Two Weeks On The Road

dqkaxavu8aam605

So I have been traveling a lot for work lately and the hot stove really hasn’t been really a priority.  I was in Vegas the week after Thanksgiving when most of the talk around the Yankees was “Who’s the Manager” and “What about Ohtani?”  News was mostly silly chatter about potential candidates and what a failure Brian Cashman was beginning to look like in his “bungling” of the Joe Girardi situation.  It’s kinda funny though what can happen in a week.

Aaron Boone happens around the time I am packing my suitcase to head back from AWS re:Invent (for you nerds, I work for MongoDB and love it, sorry RAB they paid for my trip) and I kind of giggled to myself.  I had been in a cab on the way from McCarran to the Encore the beginning of the week and I was absolutely convinced that this was going to be Carlos Beltran‘s job.  Like many other fans I felt that his connection to the group currently on the field, his skill set as a player and mind for baseball was something that Brian Cashman was looking for.  At this point it was either Hensley Meulens or Beltran in my mind.  But all of a sudden the news of Beltran’s elimination came out, which was not the biggest shock, and the realization that there’s a big chance the needle was starting to move in the Bronx.

The news leaks, and we all find out Aaron Boone is the new Yankees manager.  I get wifi on the flight back to Newark in the morning and follow along until I lose streaming audio (thanks airplane wifi) and just start keeping up on Twitter.  Like most, the Aaron Boone selection was a shock because of the lack of experience.  I started thinking about Joe Girardi a bit and the 2007 Yankees season.

Joe had just come off a Manager of the Year victory over his stupid old boss, Jeff “literal dumb person” Loria and took a job with the YES Network doing color.  Girardi was smart on the microphone and really made me look at what Joe Torre was doing a bit more.  By the end of the 2007 season I was completely convinced that the right manager for the Yankees wasn’t in the dugout, he was in the booth with Kay.

As the year moved on I started thinking about the tech industry and the problem I’ve seen with talent that’s just not properly placed in the organization.  A person who writes code can also be someone who contributes solid ideas and proper organization of an application or product.   It’s sometimes about recognizing the talent you have in your organization, in this case Girardi, and moving them to the right place so that you can succeed.  Torre had proven to be no longer in the favor of the Steinbrenners and the “correction” of talent was made.  YES was only partially owned by the Yankees at the time, but my feeling was that he went with YES for a broadcasting job because he knew he wanted to stay close to the Yankees as the organization began to change.

0506_blog_scar-thumb-547x410-11248911
Boone and his scar.

Now Boone didn’t work for YES, but he did for ESPN and for the last eight years all he did was watch, talk and study baseball for the enjoyment of the fans.  While he was paid well for it, it made me think about how much you as a player have to love baseball after years of playing to stay in the game somehow.  Aaron Boone is a young man, but he’s one who’s seen hardship personally as his health suffered from a heart defect in 2009 while playing for the Astros.  But he came back, and he played just months after the procedure to repair the big heart we all saw on display after his heroic crack of the bat in 2003. That story always stuck with me.  So I felt that Boone was probably the right guy.  He was a baseball lifer who grew up in the game and understood the type of person the Yankees needed for 2018 and beyond.

So the dust settles in Yankees world and most of us wait to see what’s next as the Winter Meetings approach.  I am in San Francisco with my wife at the time working at another conference.  I take small breaks to catch up with news, but honestly I am pretty busy and staying on top of things with the Yankees was a bit difficult.  It can be funny how a storm can hit and change everything so quickly … Ohtani was only the rumbling of what was really behind the clouds.  After he rejected the Yankees, many of us began really paying more attention to those rumors Jon Heyman had been floating about the reigning NL MVP.  Well, that storm was Giancarlo Stanton.

Ben, Mike and myself tend to try to keep up with things so we can keep the Twitter up to date.  Mike of course is doing his job for CBS.  So we’re all online watching what’s cooking until Hank Shulman bombed Baseball Twitter.  I am in SF and finally went bed at like 12AM local when nothing was quite done but I couldn’t stop checking. The morning was wonderful though as Heyman told the world that the Yanks and Marlins had a deal.

I had a flight to catch at 10am as the details started to come together.  I start grabbing my stuff and trying to get ready while furiously reading updates.  We hop on the plane and I get wifi and try to keep up as Brian Cashman basically blows up the whole baseball world before the Winter Meetings can even get started.

In a week we watched Cashman get himself a big raise, a new manager and the biggest fish in the 2017 trade ocean.  He caught himself a friggin Marlin.  In a week we watched the Yankees add a new manager, add a new star and take a ton of attention away from the rest of the 29 teams in the league.

