Monday, October 17, 2016

Re-Examining The Miller Trade During His Postseason Success

Former Yankees setup man/closer Andrew Miller is having a postseason for the ages. Through four games against the Red Sox and the Blue Jays, his record with Cleveland is 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, and 17 K in 7.2 IP.

To recap what led to his postseason glory, Miller was traded to Cleveland on July 31st, for minor leaguers JP Feyereisen, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Ben Heller. And there, my friends, lies the rub.

As a proven Major Leaguer, Miller paid dividends for Cleveland right away, and will continue to do so for the next two seasons. As for the Yankees, they have seen only Heller take the field in pinstripes, and not very successfully at that. Though Frazier could make an appearance at some point in 2017, it will probably be 2018 or later before the Yankees see any solid returns from the trade--if they see them at all.

This sounds depressing for Yankee fans, until you think about GM Brian Cashman's trade history. If there is one thing Cashman is good at, it's making trades. Just take a look at his starting middle infield for the perfect example. 

Then again, part of the reason for this year's trade deadline sale was that the team hadn't drafted well in the recent past. This inability to spot talented prospects could rear its ugly head if the ones they acquired at the deadline don't pan out. 

If, indeed, they don't pan out, the "what if" game will be very popular. Heck, it's very popular right now. "The Yankees would have made the playoffs if they'd kept Miller and/or Aroldis Chapman," is the angry cry spilling out of Yankees Universe from all its openings. Who knows if it's true? I'd be more inclined to say that it's false, especially when you look at the team's staring pitching. Best case scenario: They would lose the Wild Card Game or lose the ALDS 3-0. 

They would likely be in the same position in 2017 as well. Obviously, it will be better to be in that position with top prospects on the come, rather than having expiring contracts and a depleted farm system.

I wish Andrew Miller well for the rest of the postseason, and I wish for nothing but success for that now, far from depleted, Yankees farm system.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Yankees Enter Off Season With Questions, Possible Answers

The off season has arrived for the New York Yankees. We recently heard from both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi. While neither gave us a comprehensive outline of what's in store for the coming months, we can at least try to sort fact from fiction as the potentially busy off season commences. Here are a few of the off season goals, some of which have been discussed while some have just been the subject of speculation.

1. Rebuild the rotation after Masahiro Tanaka
Both CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are expected to return to the rotation according to Cashman. That leaves two spots open at minimum. One option is to go big and trade for an ace. Chris Sale rumors have been constant since Sale's destruction of the White Sox throw back uniform. As a Yankee, Sale would have no problem, since the Yankees wear pinstripes and road grays, period. The Among all teams, White Sox have the worst uniforms (think 1970s) in baseball history, so in some ways I really don't blame Sale for his tantrum. However, the reality is, any talk of Sale to the Bronx would start with Gary Sanchez and involve two or three other prospects.

A second option would be to go "under the radar" for a starter, much like they did for Nathan Eovaldi. Or look at almost ready prospects like Luis Cessa and Chad Green, again.
A final option is to settle on an in house option from a mix of Cessa, Green, Luis Severino,  and Bryan Mitchell, maybe Adam Warren with thoughts toward mid season promotions of the likes of Dietrich Enns, Chance Adams or Jordon Montgomery.

Likely outcome: Add one starter from outside the organization, not on the ace level of Chris Sale, but someone at least serviceable. The final rotation spot would go to someone within the organization, with the others assigned to a bullpen role or AAA. All this depends on health issues. of course, which seem to change rapidly.

2. Finish the sell off of veterans
They are Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner. But how likely are any of these to occur?

Brian McCann
Rumors were such that McCann was headed back to Atlanta mid season. So why not this off season? McCann will be relegated to a backup role, but could also fill the bill as designated hitter to get most of his at bats. He also could play first base, at least in part of a platoon, should Greg Bird not be ready. McCann gives the Yankees some left handed power. The big issue is that McCann has a full no trade clause and is signed through 2018. Unless McCann prefers to be a number one catcher,  he wants to remain in the Bronx, which he has already stated at the end of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury
Not only does Ellsbury have a full no trade clause, he is signed through 2020. with another option year. This is probably the most difficult of the four to trade, but stranger things have happened in baseball.

