Let’s try to find a bad contract-for-bad contract trade for Jacoby Ellsbury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jacoby Ellsbury is a problem. Following last night’s 1-for-3 game, he is hitting .263/.321/.383 (95 wRC+) with 4.8 WAR in two years and 13 games as a Yankee. He’s now 32 years old, his defense is kinda sorta slipping, and he is still under contract for another four years and 149 games. Ellsbury is talented and he could certainly turn things around, but yeah. Outlook not so good.

Trading Ellsbury is far-fetched. He’s owed roughly $110M through 2020, and very few teams can and will be open to taking on that much money. Did you see how long it took good outfielders like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes to sign this past offseason? Ellsbury’s value is down well below those two. And oh by the way he has a full no-trade clause, so he can shoot down any deal. Not great, Bob.

Unless the Yankees eat a ton of money, which just isn’t happening, any Ellsbury trade would have to be a bad contract-for-bad contract trade. Those trades are surprisingly rare — straight salary dumps are much more common — but they do happen from time to time. At Ellsbury’s pay grade though? Forget it. It’s never happened at that salary. Moving Ellsbury in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal would be unprecedented. Not impossible, just unprecedented.

The number of teams with a similar bad contracts to trade are limited — there are lots of bad contracts out there, but few have over $100M remaining — and even fewer need a player like Ellsbury. Finding a match is tough. Here are four possible fits — I guess it’s five, but there’s no sense in listing the Red Sox and some ridiculous Pablo Sandoval scenario — for a bad contract-for-bad contract trade that sends Ellsbury elsewhere. The teams are listed alphabetically.

The Team: Los Angeles Angels
The Player: Albert Pujols
The Remaining Money: $165M through 2021

Does It Make Sense For The Angels? Oh yes. The Halos would shed more than $50M in future salary obligation and get a more dynamic two-way player. They could stick C.J. Cron at first base full-time, put Ellsbury in the leadoff spot and in either center or left field (Mike Trout has played a ton of left field), and then find a cheap DH. Angels GM Billy Eppler may have some lingering affinity for Ellsbury dating back to his time as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Nope. Even if the two teams finagle the money so the Yankees don’t take on any additional cash, New York would be acquiring the older and much more one-dimensional player. The last thing they need is another lumbering DH type on the wrong side of 35. Sure, they could stick Pujols at first base and let Mark Teixeira leave next offseason, then put Pujols at DH and Greg Bird at first when Alex Rodriguez retires the offseason after that, but yuck. This one doesn’t work for the Yankees at all. That Pujols contract is the worst contract in baseball.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The Team: San Diego Padres
The Players: Matt Kemp and James Shields
The Remaining Money: $117.75M through 2018 plus another $20.25M in 2019

Does It Make Sense For The Padres? It might! They’re currently rebuilding and looking to both shed money and add prospects. Ellsbury for the Kemp/Shields duo wouldn’t net them any prospects, but it would wipe almost $30M off the books, reduce their annual payroll through 2018, and also land them an upgrade in the outfield. Kemp has a degenerative condition in his hips and is a year or two away from being a first baseman or DH, and DHs do not exist in the NL. Ellsbury gives them the kind of speedy contact hitter who would ostensibly thrive in spacious Petco Park.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Again: it might! Shields’ contract complicates things because he can opt-out after the season. If Shields opts out, the the Padres would actually end up taking on money in this trade because he would be walking away from $44M. I suppose the two sides could work out a conditional trade — if Shields opts out, the Yankees send a prospect or two over, or kick in more money — but when things start getting that complicated, bet against it happening.

If nothing else, Shields would give the Yankees an innings guy even though he’s dangerously close to a Sabathia-esque decline. Kemp would fit in decently. They could put him in left this year to replace Ellsbury, then put him and Aaron Judge in the corners next season since Carlos Beltran will be gone, and then put him at DH once A-Rod retires. Kemp would also add another righty bat. Would the Yankees take on money to move Ellsbury and take two declining players in return though? Seems unlikely.