Finally after two weeks, I am back home and I am looking forward to more hot stove news.  Mike will be all over it, so keep reading us on the site or check our twitter.  Thanks again for making RAB part of your Yankees baseball life.

Weekend Open Thread

The Shohei Ohtani saga is already over. After being posted last Friday, Ohtani agreed to sign with the Angels earlier today. GM Billy Eppler, formerly Brian Cashman‘s right-hand man, reeled in the biggest fish of the offseason. If nothing else, adding Ohtani to Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons will make the Angels extremely watchable next season. Anyway, I have some links to check out this weekend:

Friday: Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers and Devils are both playing, plus there’s some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Ohtani signing with the Angels, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics, please.

Saturday: So, that was quite a day, huh? Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. Or will be once the trade is made official. Pretty cool. Anyway, this is the open thread again. All the local hockey and basketball teams are in action, plus there is plenty of college basketball on the schedule as well. You know how these things work now, so have at it.

Sunday: This is the open thread for the final time. The Knicks are playing tonight, plus there’s all the day’s NFL and college basketball action as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Sorting Things Out

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A year and a half or so ago, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran. A year and a half ago, the Yankees were looking at a rebuilding process that, hopefully, wouldn’t be too painful. A year and a half ago, the present reality of the Yankees seemed completely unfeasible. But here we are: after a season of unexpected success from unexpected avenues, the Yankees made their biggest splash in an already splashy year by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro and two prospects.

With Stanton aboard and Castro gone, there’s plenty to sort out, but let’s start with the emotions of this. Hell, yeah, huh? A week ago, it seemed like Stanton would land in San Francisco or St. Louis, but as the week went on, that all went away and we got word he’d listed the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros as his preferred destinations. Even then, I thought that there was little or no shot he’d actually end up on the Yankees. To say this was a pleasant and invigorating surprise would certainly be an understatement. Thanks to my son being sick, I was up for most of the morning hours on Saturday and caught a lot of the development of the trade that way. I woke up with him at around 2 AM and didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep–I didn’t want to miss anything.

This felt like a slower version of what happened when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira out of no where in 2008. Were the Internet the way is now back then, I’m sure the Alex Rodriguez trade would’ve felt the same, too. Regardless of the comparison, the level of shock that this actually happened is sky high. I can’t wait to see what Stanton does in this lineup. Speaking of, things are a bit crowded now, aren’t they?

Even before acquiring Stanton, the Yankees were probably heavy one outfielder. Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and (maybe? Probably?) Clint Frazier were all going to have to figure out how to share time in the field and at DH.  As has been the looming case for a while, it seems that time has run out for one of Ellsbury and Gardner as well; if the Yankees–and, I’m willing to bet, most of us–get their way, Ellsbury will be gone with Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton as the main outfielders and DHs. Perhaps they let Frazier hang on the bench and fill in depending on matchups, as I’ve suggested in the past. Or, they could send him to AAA again and let him get every day at bats there.

Minus Starlin Castro, the Yankees now have a void at second base. Enter Gleyber Torres? Eventually. Unless he has a Spring Training like Aaron Judge did last year, I don’t see him breaking camp with the team. If he doesn’t, though, the Yankees could sign a stop gap for one year, or run a platoon of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes out there, or run a competition between those two during Spring Training. No matter what they do, the Yankees won’t need to get much production out of second, given what the lineup will look like with Stanton included now.

I’m still in shock this trade happened, frankly, but it’s a damn good shock. And even when the shock wears off, the feeling will be great, grand, wonderful. In a cliche of cliches, the Yankees have certainly given their fans an early holiday gift; given the surprise of this one, I can’t help but wonder if more is in store.

Now that Shohei Ohtani is no longer an option, the Yankees are circling back to CC Sabathia

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees found out they will not land Japanese ace-slash-slugger Shohei Ohtani last weekend. He prefers the West Coast, and informed the Yankees he will not sign with them. Bummer. Ohtani is a lot of fun. He also has a chance to be insanely good. He’d have fit into the youth movement nicely. Alas.

With Ohtani out of the picture, the Yankees have circled back and reached out to CC Sabathia‘s people about a reunion, reports Jon Heyman. I thought the Yankees would’ve been smart to bring Sabathia back even if they had landed Ohtani, but without him, getting another starter is a must, and Sabathia is an obvious target.

“We know CC and he’s a tremendous asset for us,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “We know everything about him, what a competitor he is and that he can perform on the biggest stage. Does that guarantee that everything is going well in this process? No. Nothing is guaranteed.”

Typical Cashman, downplaying the odds. Sabathia has been very open about wanting to stay with the Yankees — “This is my home. I want to see this thing through. I want to come back here and finish things off. This is where I want to be,” he said after ALCS Game Seven — and I have no reason to doubt him. A few things about this.

