Cashman says the Yankees have discussed bringing back Nathan Eovaldi

(Steven Ryan/Getty)
(Steven Ryan/Getty)

Thanks to his relatively new splitter, the 2016 season was supposed to be a breakout year for Nathan Eovaldi. Instead, he struggled to keep the ball in the park all summer — at one point the Yankees demoted him to the bullpen — then he blew out his elbow in mid-August. Eovaldi managed to tear the flexor tendon clean off the bone. Ouch. He also needed his second career Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees released Eovaldi after the season because, well, there was no reason to keep him around. He would have qualified for free agency after the 2017 season, so it’s not like he would have remained under team control once healthy. The Yankees would have paid Eovaldi a hefty sum (projected $7.5M through arbitration) to rehab, only to have him hit free agency after the season. With 40-man roster space needed, releasing Eovaldi was a no-brainer.

The release doesn’t automatically end the relationship between Eovaldi and the Yankees. In fact, earlier this week Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty the Yankees have had discussed a possible reunion with Eovaldi’s agent. From Kuty:

“Obviously, he’s a free agent, and we’ve had some discussions with Nate Eovaldi about trying to find a solution that works for both sides. But he’s still a free agent and there’s competition for him. Other than the injury, you couldn’t say enough about him. His makeup’s off the charts. His work ethic was off the charts. He was a performer for us. But, unfortunately, injury hit. But he’s on the free market, and he’s weighing a lot of different decisions. Yes, I’ve talked to (Eovaldi’s agent) Seth Levinson several times regarding him.”

The elbow injury and subsequent surgery means Eovaldi is not a 2017 option. He won’t help the Yankees or any other team this season. Whoever signs him will do so with an eye on 2018 and possibly beyond. Some quick thoughts on the Eovaldi situation:

1. Of course the Yankees should look to re-sign him. Pitching is a finite resource, there’s only so much of it to go around, and the Yankees are lacking it. Both at the moment (depending on your faith in the kids) and in the future, beyond 2017, after CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda and possibly Masahiro Tanaka become free agents. Eovaldi is essentially a lottery ticket for the future. Buy him now and hope he pays off down the line. As long as the Yankees don’t count on him for anything — “We don’t have to worry about a fifth starter for 2018 because Eovaldi will be back.” — it’s an obvious move.

2. The Yankees have done stuff like this before. Over the years the Yankees have signed plenty of injured pitchers with the idea of having them contribute a year or two down the line. Jon Lieber is the most notable example. He had Tommy John surgery in August 2002, the Yankees signed him to a two-year deal in February 2003, rehabbed him that year, then got a solid 2014 season out of him. Worked out perfectly.

Of course, most other times it didn’t work. Octavio Dotel didn’t pan out. Neither did David Aardsma nor Andrew Bailey. Not Matt Daley either. Tommy John surgery is a significant risk. I know the procedure itself is relatively routine, but the rehab isn’t. Sometimes guys take a while to get back to full strength, which was the case with Dotel. Sometimes they never get back to normal. That’s what happened with Aardsma. The risk will inevitably be reflected in Eovaldi’s contract.

3. Contract precedents exist. In each of the previous two offseasons, the Royals signed a pitcher who was rehabbing from a major arm surgery, so they’re Eovaldi’s contract benchmarks. The pitchers:

  • Kris Medlen: Signed a two-year deal worth $8.5M with a mutual option for a third year in December 2014. Medlen had his second career Tommy John surgery in March 2014 and returned to the mound in July 2015.
  • Mike Minor: Signed a two-year deal worth $7.25M with a mutual option for a third year in February 2016. Minor had shoulder surgery in May 2015 and made eight rehab starts in 2016 before being shut down.

Both contracts were backloaded — Medlen made $2M in year one and $5.5M in year two, Minor made $2M in year one and $4M in year two (the rest of the guaranteed money was tied up in the option buyouts) — which makes sense, because those two were rehabbing most of year one. An Eovaldi deal figures to be structured in the same way.

Of course, neither the Medlen nor the Minor contracts have worked out as hoped. Medlen had a 5.12 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 82.2 innings in his two years with Kansas City. Minor had a 5.74 ERA (5.52 FIP) in 42.1 minor league innings last year, and now we’ll see what he does this coming season. That isn’t to say they were bad signings by the Royals. They rolled the dice and weren’t rewarded. Medlen and Minor are just a reminder of the risk involved.

Cashman indicated other teams are in the mix for Eovaldi — the Rays were connected to him at one point earlier this offseason — which kinda stinks, because he might chase after every last dollar. When you’re only 26 and your elbow has already blown out twice, and your career earnings are under $10M, maxing out your next contract might not be a bad idea. The Yankees know Eovaldi and are apparently comfortable bringing him back. Hopefully that feeling is mutual and they work something out.

Yankees release Eovaldi, Mantiply, and Rumbelow

Eovaldi. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Eovaldi. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Earlier today the Yankees unconditionally released righties Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Rumbelow, as well as lefty Joe Mantiply, the team announced. All three were designated for assignment ten days ago, on the deadline for teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. They were cut to clear 40-man roster space for others.

