The Stories to Come

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

Despite my background as an English teacher, something that I don’t usually care for in sports is the narrative thereof. As someone who deals with and has dealt with novels, short stories, and the like professionally for a while now, you’d think I’d dig stories and how they unfold over a long period of time, but as any of my students of recent vintage could tell you, plots are far less engaging and important than characters are. Still, they’re unavoidable and, without them, the other stuff can’t, won’t, and doesn’t happen. With the season (unfortunately) over for the Yankees, there won’t be the “characters” and their actions–their play on the field–to distract us from the storylines that will emerge over the next few baseball-less months. These, like all things baseball, will lead to copious (if not repetitive) arguments amongst fans, so let’s try to preview what they’ll be to better prepare ourselves.

The general flow of offseason narratives is obviously dictated by when your team is eliminated from the playoffs, and with that time upon the Yankees, we’ve already seen the first part of the narrative cycle. Joe Girardi had his end-of-season conference and discussed many things, among them, possible changes for next year. Given that the Yankees–or any team for that matter–can’t really get into actual changes with the playoffs still on-going, we have to speculate about what changes will come internally before any roster changes are made. That story starts with the departure of Billy Eppler, long-time Yankee assistant GM, who’ll be taking over GM duties for the Angels. Will he take any staffers with him? Will he try to trade for some pet-players in the farm system? How will this affect the Yankees’ general approach to free-agency? More broadly to that last point, who will or won’t the Yankees sign in the offseason?

The team we saw in 2015 was flawed, but good enough up until the last two months of the season. There is room for improvement, but where will the Yankees find that room? Second base is probably the only spot where an offseason upgrade can occur, given the blockages at just about every other position on the field. Will they roll with a Dustin Ackley/Rob Refsnyder platoon until one of them forces the other out? Will they make a run at Ben Zobrist since he won’t have draft pick compensation attached to him since he was traded mid-season? We know Brian Cashman tried to acquire Zobrist from the A’s before the A’s got him, but Cash didn’t like the cost. The outfield could use some improvement–as the second halves of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury could tell you–but where is that upgrade coming from? Both Gardner and Ellsbury are locked into contracts, and I’m not sure either is very tradeable right now. Ellsbury certainly isn’t because of his salary and the remaining years on his contract. And though Brett Gardner’s contract is reasonable, a team would really have to love him to make a trade for him. Gardner’s a good player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s probably more valuable to the Yankees now than whatever piece they’d get back in the present (this is mitigated if the Yankees sign a big OF like Justin Upton or Jayson Heyward and flip Gardner for pennies on the dollar).

Of course, there’s also the rotation. David Price is obviously the big target and in prior years, I don’t think there’d be any doubt about the Yankees blowing him out of the water with an offer. However, it’s very possible (even likely?) that the Yankees will view a Price contract as the second-coming of the CC Sabathia contract. Will they try for Jordan Zimmerman as a less flashy option? Will they try for Jeff Samardzija on a pillow contract? This will all go down between November and February before we get into the next phase of narratives: the Spring Training phase.

Who will be invited to Spring Training, both on the veteran side and on the prospect side? Are we going to get another Raul Ibanez or Marcus Thames? Who’s going to headline the new crop of prospects we all dream about? And once all that’s done, the “provisional” roster set, we’ll get to argue about Spring Training battles. This will depend on whom the Yankees sign, but the two biggest ones on the horizon are the aforementioned Ackely/Refsnyder and the rotation, particularly what will happen if Ivan Nova is tendered a contract, how the team plans on using Adam Warren, and what happens with (a hopefully healthy and recovering) CC Sabathia.

While we’re all staring out the window waiting for spring, we’ll definitely have plenty to talk about. What forms do you think the Yankee narratives will take? Who’ll be in or out? What will surprise us most? What will be so obvious we should’ve seen it coming?

Workout Day Notes: Eovaldi, Capuano, Shreve, Beltran

Today is an off-day around baseball, but both the Yankees and Astros held a workout at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Needless to say, CC Sabathia checking into rehab was the big story. Everyone in the organization stood behind him, from Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi to his teammates. “We play for CC now,” said Alex Rodriguez.

While Sabathia’s announcement dominated the workout today, there is some other news and notes to pass along. Here’s the important stuff from today’s workout:

The wildcard game rosters do not have to be made official until 10am ET tomorrow. An official announcement should come around that time.

Angels name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler new GM

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

According to Bill Shaikin, the Angels are expected to name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler their new GM on Monday. The team has since announced the hire. Eppler was said to be the front-runner for several weeks now. He interviewed for the job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Joel Sherman says Eppler will remain with the Yankees through the postseason.

“I cannot adequately express how excited I am for the opportunity Arte Moreno and the Angels have given me,” said Eppler in a statement. “The Angels are committed to Championship Standards. They are committed to being a perennial contender, and many of the pieces are already in place for that to occur. I look forward to a collaborative effort as we look to enhance and advance every phase of the baseball operations department. This is an organization with a tremendous amount of talent on and off the field, and I am excited to begin the next chapter of Angels Baseball.”