1. Sabathia is still effective, which is pretty important. It’s kinda hard to believe we’re talking about re-signing Sabathia for 2018 given how poorly he pitched from 2013-15. He had a 4.81 ERA (4.40 FIP) in 424.1 innings those years, and has a 3.81 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 328.1 innings in two years since. Pretty amazing late career turnaround.

That turnaround has been fueled by Sabathia’s relatively new cutter, which has turned him into one of the best soft contact pitchers in baseball. Soft contact can turn into hard contact real quick as a pitcher ages, that’s the risk here, but Sabathia has succeeded with this new approach for two years now. It’s not a fluke. No, he doesn’t pitch deep into games anymore, but there’s something to be said for his knowing you’ll get five good innings each time out.

2. The price may be too good to pass up. Sabathia turned 37 in July, and over the last five years only two starting pitchers age 37 or older signed a multi-year contract: John Lackey and Bartolo Colon. The Cubs gave Lackey two years and $32M two offseasons ago, and the Mets gave Colon two years and $20M four years ago. Both of them were coming off much better years than Sabathia, however.

Contract Year IP ERA ERA+ FIP fWAR bWAR
Colon 2013 OAK 190.1 2.65 147 3.23 +3.8 +5.0
Lackey 2015 STL 218 2.77 142 3.57 +3.6 +5.7
Sabathia 2017 NYY 148.2 3.67 122 4.49 +1.9 +2.8

Perhaps Sabathia can lean on his track record and inflation to demand two years from the Yankees, but yeah, the list of pitchers his age getting multi-year contracts is very short. Colon and Lackey needed outrageously good seasons — their best seasons in several years, in fact — to get their contracts.

The market indicates Sabathia is looking at one year and $12M or so, which is in line with what Colon and R.A. Dickey received last year. Maybe Sabathia succeeds and gets two years. It could happen. Point is, Sabathia is going to come affordably and on a short-term deal. That’s good for the luxury tax plan and good for flexibility moving forward.

3. You know what you’re getting off the field. Any time you sign a free agent or trade for a new player, how he’ll fit into the clubhouse is always a bit of an unknown. Teams do plenty of homework — players (and coaches) change teams so often these days that chances are someone on the roster has played with the guy before — but in the end, you just don’t know how someone will react to a new environment until he gets there. That’s especially true in New York.

With Sabathia, there are no such concerns because he’s been here for so long already. He’s beloved in the clubhouse — if Brett Gardner is the unofficial captain of the position players, Sabathia has been the unofficial captain of the pitching staff all these years — and has taken on a leadership role, and he knows all about playing in Yankee Stadium and in New York in general. Those are adjustments he won’t have to make. Plug him into the roster and go.

4. There are reasons not to sign Sabathia. As much as I love Sabathia — I think everyone loves Sabathia, right? he’s the man — we have to acknowledge the reasons not to re-sign him. One, he’s 37 and will turn 38 in July. Sabathia is firmly in the “this can fall apart in a hurry” age range. In the past five seasons, only eight different pitchers age 37 or older finished a season at +1 WAR. Recent history is not really on Sabathia’s side.

Secondly, Sabathia’s right knee is a wreck. It’s bone-on-bone at this point, hence the regular lubrication injections, and Sabathia has admitted he’ll likely need a knee replacement once his career is over. Remember when he left that game in Toronto and everyone thought his career is over? It wasn’t, thankfully, but that’s pretty much the risk you’re running here. The knee could give out at any moment. Between his age and the knee, we probably wouldn’t be talking about Sabathia as a free agent target at all had he not spent the last nine years with the Yankees.

* * *

Coming into the offseason I thought it was inevitable the Yankees would re-sign Sabathia, with or without Ohtani. It makes too much sense. He’s not going to cost a ton, you know what you’re getting on and off the field, and there’s no such thing as too much pitching depth. Now that Ohtani has spurned the Yankees, adding another pitcher is a must, and in a weak free agent class, bringing Sabathia back on a short-term deal sure seems like an obvious move right now. The Yankees have been contact with Sabathia’s camp lately and I get the sense something could happen soon.

Yankees, Cashman reportedly finalizing five-year contract

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees and Brian Cashman and putting the finishing touches on a new five-year contract worth $25M. The team hasn’t confirmed anything, but that’ll happen soon enough. The contract puts Cashman’s salary at a notch below the Andrew Friedman ($7M annually) and Theo Epstein ($10M annually) pay grade, though he did get a five-year deal. Each of Cashman’s last four contracts were three-year pacts.

Cashman’s previous contract expired on October 31st, so he had been working without a contract for a while now. There were never any serious rumors or even much idle speculation Cashman and the Yankees would part ways. It was an open secret he would be coming back ever since ownership followed his recommendation to part ways with Joe Girardi, and that was only confirmed when he led the charge to hire Aaron Boone as the new skipper.