Today was the deadline for the Yankees to do something with these three. When a player is designated for assignment, the team has ten days to trade, release, or waive him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Yankees end up re-signing all three to minor league contracts, especially Mantiply and Rumbelow. They might already have an agreement in place.

Eovaldi’s situation is a little different because of his injury. He’s going to miss the entire 2017 season following his second Tommy John surgery, so there’s no rush to get him locked up right now. Eovaldi could look for a two-year deal a la Kris Medlen and Mike Minor in recent years, though Greg Holland remained unsigned all season under similar circumstances.

Mantiply, who was claimed off waivers from the Tigers earlier this offseason, figured to be a shuttle reliever going forward. Ditto Rumbelow, who is rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery and is due back at midseason.

Yankees add six to 40-man roster, trade Pazos to Mariners among bevy of roster moves

Mateo. (Presswire)
Mateo. (Presswire)

Friday was the deadline for teams to add eligible players to the 40-man roster, and given their deep farm system, the Yankees had to make a bevy of roster moves prior to the 8pm ET deadline. Here’s a recap of all the moves, which involve 13 players:

Phew. Got all that? Andujar, Enns, Gallegos, Herrera, Mateo, and Ramirez were all Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. Now they’re not. Welcome to the 40-man roster, fellas. Andujar and Mateo were the only absolute locks to be added to the 40-man. The other four guys — as well as many others — were borderline.

The Yankees had one open 40-man spot thanks to yesterday’s Brian McCann trade. They cleared the other five spots by releasing Ackley, trading Pazos, and designating Eovaldi, Mantiply, and Rumbelow for assignment. Rumbelow, like Pinder, is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He’ll probably clear waivers, also like Pinder.

Ackley and Eovaldi both ended the season hurt and were expected to be non-tendered. There’s no sense in waiting until the December 2nd deadline though. They need the 40-man space. The Yankees get the roster spots and Ackley and Eovaldi get a little extra time to find new teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees try to re-sign Eovaldi to a two-year deal. We’ll see.

The 21-year-old Littell is the new addition to the organization. He was an 11th round pick in the 2013 draft out of a North Carolina high school, and this past season he had a 2.60 ERA (3.07 FIP) with 24.0% strikeouts and 5.0% walks in 173 innings split between Low-A and High-A. That’s a ton of innings for Single-A. Geez. That’s some 1980s pitcher development stuff right there.

Chris Crawford says Littell has “shown two plus pitches and throws three pitches for strikes,” which is a pretty nice starting point. MLB.com ranked Littell as the 14th best prospect in Seattle’s system before the trade. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:

Littell’s heater is his best offering, registering in the low 90s and topping out at 94 with late life. He fearlessly attacks hitters with the pitch, commanding it to both sides of the plate while working down in the zone so as to generate ground-ball outs. His curveball is his primary secondary offering and makes him particularly tough on same-side hitters, but he’ll need to refine his changeup in order to neutralize lefties at higher levels … he receives rave reviews for his makeup, both on and off the mound.

I gotta say, Littell seems like a really excellent return for Pazos, who is a hard-throwing but erratic left-handed reliever. Littell’s not a future ace, but he has starter stuff and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll pitch in Double-A at some point next season. And he’s not Rule 5 Draft eligible yet. Nice little pickup by the Yankees.

Mateo, 21, is one of New York’s top prospects, though he had a disappointing season in 2016. He hit .254/.306/.379 (99 wRC+) with eight homers in 113 games with High-A Tampa, and was suspended two weeks for violating team rules. Still, given his ability, Mateo would have been the very first player taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

The 21-year-old Andujar had a breakout season this year, hitting .270/.327/.407 (108 wRC+) with 12 homers in 137 total games with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. He then played in the Arizona Fall League after the season. Neither Andujar nor Mateo is big league ready, but the Yankees couldn’t risk losing either in the Rule 5 Draft.

Herrera, 21, came over from the Padres in last winter’s Jose Pirela trade. He pitched to a 4.12 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 146.1 innings with mostly Double-A Trenton in 2016. Herrera’s not a top prospect by any means, but apparently the Yankees think he can help them at some point, so on the 40-man roster he goes.

Gallegos, 25, broke out as a full-time reliever this season, putting up a 1.17 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 36.5% strikeouts and 5.7% walks in 84.2 innings at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. Relievers with those numbers are prime Rule 5 Draft fodder. Gallegos was a goner had the Yankees left him exposed. No doubt about it.

The 25-year-old Enns has been off the charts since returning from Tommy John surgery last year. The finesse southpaw has a 1.37 ERA (2.99 FIP) in 197 innings with his new elbow, and he spent much of 2016 in Triple-A. Enns has three pitches and can start. That’s a guy you don’t leave available in the Rule 5 Draft. More than a few teams would be willing to take a look at him in camp.

Ramirez, 22, was a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick from the Diamondbacks last year. The ex-infielder had a 2.82 ERA (3.13 FIP) with 26.8% strikeouts and 6.5% walks in 124.1 innings at Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa this year. Heck of a scouting job by the Yankees. They managed to fine a nice arm in the minor league Rule 5 Draft.

