you guys.

Anyway, I’m sure the MLBPA will be on board with bringing the DH to the NL. Roster sizes won’t change but it will create 15 high-paying jobs since DHs historically get paid lots more than bench players. Adding the DH to the NL could also help extend some careers since it’ll give veteran mashers more options after their defensive skills erode.

I am a pro-DH guy. There’s nothing fun about watching pitchers hit, and the argument the NL game has more strategy is overblown. Most NL decisions — bunting, pinch-hitting, etc. — are made for managers by the game situation. Down a run in the seventh and your starter is at 105 pitches? Pinch-hit. See? That wasn’t so hard.

Ultimately, I think it’s only a matter of time until the NL adopts the DH. Owners are going to want to protect their increasingly expensive pitching investments. Last year Adam Wainwright blew out his Achilles running the bases. A few years back ex-Yankee Dustin Moseley tore up his shoulder swinging a bat. We all remember what happened to Chien-Ming Wang in Houston.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in December and I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot about the DH coming to the NL between now and then. The players figure to be cool with it. It seems like it’ll just be a matter of getting the old school NL owners on board as well.

Guest Post: Constructing the 1927 Team: From the Goat to the Great

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, and the Copacabana incident.

Koenig. (MearsOnlineAuctions.com)
Koenig. (MearsOnlineAuctions.com)

For my next articles, I want to take a look at individual members of the 1927 Yankee team, which as we know, was one of the special teams in baseball history. The 1927 team won 110 games behind the great Miller Huggins and the Murderer’s Row lineup. This also happened to be the season in which Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs and the Yankees crucified the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series with a four-game sweep. For the first post, I’d like to focus on the very first shortstop who eventually wore No. 2, the great and underrated Mark Koenig.

The Swiss Kid of California

Mark Anthony Koenig was of Swiss descent, the child of Charles and Stella Koenig, the former a second-generation bricklayer from Germany. Koenig was an intelligent child, taking up books at a young age, such as The Illiad from Homer. The young Californian also played the piano and admitted that he wanted to do more with his talent in playing the instrument.  Koenig was playing in the sandlots of San Francisco in the early 20th century with future teammate Tony Lazzeri, eventually attending Lowell High School (a magnet school located on Hayes Street).

Baseball was important in the life of Koenig after he was introduced at age twelve by Anson Orr, a window dresser and former member of the Golden Gate Park Bums. The Bums were an unusual baseball club in which you would have to be dressed with old clothing (trousers that barely fit and that their wives would want to get rid of) along with a baseball cap and spikes (the only two items of baseball uniforms that were allowed). The Bums did not allow the rest of the uniform as we know in baseball. Mark Koenig eventually became a member of the Golden Gate Park Bums. However, Orr sponsored two teams in the Sunset District of San Francisco, which played at the recreation center at 7th Avenue & Lincoln Way. Koenig joined the Sunset Midgets with his first uniform and people have stated that if you were able to make the team, you had to be pretty good in the first place. (This elite group includes other MLB players which as Lew Fonseca, Willie Kamm, Gene Vala and Sammy Bohne, among others.)

At Lowell High School, Koenig made the baseball team, but was nothing more than a utility infielder because of Artie Berger, who was the regular starting shortstop. When he reached his junior year at age 16, Koenig finally became a starting shortstop and his play caught the attention of Marty Kearns, a professional scout. Kearns recommended him to Nick Williams (a career minor-leaguer and long-time B-level manager) of the Moose Jaw Millers. The Moose Jaw Millers were a member of the B-level Western Canadian League, which contained only six teams: The Edmonton Eskimos (managed by ex-pitcher, Pete Standridge); the Saskatoon Quakers, Calgary Bronchos, Regina Senators and the Winnipeg Maroons. In fact, the Millers had just changed their name from the Moose Jaw Robin Hoods in 1920.