Cashman, now 50, has been with the Yankees basically his entire adult life. He started with the team as an intern in 1986 and gradually worked his way up through the player development and baseball operations departments. Cashman was an assistant general manager under Gene Michael and Bob Watson from 1992-98 before taking over as general manager when Watson resigned in February 1998.

Needless to say, sticking around as a general manager for two decades is quite an accomplishment, especially in New York. Cashman worked under George Steinbrenner for a long time before Hal took over. Only Brian Sabean (Giants) and Billy Beane (Athletics) have a longer active tenure running a baseball operations department. The Yankees haven’t yet jumped on board with the “president of baseball operations” trend, so Cashman remains general manager.

With Cashman re-signed, Boone taking over as manager, and Shohei Ohtani rejecting the Yankees, the next orders of business are finding another starting pitcher and building the coaching staff. The Yankees have an impressive young core at the big league level right now and more top prospects coming soon. Cashman’s goal now is to supplement that core.

The Miscellaneous Relievers [2017 Season Review]

Heller (and Gary). (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Heller (and Gary). (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Every season, without fail, teams cycle through a parade of relievers as injuries and poor performance force roster changes. The average MLB team used 22 different relief pitchers this year. The Mariners led the way with 34. The Yankees used 18, third fewest in baseball, if you can believe that. Only the Nationals and Indians used fewer relievers this year. They used 17 apiece.

This season the Yankees put an end to the bullpen shuttle they’d used so extensively from 2015-16. The days of calling up reliever, using him for an inning or two, then sending him down the next day for a fresh arm came to an end. We saw relievers stick around even after extended outings, the type of outings that usually land them back in Triple-A. It was a refreshing in a way. Here are the miscellaneous relievers the Yankees used this season. Weirdly enough, three of these dudes were on the Opening Day roster.

Gio Gallegos

A dominant minor league season in 2016 earned Gallegos a spot on the 40-man roster last winter, and he received his first MLB call-up in mid-May. He had one great three-inning outing against the Astros on May 14th, allowing just one unearned run and striking out three, but he then allowed seven runs in his next six appearances and 7.1 innings.

On June 15th, in the tenth inning of a game in which Joe Girardi had already used all his top relievers, Gallegos was brought in to protect a one-run lead in Oakland. The inning went ground out, strikeout, single, double, intentional walk, two-run walk-off bloop single. You remember that one, don’t you?

Gallegos had four different big league stints this season, during which he threw 20.1 innings with a 4.87 ERA (3.65 FIP) and 25.0% strikeouts. He also threw 43.1 innings with a 2.08 ERA (2.18 FIP) and 40.8% strikeouts in Triple-A. Gallegos did survive the 40-man roster purge last month, though I’d say his grip on a spot is tenuous. There’s no guarantee he makes it through the offseason on the roster.

Domingo German

Little Sunday (Domingo Acevedo is Big Sunday) made his MLB debut on June 11th under unusual circumstances. He was pitching well in Triple-A and lined up perfectly to make the spot start when the Yankees decided to push Masahiro Tanaka back a day, but they gave the start to Chad Green, who wasn’t stretched out. German wound up pitching in long relief anyway. Weird.

German, who returned to the 40-man roster last offseason after completing his Tommy John surgery rehab, made seven relief appearances with the Yankees this season, throwing 14.1 innings with a 3.14 ERA (3.44 FIP). Those 14.1 innings featured lots of strikeouts (29.0%) and lots of ground balls (54.5%). German also had a 2.83 ERA (3.17 FIP) in 76.1 Triple-A innings and was especially great down the stretch, as the RailRiders made their postseason run.

It seems German is in position to take on a larger role next season, either as a Green-esque multi-inning reliever or spot starter. He’s shown he can handle Triple-A and his stuff is quite good. I think he’s got a chance to have a real impact in 2018. The Yankees acquired German in the Nathan EovaldiMartin Prado trade three years ago and he’s on the cusp of paying dividends.

Ben Heller

Heller is a personal favorite. He came over in the Andrew Miller trade and he made his MLB debut last season, and going into Spring Training, I thought he had a chance to win a bullpen spot. Instead, he went to Triple-A, and it wasn’t until mid-June that he was was called up. And that was for only one appearance. In that one appearance, Heller allowed a walk-off single off his butt.

Heller was called back in mid-July and again, it was only one appearance. That one appearance was memorable for a good reason, thankfully. Remember the 16-inning game at Fenway Park? When Matt Holliday took Craig Kimbrel deep to tie it up in the ninth? Heller was the last guy out of the bullpen. He tossed a scoreless 15th inning, the Yankees scored three runs to take the lead, then he closed it out with a 1-2-3 16th inning.