Among the notable players the Yankees are leaving exposed to the Rule 5 Draft are OF Jake Cave, RHP Cale Coshow, RHP Brady Lail, OF Tito Polo, LHP Stephen Tarpley, C Luis Torrens, and LHP Tyler Webb. RHP Domingo Acevedo is not Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. I know I said he was earlier, but I was mistaken. My bad, yo.

Cave was a Rule 5 Draft pick last year, so if he gets popped again and doesn’t stick, he can elect free agency rather than return to the Yankees. Chances are his time with the organization is over, one way or the other. As a lefty who’s had success at Triple-A, Webb is definitely getting picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Torrens is talented, but he’s too young and too far away to stick in MLB in 2017. He’s barely played above rookie ball.

As a reminder, players taken in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s active 25-man roster all season in 2017, or go through waivers and be offered back to their former team. The Rule 5 Draft success rate is pretty low, unsurprisingly. The draft itself is Thursday, December 8th.

Yankees add Kyle Higashioka, Domingo German to 40-man roster

Higashioka. (Times Tribune)
Higashioka. (Times Tribune)

The Yankees made their first roster moves of the offseason earlier today. Both catcher Kyle Higashioka and right-hander Domingo German were added to the 40-man roster, the team announced. Dustin Ackley, Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow were all activated off the 60-day DL as well.

Brian Cashman confirmed Higashioka would be added the 40-man roster a few weeks back. The 26-year-old backstop broke out with a .272/.339/.496 (131 wRC+) batting line with 21 home runs in 110 games between Double-A and Triple-A this past season, plus he’s a strong defender. Higashioka would have become a minor league free agent had the Yankees not added him to the 40-man.

German, 24, came over in the Eovaldi-Martin Prado trade a few years ago. He missed all of last season and the start of this season following Tommy John surgery, and when he returned this year, he had a 3.29 ERA (3.82 FIP) with a 19.6% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate in 54.2 Single-A innings. Like Higashioka, German was eligible for minor league free agency this offseason.

Ackley (shoulder), Eovaldi (elbow), Pinder (elbow), and Rumbelow (elbow) all missed big chunks of the season with their injuries. Green (elbow) got hurt in September. There is no DL in the offseason, so these guys had to be activated. The deadline to do so is Monday, though waiting the few extra days would have made no difference. The Yankees made the moves today and that’s that.

As best I can tell, the Yankees still have one open 40-man roster spot after losing Conor Mullee on waivers yesterday. I’ve kinda lost count after all the team’s recent moves. Mullee, Blake Parker, Anthony Swarzak, Kirby Yates, Donovan Solano, and Eric Young Jr. have all been dropped since the 40-man since the end of the regular season.

The Year Everything Went Wrong for Nathan Eovaldi [2016 Season Review]

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

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A year ago the Yankees started their rebuild with an unusual strategy. With only a few big league ready prospects of their own, the team went out and acquired out-of-favor young players with other organizations. The hope was they could buy low on talented players and unlock their potential. So far it’s worked with Didi Gregorius. He’s been pretty awesome as Derek Jeter‘s replacement.

The Yankees imported Nathan Eovaldi from the Marlins as part of this on-the-fly rebuild, and his first season in pinstripes was eventful. He struggled early in the season, dominated after picking up a splitter with an assist from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, then finished the season on the shelf with elbow inflammation. This season followed a similar script, albeit at the extremes.

The No. 3 Starter

In hindsight, Spring Training should have been a red flag. Eovaldi struck out ten and walked eight in 14.2 Grapefruit League innings during the spring — he had a 20/3 K/BB in 18.2 innings last spring — after missing time with a groin problem. The vast majority of Spring Training stats mean absolutely nothing. This year, Eovaldi’s inability to locate in March was a harbinger of things to come during the regular season.

The Yankees slotted Eovaldi in as their No. 3 starter to start the regular season because that’s the kind of production they hoped to receive. He had a 3.43 ERA (2.86 FIP) in his final 14 starts and 84 innings of the 2015 season, and the new splitter was a tangible reason for the improvement. The Yankees were hoping to get that guy full-time this season. That didn’t happen. Not even close.

Eovaldi allowed five runs in five innings to the Astros in his first start of the season, and also gave up two home runs. That was ominous. Eovaldi allowed ten home runs total last season. Right out of the gate he gave up two this year. Four runs in 6.2 innings against the Blue Jays followed seven days later, including two more home runs. That’s four home runs in his first 11.2 innings of the season. It took Eovaldi 28.2 innings to allow four homers last year.

Following those two tough starts to the season, Eovaldi did settle down and pitch well through the end of May. His best start of the season came on April 25th in Texas, when he allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings. Eovaldi lost the no-hit bid in the seventh inning.

Through ten starts and 60.2 innings, Eovaldi had a 3.71 ERA (3.56 FIP) with very good strikeout (22.9%), walk (6.0%), and ground ball (54.3%) numbers. Bet you don’t remember him being that good! It’s true though. It happened. For the first ten starts of the season Eovaldi was pitching like the No. 3 starter the Yankees hoped he would become.

