Friday, December 23, 2016

Chapman, Quintana & Other Thoughts on the Yankees Offseason

Thoughts on the Yankees off season--so far:

1. Aroldis Chapman
That's a ton of money committed to a closer, but it's only money. Chapman's return to the Bronx will allow the Yankees to move Dellin Betances to the more suitable role of set up man. Since the Yankees did not noticeably improve their starting rotation (still hoping for that diamond in the rough) the need is great to shorten the game on as many nights as possible. With Chapman and Betances holding down the late innings, and with the likes of Tyler Clippard and maybe Adam Warren, the Yankees can use the bullpen to cover the sixth or seventh inning and beyond.

Chapman returning to New York means the two trades with the Cubs within the last year netted the Yankees Starlin Castro, some prospects led by hot shortstop Gleyber Torres and the return of both Chapman and Warren, previously dealt to Chicago, All it netted the Cubs was infielder Brendan Ryan, whom the Cubs released within days of acquiring him. That is all the Cubs have to show for their recent dealings with the Yankees. Well, that and winning their first championship in 108 years. I would say it was well worth it for the Cubbies, all things considered. Now the Yankees must make good on the haul from these transactions.

There is still the issue of Chapman being suspended 30 games at the start of the 2016 season under the MLB domestic abuse policy.  Some have held onto the fact that Chapman was never charged with anything criminal. However, it is also true that victims do not always file complaints, so that could be why there were no formal charges. In Chapman's case, MLB did suspend him without pay, so there has been some issue of note. Here's hoping all this is behind Chapman and no further incidents will occur. This is also an opportunity to shed light on the universal problem of domestic abuse and hopefully Chapman can move forward as part of the solution, not the problem.

I acknowledge not everybody is happy with this signing because of his domestic issues, as well as the money and length of this contract. Let the speculation begin as to when Chapman's fastball eventually tops out in the low 90's rather than 103 of this past season.

2. George Misses the Hall of Fame
Fritz Peterson posted on Facebook that George Steinbrenner deserved a place in Cooperstown. I can see his point. Peterson wrote a book covering the Yankees pre-Steinbrenner years called When the Yankees Were on the Fritz--Revisiting The Horace Clarke Era. Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, and they were in the World Series in 1976, winning it all the following season. Steinbrenner certainly brought two championships to the Bronx early in his tenure and he oversaw the last great dynasty in baseball which began in the mid 90's.

But there is also this to remember: Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball twice, once for illegal campaign contributions and the other for his relationship with a known gambler, Howard Spira. George also engineered a series of bad trades and free agent signings through the 1980s that brought the Yankees franchise to its knees by the rock bottom year of 1990. The constant meddling and firings and hirings of managers and general managers, coaches and staff brought instability to the organization for over a decade. It was only during the second suspension that the Yankees were able to build a solid foundation which helped bring the new dynasty in the 90's.

Do all the distractions of George Steinbrenner's Yankees tenure invalidate the greatness for which the Hall of Fame has stood all these years? I tend to think so. Of course, you might have a different opinion, I might be willing to reconsider, but for now there are far too many issues which seem to put a damper on that greatness.
3. Other Dealings and Non Dealings
The Yankees also added former Cardinals left fielder, Matt Holliday to serve as the team's designated hitter for the 2017 season, a one year signing that is of little consequence for the long term. They dealt Brian McCann to Houston for even more prospects, clearing the way for hotshot 2016 Rookie catcher, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine to work behind the plate and for Holliday to be the everyday DH.

The Yankees have been linked to a host of other players in trades. The White Sox's Jose Quintana has been rumored this week, but it doesn't seem likely the Yankees will be willing to part with major prospects at this point. Then there are all the remaining free agents, some off which have been linked, at least somewhat, to the Yankees. We shall see how that goes, but I fully expect the Yankees to wait out the process to see if any player that interests them would be willing to sign a short term contract, with one year being optimal.

We have also heard the Yankees want to drop more salary, and Brett Gardner and Chase Headley are making the rounds in the rumor mill. The interesting part of dealing either player will be who the Yankees might find as replacements. Aaron Hicks or Mason Williams for Gardner, perhaps, but who would replace Headley at third base?

Stay tuned, the winter is still young, even with the winter meetings over and done.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Free Agent Breakdown: Yankees Sign Matt Holliday

My Christmas wish to get Carlos Beltran was wrenched away from me on Saturday when the Astros signed him to a one-year deal worth $16 million. Shock gave way to fear, as the thought of an Edwin Encarnacion signing turning into a dead contract entered my mind.

Then GM Brian Cashman saved the day.

Okay, that's a bit dramatic. After all, he signed OF/DH Matt Holliday to a one year, $13 million deal. As everyone knows, Holliday is coming off a bad year, and he will be 37 years old on Opening Day. He's a right-handed hitter, which makes the team's need for a left-handed power hitter or switch hitter (i.e., Beltran) even more blatant. 

If you believe what Cashman has been saying this off-season, the Yankees are done upgrading their offense. The success of the lineup will all depend on how well the kids (like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge) do.

Speaking of kids, we can rest assured that the Holliday signing will not block any of them from playing in as many Big League games as they deserve to play in. Also, Holliday hit 20 HRs in 2016, which bodes well for 2017. His exit velocity was 100 mph or more 42.5 % of the time. You can read more about his offense here.

When that offense produces its first HR in 2017, what will John Sterling's call be? Something about the Holiday Inn? I doubt he will sing Madonna's "Holiday," and I'm glad. That song has been in my head ever since I heard about the signing yesterday afternoon. I need a holiday just to get away from it.

Anyway, welcome to the Yankees, Matt Holliday. Best wishes for a successful 2017.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 2016: A Yankees Christmas List

With a new CBA just agreed to and the month of December upon us, it's the perfect time to reveal my Yankees Christmas list:

1. Sign Carlos Beltran as the full-time DH. A one-year deal for Beltran would solve several problems, including the left-handed power lost when Brian McCann was traded. Besides, spending a ton of money on an Edwin Encarnacion is just not worth it. 

2. Sign Kenley Jansen as the closer. Joe Madden did whatever (he thought) it took to bring a World Championship to the north side of Chicago, including over-using Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees should not take a chance on what could be damaged goods.

3. Trade Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury. No sense beating you over the head with the reasons for this. Everyone's gone over them too many times.

4. Find a taker for Chase Headley. (It's a Christmas list. I don't have to be realistic.)

5. Trade for a starting pitcher. If Headley can't be included in such a deal, Gardner certainly can. A number three (or, four) starter would work just fine.

After waiting for the new CBA to be finalized, expect the Yankees to have the front burners of the Hot Stove going at full force. I can't wait to see what they cook up!