The Yankees brought Heller back in September and he was the one September call-up reliever who got regular work, appearing in seven games and throwing 8.2 innings in the season’s final month. He was great too, allowing just one run in those 8.2 innings. All told, Heller, had a 0.82 ERA (3.16 FIP) with 20.9% strikeouts in eleven big league innings and a 2.88 ERA (3.09 FIP) with 36.8% strikeouts in 56.1 Triple-A innings in 2017.

Heller is in the same camp as German for me. I think he’s in position to take on a larger role next season and have a real impact. He has some of the best stuff on the 40-man roster. His fastball sits in the upper-90s and the ball runs all over the place, and his slider has been a wipeout pitch at times. It’s tough to see where Heller (and German) fit right now, but like I said, the average team used 22 relievers this year. The opportunity will come.

Ronald Herrera

Boy, that series in Anaheim did not go well. That’s when Holliday first came down with his illness, Heller allowed the walk-off single off his rear-end, then Herrera made his MLB debut in the seventh inning of a tie game. The first batter he faced? Albert Pujols. One of best hitters in history. Herrera allowed a solo home run to Andrelton Simmons that inning and wound up taking the loss. Womp womp.

Herrera made one more big league appearance later in June, then he went to the minors and dealt with a nagging shoulder injury most of the rest of the season. He did get healthy in time for the Triple-A postseason, though the Yankees did not give Herrera a September call-up. That was a good indication he wouldn’t be around much longer. Sure enough, the Yankees traded him to the Rangers for a pitching prospect last month. Herrera allowed two runs in three big league innings this year, and had a 1.91 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 75.1 minor league innings.

Jonathan Holder

Holder. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Holder. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Holder is the first of the three relievers in this post who was on the Opening Day roster. He pitched in low-leverage situations and did see some sixth and seventh inning worth when the top relievers weren’t available, and for the first few weeks, things went fine. Holder then allowed ten runs on 19 hits (including five homers) and five walks in 14.2 innings from May 23rd to June 26th, earning a demotion to Triple-A. Opponents hit Troutian .322/.385/.644 against him during that time. Ouch.

The demotion to Triple-A was more or less permanent. Holder returned for a quick stint in mid-July and again as a September call-up, otherwise he was a RailRider in the second half. He threw 39.1 innings with a 3.89 ERA (3.62 FIP) and 23.4% strikeouts with the Yankees, though his performance was uneven. He was great for the first few weeks before things collapsed. It should be noted Holder had two appearances of three shutout innings. Once in the 18-inning game at Wrigley Field and once in the 16-inning game at Fenway Park. Well done.

Down in Triple-A, Holder threw 16 innings with a 1.69 ERA (3.21 FIP) and 30.0% strikeouts. The Yankees really seem to like him — they added him to the 40-man roster and called him up way earlier than necessary for Rule 5 Draft purposes — probably because his overall minor league performance has been great and he’s a spin rate darling, so I doubt Holder goes anywhere this offseason. I do wonder whether German and Heller have jumped him on the depth chart, however.

Tommy Layne

Another member of the Opening Day roster. The Yankees picked Layne up off the scrap heap last season and he did fine work, securing a bullpen spot this season. Then he went out and allowed 12 runs on 16 hits and eight walks in 13 innings this year. Lefties hit .304/.407/.391 against him. Not great, Tommy. He was designated for assignment on June 10th, clearing a roster spot for German.

Layne cleared waivers and spent some time with Triple-A Scranton before being released on July 5th. The Yankees had too many quality arms in Triple-A and needed the roster spot, so away went 33-year-old journeyman. Layne hooked on with the Dodgers a few days later, but didn’t make it through August with them. He had a 7.62 ERA (4.85 FIP) in those 13 innings with the Yankees, and he allowed two runs in 6.2 innings with the RailRiders. Relievers, man. Great one year and unrosterable the next.

Bryan Mitchell

The third and final Opening Day bullpen member in this post. Seriously. Holder, Layne, and Mitchell were all on the Opening Day roster. Mitchell would’ve been on the Opening Day roster last year had he not managed to break his toe covering first base at the end of camp. This year he made it through Spring Training in one piece and started the season as a low-leverage reliever.

Mitchell allowed one run on one hit and one walk in his first six outings and 6.2 innings of the season, but the wheels came off in late-April, when he allowed seven runs on nine hits and three walks in 2.2 innings across two appearances against the Orioles. That was the series in which he played first base, which is a real thing that happened.

That was way too cute a move by Girardi. The best case scenario there was putting Mitchell back into the game after a 20-30 minute break, which usually leads to bad things for control challenged pitchers. Mitchell blew the game in the next half-inning and that was that.