The Minors

Because of the suggestion, Koenig decided to leave Lowell High School and join the Millers for their 1921 season. Still only age 16, Koenig trained in Pendleton, Oregon, taking a train for the first time in his life via the Union Pacific Railroad. After that, Koenig would drive to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to play for the Millers. Playing with the Millers, Koenig batted a mere .202 in 84 games. On the team, however, he made a couple important decisions, becoming a switch hitter, which caught the attention of Yankees scout Bob Connery. At the same time, the Western Canadian League folded in the middle of the 1921 season, and as a result, Koenig hooked up with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association.

Koenig was the youngest member of the Saints, by far, at age 16 (the next was Binky Jones and Ren Kelly, both 21 at the time). However, Koenig only got into four games with the Saints that year, and hit exactly .000. Between the two teams, he managed a .199/.199 /.232 batting line. He had 61 hits that year in 306 AB, with eight doubles, one triple and no home runs. He stayed with St. Paul, but instead, was sent to their farm leagues (the D-leagues), first with the Jamestown Jimkotans of Jamestown, North Dakota. Koenig showed much improvement with the Jimkotans at age 17. He had a .254 average and .363 slugging percentage in 347 at bats with 88 hits, 18 doubles, seven triples and two home runs. The Saints did call him back in 1922, and he responded by raking in a small sample size. He had a .412 average with seven hits in seven games (six singles and a double).

The 1923 season served as a promotion for the young Koenig. Koenig played for the Des Moines Boosters, another farm team of the Saints, but now the A-team rather than D-team. Koenig responded to the promotion by improving even further. He hit at a .288 average with a .402 slugging in 156 games. He had 159 hits, 29 doubles, 8 triples and six home runs. However, the one problem with his 1923 season was his best Marcus Semien impression, THIRTY-SEVEN errors at 3rd base (not shortstop), with a .910 fielding percentage in 120 games at the position. After the season, the Saints called back Koenig.

By 1924, the young Koenig had finally filled out to his main size (six feet tall and 180 lbs). Now a member of the Saints, he was a utility player as Danny Boone was the starting shortstop for the team. Koenig struggled to hit in the AA in 1924, responding with only a .267 average and .333 slugging percentage in 68 games with 44 hits, seven doubles and two triples. His poor hitting prevented him from getting more batting opportunities, but he was convinced he would become a regular at some point, waiting for his opportunity. That opportunity did come. In the “Little World Series”, the St. Paul Saints faced the Baltimore Orioles, who played for the International League. Before the series even started, Boone was injured a freak batting practice accident and knocked out of the series. This caused their manager, Nick Allen to freak. He wanted to bring an outsider in because he felt Koenig was inexperienced, but the Orioles would not permit it with Koenig already on the team. As a result, he was forced to play Koenig at shortstop and hope for the best. The best is what he got. Koenig had an excellent series, batting .429 with two home runs (including one off 26 game-winner Lefty Grove), winning the nine game series 5-4.

To The Majors

After a great performance in the 1924 Little World Series, Koenig attracted the attention of more scouts. Harry Strider, a Minneapolis-based scout for the Cincinnati Reds, who wrote a number of letters to Garry Hermann, then-President of the Reds. In November 28, 1924, he noted that he was a fine shortstop and that he was a star in the making. They considered him a versatile player able to play any position in the infield with an excellent arm. This arm would later be measured as going at 127 mph (204 km/h) thrown from 60 feet 6 inches! This was the equivalent of a 1957 automobile and 29 mph less than Bob Feller’s top arm speed.

When Koenig returned to the Saints in 1925, Nick Allen named him starting shortstop and moved Danny Boone to third base. With St. Paul, Koenig hit .308/.474 /.782 in 126 games and 496 at bats. This included 153 hits, 35 doubles, 7 triples and career high 11 home runs. The Yankee scout Bob Connery joined St. Paul as an official and kept Miller Huggins and general manager Ed Barrow in touch about his performance. After Huggins watched Koenig play at St. Paul, he joined the fan club and persuaded Barrow to acquire him. The Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies were also interested. On May 29, 1925, the Yankees acquired Koenig for $50,000, Fred Hoffman (a catcher), Oscar Roetteger (utility man maximus) and a player to be named later (Ernie Johnson, a utility infielder).