Eppler, 40, has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and gradually worked his way up the ladder to assistant GM. While serving as head of the pro scouting department, Eppler and his staff were able to unearth cheap gems like Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, and Eric Chavez, among others.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Eppler pitched at UConn before an arm injury ended his playing career. He previously worked as a scout with the Rockies before hooking on with New York. Eppler is from Southern California, so joining the Angels is something of a homecoming for him.

Dipoto resigned as Angels GM back in July after a long power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia, so Dipoto stepped down, which is kinda crazy. There are only 30 GM jobs, after all. They’re hard to get. The Mariners named Dipoto their new GM a few days ago. Eppler was in the running for that job too.

It’s unclear how or if the Yankees will replace Eppler in the front office. The Yankees still have assistant GMs Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman working under Brian Cashman, as well as a slew of advisors, most notably Gene Michael and Jim Hendry. There are countless others working behind the scenes as well.

It was only a matter of time until Eppler was poached by another club — he’s interviewed for several GM jobs over the years, including the Padres last year — and at one point I thought he was Cashman’s heir apparent. That didn’t happen. Eppler was said to be Cashman’s right hand man, so it’s a big loss for the front office.

Mariners name Jerry Dipoto new GM, Billy Eppler remains favorite for Angels GM job

Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)
Eppler and the ghost of A.J. Burnett. (NY Times)

Exactly one month after firing ex-GM Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners named former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto their new GM, the team announced yesterday. “Jerry impressed us at each step of the process … I am looking forward to having Jerry lead our baseball operations for a long time,” said president Kevin Mather in a statement.

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler interviewed for the Mariners GM job not once, but twice, reports Joel Sherman. Jerry Crasnick says Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the job. That’s not the first time that’s happened either — Eppler and Dipoto were the two finalists for the Angels GM position a few years ago, and Dipoto got that gig as well.

The Mariners GM job is off the board, though Eppler still remains the front-runner for the Angels GM job, reports Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Fletcher. He interviewed a few weeks ago and all signs point to Eppler getting the job at some point. Why hasn’t it happened yet? Fletcher explains:

It is likely the Angels and Yankees would both want to avoid even the appearance of a conflict if Eppler were named Angels GM before the teams met in the playoffs.

The Yankees currently have a comfortable lead on the first wildcard spot (3.5 games with six to play) while the Angels are only a half-game back of the Astros for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees and Angels could easily end up meeting in the wildcard game next week. One team poaching the other’s assistant GM right before a postseason matchup wouldn’t be a good look.

Eppler, 39, has been with the Yankees since 2005, starting as a scout before working his way up the ladder to assistant GM. He worked with the Rockies before joining the Yankees. In addition to interviewing for the Mariners and Angels GM jobs this year, Eppler also interviewed for the Padres GM job last year and declined an invitation to interview for the Diamondbacks GM job. He also interviewed with the Angels back in 2011.

While nothing is set in stone, it seems likely the Angels will name Eppler their new GM soon after the season. I have no idea how or if the Yankees would replace him in the front office. They tend to promote from within and I assume that would happen again.

Update: Eppler interviews for Angels and Mariners GM positions

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

September 17th: Eppler met with Mariners brass in Chicago last night, reports George King. Seattle supposedly prefers a GM with experience, though they have a long list of candidates and are covering all their bases.

September 15th: Eppler was scheduled to meet with Angels owner Arte Moreno and team president John Carpino in New York last night, reports George King. Eppler interviewed with the Angels a few years ago, so it seems like the two sides were getting reacquainted more than anything. He is supposedly very high on their wish list.

September 9th: According to Ken Rosenthal, assistant GM Billy Eppler will interview with both the Angels and Mariners for their GM openings. The Yankees granted both teams permission to speak to Eppler, which isn’t surprising. Clubs usually won’t block a chance at an upward move.

Eppler, 39, interviewed with the Angels back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner up to Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto resigned earlier this year after losing a power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. A few days ago we heard Eppler was considered the front-runner for the Halos GM gig. He’s a Southern California native and could jump at the chance to return home.

The Mariners fired GM Jack Zduriencik a few weeks ago and are in the process of picking a replacement. The Seattle job seems like a pretty good one — great city, great ballpark, and something of a clean slate. The new GM will presumably be able to bring his own people. Scouts, assistants, coaches, etc. With the Angels, the new GM will be stuck with Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno made that clear when he picked Scioscia over Dipoto earlier this summer.

Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and worked his way up the ladder, getting promoted to assistant GM back in 2012. Eppler has interviewed for several GM openings over the years, including with his hometown Padres this past offseason, and eventually he’ll snag one. I thought he would one day take over for Brian Cashman, but that seems more and more unlikely.