Amazingly, Mitchell was called up and sent down at least once in every single month this season. He made two big league appearances in May, one in June, and one in July before resurfacing for an extended period of time in August. Mitchell finished the season with a 5.79 ERA (4.20 FIP) and 11.1% strikeouts (not a typo) in 32.2 MLB innings, and a 3.24 ERA (4.23 FIP) and 25.4% strikeouts in 63.2 Triple-A innings.

Mitchell somewhat surprisingly survived the 40-man roster purge last month. He hasn’t been good in the big leagues and he’ll be out of options next year, meaning he can’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers, and I thought the Yankees would cut bait. They still might at some point this winter. The kid has a good arm, but with his 27th birthday four months away, it’s past time for potential to turn into production.

Tyler Webb

Although he didn’t reach Colter Bean status, Webb was the “why aren’t they calling this guy up???” guy the last few seasons. The Pirates took a chance on Webb as a Rule 5 Draft pick, and while he pitched well enough in Spring Training (13 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 11 K), they couldn’t find room for him on the roster, and back he came to the Yankees.

Webb continued to do what he’d been doing for a few years now, and that’s dominate Triple-A hitters. The Yankees gave him his first MLB call-up in late-June and he stuck around for a little while, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks in six innings across seven appearances. With the first base situation a total mess, the Yankees traded Webb to the Brewers for Garrett Cooper on July 13th.

Milwaukee kept Webb around for two appearances before sending him down to Triple-A, where he remained the rest of the season. Didn’t get a September call-up. Ouch. Webb is still on the 40-man roster though, so he has that going for him. He allowed three runs in six innings with the Yankees, and had a 3.24 ERA (2.14 FIP) in 33.1 innings with Scranton before the trade. Those “why aren’t they calling this guy up???” guys have a way of show why they weren’t getting called up, don’t they?

Mailbag: Indians, Giants, Avila, Rule 5 Draft, IFA Money, Ohtani

We’ve got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week, the last mailbag before the Winter Meetings, which kick off Monday. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the mailbag email address.

Perez. (Al Bello/Getty)
Perez. (Al Bello/Getty)

Michael asks: Why would a free agent catcher want to sign with the Yankees? With the limited playing time opportunities. Wouldn’t a trade for a catcher with a fair amount of team control remaining make sense? The Indians have some depth, Perez Gomes, and Mejia, what would it take to get either one of the vets?

Yeah, I don’t get why a free agent catcher would sign with the Yankees to back up Gary Sanchez, unless they blew him away with an offer or the guy had nowhere else to go. The Indians definitely have some catching depth — Francisco Mejia is pretty close to MLB ready and I think he’s a top ten prospect in baseball, maybe top five — so maybe it is something they would dip into to make a trade. I prefer Roberto Perez to Yan Gomes, personally. The 2017 stats comparison:

AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR CS% FRAA Remaining Contract
Gomes .232/.309/.399 87 14 42% +3.2 $12.95M from 2018-19 plus two options
Perez .207/.291/.373 75 8 43% +14.4 $7.875M from 2018-20 plus two options

Neither guy can hit much, but Perez is the better defender, he’s a year and a half younger, and he’s considerably cheaper. I think it’s pretty interesting Terry Francona went with Perez as his starter the last two postseasons even though Gomes was the starter during the regular season. He must trust Perez more behind the plate, and hey, when they’re both below average hitters, why not go with the superior gloveman?

I have no idea what it would take to acquire Perez. Trades involving no-hit/all-glove backup catchers signed long-term are pretty darn rare. Does the Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson trade work as a benchmark here? Cervelli was a better hitter than either Gomes or Perez, but he wasn’t signed long-term either. I don’t have much interest in Gomes. Or any interest, really. Perez would be fine though, depending on the price.

Brian asks: Building upon your CBA thoughts in the article posted today, do you think the Union will ever get 6 years of team control and/or 3 years of league minimum reduced? It seems much more prohibitive/management friendly than other leagues.

The rule stating players need six years of service time to qualify for free agency has been around since free agency became a thing in 1976, so this has been the status quo for a while. Getting it down to five years of control would be a huge win for the MLBPA, and because of that, the owners will fight it tooth and nail. The union might have more luck pushing for two pre-arbitration years and four arbitration years instead, essentially making everyone a Super Two and putting more money in their pocket early in their careers. Generally speaking, MLB players do have to wait longer to qualify for free agency than players in other sports, and this seems like one of those things the owners will never budge on. They might lock the players out before agreeing to five years of control before free agency.

AJ asks: Do you think the Players should hire Scott Boras to lead the MLBPA?