Chase Headley
Headley was asked to take  a seat on the bench more frequently down the stretch. Are the Yankees are trying to tell Headley something about future playing time? There isn't a no trade clause, but are there any takers if Headley is shopped? Headley seemed to flourish a bit following his horrid start to the season, but his final numbers, .253 Avg 14 HR 51 RBI, are less than stellar. Yangervis Solarte, traded to San Diego for Headley hit .286 /15/ 71 for the Padres this season,

Brett Gardner
If ever there was a player that fit the old adage, "better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late" it's Gardner. Seems to be a year or two years too late to deal Gardner for a solid return. Gardner, never much of a power hitter coming up, found his stroke for awhile, but has suffered diminishing power numbers. His hitting has been mired in the .250's (actually .261 in 2016) in recent times and his speed, while good, no longer translates into a ton of stolen bases.

Likely outcome: I really believe Cashman will deal any or all of the four should the opportunity present itself. I'm guessing all four will remain, but as young players make their cases to be brought to the majors, Cashman could get really creative. Consider the likes of Clint Frazier, Mason Williams. Miguel Andujar and Dustin Fowler as others being in that group.

3. Become buyers again
Cashman has already mentioned pitching as a priority, so a trade/free agent signing for a position player probably won't happen. Cashman more or less stated if the Yankees are just one player away from the top tier of teams, a blockbuster trade would be possible, perhaps likely. Unfortunately, Cashman has stated the Yankees at present are not close to being that team, at least not yet.

Likely outcome: The Yankees eventually will be buyers. The trades for a slew of prospects this year added much needed depth to the farm, but it also can eventually create a logjam when several prospects reach the day they have to be added to the 40 man roster. Rather than lose any to the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees will have to prepare roster management plans which includes trades. Expect the Yankees to start buying gradually, including as early as this winter.

4. Contingency plans of Greg Bird and Aaron Judge aren't ready
Neither Bird nor Judge will be handed first base and right field, respectively. Judge's debut in the Bronx was hampered by striking out in exactly one half of his 84 at bats. Bird missed an entire season and had to heal and rehab following a major surgery.

Likely outcome: It's all open to competition. Right field includes the likes of Judge, Tyler Austin, Aaron Hicks, Rob Refsnyser and Mason Williams. First base might include Austin, McCann, Austin Romine and Bird. If Judge and/or Bird need more  seasoning  at AAA. Aaron Hicks, with a solid spring performance may be the opening day right fielder and Austin and McCann could form a first base platoon.

5. Fix the Bullpen
Do the Yankees sign a free agent? More to the point do they sign Aroldis Chapman? What is the role of Dellin Betences? Who wins the likely spring free for all for the remaining bullpen spots? Consider all those pitchers who do not win a spot in the rotation, plus holdovers like veteran Tyler Clippard and the slew of young relievers named Heller, Holder, Pazos. Goody and others.

Likely outcome: Cashman might convince ownership to bring back Chapman, who will not cost the Yankees a draft pick. Otherwise it's looking like a free for all with Betances remaining at closer.

6. Non Tenders
Seems as if Nathan Eovaldi is gone and that will in time become official. Relievers recovering from injuries might also go, including Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, plus utility player Dustin Ackley. The list of Rule Five eligible players this winter include Andujar, Tyler Wade. Jorge Mateo, Dietrich Enns and Rashad Crawford. Catcher Kyle Higashioka will be added to the 40 man according to Cashman.

Consider that the Yankees could non tender Michael Pineda, though they recently stated they expect the ever struggling righty to be part of their 2017 rotation.

Likely outcome: Expect Pineda to stay as he will be pitching for a big contract at the end of next season. The Yankees can only hope Pineda finally puts it together. Pineda could also follow the path of former Yankee Ivan Nova in a deadline deal out of town next  July.

The off season is going to be busy and Brian Cashman has just about admitted the Yankees are not quite to the point of seriously contending in 2017. But that could change. A free agent signing or a surprise trade could happen. Some player, not ready for prime time right now could emerge in the spring or mid season. This is all about the Yankees roster being a work in progress which will carry over well into the next season.

Brian Cashman, do your magic.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The 2016 Yankees: A Disappointing, Yet Successful Season

Just like that, the New York Yankees 2016 season is over. They lost Sunday's game to the Baltimore Orioles to close out the year at 84-78. That’s just six games over .500 but, as Michael Kay and Ken Singleton pointed out on the broadcast, that’s still an over-achievement. Based on their offensive output, the Yankees should have finished at 78-83 (a losing season!), just 5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.