Koenig made his Major League debut on September 8, 1925 at Fenway Park during a double-header. Batting eighth in the lineup, Koenig got his first hit in the 2nd inning off pitcher Buster Ross. Playing in 28 games that September, Koenig got 110 AB and hit for only .209/.243/.282 with 23 hits, six doubles and one triple. However, the 1925 Yankees, known for Ruth’s massive misbehavior and poor treatment of Miller Huggins, finished seventh place in the American League. In Baltimore in 1926, Ruth and Koenig got at each other because Ruth had been ragging about a play that Koenig didn’t make. When they got back to the dugout, a war of words turned into a pushing and shoving match.

The 1926 season marked Koenig’s first season as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, replacing Pee Wee Wanninger, a rookie the year prior. In order to accomplish this, Huggins moved Tony Lazzeri to second base instead of keeping him at shortstop. Lazzeri himself came from Salt Lake where he hit 66 home runs! The writers did not expect that this double play combo of Lazzeri and Koenig would be good for competing toward a World Series. Skeptics stated that Koenig could hit big league pitching but that he was erratic in his defense, which would be his failure. Writers however never affected Huggins, who stated that Koenig would play as long as he decided it was alright.

The Goat

Koenig hit his first home run on April 23, 1926 off Red Ruffing at Yankee Stadium with him leading off instead of batting eighth. Koenig in 1926 hit his career high five home runs and hit for a .271/.319/.363 batting line in 147 games. He had 167 hits, 26 doubles and eight triples to go with the five home runs. He drove in 65 runs. Unfortunately, the defensive black hole at shortstop was pretty blatant. Koenig had a career-high (minors and majors) FIFTY-TWO errors in 1238 innings. (He had 47 errors at St. Paul in 1925 along with 8 with the Yankees, which would total 55, but I count them separate statistics.)

The 1926 Yankees reached the World Series, despite the critics stating that they wouldn’t go anywhere after the disaster known as the 1925 season. Currently age 21, Koenig started all 7 games at SS, and had what would be considered potentially one of the worst performances ever. In 33 at bats, Koenig managed an atrocious .125/.125/.156 line. (I’m not even sure Jason Bay or Mark Reynolds could be that bad!)  He had four hits, 2 RBI and six strikeouts. However, what became the focal point of the poor 1926 World Series for Koenig was his defense.

Koenig noted that he had a powerful arm (and the metrics proved it!), but that his glove skills was far from the best. He noted he had small hands and that gloves were smaller, causing him to boot a double-play ball in Game 7 that gave the Cardinals the World Series. Koenig admitted that he had nightmares about that bobble, but it was a prelude to being the goat of the 1926 Yankees. Regardless of his famous booting, he didn’t lose trust of Miller Huggins whatsoever. Tony Lazzeri helped Koenig work on his shortstop. Koenig would admit later on that the 1927 Yankees could’ve had a midget at shortstop and still won the pennant. Huggins noted that once again, Koenig was playing Huggins, not the media.

Koenig batted 2nd in 1927, after Earle Combs and before Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and proved to be a proficient bunter. Koenig hit .285/.320/.382 with an 83 OPS+. He also managed a grand total of 21 strikeouts in 123 games. In 526 at bats, Koenig managed 150 hits, 20 doubles, 11 triples, 3 home runs and drove in three stolen bases. Koenig missed 31 games after 38-year old and White Sox lifer Red Faber nailed him in the leg with his fastball. The Yankee trainer put a rolling pin to the bruise to cut off circulation and unfortunately, it caused him to go to the hospital. However, despite that, his defense wasn’t exactly improving. He managed 47 errors in the games that he played at shortstop.