Kemp alone would not work — the Padres owe him only $73M through 2019, so significantly less than the Yankees owe Ellsbury — so Kemp plus Shields it is. The Yankees would be taking on more money in the short-term, screwing up their plan to get under the luxury tax threshold, but the contracts would be off the books a year sooner. That’s not something that should be glossed over. They’d get out of the bad deal(s) sooner.

The Team: Seattle Mariners
The Player: Robinson Cano
The Remaining Money: $192M through 2023

Does It Make Sense For The Mariners? Yes if the only goal is shedding approximately $80M and three years worth of contract. No if the goal is improving the roster. Cano is a better player than Ellsbury, there’s no doubt about that, and the difference in the contract commitments is massive. Seattle doesn’t have a ready made second base replacement and they don’t really need another outfielder, so Ellsbury doesn’t fit their roster, at least not in the super short-term. Their motivation for a Cano-for-Ellsbury deal would be dumping all that money.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? No for a few reasons. One, that’s way too much money to take on. The Yankees had a chance to re-sign Cano and balked at that price. I personally would rather have Cano for ten years and $240M than Ellsbury for seven years and $153M, but that’s just me. Obviously the Yankees feel differently, otherwise Robbie would still be wearing pinstripes.

Two, the Yankees now have Starlin Castro at second base, so they don’t really need Cano. An Ellsbury plus Castro for Cano deal would be fun in an lolwtf way — it would also even out the money slightly — but c’mon. The Yankees aren’t going to add Castro to the trade and still take on $40M or so just to get rid of Ellsbury. Not happening.

In a vacuum where positions and things like that don’t matter, I’d trade Ellsbury for Cano in an instant. This ain’t no vacuum though. That stuff matters and neither player fits the roster of their would-be new team. Ellsbury for Cano seems like the kind of trade none of us would even consider had Cano not been a Yankee once upon a time.

The Team: Texas Rangers
The Player: Shin-Soo Choo
The Remaining Money: $102M through 2020

Does It Make Sense For The Rangers? Finally, a trade that seems remotely plausible. Ellsbury and Choo both signed seven-year contracts two offseasons go, and while Ellsbury received an additional $23M in guaranteed money, Choo’s deal was back-loaded, so the two are owed similar dollars from 2016-20. Bridging the gap between the $102M left on Choo’s deal and the $110M left on Ellsbury’s doesn’t seem like it would be a huge issue, right?

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Rangers GM Jon Daniels has reportedly coveted Ellsbury for years, so I’m sure there’s still some level of interest there. The problem? The Rangers have a good young center fielder and leadoff hitter in Delino DeShields Jr., who is making close to the league minimum. Texas also has a top flight center field prospect in Lewis Brinson at Triple-A. They have options at that position, so it’s not a pressing need.

Either way, the Rangers will have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year through 2020 on their roster. The question is whether they prefer Choo or Ellsbury, who are very different players. Ellsbury is the two-way threat and Choo is the bat first guy. They both have their pluses and minuses. This would almost be like a change of scenery trade.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? I think so, even if the money is evened out. The Yankees need Choo’s offense — he’s hit .259/.360/.419 (114 wRC+) with the Rangers, including .276/.375/.463 (127 wRC+) in 2015 — more than they need Ellsbury’s two-way skill set. Choo slots in perfectly in left field in the short-term, then at DH in the long-term once A-Rod is gone. As with the Rangers, the Yankees are going to have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year on their roster no matter what. Would they prefer that player to be Choo or Ellsbury?

* * *

It goes without saying those four bad contract-for-bad contract trades above are all pretty unrealistic and very unlikely to happen. This just goes to show how tough it would be to move Ellsbury without eating a significant chunk of money. It’s not impossible, crazier things have happened, but his trade value is very low for the time being. And of course there’s the whole no trade clause thing.

My sense is the Yankees really like Ellsbury as a player and wouldn’t look to move him in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal. Their best course of action is to remain patient and hope he shakes off his slow start, and gets back to being the dynamic leadoff hitter he was prior to his knee injury last year. Ellsbury’s contract is really bad, and while trading him seems like a good idea, it’s very possible the best bang for all that buck will come from Ellsbury, not a declining player on another team’s roster.