Now, the bad news: those ten starts included seven home runs, which worked out to a 1.04 HR/9 (13.7 HR/FB%). That’s not Eovaldi. He had a 0.58 ERA (7.8 HR/FB%) last season and a 0.63 HR/9 (6.6 HR/9) the year before. Eovaldi came into the 2016 season with a career 0.63 HR/9 (7.1 HR/FB%) in 614.1 innings. That’s not a small sample. He’d displayed a legitimate skill for suppressing home runs. That skill disappeared in 2016.

The Well-Earned Demotion

Things went south for Eovaldi as soon as the calendar flipped to June. He allowed at least four runs in each of his next six starts, including at least five runs in five of those six starts. His pitching line in those six starts: 30.1 IP, 45 H, 31 R, 31 ER, 12 BB, 19 K, 12 HR. Ouch! That 3.71 ERA (3.56 FIP) on June 1st turned into a 5.54 ERA (5.11 FIP) on July 1st. It went downhill and fast.

At that point the Yankees did the only thing they could do: they moved Eovaldi to the bullpen. It had to be done. He went to the bullpen and Chad Green took his spot in the rotation. Eovaldi made three relief appearances prior to the All-Star break, the best of which came in Cleveland on the final day of the first half. He allowed just one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings in relief of an ineffective Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees insisted they still believed in Eovaldi as a starter, and they put their money were their mouth is in the second half. Green was sent to Triple-A and Eovaldi returned to the rotation after the All-Star break, and the early returns were promising. He allowed ten runs total in 25 innings in his first four starts back. Opponents hit .204/.267/.387 against him. That’ll play. Eovaldi looked good.

An Abrupt End to 2016

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Eovaldi’s first four starts back in the rotation were promising. He was missing bats again, and while the ball was still flying out of the park, Nate was doing enough of everything else to remain effective. It was a difficult season up to that point, and it looked like it might have a happy ending. Alas.

On August 10th at Fenway Park, Eovaldi retired all three batters he faced in the first inning on a ground ball and two fly balls. He did not pitch again the rest of the season. His velocity was down that inning — he averaged 93.7 mph with his fastball, well below his 98.0 mph season average — but otherwise there was no indication Eovaldi was hurt as he walked off the mound. It was a surprise when he wasn’t in the game to start the second inning.

The Yankees initially called the injury right elbow discomfort, and a battery of tests eventually revealed the full extent of the damage: a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Eovaldi told reporters the MRI showed the flexor tendon was torn right off the bone. Ouch. Soon thereafter he had surgery to repair all the damage, which involved his second career Tommy John surgery. Eovaldi is out until 2018.

So, after all of that, Eovaldi finished the regular season with a 4.76 ERA (4.98 FIP) in 124.2 innings spread across 21 starts and three relief appearances. His walk (7.6%) and ground ball (49.6%) rates were fine, though his strikeout rate (18.5%) was a tad low, plus there were all the homers (1.66 HR/9 and 18.7 HR/FB%). Gosh, the homers. So many homers. Twenty-three total. That’s after allowing 24 total from 2014-15.

Another New Pitch

Yet again, Eovaldi adopted a new pitch at midseason and it helped him have some success. Last year the split-finger fastball emerged and allowed Eovaldi to pitch effectively for two months or so. This year Eovaldi added a cutter at midseason, after being demoted to the bullpen. Check it out (via Brooks Baseball):

Nathan Eovaldi cutter

The splitter came out of nowhere last year and the cutter came out of nowhere this year. Did the cutter cause the elbow injury? It’s certainly possible, though I feel like we hear that about with every new pitch. Who knows? Something as severe as a flexor tendon tearing off the bone and a partially torn UCL was probably the result of wear and tear building up over a long period of time, not a guy throwing a handful of new pitches. (Eovaldi threw 148 cutters in 2016. That’s not that many.)

If nothing else, the splitter and cutter tell us Eovaldi is a tinkerer. He’s trying to get better and he takes to instruction. The splitter helped him have success for a while and the cutter kinda did too. Did they contribute to his elbow exploding? Like I said, it’s possible. I just don’t think we can say that with any certainty, especially since Eovaldi already had Tommy John surgery once before. At this point Eovaldi is a fastball/splitter/slider/cutter pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see if he comes back with that repertoire in 2018.

Outlook for 2017

Next season was supposed to be Eovaldi’s contract year. Instead, the injury ensures he will be non-tendered this offseason, when his stock is at an all-time low. MLBTR projects a $7.5M salary in 2017 and there’s just no way you can pay that to a guy who won’t pitch and will become a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Yankees will cut Eovaldi loose at some point. Cruel game, this baseball.

The Yankees have not yet spoken to Eovaldi about their plans going forward, though that’ll happen soon. The club has a history of signing injured pitchers to two-year contracts (Jon Lieber, David Aardsma, Andrew Bailey, etc.) and nursing them back to health in year one with an eye on the reward in year two. Eovaldi seems like a candidate for such a deal. Kris Medlen and Mike Minor recently signed two-year contracts worth $8M or so under similar circumstances, so I guess that’s the starting point.