So, in some ways, the season was still successful and it certainly had some fun moments as Pete outlined on Friday.

We learned a lot about this team, both from the members to whom we said goodbye, the ones we welcomed and the ones we missed. The team will look vastly different in 2017. Joe Girardi, who gave his end of season speech a day early, said to reporters, “ We will do everything we can to bring a championship here next year. That’s everyone’s job in this organization.”

Still, the Yankees missed the playoffs entirely for the third time in the past five years. That’s not exactly in keeping with the Yankees illustrious history. So you have to think that, despite the Yankees second half, but ultimately unsuccessful, surge back to relevance, some changes are going to have to be made.

Those changes could come in the front office / coaching staff but the Yankees tried that two years ago with Kevin Long and the Yankees still struggled offensively. If I had to guess, I’d say Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and rest of the coaching staff are safe for the time being. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if either hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames got the boot, if only just because someone needs to take the blame. 

Still, with so many changes expected in the personnel on the team, that may be enough to satisfy the crowd who is screaming for changes. Take a look at the potential changes for the on-the-field team in 2017:

1B: With Mark Teixeira having an awful year and deciding to retire, the Yankees 1B position is unquestionably open for the first time since 2009. Tyler Austin acquitted himself well in 2016 but what about Greg Bird, who was almost certain to have a back-up sport on the 2016 team before his injury?

2B: Starlin Castro was as streaky as advertised, but when he was on, he was very good. He’s a lock for 2017.

3B: Chase Headley started off at a terrible pace (going almost 1.5 months without an XBH) and also sat towards the end of the season with injuries. This contract isn’t turning out quite the way the Yankees hoped. Ronald Torreyes was a great burst of energy but he’s not a full time player. Rob Refsnyder, however, is patiently awaiting his turn. If his glove is passable, look for him to get some looks in 2017 (if he isn't traded). Depending on the situation at C, Headley may get more DH time.

SS: Didi Gregorious continued to build on his successful 2015 2nd half (What lefty problems?) and, although he had his slumps, he performed very, very well overall. He's a staple.

C: There’s no doubt that Gary Sanchez is the Yankees starting catcher, and middle of the line-up slugger, for the future. His defense is passable (fantastic arm, decent receiver) and his offense has Yankees fans salivating. He struggled to end the season but that’s to be expected of a rookie. The Kraken has been unleashed for good. The only question here is, what happens to Brian McCann. He was a great sport about the entire transition but will he demand a trade in the off-season so he can play behind the plate? He may not if you believe what he said in his post-game interview on YES: "I hope I'm back....I hope I'm a part of [2017]."

LF: Brett Gardner continued his streaky play and, while his speed is still very impressive, he is still not stealing bases at the clip he used to. Gardner could be trade bait, yet again, in the offseason but, if he’s here, he’s the starting leftfielder.

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury is who he is at this point. Nowhere near worth the contract he’s got but still capable of making spectacular defensive plays and going on a hot streak that could carry a team.

RF: Carlos Beltran, who carried the Yankees for the first half, was shipped out of town so the Yankees could start their rebuild and Beltran could get another shot at the playoffs. Aaron Judge started off with a bang and then seemed to lose the strike zone before going down with an oblique injury. Judge will need to work on his contact rates, but safe to say he gets the first shot at starting in RF.

DH: McCann may have a decision to make. Be the full time DH or demand a trade to a place where he could continue to start. He is still a great receiver and, courtesy of his solo shot on Sunday, finished up yet another season with 20 HRs. If he moves on, look for Headley to get his fair share of ABs here.

Bench: Dustin Ackley was largely a non-factor in 2016 but he is with the Yankees for at least another year. He should get another chance. Ronald Torreyes did nothing to lose his role. Look for the Yankees to bring him back, at least for a look in Spring Training, along with Aaron Hicks who was disappointing offensively but changed some games with his defense. Still just 27, the Yankees are likely willing to give him another year to blossom. As for Austin Romine, he acquitted himself very well as the back-up catcher but will the Yankees carry three catchers? Seems doubtful. Are the Pirates looking for yet another former Yankees catcher?