The Great

In the 1927 World Series, the Yankees faced the Pittsburgh Pirates. Koenig felt they were just as good as the Cardinals the year prior, but Koenig responded, hitting .500/.500/.611 in 18 at bats. This included 9 hits and 2 strikeouts. Most importantly, there were no errors by Koenig whatsoever! The Yankees, as many people know, swept the Pirates in 4 games, but the vital moment came in the 4th game. Tied 3-3, Johnny Miljus walked Combs, Koenig laid down a bunt that he ran out for a single. After a wild pitch, both advanced, then Babe Ruth walked to load the bases. After Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel struck out, Mijus threw another wild pitch away from Johnny Gooch and Combs scored, winning the series.

So, what were the changes that Koenig made? Coach Art Fletcher gave new instructions to Koenig in how to help his defense. Critics had a great time going after Koenig during 1926, and as writer George Moriarty noted, Koenig lacked gameness. Moriarty felt that Koenig was a victim of circumstances with only an obvious fault. Playing shortstop, Koenig bobbled too often at critical moments and he felt that Koenig had a weak heart without a better idea. Moriarty noted that Koenig could do anything else just as well as any other shortstop, but he could not seem to hold on to balls and commonly bobbled them, causing the Yankees to lose some games.

Fletcher noted that Koenig was fighting ground balls. When he would run to go after a ground ball, his arms would be stiff, bring them forward in a rigid pattern and force them onto the ball. By doing this, this would cause him to commonly bobble the ball. Koenig was told by Fletcher to do the opposite, make his arms and wrists both relaxed and bring them backwards with the ball. Doing this, Koenig could give with the impact and grip onto the ball because there would be no tension in his hands. Following these suggestions by Fletcher, Moiarty noted that Koenig had become a star on his way because of a simple suggestion from a former star.

Wrapping It Up

While Mark Koenig does not get the same amount of stardom that Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel get in the Murderer’s Row of 1927, he deserves a lot of credit for being one of the ground layers for those players along with Earle Combs. Koenig would play for the Yankees until 1930, but the defense didn’t improve that much. In 1929, the same season that Miller Huggins died unexpectedly, Koenig developed a chronic eye problem. The Yankees traded him and Waite Hoyt to the Detroit Tigers in 1930 for Ownie Carroll, Harry Rice and Yats Wuestling (the second shortstop to wear No. 2).

The Tigers figured if Koenig wore glasses, he would improve. However, it did not and they decided they would turn Koenig into a pitcher. This also failed. In the first inning, Koenig gave up six runs to the White Sox. He managed to go the next five innings cleanly, but caved again in the 7th when he gave up four more. By 1932, Koenig ended up in the Pacific Coast League, where played well. The Cubs picked him to replace Billy Jurges after Chicago showgirl Violet Popovich Valli shot him in the hand. That year, he faced his former Yankee team in the World Series and was cheated out of money from the losing Cubs. Jumping to the Giants, Koenig made the World Series once more in 1936 against the Yankees, which the Yankees also won. Koenig headed to San Francisco and played for the Mission Reds, but left at the end of the season.

Koenig made it well in San Francisco, operating gas stations and acting in a few biopics about Ruth and Gehrig. However, he also turned into a recluse, keeping in touch with his some of his teammates. In 1987, Lowell High School gave a rare honor to Koenig, giving him his high school diploma 66 years after leaving the school for Moose Jaw. After the death of Ray Moreheart in 1989, writers flocked to Koenig, the last living survivor of the 1927 team. On April 22, 1993, Koenig died from cancer in the city of Willows, California at the age of 88.

When Derek Jeter’s number 2 is retired by the Yankees, keep in mind the man who started the pseudo-tradition of Yankees shortstops wearing the number. Is Mark Koenig the greatest ever? No way. That role is reserved purely for Jeter, but you can make an argument that Koenig at least deserves a top five position for his offensive prowess.

