Yankeemetrics: Two out of three ain’t bad [May 6-8]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

”Hicks hit one to the sticks! Aaron hammers one!”
In a season where we’ve come to expect the unexpected, the Yankees got a much-needed victory — and jolt of optimism — after toppling the Red Sox, 3-2, on Friday night. The win might have been one of the most unlikely in this long and storied rivalry, for a few reasons.

It was the first time ever that the Yankees allowed at least 13 hits and held the Red Sox to no more than two runs in a game at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time it happened in a game in New York between these rivals was Sept. 24, 1919 at the Polo Grounds.

Yet, even before the first pitch was thrown, this game already carried the “rare and unusual” label. The last time theses teams entered a series matchup where the Yankees were in sole possession of last place in the AL East while the Red Sox were in sole possession of first place (at least one month into the season) was Aug. 31, 1990.

The improbable theme continued when Aaron Hicks — who had three singles in his first 34 at-bats this season — delivered the game-winning shot when he led off the seventh inning with a solo homer to break a 2-2 tie. Two other Yankee center fielders in the last 30 years have hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium: Jacoby Ellsbury (2015) and Bernie Williams (2003).

That might not have even been the game’s most dramatic moment, though. Fast-forward to the ninth inning when Andrew Miller found himself protecting a one-run lead with the bases loaded and one out and Big Papi at the plate. Miller prevailed in that epic showdown with Ortiz, striking him out looking, and then sealed the win after getting Hanley Ramirez to whiff for the final out.

The only other Yankee pitcher in the last 75 years to strike out the final two batters of any game with the bases loaded and while protecting a one-run lead was David Robertson on Aug. 12, 2013 against the Angels. That day, D-Rob whiffed Mark Trumbo and Chris Nelson to earn the save and clinch a 2-1 win for the Bombers.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Back-to-back (and belly-to-belly)
Breaking news: The Yankees have a win streak.

Less than 24 hours after perhaps their most emotional win of the season, the Yankees notched one of their most emphatic wins of the season on Saturday afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi wrote another chapter in his Hekyl-and-Jyde season as he went eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits against the nearly the same Red Sox lineup that had torched him for six runs and 10 hits less than a week ago.

Eovaldi dialed up the heat, averaging 97.8 mph on his four-seam fastball — matching his season-high — while hitting triple digits five times. The only other pitcher to throw more than three 100-plus mph pitches in a single game this season was Noah Syndergaard on April 18 against the Phillies. Eovaldi also got an impressive 10 swings-and-misses with his four-seamer, his most in any start as a Yankee.

Austin Romine had a career day with three hits, including two run-scoring doubles. The list of Yankee catchers to produce at least three hits, two doubles and two RBIs in a game against the Red Sox is a pretty good one: Romine, Jorge Posada (1999), Yogi Berra (1962), Bill Dickey (1936, 1943), Steve O’Neill (1925).

No sweep for you
Sunday night’s finale might not have been sweet, but at least it was short. The Yankees lost 5-1 and the game lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes, the shortest nine-inning game in this rivalry since May 19, 1999 (a 6-0 loss in 2:27 at Fenway) and the shortest at Yankee Stadium since May 2, 1995 (a 8-0 loss in 2:25).

The Yankees avoided the shutout thanks to Brett Gardner‘s ninth-inning home run, but it was just one of three hits against Red Sox starter Steven Wright, who baffled the Yankee lineup all night with his knuckleball. He became the first Boston pitcher to allow three hits or fewer in a complete-game win against the Yankees since Pedro Martinez’s epic 17-strikeout, one-hitter in the Bronx on Sept. 10, 1999.

How do you evaluate Luis Severino‘s outing, during which he tied a career-high with nine strikeouts (great!) but also allowed a career-high three homers (not-great!)? The good news is that he is the youngest Yankee (at the age of 22 years and 78 days) with that many strikeouts against the Red Sox in the last 100 seasons. The bad news is that he also became the first pitcher to give up three or more homers and have nine or more strikeouts in a Yankee-Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium.