Yankeemetrics: #RISPFAIL [April 15-17]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

It’s not what you want, Part I
The good news is that the Yankees created a ton of scoring chances on Friday night. The bad news is that they failed miserably in cashing in on those opportunities – and the result was a frustrating 7-1 loss to the Mariners in the series opener.

The Yankees put 13 guys on base overall and just one of them touched home plate – a solo homer by Brett Gardner in the first inning. It marked the first time they left 12-or-more men on base and scored only one run in a game since May 29, 2012 against the Angels.

They had at least one baserunner in seven of the nine innings and multiple guys on in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames. Yet, they couldn’t come up with the Big Hit ® as they went hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Yankee starter that didn’t reach base, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. It was his 15th game in pinstripes with at least five at bats and zero hits, the most such games of any player on the team since his debut in 2014.

It’s not what you want, Part II
Another day, another three-plus hours of futility at the plate for the Yankees, who left a small navy of runners on base and lost 3-2 to the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

They somehow managed to set a new level of offensive ineptitude for 2016, surpassing Friday’s debacle by going hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position again and this time stranding a whopping 14 baserunners.

It’s the first time in more than three decades that the Yankees have lost back-to-back nine-inning games while leaving at least 12 runners on base in each contest. The last time it happened was June 5-6, 1984 against the Red Sox.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last major-league team to go 0-for-12 or worse with RISP in consecutive games was the Orioles in 1993.

CC Sabathia made his 200th start with the Yankees but it was a forgettable one. He was pulled in the fifth inning after allowing three runs on seven hits and with his pitch count at 95. Still, the milestone is a significant one for Sabathia, who also surpassed the 200-start mark with the Indians.

He is just the sixth pitcher in major-league history – and the second lefty – to have at least 200 starts and 1,000 strikeouts with two different franchises. The others in this club are Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson (the lone southpaw), Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan and Jim Bunning.

Carlos Beltran did his best to spark the Yankees offense, driving in two runs while going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer. At the age of 38 and 358 days, he is the oldest player in franchise history to have a four-hit game that included at least three extra-base hits. He surpassed Babe Ruth, who was 38 years and 175 days old when he went 4-of-5 with two doubles and a triple against the Senators in 1933.

Do you believe in miracles?
Yes!

Brett Gardner’s RBI double in the third inning, which scored Jacoby Ellsbury from second base, snapped an ugly 0-for-30 streak with runners in scoring position by the Yankees that dated back to the Blue Jays series (Of course, that was their only hit in 11 at-bats with RISP during the game. But one hit is progress!)

The Yankees also broke their four-game losing streak, avoided the dreaded sweep against the Mariners, and had their best offensive output (four runs) since April 9 in Detroit.

A-Rod also joined the streak-breaking party in the second inning when he smoked the first pitch he saw into the left field stands for career homer No. 689. That ended a 19 at-bat hitless streak, which was two shy of the longest in his career (2002 and 2007). He entered the game with a .100 batting average this year, his worst mark through eight games played in any season during his career.

The Yankees got seven strong innings from Masahiro Tanaka, who is now 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts against Seattle. He kept the Mariners lineup off-balance all afternoon with his nasty splitter, which netted him five of his six strikeouts and 14 swinging strikes, the most he’s ever had in a game with that pitch. Thanks to his sinker-heavy approach, Tanaka generated a ton of soft contact and his 12 ground ball outs also were a career-high.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller sealed the win with another pair of ridiculously dominant performances as they each struck out the side in the eighth and ninth innings on 26 total pitches. The pair has recorded 33 outs this season, and 27 of them have been strikeouts.

Of the last 15 batters that Betances has retired, 14 have been via strike three. He’s now had four outings in a row with at least three strikeouts and no more than 1⅓ innings pitched. Betances is the only pitcher in major-league history to put together a streak like that — and it’s not even the first time he’s done it. He had a similar stretch May 26-June 1 last year.