Either way, Eovaldi will not be a factor for the Yankees next season, even if they re-sign him. He’ll be rehabbing from a very serious injury — the second Tommy John surgery rehab takes much longer than the first — and getting him back at the start of 2018 would be the best case scenario. It might take even longer. That bites. A year ago the splitter had Eovaldi looking like a possible long-term rotation piece. Now his future in MLB is very much up in the air.

MLBTR’s projected 2017 arbitration salaries and the Dellin Betances outlier

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

With the 2016 season now complete, we can begin to look forward to the offseason and the 2017 Yankees, and this winter a lot of attention will be paid to arbitration-eligible players. The Yankees have a lot of them. Nine, in fact. Some of them are pretty important parts of the team too.

Yesterday Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors published his annual arbitration salary projections for next season. Swartz’s model is pretty darn accurate and it gets more and more precise with each passing season. The numbers might not be exact, but they’re usually in the ballpark. Here’s what Swartz’s model projects for the Yankees’ nine arbitration-eligible players.

That’s $32.8M worth of arbitration salaries next year, which works out to a $14.6M raise over what those nine players earned this past season. As a reminder, players need three years of service time (3.000) to qualify for arbitration in most cases. Some, like Gregorius and Layne, are arbitration-eligible four times as a Super Two. The Super Two cutout this year is approximately 2.127, according to Steve Adams. That doesn’t really affect the Yankees. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the projected arbitration salaries.

1. The Betances projection seems light. The arbitration process is pretty archaic. Old school stats like ERA and saves — especially saves — matter most. Betances has been a setup man for the majority of his career, so he doesn’t have those big money making saves totals, which is going to hurt his arbitration case. We all know Dellin has been one of the two or three best relievers in baseball since Opening Day 2014 though.

Swartz’s model has trouble with elite players with unprecedented resumes. Tim Lincecum damn near broke the thing when he went into arbitration with two Cy Youngs a few years ago. Betances leads all relievers in innings and strikeouts over the last three seasons by a lot. He struck out 392 batters from 2014-16. Next most by a reliever? Andrew Miller with 326. Yeah. Look at the five highest strikeout totals by a reliever the last three years:

  1. 2014 Betances: 135
  2. 2015 Betances: 131
  3. 2016 Betances: 126
  4. 2016 Miller: 123
  5. 2015 Aroldis Chapman: 115

Yeah. Betances is also a three-time All-Star. Do you know how many other relievers have been to the All-Star Game each of the last three years? None. Not one. Dellin’s the only one. The All-Star Game selections plus the bulk inning and strikeout totals mean Betances is going into arbitration with far more earning potential than most setup men. He could break Swartz’s model, so to speak.

As best I can tell, the record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible reliever is $6.25M by Jonathan Papelbon back in the day. The lack of saves will probably prevent Betances from breaking Papelbon’s record, though I do think he’s going to wind up with a salary closer to Papelbon’s than the projected salary above. Dellin isn’t a normal reliever and projecting his arbitration salary with a one size fits all model probably won’t work.

2. Eovaldi and Ackley are goners. Swartz’s model projects no raise for Ackley. He made $3.2M this year and the model has him making $3.2M next year. That’s what happens when you barely play and barely hit before suffering a season-ending injury. Given the salary and the lack of production, Ackley is a prime non-tender candidate this offseason. The Yankees might release him after the World Series to clear 40-man roster space rather than wait until the December 2nd tender deadline.

As for Eovaldi, the model projects a $1.9M raise, though that’s pretty irrelevant. He recently underwent major elbow surgery, including his second Tommy John surgery, so he’s going to miss the entire 2017 season. There’s no sense in paying Eovaldi that much money to not pitch next season, especially when he’ll be a free agent next winter. The business side of baseball can be cruel. Eovaldi is hurt and soon he’s going to be unemployed too. The Yankees will non-tender him. Brian Cashman all but confirmed it.

A non-tender wouldn’t necessarily mean Eovaldi’s career in pinstripes is over. The Yankees could re-sign him to a smaller contract with an eye on 2018. They’ve done that before, sign injured pitchers to a two-year deal and rehab them in year one. Think Jon Lieber and Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma. The second Tommy John surgery is much riskier than the first, but with pitching so in demand, it’s probably worth exploring a two-year deal with Eovaldi. Just not at the projected salary.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

3. Extension time for Gregorius? Gregorius made $2.425M this past season and projects to make $5.1M next season, which is a $2.675M raise. His salary projects to more than double. Didi will be in his second of four arbitration years as a Super Two next year, so if we apply similar raises going forward, we get $7.775M in 2017 and $10.45M in 2018. That’s a real quick and dirty way of estimating his earning potential the next three years.

That rough estimate puts Gregorius at $23.325M from 2016-18 before he hits free agency. Is it worth it to explore a long-term extension this offseason? It is if you think his power breakout this past season was real, and there are reasons to believe it is. Gregorius is only 26, remember. He’s entering what should be the best years of his career. A four-year deal that guarantees him $35M or so seems worthwhile for the Yankees. We’re talking about a prime age player at a premium position.