David Ortiz continued to torment the Yankees, crushing two more homers — his 51st and 52nd career home runs versus the Yankees — and tying Carl Yastrzemski for the fifth-most all-time against the franchise. It was also his 30th and 31st hit in the Bronx, matching Mickey Vernon for the second-most by any visiting player at Yankee Stadium; Hall of Famer Goose Goslin (32) holds the record.

5/6 to 5/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this season, the Yankees are playing a team for the second time. The Red Sox will be in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. As I’m sure you know, the BoSox swept the Yankees in Boston last weekend. I figured I would remind you of that just in case you wiped it from your memory.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox just took two of three from the White Sox in Chicago, dropping the first game then winning the last two. They’ve won nine of their last eleven games overall. Boston is currently 17-11 with a +26 run differential on the season. They’re a half-game up on the O’s for first place in the AL East.

Offense & Defense

So far this season the Red Sox are averaging 5.25 runs per game with a team 123 wRC+, so yeah, they’re quite good offensively. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who had shoulder surgery earlier this week and is done for the season. Something tells me the BoSox are not too upset about that.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Hanley. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

DH David Ortiz (189 wRC+) remains the centerpiece in manager John Farrell’s lineup. The supporting cast includes RF Mookie Betts (94 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (140 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (125 wRC+). Those four hit in the top four spots of the lineup game after game. 1B Hanley Ramirez (103 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (142 wRC+) hit fifth and sixth.

At the bottom of the lineup the Red Sox typically run LF Brock Holt (111 wRC+), C Christian Vazquez (66 wRC+), and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (126 wRC+) out there. Ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (55 wRC+) will start against southpaws, but since CC Sabathia is not scheduled to start this series, we probably won’t see him this weekend. C Ryan Hanigan (45 wRC+) and IF Josh Rutledge (126 wRC+) are the two other bench players in addition to Young. The Sawx are only carrying three reserves.

Since these two teams played just last weekend, I’m going to copy and past what I wrote about Boston’s defense in the previous series preview:

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

So yeah, nothing has changed. The Red Sox haven’t made any call-ups on the position player side over the last week.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, 27, is off to a nice start this season after his first year with the BoSox did not go so well. He owns a 2.76 ERA (3.59 FIP) in five starts and 32.2 innings with career best strikeout (28.1%) and walk (4.7%) rates. His 49.4% ground ball is also above-average, yet he has been dinger prone early on (1.38 HR/9). Porcello has historically been more effective against righties than lefties. He lives off a sinker right around 90 mph, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutters/sliders. Last weekend Porcello held the Yankees scoreless over seven innings.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Depending on your point of view, Price has either been really bad (6.14 ERA) or really good (2.88 FIP) in his first six starts and 36.2 innings with the Red Sox. Peripheral stats are nice, but, at the end of the day, the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. Price has has great strikeout (30.6%) and walk (5.6%) numbers, though he doesn’t get many grounders (40.0%) and you can take him yard (0.98 HR/9). His platoon split has generally been pretty small. Price, 30, is sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker these days, and about 89 mph with his cutter. A low-80s changeup is his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. The Yankees tagged Price for six runs in seven innings last week, though Alex Rodriguez did a lot of that damage, and he’s currently on the DL. Life is pain.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Price. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Steven Wright (vs. NYY)
The 31-year-old Wright is in the rotation because Joe Kelly (shoulder) and Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) are both currently on the DL. He has a 1.67 ERA (3.22 FIP) in five starts and 32.1 innings this year. Early on he’s gotten a lot of strikeouts (23.0%) and a decent amount of grounders (43.5%), though his homer rate is way low (0.28 HR/9) and his walk rate (11.1%) is way high. Expect that homer rate to climb in the coming weeks. Knuckleballers are historically homer prone. Wright throws his floater about 80% of the time and it clocks in at the mid-70s. His get-me-over fastball sits around 83 mph, and he’ll flip a few upper-60s curveballs per start just to mess around with the hitters. I am not looking forward to hearing how facing a knuckleballer can screw up your swing for a few days. Gimme a break.