4/15 to 4/17 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Following that disappointment of a road trip, the Yankees are returning home today for a nine-game homestand. It begins this afternoon with the first of three against the Mariners. Seems like they’re seeing Seattle much earlier than usual, no? I can’t remember the last time the Mariners were in the Bronx in April. (I looked it up. It was 2014, but at the very end of the month.)

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners have lost six of their first nine games this season, and prior to winning their last game, they had lost five straight. They’ve been outscored by six runs in those nine games. Seattle has scored three runs or fewer in six of their nine games. The more things change, eh?

Offense & Defense

Seattle has scored 32 runs in their nine games, and they rank 12th out of the 30 clubs with a perfectly league average 100 wRC+. They’re completely healthy on offense too. No one on the DL and no one even day-to-day at the moment. I’m going to do this thing with the ZiPS projections one last time because the season is still young.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
C Chris Iannetta
5-for-22 (.227), 1 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 7 K .215/.333/.358 (98 wRC+), 9 HR, 1 SB
1B Adam Lind
2-for-21 (.095), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 8 K .253/.326/.392 (99 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB
2B Robinson Cano
7-for-37 (.187), 5 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 7 K .287/.345/.447 (118 wRC+), 19 HR, 5 SB
SS Ketel Marte
5-for-29 (.172), 0 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 7 K .263/.307/.359 (86 wRC+), 5 HR, 22 SB
3B Kyle Seager
5-for-33 (.152), 1 HR, 0 SB, 6 BB, 8 K .257/.326/.438 (112 wRC+), 22 HR, 7 SB
LF Nori Aoki
10-for-36 (.278), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 4 K .269/.328/.352 (93 wRC+), 5 HR, 13 SB
CF Leonys Martin
8-for-27 (.296), 1 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 10 K .249/.299/.372 (86 wRC+), 8 HR, 22 SB
RF Nelson Cruz
8-for-35 (.229), 2 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 4 K .263/.327/.494 (126 wRC+), 31 HR, 4 SB
DH Franklin Gutierrez
3-for-15 (.200), 0 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 6 K .238/.294/.417 (97 wRC+), 11 HR, 2 SB
BENCH
C Steve Clevenger
0-for-7 (.000), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 1 K .248/.300/.335 (77 wRC+), 4 HR, 0 SB
1B Dae-Ho Lee
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K N/A
IF Luis Sardinas
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K .235/.265/.295 (54 wRC+), 2 HR, 12 SB
OF Seth Smith
4-for-15 (.267), 1 HR, 0 SB, 5 BB, 3 K .245/.335/.414 (109 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB

Smith and Gutierrez actually platoon at DH. Why they’re not playing those two in right field and Cruz at DH, I’ll never understand. Seager enjoys hitting in Yankee Stadium. He’s 16-for-57 (.281) with four homers in 14 games in the big ballpark in the Bronx. I thought those numbers would be much better. Seager always seems to rake whenever the Mariners come to town.

Cano is off to a slow start in terms of batting average, but he already has five homers in nine games. Last year he didn’t hit his fifth homer until his 75th game. I’m telling you, Robbie’s going to have a huge year and finish in the top three of the MVP voting. Well, maybe not top three, the voting is weird as hell, but I think he’s going to have a monster bounceback season. He’s looked locked in since the start of camp.

New GM Jerry Dipoto focused on improving his team’s defense over the winter, though they remain a bit questionable overall. Cruz is a disaster in right and Lind/Lee is a DH at first base. The numbers do not love Cano at second, though after watching him all those years in New York, I’d be surprised if he’s suddenly bad there. Here is Sean Dolinar’s neat defensive visualization:

Mariners defense

I’m not sure I buy those numbers on Marte and Cano. Everything else passes the sniff test though. If anything, Seager is being underrated.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (vs. NYY)
The Yankees saw a good bit of Karns last season, when he was with the Rays. Tampa traded the 28-year-old to the Mariners for Brad Miller and Logan Morrison — those two are a combined 4-for-58 (.069) so far this season — in the very first deal of the offseason. Karns had a 3.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 147 innings last season, though only his strikeout rate (23.4%) was above average. His walk (9.0%), grounder (41.8%), and homer (1.16 HR/9) numbers left something to be desired. He did have a negligible platoon split, however. Karns works with a 92-94 mph fastball, and his go-to offspeed offering is a low-80s power curve. He also throws a mid-80s changeup. Karns allowed four runs in five innings against the A’s last week, in his only start of the season to date.