Trade deadline pushed back to August 1st for 2016 season

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline has been pushed back one day to August 1st, MLB announced. This is for the 2016 season only. It’ll go back to July 31st in 2017. MLB made the change because July 31st falls on a Sunday this year, and they didn’t want the deadline interfering with a full slate of games.

“A Sunday trade deadline, given the way we play games on Sunday, didn’t seem like it made the most sense, so we decided to move it the one day,” said commissioner Rob Manfred to reporters at the quarterly owners’ meetings yesterday. “We don’t think it will be the end of modern civilization to do it one day later.”

The Yankees will be home on August 1st, kinda. They’ll be playing the Citi Field leg of the Subway Series that day. They play in Tampa on July 31st, then come home for two games at Citi Field plus a five-game homestand. There are only eight games — all night games — on the schedule for August 1st.

Pushing the deadline back one day will have no real impact on the Yankees or any other team. It gives them one extra day to finalize deals without having to jump through trade waiver hoops. Trades can still be made after August 1st, but the player must go through trade waivers first, which is usually no big deal.

The Yankees haven’t been all that active at the trade deadline in recent years, at least in terms of blockbusters. They’ve acquired Dustin Ackley, Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, Alfonso Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki in the week leading up the deadline over the last four years. That’s all. Nothing massive.

Gary Sanchez ranks second on MLB.com’s top ten catcher prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The crew at MLB.com is the middle of their series ranking the top ten prospects at each position. The Yankees didn’t have anyone on the right-handed pitcher or left-handed pitcher lists, but C Gary Sanchez ranks second on the catcher list, behind only Cubs C Willson Contreras. As always, MLB.com’s scouting information is free.

“Sanchez resuscitated his prospect stock last season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and he made his big league debut in early October,” said the write-up, which also mentioned the persistent questions about his defense. There’s reason to think he’s improving defensively, however. Here’s a snippet of their latest scouting report:

Sanchez’s combination of bat speed, strength and loft in his right-handed swing allow him to drive balls great distances … Sanchez still can get overly aggressive at the plate, which hampers his ability to hit for average, and his receiving and blocking still need more polish. But he did show improvement in those facets of his game and played with more passion in 2015. If Sanchez stays behind the plate and realizes his power potential, he can be an All-Star.

It seems like Sanchez has the inside track for the backup catcher’s job heading into the 2016 season, though the Yankees could send him back to Triple-A for a little more work on his defense. And, as I mentioned in the mailbag this morning, sending him down for 35 days will delay his free agency another year. That seems tempting.

Either way, Opening Day roster or not, Sanchez has a clear long-term future with the Yankees following the John Ryan Murphy trade. Brian McCann is still quite productive, but he will be 32 next month and he has a ton of innings on his body, so at some point the Yankees will have to scale back his workload. Sanchez will be the guy to pick up the slack, a la Jorge Posada and Joe Girardi from 1997-99.

Mailbag: Johnson, Mateo, AL East Shortstops, Hellickson

I’ve got 13 questions in the mailbag this week. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week. Also, the shorter the question, the better.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
Johnson. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Stephen asks: What about a trade for Erik Johnson of the White Sox?

(This is the short version of Stephen’s question.)

I like the idea of Johnson as a trade target. He had some shoulder trouble in 2014 and was dreadful, pitching to a 6.73 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 105.2 Triple-A innings. Johnson was healthy last season though, and he had a 2.37 ERA (2.57 FIP) in 132.2 Triple-A innings. (He spoke to Tom Verducci about his mechanical improvements.)

Johnson just turned 26 and PitchFX clocked him at 91.3 mph during his September call-up, up from 89.6 mph during his limited MLB time in early 2014. He also throws a slider and a changeup, and sometimes a curveball. Here’s some video:

Johnson still has six years of control remaining, which is nice. He is currently penciled in as Chicago’s fifth starter and they have close to zero rotation depth, so they might not be too keen on trading him.