Bullpen Status

For whatever reason the Red Sox are carrying eight relievers at the moment. I guess they’re concerned about not getting length from some of their starters, specifically lefty Henry Owens, who lasted only three innings yesterday. Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 14.2 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 10.1 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (43 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 13 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 22 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 12 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross Jr.: 13 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (34 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Carson Smith: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 10 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 13.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)

Smith, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, was activated off the DL the other day. He was not active for the series in Boston last weekend. Smith suffered a flexor muscle strain in Spring Training. Same thing Andrew Miller had last year.

Farrell likes to give his relievers set innings, and right now Tazawa is his seventh inning guy and Uehara is his eighth inning guy behind Kimbrel in the ninth. They’re easing Smith back into things for now, but he is expected to take over as the fireman once he gets the thumbs up. Layne is a true lefty specialist, not someone who will throw a full inning.

You can see the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Everyone is pretty well rested. This is also the last series the Yankees will play without Aroldis Chapman. His suspension is up Monday.

Yankeemetrics: Stump Merrill’s Revenge [April 29-May 1]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Two is not enough
The series opener in Boston played out like a recurring nightmare for the Yankees this season: get an early (albeit small) lead, miss out on countless scoring chances to build that lead, and lose. The 4-2 loss was the ninth time this season that the Yankees lost despite holding a lead at some point in the game. Through Friday, that was the most “blown losses” of any team in the majors. (And of course they added to that total later in the series.)

David Ortiz continued to torment the Yankees, crushing a mammoth, two-run homer over the Green Monster in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie. It was his 14th career go-ahead homer against the Yankees; over the last 50 seasons, the only players with more home runs that gave their team the lead against the Yankees are Manny Ramirez and Jim Rice, both with 15.

Ortiz’s game-winning blast came off an 83-mph hanging curveball from Dellin Betances, the second straight outing he’s given up a homer with the breaking pitch. In his first nine games this season, batters had one single in 24 at-bats (.042) ending in Betances’ curve, and 20 of the 23 outs he recorded with the pitch were strikeouts.

With A-Rod also going deep earlier in the game — he became the oldest Yankee to homer against the Red Sox since Enos Slaughter (age 42) in 1959 — it marked the first major-league contest since at least 1913 in which a 40-year-old homered for each team.

How low can you go?
“April is the cruelest month” – T.S. Eliot
It is getting harder and harder to describe the depths of the Yankees anemic offensive production this season — lifeless, horrific, dreadful, ghastly, grisly — there aren’t enough words in the thesaurus to properly put it into perspective. It is a lineup that struggling so badly it practically defies explanation.

The Yankees are reaching new lows each night, the latest coming on Saturday after they were blown out by the Red Sox, 8-0. It was their worst shutout loss at Fenway Park since losing 10-0 on August 2, 1973, a.k.a. the immortal days of Horace Clarke, Gene Michael and Felipe Alou anchoring the Yankees lineup.

With the loss, the Yankees dropped to 8-14 on the season, finishing up their worst April since going 6-11 in 1991. Their gross offensive numbers are even more mind-numbing:

  • 3.36 runs per game is their fewest in April since 1984
  • .360 slugging percentage is their worst in April since 1989
  • .304 on-base percentage is their worst in April since 1972

Chase Headley has to wear the hat as the team’s worst performer in April, ending up with an unfathomable line of .150 /.268/.150. He tallied just nine singles the entire month and somehow drove in two runs in 19 games played, and one of them was on a sacrifice fly.

Most notably, his 71 plate appearances without an extra-base hit during the month are the second-most by any Yankee in April, behind only Roy White (84 in 1973). And Headley just barely edged out Mike Ferraro – who slugged .148 in April 1968 – for the worst slugging percentage this month over the last 100 seasons by a Yankee (min. 50 PA).

When it rains, it pours
On a night when the Yankee bats finally woke up from their deep slumber, their pitching failed miserably as the Red Sox completed the three-game sweep with a 8-7 win. This is the seventh time in franchise history they’ve lost at least 15 of their first 23 games; only once in those six previous seasons did they finish with a winning record, going 87-75 in 1984 after a 8-15 start.