Saturday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY)
Well would you look at that, Felix Hernandez is going to pitch against the Yankees. That guy never seems to miss a series against the Yanks. Felix, 30, actually has his worst season in several years last year, pitching to a 3.53 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 201.2 innings. His peripherals — he had a 23.1 K%, 7.0 BB%, 57.2 GB%, and 1.03 HR/9 — were very good in the grand scheme of things, but they were also his worst rates in years. Hernandez, who managed to lose a one-hitter on Opening Day (lol Mariners, lol), might actually be declining a bit. He’s still great, obviously. But there are some signs of slippage. These days he operates with a sinker right around 90 mph, and an array of secondary stuff that includes an upper-80s changeup, a mid-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. When he’s on, Felix is as good as it gets. I don’t care how many possible signs of decline exist. This dude is tough.

Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Iwakuma seemed like a nice value free agent this past winter, but then the Mariners slapped the qualifying offer on him, and he failed his physical with the Dodgers, so that was that. Seattle took him back on a one-year contract with a pair of vesting options. Iwakuma had a 3.54 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 129.2 innings a year ago, and he did it with excellent walk (4.1%) and grounder (50.4%) rates. His strikeout rate (21.5%) was average, and his homer rate (1.25 HR/9) was very high considering he plays his home games in Safeco Field. Iwakuma has a small platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. He’s made two starts this year, allowing two runs in five innings and three runs in six innings, both against the Rangers.

Bullpen Status

Dipoto remade his bullpen over the winter, most notably trading away closer RHP Carson Smith (to the Red Sox for Wade Miley) and setup man RHP Danny Farquhar (to the Rays in the Karns deal). He filled in the gaps with some free agents and minor trades. Most notably, he dropped two years and $10M on ex-Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who was a reclamation project this offseason. Here are the bullpen.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
RHP Steve Cishek
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K 3.50 ERA (3.14 FIP), 23.8 K%, 8.7 BB%
RHP Joaquin Benoit
2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K 3.28 ERA (3.73 FIP), 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB%
RHP Tony Zych
6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K 3.51 ERA (3.23 FIP), 23.4 K%, 5.4 BB%
RHP Nick Vincent
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 3.22 ERA (3.07 FIP), 26.8 K%, 7.5 BB%
RHP Joel Peralta
4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K 3.82 ERA (3.46 FIP), 24.0 K%, 6.0 BB%
LHP Mike Montgomery
5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K 4.63 ERA (4.43 FIP), 15.9 K%, 8.8 BB%
LHP Vidal Nuno
3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 4.56 ERA (4.42 FIP), 19.2 K%, 5.9 BB%

The Mariners have yet to record a save this season. They’ve blown some saves, but they haven’t gotten a save yet. Cishek is the closer for the time being with Benoit setting him up. Zych is the young hard-throwing stud who everyone expects to be the future closer.

Neither Montgomery nor Nuno are a true left-on-left matchup guy. They’re both former starters who have been used as long men in the early going. Peralta spent all those years with the Rays, though his days of being an effective late-inning reliever are over. He turned 40 in March and gets by on guts and guile these days.

The Mariners had an off-day yesterday because they were traveling east from Seattle, so their bullpen is pretty fresh. Outside of Zych, there’s not much “wow” factor in this bullpen. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. The ‘pen is in good shape heading into the series.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The new season is upon us. Opening Day is Monday, which means it’s time to wrap up our annual Season Preview series. As always, we’ll end the series with a quick look around the league. Some of this is serious, most of it isn’t. Enjoy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Why They’ll Suck: The middle infield is a mess and their corner outfield defense is going to be pretty bad if Yasmany Tomas plays left everyday. Also, they’ll probably trade some good players to unload a bad contract again.
Bold Prediction: Shelby Miller actually pitches well. I have no idea why so many analysts think he’s bad.