At the same time, the Yankees have a ton of shortstops in the minors, namely Tyler Wade in Double-A plus both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo in High-A. I wouldn’t worry about that though. Gregorius is a talented young player at a hard to fill position and those guys are worth locking up. If there’s a logjam at shortstop when Wade and Torres and Mateo and whoever are ready, great! That’s a good problem.

4. Big Mike‘s big salary. Being a starting pitcher is pretty good when arbitration time arrives. Even mediocre starters like Pineda get hefty raises. He made $4.3M this past season and projects for $7.8M next year, so we’re talking about a $3.5M raise. That’s despite a 6-12 record and a 4.82 ERA (90 ERA+) in 175.2 innings. That stuff matters in arbitration.

Pineda’s raise has more to do with his 207 strikeouts and AL leading 10.6 K/9. And really, $7.8M is still below market value for a pitcher of Pineda’s caliber. Guys like him will run you $10M to $12M or so in free agency. Probably more these days. It would be worth asking Pineda and his representatives what it would take to get an extension done this offseason, simply because the upcoming free agent pitching classes are so weak.

5. The remain projections are fair. The projections for Warren ($2.3M), Hicks ($1.4M), Layne ($1.2M), and Romine ($900,000) seem just about right. Not high enough to consider a non-tender and not low enough to see it as a bargain. That could change in a year, but right now, they’re fair. Weirdly enough, it wouldn’t surprise me if all four of those guys are on the 2017 Opening Day roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if all four are jettisoned in the offseason. I feel like we’re in for some surprises this winter.

Brian Cashman’s End-of-Season Press Conference Recap: Offense, Pitching, Youth Movement, More

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

With the 2016 season now over, Brian Cashman held his annual State of the Yankees press conference at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon. Some actual news came out of it, though nothing major. You can watch the entire press conference in bits and pieces right here, if you’re interested. As we did with Joe Girardi’s end-of-season press conference the other day, here are the important points from Cashman’s presser as well as some thoughts.

The Offense

  • On the 2016 offense: “We weren’t very consistent with runs scored and (the offense was not) as dynamic as it was the previous year … I think a lot of the opportunities for better run production is going to come from improved results with runners in scoring position.”
  • On improvement going forward: “It’s going to be coming from improved play from the younger guys coming up through the system … Hopefully they solidify things moving forward and provide more consistent production than what we got in 2016. So lots of competitions taking place. Right field and first base.”
  • On considering right field and first base settled for 2017: “I think there will be some hesitancy (to bring in outside help) … I would say that that would be the way that we would like to approach Spring Training next year. The kids get a shot at it. That doesn’t (stop me from) being open-minded to the opportunities that present themselves.”
  • On signing a big bat: “I can’t really speak to the free agent market because some of these guys are still playing … My initial thought would be to allow us to go into the spring with competitions coming from the youth movement, which I admit is risky … I’m willing to be flexible, and those dialogues will be very important.”

Cashman is very candid and at one point he said flatly “our offense was bad.” No sugarcoating it. Now, that said, it doesn’t sound as though the Yankees are planning to jump into anything big in an effort to score more runs going forward. Plan A is to stick with the kids and hope guys like Aaron Judge and Greg Bird and others contribute more next season than they did this season. That seems to be their perfect world scenario.

Will the Yankees close the door on signing a big name free agent? Never. It just doesn’t seem like there’s anything that makes sense right now. They could spend a ton of money on a DH like Edwin Encarnacion, and where does that get them? Back to where they were with Alex Rodriguez four years ago, basically. Something might fall into their lap that makes sense, but based on everything Cashman said, if the offense improves next year, it’ll be because the young players come into their own.

The Pitching Staff

  • On trading for an ace (coughChrisSalecough): “I think that type of deal is a deal where you’re that final piece away. I think we have an exciting young nucleus that’s coming … But there are some flaws, honestly, in this roster still. That doesn’t mean you can’t compete for a postseason berth. That doesn’t mean you can’t play in October. But the type of concept that you’re speaking of — I’m sure that everybody knows who you’re talking about by asking that question — but that to me (is a trade you make if) you’re an organization that’s one piece away, you back up the truck (and trade) four and five players. You have to be one piece away, and I would not recommend that type of decision as we approach the 2017 season. I think that would be dangerous.”
  • On adding an elite reliever: “My job is to get as much as we can find. In the front end of the season last year 7-8-9 was special … So my job is just to find as much quality arms, whether they’re fireballers or sidewinders or soft-tossers. The only important thing is getting outs and we had trouble getting outs in the middle (innings) there and that’s unacceptable. Continue to try to fortify. The more the merrier.”
  • On non-tendering Nathan Eovaldi: “We’ll just wait for that process play out. Clearly this is a Tommy John situation, and I know it’s obvious (he’s going to be non-tendered), but I’d rather not speak to any of it until the process plays out.”
  • On pitching help from within: “We’re still young but we have other guys pushing their way into the mix, and we’ll see what they look like in Spring Training.”