A-Rod gave the Yankees a brief 3-1 lead in the third inning with his second homer in this series and his 39th homer in pinstripes against the Red Sox. He passed Yogi Berra for the fifth-most by a Yankee in this storied rivalry, trailing only Babe Ruth (90), Lou Gehrig (70), Mickey Mantle (69) and Joe DiMaggio (46). The homer also gave him 5,764 total bases in his career, moving ahead of Ruth for second place in American League history.

Two innings later A-Rod hit a booming double off the wall to put the Yankees ahead again, 5-4. That was his 544th career two-bagger, tying Derek Jeter for 31st on the MLB all-time list. He finished with four RBIs, becoming the oldest visiting player ever with at least two extra-base hits and four RBIs in a game at Fenway Park.

Dellin Betances came in to get the final out of the seventh inning with the score tied 6-6, and promptly served up a monster homer to the first batter, Christian Vazquez, on a 97 mph first-pitch fastball. It was the third straight outing he had allowed a home run, the first time in his career he’s done that. Vazquez had one homer in 214 career at-bats before he hit the go-ahead shot, and entered the game with a slugging percentage of .190 on pitches 95-plus mph.

4/29 to 5/1 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even though April is just about over, the Yankees are only now about to play their third series against an AL East team this year. They’ve spent a lot of time playing the AL West already. Weird schedule this year. Anyway, the Yankees are up in Boston to Renew The Rivalry™ with the Red Sox this weekend. They’ll play three games — all night games too, blah — at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

The schedule makers did the Red Sox a solid this year and scheduled them a four-game home-and-home interleague series with the Braves. Atlanta did actually win the series finale yesterday, which is one more game than I expected them to win. The BoSox are 12-10 with a +11 run differential in the early going.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox were expected to score runs this season and they have done exactly that so far. They’re averaging 5.18 runs per game with a team 117 wRC+ in 2016. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who is out with a shoulder problem. He was awful last year and showed up to camp out of shape again this year. I’m guessing the Red Sox aren’t exactly rushing him back.

Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

As always, manager John Farrell’s lineup is built around the still annoyingly productive DH David Ortiz (168 wRC+). I really can’t wait until he retires. RF Mookie Betts (112 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (156 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (121 wRC+) usually hit ahead of Ortiz in the lineup. That’s their standard top of the batting order. 1B Hanley Ramirez (87 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (157 wRC+) have been hitting behind Ortiz.

The bottom of the lineup is occupied by LF Brock Holt (102 wRC+), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (84 wRC+), and C Christian Vazquez (61 wRC+). Former Yankee OF Chris Young (59 wRC+) is the extra outfielder, IF Josh Rutledge (211 wRC+) is the extra infielder, and C Ryan Hanigan (65 wRC+) is the backup backstop. Boston is currently carrying 13 pitches for whatever reason. They’re dealing some rotation injuries and want the extra relievers around in case the fill-ins get knocked out early, I guess.

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Henry Owens (vs. NYY)
Both Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) and Joe Kelly’s great stuff (shoulder) are on the DL, which is why the 23-year-old Owens joined the rotation last week. He allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 3.1 innings against the Astros the other day in his only big league start of 2016. Owens had a 4.57 ERA (4.28 FIP) with an 18.8% strikeout rate, an 8.8% walk rate, a 34.7% ground ball rate, and a 1.00 HR/9 in 63 MLB innings last season. He sits a tick below 90 mph with both his four-seamer and sinker, and his bread and butter is a great upper-70s changeup. Owens will also mix in some low-70s curveballs. Guys with upper-80s fastballs need good command and Owens doesn’t have it. He doesn’t even have good control. He’s liable to walk himself into trouble and lay cookies over the plate. Patience is the key tonight.

Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Saturday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello’s second season with the Red Sox has gotten off to a much better start than his first season. He has a 3.51 ERA (4.12 FIP) in four starts and 25.2 innings, and his 29.2% strikeout rate is by far a career high. Porcello also has a 4.9% walk rate and a 50.0% ground ball rate, though his 1.75 HR/9 is an eyesore. Lefties have historically hit him a lot larder than righties. Porcello, 27, uses a sinker right around 90 mph as his main fastball, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutter/slider things. With Porcello, it’s all about the sinker. If he’s commanding it at the bottom of the zone, he’ll dominate. If he’s doing anything else, he’ll get knocked around.

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
We started doing these series preview posts at RAB back in 2011, and during these last five years and one month, I think we’ve written about Price as an opposing starter more than any other pitcher. Has to be, right? It’s either him or Chris Tillman. The Yankees never seem to miss Price (or Tillman) whenever they play whatever team he happens to be playing for at the time.

Anyway, Price’s tenure in Boston has gotten off to an uneven start. He has a 5.76 ERA (2.44 FIP) in 29.2 innings, and he currently has a career high strikeout rate (35.4%) and a career low ground ball rate (36.1%). His walk (6.2%) and homer (0.91 HR/9) rates are higher than they have been in four or five years now. Price, 30, has never had much of a platoon split because his stuff and command are so good. He’s sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker, and about 88 mph with his cutter. His velocity is actually down noticeably from last year (via Brooks Baseball):

David Price velocityPrice uses a low-80s changeup as his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. There’s no messing around here though. Price throws his three fastballs about 70% of the time combined. He throws hard and he dares you to hit it.

Bullpen Status

New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski went out and made some big trades this offseason to improve his bullpen, which was an obvious team weakness last year. One of his trade pickups, RHP Carson Smith, has been on the DL all season with a forearm injury. The other, RHP Craig Kimbrel, has already had some high-profile meltdowns. Here’s the bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 11.1 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 19 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (15 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 10 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 18 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (23 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)
RHP Pat Light: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross. Jr.: 10 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 9.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)

Like Joe Girardi, Farrell likes to assign his relievers set innings whenever possible. Kimbrel is the closer, Uehara is the eighth inning guy, and Tazawa is the seventh inning guy. That’s the formula. Layne is the left-on-left specialist and Ross is more of the long man lefty. Barnes is the low leverage middle reliever and Hembree has kinda come out of nowhere to pitch well.

The Yankees had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get one month into the season. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have each had three straight days off, so they’re good to go. Our Bullpen Workload page will tell you all you need to know about the team’s relief corps.

The Rest of the AL East [2016 Season Preview]

Over the last six seasons, each of the five AL East teams has won at least one division title. The Yankees (2011, 2012) are the only club with multiple division titles in the last six years. The days of the AL East being dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox are long gone. The other three teams are no longer pushovers.

For what it’s worth, the projections at FanGraphs have the five AL East teams all winning between 79-88 games in 2016, a gap of only nine wins. Baseball Prospectus has them all in the 75-87 win range. If nothing else, the objective computers think the five clubs are pretty close in terms of talent level. You’re welcome to disagree, of course.

Because knowing your enemy is just as important as knowing yourself, let’s take some time to preview the upcoming season for the four non-Yankees teams in the AL East. This is nothing too in-depth. It’s just enough to give you an idea what the Yankees are up against in 2016.

Is the Showalter honeymoon over? (Presswire)
(Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Notable Additions: Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, Yovani Gallardo
Notable Losses: Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce, Gerardo Parra

The Orioles went 81-81 last season, and they had to commit $207.8M to Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters this offseason just to keep their core intact. Also, Kevin Gausman is dealing with a shoulder issue and Miguel Gonzalez was released yesterday, so their rotation right now is:

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. ???
  5. ???

That seems less than ideal. O’Day and Zach Britton are a dynamite end-game tandem, but I’m not sure how manager Buck Showalter expects to get the ball to them. They’re counting on a big time bounceback from Tillman and consistency from Jimenez (lol), and for Gallardo to chew up innings better than he did last year. He completed six innings just twice in his final 16 starts of 2015.