Atlanta Braves
Why They’ll Suck: Because they are trying to suck. Rebuilding is just a nice way of saying tanking.
Bold Prediction: Nick Markakis beats his ZiPS projection and slugs .370.

Chicago Cubs
Why They’ll Suck: They’re going to strike out way too much. It’s also only a matter of time until someone gets bit by some wild animal Joe Maddon brings into the clubhouse.
Bold Prediction: Adam Warren is their best starter. Boom!

Chicago White Sox
Why They’ll Suck: They lost their leader, Drake LaRoche.
Bold Prediction: We find out Adam LaRoche was the one who complained about Drake LaRoche being in the clubhouse all the time.

Cincinnati Reds
Why They’ll Suck: Their rotation is Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and John Lamb. No, wait, that’s the list of their injured starters. Now they have to turn to the B-team.
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto finally loses his mind, but in a polite, Canadian way. He’s already doing this between pitches:

Joey Votto

Cleveland Indians
Why They’ll Suck: In all seriousness, their entire starting outfield is either hurt (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall) or suspended (Abe Almonte). They’re a Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco injury away from 85 losses. Beware.
Bold Prediction: Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR.

Colorado Rockies
Why They’ll Suck: The Rockies exist in a perpetual state of suck. Fun Fact: They have never once won a division title. They’ve finished as high as second place only three times in their 23 years of existence.
Bold Prediction: They finally trade Carlos Gonzalez. I’m thinking … Orioles.

Detroit Tigers
Why They’ll Suck: They’ve punted defense at the four corner positions and, inevitably, the relievers they acquired this winter will stink.
Bold Prediction: Justin Verlander bounces back and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Houston Astros
Why They’ll Suck: Karma for doing very little in the offseason outside of adding a new closer and fifth starter. The rebuild is supposed to be over.
Bold Prediction: Carlos Correa is more Alex Gonzalez than Alex Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals
Why They’ll Suck: They replaced Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist with Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon. Like, on purpose.
Bold Prediction: Kennedy wins 18 games and Colon hits .310. Eff the Royals, man.

Los Angeles Angels
Why They’ll Suck: The Angels have surrounded Mike Trout with as little position player talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: Jered Weaver’s fastball hits 84 mph once or twice.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Suck: The Dodgers have surrounded Clayton Kershaw with as little pitching talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: It becomes clear Yasiel Puig peaked early.

Miami Marlins
Why They’ll Suck: The fans and players are doomed to pay for Jeffrey Loria’s evil villian-ness. Fun Fact: They’ve never won a division title either. They’ve also never lost a postseason series.
Bold Prediction: Christian Yelich breaks out and puts up Andrew McCutchen numbers. I’m serious about that one.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why They’ll Suck: They’re another team that is going to suck on purpose. Before long they’re going to trade Jonathan Lucroy too.
Bold Prediction: Ramon Flores hits 15 dingers with a .350 OBP.

Minnesota Twins
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know, but I’m sure Twins fans will blame it on Joe Mauer.
Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano plays right field better than Torii Hunter did last year.

New York Mets
Why They’ll Suck: They’re still the Mets. Case in point: the recent Matt Harvey bladder story. Last year’s pennant didn’t change anything in that regard.
Bold Prediction: They have to trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline.

Oakland Athletics
Why They’ll Suck: No joke, I can name only one A’s starter (Sonny Gray) and one A’s infielder (Marcus Semien). Is Bobby Crosby still playing?
Bold Prediction: Josh Reddick gets traded for a holy crap package at the trade deadline. I’m thinking … Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies
Why They’ll Suck: Still reeling from the 2009 World Series, obviously.
Bold Prediction: Someone not named Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard hits a home run.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why They’ll Suck: The baseball gods will not let John Jaso’s hair go unpunished.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bold Prediction: Mark Melancon is traded at the deadline. I’m thinking … Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals
Why They’ll Suck: The Cardinals will never suck. The only thing they suck at is sucking. Their ace made four starts and their highest paid position player hit four home runs last season, and they still won 100 games. The Cardinals, man.
Bold Prediction: Three years after learning to play second base and one year after learning to hit for power, Matt Carpenter picks up pitching and saves 46 games.