I think Boras would be better at the job than Tony Clark because he’s proven himself to be a master negotiator, though there’s no way this happens. Boras won’t take the pay cut. Eric Fisher and Liz Mullen reported that Clark earned roughly $2M in 2014, his first year on the job. Boras undoubtedly clears that given the players he represents. This offseason he has J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas in free agency. Even if his commission is a mere 2% (I’m sure it’s quite a bit higher), he’d make what, $6M off those guys alone this winter? The MLBPA needs someone in charge who can get them some real benefits and not concede concede concede. Maybe Boras is that guy, but it’s hard to think he leaves his own agency for the job.

Nicholas asks: If the Giants trade Panik for Stanton-they’ll be in the market for 2b and 3b…maybe the Yankees trade Castro and Headley and sign Frazier?

There are conflicting reports about the Giancarlo Stanton trade package. Some say it includes Joe Panik, some say it doesn’t. I don’t really know. The larger point here is the Giants need more than just Stanton to contend — this a team that went 64-98 this season, after all — so if they’re going to trade for him, it doesn’t make sense to stop there. Stanton doesn’t put them over the top himself.

Even after a potential Giancarlo pickup, the Giants would still need a third baseman (and possibly a second baseman if Panik is traded), a bench, and pitching help. Chase Headley and/or Starlin Castro could make sense for them, sure. San Francisco doesn’t have much to trade these days, so maybe that means Headley as a salary dump is the best fit. I don’t love the idea of trading Headley (or Castro) then signing Frazier though. I feel like we’d end up right back in the same place next winter, talking about ways the Yankees could unload Frazier.

Avila. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Avila. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Michael asks: Did you see Avila said his main concern is not playing time, but playing for a team that is going to contend? Do you think this makes the Yankees a reasonable landing spot. He would be a pretty huge upgrade over Romine, he can play some first, he compliments Sanchez as a lefty bat, etc.

Yeah, I saw it. Alex Avila made those comments on the radio. No offense to him, but I’m going to have to see this to believe it. Would he really pass up more money elsewhere to back up Sanchez because he thinks the Yankees have a chance to win? The big problem for the Yankees’ is the salary given the luxury tax situation. If Avila is willing to back up Sanchez but wants a starter’s salary, it won’t work. If the Yankees could get him to back up Sanchez at something like $3M a year, great. I would be shocked if a guy who hasn’t really broken the bank in his career (Baseball Reference puts Avila’s career earnings at $18.3M) is truly willing to take less to be a backup behind a great starter, especially since Avila is only 30 and his earning potential will never be higher than it is right now given the year he just had. I heard his comments and immediately thought it was just one of those things a player says in an interview because it makes him sound good, not because he means it.

Jackson asks: Can you explain the minor league phase of the rule 5, the portion where once the player gets chosen there’s no chance of him returning? I understand that Alex Palma will likely get selected and if so he won’t get offered back.

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. If a player gets picked in the minor league phase, that’s it. He’s gone. No getting him back. The Yankees lost Ty Hensley to the Rays in the minor league Rule 5 Draft last year. (Hensley didn’t pitch this year as he rehabbed from his second career Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t pitched at all since 2014.)

Anyway, the minor league Rule 5 Draft eligibility rules are the same as the Major League phase. You’re either eligible for the entire Rule 5 Draft phase or you’re not. There are two levels of protection:

  • Players on the 40-man roster are protected from both the Major League and minor phase phases.
  • Players on the 38-man minor league reserve list are protected from the minor league phase only.

There used to be Triple-A and Double-A phases, but the talent was so sparse in the Double-A phase that MLB and the MLBPA did away with it in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, so now it’s just the Major League phase and minor league phase. There used to be a Major League phase, Triple-A phase, and Double-A phase.

Rule 5 Draft eligible players the Yankees did not add to the 40-man roster this winter, like J.P. Feyereisen and Nestor Cortes and Mike Ford and a bunch of others, will be included on that 38-man reserve list for sure. That 38-man reserve list is usually plenty big enough to protect anyone worthwhile. Most minor league Rule 5 Draft picks are guys like Hensley, who are hurt and have been hurt for a long time, or complete non-prospects teams bring in to fill roster spots. I’m sure the Yankees will find room for Palma on the 38-man reserve list. There are not 38 Rule 5 Draft eligible players in the organization worth protecting ahead of him. Not even close.

Asher asks: Any thought about an “Aroldis Chapman” rule- preventing a team from signing a free agent that that traded at the deadline? Perhaps we can call it the “Sidney Ponson” rule.

I don’t see the need for one. I’m not sure who that rule change would be helping. It would likely lead to fewer trades — would the Yankees have traded Chapman knowing they couldn’t re-sign him? I doubt it considering they tried to extend him before trading him — and it would limit the player’s market by taking away a potential suitor. How many times does this happen anyway? The Yankees did it with Chapman, the Cubs did it with Jason Hammel, and the Orioles did it with Ponson way back in the day. I can’t think of any others. This seems like a solution in search of a problem.