The O’s are going to have to win a lot of 7-6 games to contend and they have the firepower to do so. Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are all legitimate 30 homer threats. Watch out for Jonathan Schoop too. He hit 15 homers in only 321 plate appearances last year. The Trumbo and Alvarez pickups don’t do anything to help the club’s OBP problem — the O’s were 26th in baseball with a .307 OBP in 2015 — so while they might hit 250 home runs this season, most of them will be solo shots.

Baltimore is the only AL East team that would really surprise me by winning the division. They’re going to hit a ton of homers, there’s no doubt about that, but they don’t get on base and the pitching staff is thin. I mean really, really thin. The O’s will be a headache to play this season. Over the course of 162 games though, I feel it’s only a matter of time until they fall behind the rest of the AL East.

A worthy foe. (Presswire)
A worthy foe. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Notable Additions: David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Chris Young
Notable Losses: Wade Miley

For the third or fourth year in a row, the Red Sox changed philosophies this offseason, deciding to spend big after former GM Ben Cherington spent a few years preaching restraint and flexibility. New baseball operations chief Dave Dombrowski is all about big names, has been for years, hence the Price signing and Kimbrel trade. Those moves were right in his wheelhouse.

Price gives the BoSox the ace they so clearly lacked, but I think the bullpen additions are going to help them more than Price. Kimbrel and Smith are replacing Alexei Ogando and Craig Breslow, who combined to allow 62 runs in 130.1 innings in 2015. Those two will join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the late innings. (Smith’s dealing with a flexor injury and will miss the start of the regular season.)

Offensively, the Red Sox have sneaky big questions in five spots: catcher (Blake Swihart), first base (Hanley Ramirez), third base (Pablo Sandoval), left field (Rusney Castillo), and center field (Jackie Bradley Jr.). They’re already talking about sending Castillo to Triple-A and playing a Young/Brock Holt platoon in left, and apparently now Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman. Everyone seems to be assuming Hanley and Bradley will have above-average seasons because … I don’t know why. At least Hanley has his track record to fall back on.

The Red Sox get the benefit of the doubt more than any chronically underachieving team deserves. They have talent, that much is clear, but they’ve had talent the last two years too, and they still finished in last place. The Red Sox are going to be tough to play against because they’re always tough to play against. Bet on them at your own risk though. No club has done less with more the last two seasons.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Notable Additions: Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Hank Conger, Steve Pearce, Corey Dickerson
Notable Losses: Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Nate Karns, Jake McGee, James Loney

Only the White Sox scored fewer runs than the Rays among AL teams a year ago, so Tampa Bay set out to improve their offense by acquiring a bunch of guys who can be good if used in very specific ways. Dickerson is good as long as he never faces lefties and is your DH. Miller is good as long as he never faces lefties and the ball is never hit to him. That kinda thing. That’s what the Rays do. They find imperfect players and try to use them perfectly.

The Rays did sacrifice some defense for offense this winter. Morrison is unquestionably worse at first base than Loney. (Loney was told he won’t make the team yesterday.) Remember how shaky and goof prone Didi Gregorius was early last year? That’s Miller all the time. Asdrubal is no great shakes in the field, but he is sure-handed. Conger, meanwhile, is the worst throwing catcher in baseball. He went 1-for-43 throwing out base-stealers last year. That is not a typo. 1-for-43. o n e f o r f o r t y t h r e e

To their credit, the Rays ostensibly improved their weaknesses without sacrificing too much from their strengths. They still have a solid rotation even without Karns and their defense is not atrocious. The bullpen is a little up in the air because McGee is gone and Brad Boxberger will miss a few weeks following core muscle surgery, so that’s their big question right now. Manager Kevin Cash usually doesn’t let his non-Chris Archer starters go through the lineup a third time, and those middle innings are rather treacherous.