As with the offense, Cashman doesn’t sound eager to spend huge dollars — there’s no one to spend it on anyway this offseason — or gut his prized farm system to add an impact pitcher. I’d argue Sale is a piece you go get no matter what because he’s so good, so young, and so cheap that he makes any team better. He could help get the Yankees over the hump and into the postseason next year, and still be ace caliber when the kids hit their primes.

Cashman mentioned the Justin Wilson trade as “Exhibit A” of how they’ll likely attack the rotation this offseason, meaning trade for youth and depth so they have as many options as possible. Given how hard it is to acquire even decent pitching this year — a team traded two real live prospects for two months of Ivan Nova, remember — acquiring as much cheap depth as possible seems like a smart move. I liked what I saw out of Chad Green and especially Luis Cessa this year. Another one of those deals would be sweet.

The Catching Situation

  • On Gary Sanchez‘s role in 2017: “Gary Sanchez is our starting catcher next year. That’s his position to lose. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose it. We saw Severino last year helping us get to the postseason. This year, he struggled. We’re very excited about Gary, who always projected to be (a middle of the order bat).”
  • On expectations for Sanchez after his huge season: “It’s hard to expect that and I wouldn’t expect that over the course of a six-month period next year. But I think we have an exciting everyday talent that is going to be one of the best catchers in our game as we move forward, if he stays healthy and stays committed as he’s done the last two seasons now.”
  • On Brian McCann‘s role going forward: “That’s a valuable combination — both (Sanchez and McCann) on the same roster — for us, both being excellent defenders and certainly strong leaders of staff … I didn’t waste my time to see if he would waive his no-trade (at the deadline) because I’ve got to be satisfied first.”
  • On Kyle Higashioka: “We have some young guys that kind of did a nice job for us this year. (Higashioka) has always been a tremendous defender and he’ll be added to our 40-man roster this winter … We’ve been very good here in the last five or so years at developing (young catchers).”

Cashman did not sound eager to move McCann, though I guess he would try to give off that impression even if he were ready to move him. There’s no sense in tipping your hand. He did talk about the value of McCann’s veteran leadership, how nice it is to have a power-hitting lefty/righty tandem behind the plate, and how there are DH at-bats available. Cashman said he’ll listen on McCann, but he values him highly, and he wants something significant in return.

As for Higashioka, adding him to the 40-man roster is a no-brainer. You don’t cut loose a good defensive catcher who hit 20 homers at the upper levels of the minors. At worst, you add him to the 40-man and trade him. Letting him go for nothing is a non-option. I don’t think Higashioka joining the 40-man means McCann or Austin Romine will be traded though. The Yankees could easily send Higashioka to Triple-A and stash him there next season. They don’t have to make a move.

The Coaching Staff & Front Office

  • On the job Joe Girardi did in 2017: “We the front office did what we felt was necessary (at the trade deadline), and his job description is do everything in his power to win with whenever you get … I appreciate his efforts and everything he did from start to finish.”
  • On Girardi favoring veterans over young players: “I don’t think that’s the case at all … I think it has more to do with just assessing the talent. Sometimes it plays into the decision and sometimes it doesn’t. I was really satisfied with the team’s competitive spirit from start to finish.”
  • On Girardi as a lame duck manager next year: “We will go through next year and ownership will decide what they want to do as we move forward. There is that built in assumption in the process, where we play our contracts out. My contract expires the next year too … We’re going to focus on the present, which is the cast of characters currently, and how we can maximize value out of all of this right now.”
  • On bringing the coaching staff back: “Everybody is signed except for Larry Rothchild. His contract expires and I will meet with Larry today … I don’t have interest in recommending changes.”

I both am and am not surprised the Yankees are not making any coaching changes. I didn’t think they’ve overhaul the staff, but when you miss the postseason three times in four years, someone usually takes the fall. That’s why hitting coach Kevin Long was let go two years ago. Cashman wants to bring everyone back though — I’m not thrilled with keeping Joe Espada as third base coach, but it is what it is — and I’m sure they’ll get a deal worked out with Rothschild soon.

As for Girardi, Cashman made it clear that he was speaking about both Girardi and himself when he said “ownership will decide what they want to do as we move forward.” In the past, both have played out their contracts and gone a year as a lame duck. Once their deals expired, they went to the negotiating table. There were no extensions and there was no reason to think this year would be any different. Business as usual.

Things could get interesting if the Yankees miss the postseason against next year. That’ll be four October-less years in five seasons. Girardi and/or Cashman might not survive that. Then again, I guess it depends how they miss the postseason. Did they crash and burn because all the kids flopped? Or did the fall a handful of games short while the young players established themselves as bonafide big leaguers? That’ll play a factor in Girardi’s and Cashman’s next contracts.