Stephen mentioned Brett Gardner and Ivan Nova for Johnson, which would give the ChiSox a replacement starter and the outfielder they seem to be craving. Two potential problems: 1) Nova kinda sucks, and 2) they seem to want a big outfield bat because Adam Eaton already fills the speedy leadoff role. Johnson’s a nice target. I’m not sure if the Yankees match up well with the White Sox though.

Bob asks: Would it make sense for the Yankees to use Jorge Mateo as their September pinch-runner in 2016? Is there any way the Yankees can use him without giving up team control?

(That’s the short version of Bob’s question.)

Mateo would pick up a month of service time if the Yankees called him up to be their pinch-runner in September. They wouldn’t lose a full year of team control. Mateo will be Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason, so the Yankees could call him in September and it wouldn’t complicate the 40-man roster situation. If Mateo was not Rule 5 Draft eligible, I don’t think the Yankees would call him up because they wouldn’t want to put him on the 40-man before they have to. One month of service time is generally no big deal. It doesn’t change his arbitration or free agency timetable at all.

Gene asks: Should the Yankees manipulate service time for Sanchez? How many days would he have to stay down to gain an extra year of control?

I think there’s a good argument to be made they should. They could certainly justify sending Gary Sanchez down to Triple-A for a few weeks to work on his defense. Sanchez picked up 23 days of service time last year — he wasn’t called up right away in September because of a minor hamstring injury — so add 12 days to that, and the Yankees would need to keep him down for 35 days to delay free agency. They’d have to send him down for about four months to avoid Super Two.

Sending Sanchez down for five or six weeks might not be a bad idea. He’d get a little more time to work on his defense and the Yankees would pick up an extra year of control. Realistically, how much big league playing time would Sanchez get in those six weeks? Six, seven starts? All the early-season off-days would make it easy to keep Brian McCann in the lineup.

David asks: Can you explain options. With the Yankees considering a revolving 25th roster spot how does options work? Each time you are called up and subsequently sent down is considered an option or each year you are called up is considered an option (thus you can be sent up and down as many times as the team wants that year).

Players use one option per year. They can go up and down as many times as the team wants in each individual season while using the only one minor league option. Each player gets three option years, though some qualify for a fourth under certain circumstances that seem to change all the time. (I still have no idea why Dellin Betances qualified for a fourth option.) Once the player burns his three option years, he has to clear waivers to go to the minors.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Sam asks: What do you think every starting shortstop in the AL East would get in the open market if they were free agents this offseason?

That’s a fun question. Here are my best guesses:

  • Xander Bogaerts, age 23: Ten years, $180M. Had a great year in 2015 and looks like he has room to get even better. He doesn’t have a long track record though, which is why I think he would fall short of $200M.
  • Troy Tulowitzki, age 31: Five years, $100M. There’s five years and $98M left on his current contract and I think he’d get a tiny bit more than that. He’s still very good and plays a premium position, but man, those injuries.
  • Didi Gregorius, age 25: Six years, $72M. That’s $12M per season. Maybe that’s high, but I think Didi’s age and defense will get him paid. Look at what it took to get Andrelton Simmons in a trade.
  • Brad Miller, age 26: Four years, $32M. Roughly the Omar Infante contract. Miller has shown signs of being an above-average hitter, but his defense is really shaky. He might not be a shortstop much longer.
  • J.J. Hardy, age 33: Two years, $20M. Hardy was hurt and awful last season (49 wRC+), and it could be a sign his days as an above-average player are over. He hasn’t topped a 100 wRC+ since 2011.

Do those seem even remotely correct? Guesstimating contracts for players as young as Bogaerts and Gregorius is really tough. Guys never hit free agency at that age so it’s hard to get a feel for how teams value them. Perhaps Bogaerts could get $200M+ despite the lack of track record. Maybe $72M is way too much for Didi.