Chris asks: With all the international money the Yankees accumulated, is there any chance they try to trade some of it to a West Coast team and get someone useful in return?

Sure. The Yankees are going to do something with that $3.5M they have left over. Earlier this week the Angels (2017 third rounder Jacob Pearson) and Mariners (2017 fifth rounder David Banuelos) traded actual prospects to the Twins for $1M in bonus money. One of those teams traded away a legitimate prospect and won’t get Shohei Ohtani. Maybe both!

Anyway, clearly the market for international bonus money is inflated right now. Matt Eddy says the Yankees received $1.75M in bonus money from the Orioles for Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez. Geez. Now guys like Pearson and Banuelos are getting traded for $1M in bonus money? The Yankees absolutely should see what they can get for their bonus money from the teams chasing Ohtani.

Here’s the thing though: the Mariners, Angels, and Rangers are the only teams that can add money. The other clubs in on Ohtani (Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants) are all limited to $300,000 bonuses, so it doesn’t make sense for them to trade for bonus money. I get the sense the Yankees are going to use that $3.5M to sign prospects, but it wouldn’t hurt to see what the Mariners, Angels, or Rangers would give up for some of it in a trade.

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

Anonymous asks: Assume a team signs Ohtani. If that team were to trade him prior to the season what do you think he would bring in return? Equivalent to the Chris Sale to the Red Sox package? Substantially less? How many top-25 prospects? top-50? top 100? What package of Yankees prospects would RAB give up to acquire Ohtani via trade?

Can’t trade him before the season. Players can not be traded until six months after signing their first pro contract, which means whichever team signs Ohtani won’t be able to trade him until next June at the earliest. Hypothetically though, it would take a monster package to get him. He’s a potential ace, he’s only 23, and he’s under control for six more years. And that’s ignoring whatever he might give you with the bat.

If Ohtani were on the trade market right now, his team would be asking for the moon. Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield. They might even aim higher and ask for Luis Severino or Aaron Judge, plus others. Chris Sale was traded with three years of control and he fetched two top 25 prospects plus two others. Ohtani doesn’t have Sale’s track record, but he has three more years of control, and that’s huge. I feel like Ohtani for Torres, Frazier, and Sheffield would be a win for the Yankees. Ohtani is insanely valuable given his talent, his age, and his salary/team control situation.

Rich asks: How possible is it that the Boone hiring hurt the Yankees’ chance of getting Ohtani? Shutting out big market teams on the East Coast just sounds silly to me and the timing seemed suspicious too.

Nah. Ohtani ruled out every single East Coast team and pretty much every Midwest team as well. The timing of the Aaron Boone news and Ohtani’s rejection was just a coincidence. Boone did joke about it the other day at his press conference — “I called Cash and said, ‘Sorry I couldn’t get Ohtani for you.’ I got named and Ohtani wanted no part of it,” he said — but nah, I don’t think there’s anything to this. Ohtani doesn’t want to play for the Yankees, or on the East Coast in general, apparently, and that’s his choice. Sucks, but what can you do?

Pete asks: It seems pretty clear that Ohtani never intended on signing with the Yankees (and other teams) based on how quickly he whittled his list down to 7 teams. Reports indicate the Yankees delivered a very strong presentation and Ohtani’s agents implored him to interview with them, but he still said no. That being said, what do you make of reports that teams are annoyed at the decision process and feel they got “played”? They just bitter or do they have a point – after all, they could have used that “wasted” time and resources to recruit other players.

I think they should stop whining. Ohtani is making a major life change here. He’s moving halfway around the world and jumping into a new culture. Asking (not making) the 30 clubs to put together the recruiting letter/presentation is basic due diligence. Seven teams are still in the running and apparently some of them are convinced Ohtani has not only already made a decision, but made his decision a long time ago. Maybe instead of complaining about it they should be thankful they had an opportunity to meet with him in-person and potentially change his mind. Won’t someone think of the poor front offices? I’m sure teams will complain about getting “played” next time they rake a player over the coals in arbitration for having the audacity to seek fair compensation.

Many asked: Why is the font on RAB smaller???

Yes, the font on RAB is smaller. More accurately, we added another layer of security to the site and the font defaulted to Times New Roman for whatever reason. I have no idea how to fix it. If it bothers you that much, take out the “s” in “https” in the site address and things will go back to normal. You are forewarned though, that is a less secure version of the site, so you’d be at risking the general badness of the internet infecting your device.

Update: The font issue is fixed. Stick with the “https” site for our own good, folks.