Saturday Links: Waiver Trades, Eppler, 2016 Draft, YES

D-Rob. (Presswire)
D-Rob. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their Labor Day weekend series a little later this afternoon. Here are some morning links to help you pass the time.

Yankees were blocked in attempts to add pitching

During the waiver trade period in August, the Yankees were “blocked in every attempt” to add pitching, reports Nick Cafardo. Well, that should say “almost every attempt,” because they did claim David Robertson, only to have the White Sox pull him back. Getting blocked on trade waivers simply means a team with a lower waiver priority (i.e. a worse record) placed a claim on a player. In August, players can only be dealt to the team that claims them off trade waivers. They can be dealt to any team if they go unclaimed.

The Yankees were in first place for 18 of 31 days in August, so I’m guessing the Blue Jays did most of the blocking. Wildcard hopefuls like the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Rays, and Orioles were probably in on the act as well. The only pitchers traded in August were Fernando Rodney, Neal Cotts, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez, and Eric O’Flaherty. Cotts and Perez are useful left-on-left matchup guys, but otherwise the Yankees don’t have much use for those players. Any attempt to add significant pitching was likely blocked. Aside from Robertson, of course.

Eppler continues to be linked to Angels

Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler continues to be linked to the Angels, who will hire a new GM in the offseason following Jerry Dipoto’s midseason resignation. Dipoto lost a power struggle when owner Arte Moreno sided with manager Mike Scioscia. Bob Nightengale heard from one “high-ranking Angels executive” that Eppler is considered the front-runner for the job while Alden Gonzalez notes Eppler’s name comes up “frequently” in Angels discussions Ken Rosenthal reports the Angels have not yet asked the Yankees for permission to speak to Eppler, for what it’s worth. Eppler interviewed for the Angels job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto. There are a few GM jobs open right now (Angels, Mariners, Red Sox) and I’m guessing this won’t be the last time we hear Eppler connected to one of them.

2016 draft set for June 9th

The 2016 amateur draft has been scheduled for June 9th, reports John Manuel. That’s a Thursday. The draft has historically been held on the first Tuesday of June, but in recent years the start date has moved around due to MLB Network. The draft started on a Monday in both 2012 and 2015, and on a Thursday in 2013 and 2014. As usual, it will be a three-day event next summer.

Manuel says there has been talk of moving the draft broadcast to Omaha to coincide with the College World Series, which would allow some more prospects to attend, but that won’t happen next year. The College World Series usually doesn’t start until mid-June, which would mean delaying the draft two weeks or so. Not ideal. Teams want to get their players, get them signed, and get their careers started.

YES ratings up 31% in the second half

Apparently the thrill of a postseason race has more people watching the Yankees down the stretch. YES Network ratings are up a whopping 31% in the second half, the network announced. Ratings are up even more in certain demographics, and YES is “delivering the best demo viewership” since 2012, whatever that means. Also, nine of the eleven highest rated game broadcasts have come within the last month. If you win, people will watch. If you lose, many will still watch.

Rosenthal: Angels could look to hire Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Angels could look to hire Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler to be their GM after the season. Ex-GM Jerry Dipoto stepped down a few weeks following a long power struggle with manage Mike Scioscia — owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia, so Dipoto left — and former GM Bill Stoneman has stepped in on an interim basis.

The Angels lost a potential GM/front office candidate yesterday when Dave Dombrowski agreed to join the Red Sox, and I’m sure he was relatively high on their list. He was high on everyone’s list. (The Yankees also lost a trade partner. Brian Cashman and Dombrowski have hooked up for a ton of trades over the years.) Then again, it seems unlikely Dombrowski would have “settled” for a GM job at this point of his career.

Eppler, 39, has interviewed for several GM jobs in recent years — he was a finalist for the Padres GM job last year before they hired A.J. Preller — and in fact he was reportedly the runner-up to Dipoto for the Angels GM job a few years ago, so Rosenthal’s report makes sense. The groundwork has been laid and the two sides are already familiar with each other. The feeling out phase is already complete.

The Yankees promoted Eppler to assistant GM in January 2012 and I thought there was a chance he was being lined up to succeed Brian Cashman, but Cashman has since signed another contract. Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2005, climbing the ranks from scout to pro scouting director to assistant GM. By all accounts he’s a really smart guy. They don’t call nobodies for GM interviews.

I don’t believe the Yankees can block Eppler from leaving for a GM job — they have the contractual right to block the interview, but that rarely happens — since it’s an upward move, so I guess the questions are a) do the Angels want him, and b) does Eppler want to join the Angels? On one hand, there are only 30 GM jobs. On the other, the Angels are kinda dysfunctional and have an unfireable manager. It’s not a great situation.

Either way, it seems like only a matter of time until Eppler gets the opportunity to be a big league GM. Maybe it’s with the Yankees as Cashman’s eventual successor, maybe it’s with the Angels, maybe it’s somewhere else entirely. (Mariners?) The Angels might not be the most desirable GM job out there, but being a GM is better than being an assistant GM.