Ruby asks: If Gary Sanchez proves himself to be an MLB ready catcher this year, do you see the Yanks trying to shop McCann next offseason (possibly in a package for a controllable pitcher), in order to try and get under the luxury tax a year earlier while also accelerating their on the fly rebuild?

They could try, but I don’t think there will be a huge market for soon-to-be 33-year-old catcher making $17M a year. Plus he has a full no-trade clause. I think McCann is worth keeping around though. He’d allow them to gradually ease Sanchez into the starting role, and besides, McCann is still one of the most productive catchers in the game despite no longer being he hitter he once was. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran will be gone next winter and Alex Rodriguez the winter after that. There will be more DH at-bats available to McCann down the road. I think keeping a quality catcher around is a good idea.

Pounder asks: Would the Yanks consider trading for the recently signed Hellickson (by the Phillies)? A package of Nova, Refsnyder and some decent minor leaguers seems like a fair deal.

I don’t think so. The Phillies acquired Jeremy Hellickson for close to nothing in what amounted to a salary dump trade earlier this offseason because they needed someone to eat innings. Hellickson will be a free agent next offseason and he’s still relatively young (28), so there’s a chance he rebounds. It’s been three years since he had an ERA under 4.50 though. The guy had a 4.86 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 383.2 innings from 2013-15 and has dealt with elbow problems. Nova had a 4.25 ERA (4.27 FIP) in 254 innings from 2013-15. I think I’d rather stick with Nova, and I definitely wouldn’t give up Rob Refsnyder for one year of Hellickson, nevermind kick in other pieces. The Hellickson of 2011-12 is long gone.

Bill asks: Slade Heathcott has persevered as a player and person. I think he has all the tools, if he could stay healthy. What would you think about trading Gardner for a pitcher, and giving Slade a chance to play everyday?

I love Slade, he’s awesome and he’s dealt with a ton of adversity, but I don’t think playing him everyday would work out well for the Yankees. There’s no reason to think he can stay healthy for an extended period of time. And besides, even when he was healthy last year, he hit .267/.315/.343 (90 wRC+) in 271 Triple-A plate appearances. The Yankees have plenty of upper level outfielders and can afford to trade Gardner, though I’d rather see Aaron Hicks play everyday before Slade. Maybe even Mason Williams and Ben Gamel too.

Minor. (David Banks/Getty)
Minor. (David Banks/Getty)

P.J. asks: Of either Cliff Lee or Mike Minor as possible options from the rehabbing bin who would be a better option for the Yankees? Lee who has a better performance history and is a lefty OR Minor who is considerably younger and also a lefty. Of course I’m assuming Lee would cost more. Or neither.

Whichever one is healthier would be the better option. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 2014 due to a flexor issue in his elbow that is apparently fully healed. Minor hasn’t pitched since September 2014 due to shoulder surgery, and I haven’t seen any updates on his progress at all. For whatever reason young Braves pitchers all seem to break down after two or three seasons (Minor, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, even Alex Wood is showing signs of decline). Minor’s younger than Lee and would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017, but what good is that if his shoulder is mush? Look over the medicals, sign whoever looks healthiest and most ready to help.

Forrest asks: Hi all, my question is, why don’t more teams structure long term deals front loaded? That way when the inevitable decline phase happens the players salary will be more palatable and will also give the team more flexibility to trade the player in the future.

There are a few reasons. For starters, a dollar now is worth more than a dollar later. Blame inflation. Teams want to push the money off as long as possible. There’s also the flexibility aspect. Back-loading the contract leaves more dollars to improve the roster today. I am certain some GMs have signed players to long-term deals under the assumption they won’t be around when the deal turns ugly. Heck, that might true of some owners. Not to be morbid, but do you think 90-year-old Ted Lerner cares Max Scherzer will be paid $15M a year from 2022-28? Probably not. Also, I think players would like to earn a little more money each passing year. That’s human nature, wanting a raise and knowing you’re going to make more in five years than you do right now. There have been some front-loaded contracts — A-Rod‘s current deal was front-loaded, for example — but most are still back-loaded for these reasons.