For Tampa Bay to contend this year, they’ll need Evan Longoria to get back to where he was earlier in his career, and I’m not sure how possible that is. He’s now 30 and his power is starting to vanish; he went from being a consistent .230+ ISO guy to a .150 ISO guy the last two seasons. That’s bad news for the Rays, especially since his six-year, $100M extension kicks in next year. The Rays will be in the hunt this year, but, as always, they’ll need a lot to go right to beat out division rivals with more resources.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Notable Additions: Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ, Drew Storen, Gavin Floyd
Notable Losses: David Price, Mark Buehrle, Mark Lowe, Liam Hendriks, Ben Revere

You’d think going to the postseason for the first time in two decades would be enough to keep the GM around, but apparently not. The Blue Jays named former Indians president Mark Shapiro their new president last year, replacing the retired Paul Beeston, and GM Alex Anthopoulos felt his authority would be undermined, so he rejected an extension offer and walked away over the winter. Crazy, huh?

The Blue Jays have never been huge spenders and Shapiro himself has a history of steering clear of big free agents, so the team never made much of an effort to keep Price. They instead opted to replace him (and Buehrle) with Happ, Chavez, and a full year of Marcus Stroman. It … might work? They only had Price for eleven starts in 2015, after all. Buehrle was close to toast by the end of the season too.

Toronto still has their powerhouse lineup — they scored 891 runs last season, 127 more than the second highest scoring team (Yankees!) and the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees (915) — and now they’ll have a full year of Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Even if he spends time on the DL, 100 games of Tulo and 62 games of a replacement level player is still one of the best shortstops in the game.

As I said this morning, I am of the belief the Blue Jays will outscore any pitching problems. The Yankees did that for years in the mid-2000s. I’m an offense first guy. I’ll always bet on the team with a juggernaut offense coming out ahead over the course of a 162-game season. The Blue Jays may not be quite as imposing as they were in the second half last season, but they’re still very good. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be free agents next offseason, so this might be the club’s last chance to win with this core.

Red Sox get their ace: Boston to sign David Price to $217M deal

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As expected, the Red Sox have spent big for a free agent ace. According to multiple reports, the BoSox and David Price have agreed to a seven-year contract worth $217M. He gets an opt-out after year three, which is par for the course these days. All huge money deals include an opt-out. The contract is still pending a physical which will happen later this week.

At $217M, this is the largest pitching contract in history, narrowly edging out Clayton Kershaw’s $215M pact. It’s the eighth largest contract ever, behind Giancarlo Stanton ($325M), Alex Rodriguez ($275M and $252M), Miguel Cabrera ($248M), Robinson Cano ($240M), Albert Pujols ($240M), and Joey Votto ($225M). Hey, you don’t bring in Dave Dombrowski to run your baseball operations to not spend money and trade prospects.

As for the Yankees, this doesn’t really affect anything other than having to compete against Price and the Red Sox going forward. New York wasn’t in the hunt for Price — the Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, and Dodgers were the other teams in the race, reports Jerry Crasnick — because they’re unlikely to spend significant money this offseason. The Yankees only spend what comes off payroll and this year that’s only $20M or so.

Nothing has really changes for the Yankees as far as their offseason plan is concerned. They still could use another starting pitcher, preferably one they control beyond 2017, plus maybe a second baseman and miscellaneous depth pieces. A Brett Gardner or Andrew Miller trade could change things considerably, but right now both are on the roster.

Kimbrel off the board: Padres trade closer to Red Sox

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to multiple reports, the Padres have traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for four prospects, most notably outfielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra. MLB.com has them ranked as the 25th and 76th best prospects in baseball, respectively. Both clubs have since announced the deal.

The Yankees tried hard to acquire Kimbrel at the trade deadline, reporting offering top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo and others for Kimbrel and second baseman Jedd Gyorko (and the rest of Gyorko’s big contract). There have been no indications the two sides would revisit the deal this winter, but it seemed like a possibility.

Brian Cashman said the Yankees are “open to anything” multiple times at the GM Meetings last week, so much so that closer Andrew Miller‘s name has popped up in trade rumors. There’s been speculation they could trade Miller, then replace him with someone like Kimbrel or a trade for another high-end reliever.

Anyway, the Yankees remain set in the late innings with Miller and Dellin Betances. Justin Wilson is a pretty good third option as well. The bullpen certainly isn’t a priority, but there’s no such thing as too many good relievers. Second base and the rotation remain the biggest needs.