San Diego Padres
Why They’ll Suck: I’m not entirely convinced the Padres exist at this point. Are we sure MLB still lets them into the league? What an amazingly nondescript franchise.
Bold Prediction: Someone throws the first no-hitter in franchise history. I’ll go with Colin Rea, who is a real player and definitely not someone I just made up.

San Francisco Giants
Why They’ll Suck: They buy into the “even year trend” a little too much and give Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner weeks off at a time this summer.
Bold Prediction: Bumgarner out-slugs the starting outfield.

Seattle Mariners
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know how it will happen exactly, but they’ll suck. The Mariners are the Wile E. Coyote of MLB. Every time they looked poised for success, they crash into the mountain with a tunnel painted on the side of it.
Bold Prediction: Bob Cano mashes 30 taters and finishes in the top three of the MVP voting. I’m expecting a big year from Robbie.

Texas Rangers
Why They’ll Suck: They won’t suck. They’ll be just good enough to get thisclose to winning something meaningful before having it ripped away again. Think Game Six of the 2011 World Series, or the seventh inning of Game Five of last year’s ALDS. That’s how the Rangers roll.
Bold Prediction: Josh Hamilton leads the team in home runs.

Washington Nationals
Why They’ll Suck: They’re the NL version of the Red Sox. They have talent and everyone buys the hype. It should work! But it doesn’t.

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.

Sherman: Yankees have discussed Brett Gardner trade with Mariners

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees have had trade talks with the Mariners about outfielder Brett Gardner, reports Joel Sherman. Talks are not all that advanced and no deal is imminent. New Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has reportedly been after Gardner for a while, dating back to his time as interim GM of the Diamondbacks in 2010. Seattle is trying hard to land an athletic center fielder this offseason.

“At the end of the day, I am legitimately really open to any idea,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. “I’ve had a lot of bad ones, either thrown by me or on the receiving end from somebody else to me. But that’s what we’re here for, to throw a lot of (stuff) out there and see what sticks.”

Sherman says — not specifically related to a potential Gardner trade, just in general — the Yankees are seeking high-end starting pitching they can control beyond 2017. (Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi can all become free agents after 2017.) He notes New York ramped up their scouting of Mariners lefty James Paxton at the end of the regular season and in the Arizona Fall League.

Paxton, 27, had a 3.90 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 67 innings for the Mariners this past season while missing roughly three months with a strained tendon in his left middle finger. He was limited to 74 innings last season (3.04 ERA and 3.28 FIP) due to a severe lat strain. Between MLB and the minors, Paxton has thrown only 160.2 innings from 2014-15 due to injuries.

The Yankees owe Gardner $39.5M through 2018 while Paxton is under team control through 2019. In a world where Colby Rasmus is expected to land a three-year deal worth $42M, Gardner at three years and $39.5M is pretty damn reasonable. The Yankees would clear payroll — why are the Yankees worried about clearing payroll? — and add another injury prone starter to the pile with a deal like this, which may or may not be under discussion.

In a vacuum, I think Gardner for Paxton is close to the ballpark but not quite in it. The Mariners would have to sweeten the deal somewhat. Gardner is solidly above-average for his position and Paxton is little more than potential. And no, trading Gardner then signing a free agent like Jason Heyward does not mean the Yankees should settle for less in return for Gardner. His trade value doesn’t change.

Anyway, I’m sure the Yankees have received plenty of calls about Gardner this offseason, and since he’s pretty much the only veteran on the team with actual trade value, expect to continue seeing his name in trade rumors this winter. That they acquired another outfielder this afternoon in Aaron Hicks only adds fuel to the fire.

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.