Paul asks: In the past few years we’ve seen statistics both for hitters and pitchers around hard/soft (and medium) contact. Is that subjective (some guy @ each game stuck labeling each struck ball) or objective (perhaps using hitfx with some MPH groupings)? Also, what are the league averages on these numbers? Thanks.

The soft and hard contact rates at FanGraphs come from Baseball Info Solutions, and it is subjective data. There’s a human stringer watching the game and classifying each batted ball as soft, medium, or hard. So yes, there’s some scorer bias involved. The league averages in 2015 are right here. Batted ball velocity is now available through Statcast but even raw mph doesn’t tell us everything — hit a ball 100 mph at a certain angle and it’s a pop-up to short. I prefer the general soft/medium/hard BIS data to exit velocity at the moment. We still have some work to do before we fully understand exit velocity.

UPDATE: I’m wrong. BIS batted ball data is now automated. Here’s the info. Long story short, the hang time, landing spot, and batted ball type are recorded, and an algorithm determines whether determines soft, medium, or hard contact.

Michael asks: What would it take to reacquire Solarte for the last spot on the bench? Would it be worth the cost?

Yeah he’d make sense. He’s a switch-hitter who can backup third base and also fill-in at first and second, like he did last year with the Padres. Yangervis Solarte’s unique because he wasn’t a top prospect and he’s not super young (turns 29 in July), but he has four years of control and has been rather useful the last two seasons. The Padres will surely market him as a starting player — he’s now their starting third baseman — though he would only be a bench guy for the Yankees. Refsnyder and a lower level arm, say Domingo German, for Solarte? That’s about as high as I’d go.

Chris asks: Kyle Parker was just DFA’d by the Rockies. Any chance the recently acquired Jason Lane is designated for assignment for a claim?

Lane Adams! Not Jason Lane. Jason Lane is a pitcher now. Parker has name value as a former first round pick and high-profile college football player, but he hit .280/.326/.431 (100 wRC+) with a 26.3% strikeout rate in Triple-A last season, and he seems to have hit the wall a lot of two-sport guys hit in Triple-A. Parker has an option left, so if they swap out Adams for Parker, fine. I don’t think either player has much to offer as the MLB level.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Ready for some snow? We’re only supposed to get something like 3-6 inches here in NYC this weekend. I know it’ll be much more outside the city and a little further down the coast, so I hope everyone drives safe and stays warm and all that.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local sports team in action, but there is some college hoops on as well. Have at it.

Yankees spoke to former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos about front office position

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Before he joined the Dodgers last week, the Yankees spoke to former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos about a front office position, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty. The two sides actually met at some point, so this wasn’t just a cursory phone call or something like that. There was legitimate interest.

Anthopoulos, 38, served as Blue Jays GM from October 2009 though October 2015. He rejected a five-year contract extension after the team named Mark Shapiro their new team president, reportedly because he felt his authority within the organization had been diminished. Anthopoulos had been with Toronto since 2003.

The Yankees lost assistant GM Billy Eppler earlier this offseason, when he was named Angels GM. Eppler had been Brian Cashman’s right hand man. Pro scout Tim Naehring was promoted to replace Eppler. Right now Cashman has two assistants (Jean Afterman, Michael Fishman) and a small army of advisors, including Naehring, Gene Michael, and Jim Hendry.

It’s not surprising the Yankees reached out to Anthopoulos. They did the same when Ben Cherington stepped down as Red Sox GM last year, and they’re always looking to add smart people to the front office. He would have helped fill the void following Eppler’s departure. No doubt. Anthopoulos instead took a long-term deal with the Dodgers and is now their vice president of baseball operations.