The Rebuild & Youth Movement

  • On the fan response to selling: “We have a worldwide network (of fans) that we’re proud to have … They’re very sophisticated. This was something that we think is something that they wanted to transpire, and they wanted us to press the reset button. And you know, in many cases I was tired of seeing what was transpiring in the first few months this year. Been there, done that, it’s time to do something that wasn’t part of the DNA … I think our fanbase recognizes what we did in July, and responded in kind with a lot of excitement.”
  • On Luis Severino‘s future: “(His performance in) the bullpen is not changing anything for me. That’s where guys go when they can’t be quality starters. I certainly hope that he can be a starter as we move forward. Certainly you’ve got to factor in and keep in mind his age. I think he’s 22, 23. But at the end of the day I have to have patience. I have to be objective that way. There’s a starter profile on him … He will get that opportunity (to start), whether it’s New York or it’s in Scranton next year remains to be seen.”
  • Can Clint Frazier make the Opening Day roster? “I don’t think so … But I remember when Robbie (Cano) — I know he was coming out of our system, the number one pitching prospect at that time was (Chien-Ming) Wang — we anticipated that at Double-A he would be being ready in two years, (but he arrived a) full year in advance after a good winter ball. (Alfonso) Soriano was the same way. It was just like, ‘how we get this guy on the roster?’ When you take the full package, once it all comes together — Gary Sanchez, I guess, is a more recent example too — it’s just like a flood.”
  • On Jorge Mateo playing center field: “We’re trying to diversify. We’ve got a lot of shortstops … It’s just to give us more flexibility. He’s played shortstop, second base, DH, and center in Instructs. We just gave him a crash course. It’s something that’s been part of the evaluation process from the beginning.”

No surprise Cashman isn’t giving up on Severino as a starter. That would be silly. He has the stuff to start, at least when he has a feel for and confidence in his changeup, and he’s so young that you give him a chance to figure things out in that role. I think at worst, Severino showed he can be a really great reliever. He still offers upside as a starter and the Yankees should without question allow him to continue developing in that role.

I thought the Cano and Soriano comparions for Frazier were interesting. They were all highly regarded prospects with high-end skills, and Cano and Soriano forced the issue. They were too good to keep down in the minors any longer. Frazier has the potential to do the same this year. The big difference here is position. The Yankees needed a new second baseman when Soriano and later Cano came up. They’re not desperate for outfielders right now. Still, once Frazier is ready, you make room for him. He’s a special talent.

Injured Players

  • On James Kaprielian and the Arizona Fall League: “(Instructional League is the) process to finish him off so he goes to the Fall League. That’s the plan. So the public has been alerted … He’s not on the official roster. The roster on the website is not the official roster. I know Twitter will look at it like ‘OMG what’s going on here?’ … He’s healthy and he’s throwing max potential.”
  • On CC Sabathia‘s knee: “I think CC is going to have a knee (procedure). He’s going next week … It’s just going to be a routine cleanup. It’s not something that is a concern or considered serious. It’s something that is expected and was expected the last two months.”

My audio was all garbled and I couldn’t get a clean transcription, but Cashman said that while Kaprielian is not on the AzFL roster, the league is aware the Yankees plan to send him as long as he comes through Instructs in one piece. He pitched in a game the other day and by all accounts everything went well. And yes, Cashman actually said OMG. Oh em gee.

Miscellany

  • On the disappointment of 2016: “It was a series of twists and turns of this year. We obviously had high hopes … It was a mixed bag. It was a very frustrating and difficult process in the first three months of the season, and I think it was a very exciting dynamic that transpired in the final three months this season. Ultimately, we know when the dust settled, when it’s all said and done, the 2016 season did not achieve the stated goal, which was the first get to the playoffs and try to compete for a championship in October. “
  • On the luxury tax: “Haven’t had any open discussions since no one has any idea what the CBA is going to be like … We’ll certainly be very interested in ‘resetting the clock’ and not being in position to lose more money than any other clubs because we’re penalized more than ever.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka and the World Baseball Classic: “I don’t think we have say in that … Even though he felt healthy and looked fine and all that stuff, we made the right choice in saying you know what, see you in the spring, whether it’s going to be in Tampa or in the WBC.”
  • On trying to win in 2017: “Every decision we have to make — whether it’s deciding support staff, coaches, the manager, anybody in the front office, and most importantly the players — every decision is designed to get us closer to being the last team standing, and that’s the approach that’s got to take place. And that can happen in 2017. That’s the goal, but every decision (has be made with a) World Championship in mind.”

If I recall correctly, teams can hold players out of the WBC if he finished the previous season injured. Did Tanaka finish the season hurt? Technically, yeah. He missed his last two starts with a forearm injury. But he was never placed on the DL though, and both the GM and manager admitted he would have made his final start had the team not already been eliminated. We’ll see. If Tanaka wants to go and the Yankees can’t stop him, what can you do other than help he doesn’t get hurt?

The luxury tax stuff is just the worst. Hate hearing about it. Every time we do it’s a remainder the Yankees are willfully throwing away their market advantage and scaling back payroll at a time every other team is raising payroll. The Yankees seem to have convinced a lot of fans that resetting the tax rate is good and necessary. Is the luxury tax saved enough to make up for the lost postseason and ticket revenue? I hope so. Otherwise this will all have been a giant waste of time.