SP: Quietly terrific, Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees best starting pitcher, but finished the year shut down with fore-arm pain. If healthy, expect him to lead the rotation again in 2017. 

CC Sabathia had a mixed year with some absolutely dominant starts opposite some terrible clunkers. His repertoire is severely reduced and he needs to live on the edges but he was the 2nd most stable pitcher in the rotation. 

Michael Pineda showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately had a disappointing year filled with “If it weren’t just for that one inning!” performances. Next season is his last arbitration year so he’ll be back and in the rotation. 

Brian Mitchell, if healthy, should slot right into Ivan Nova's spot as he did after Nova was sent to pitchers paradise, aka Pittsburgh. 

Nathan Eovaldi is severely injured and is out for at least all of 2017. The Yankees may bring him back and let him heal up for 2018 but he won’t be of any help in 2017. 

I seriously doubt that the Yankees will put Luis Severino in the bullpen without letting him try starting again. Not with all that talent in his arm. If Severino does struggle, Luis Cessa also has a dominant FB and, despite some shaky starts, has done enough for the Yankees to feel comfortable letting him step into the starting rotation.

Bullpen: The bullpen went through so many changes in 2016, it’s probably not worth itemizing. The biggest changes are that Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller are no longer dominating from the back-end. 

Dellin Betances struggled mightily in September and it’s still not clear if it is physical or mental. Either way, the Yankees need him to straighten himself out. He’s the surest thing out there. Old friends Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard did well in returning to the Yankees, but the bullpen was not a shining point for the Yankees by the end of the year. The Yankees need some certainty here.

So rest up, Yankees. As disappointing as 2016 ended, Spring Training will be here before you know it along with lots of changes, and renewed expectations.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Last Series of '16 For Yanks Yielding Excellent Value On Secondary Ticket Market

It's been some kind of year for the New York Yankees, who managed to miraculously stay in postseason contention through the final week of the campaign despite jettisoning key veterans and some of the club's top talent. However, the wild ride that was the 2016 season is sadly nearing its conclusion, with just a few games remaining before the playoffs get underway, but there's still plenty to behold as the Yankees look to go into the off-season on a high.
Of course, when all is said and done, the 2016 season could be viewed as the turning point in the direction of the organization. After all, there has been several promising youngsters show off their talents this year, pointing to brighter and better days ahead in the near-future. One such phenom, of course, is the rapidly emerging Gary Sanchez, who has experienced a meteoric rise that has legitimately put him into the American League Rookie of the Year conversation despite only being promoted to the majors for good in the beginning of August.
Not only are the Yankees seeking to enter the offseason with momentum, they'll also be looking to play playoff spoiler to the division rival Baltimore Orioles, who are still trying to cement their place in this year's American League Wild Card Game. Let's take a look at how ticket prices are faring for the Bronx Bombers' final series of the campaign.

9/30 | Orioles at Yankees | Yankee Stadium | Avg. ticket price: $69 | Get-in: $6
10/1 | Orioles at Yankees | Yankee Stadium | Avg. ticket price: $39 | Get-in: $6
10/2 | Orioles at Yankees | Yankee Stadium | Avg. ticket price: $54.33 | Get-in: $8 (Roger Maris Bobblehead Giveaway)

The most expensive remaining Yankees tickets at Yankee Stadium this season occur in the series opener of this three-game set, when Michael Pineda toes the rubber for the final time in 2016 opposite Yovani Gallardo. The 27-year-old right-hander has had a disappointing season in the Bronx this year, being 6-11 with a 4.68 ERA, though his 202 strikeouts in just 171.1 innings pitched indicate he's performed better than his numbers might suggest. At the very least, he's had some success versus the O's this year, being 1-0 in a pair of assignments while registering 12 K's in 10 innings to go with a 1.80 ERA. As a result, he puts them in a good position to take the first game of this critical series.
Without question, though, the best value in this final series of the season takes place in the finale, as not only are ticket prices averaging just a shade over $50 to see the Yanks in action one final time, but this tilt will also host one of the coolest giveaways of the campaign -- a Roger Maris Bobblehead. Additionally, the outcome of this game could also have a hand in determining whether or not Baltimore sneaks into the postseason, so if it comes down to Game No. 162, you can expect ticket prices to soar as we get closer to the final first pitch of 2016.

Though Yankees Missed Playoffs, Some Fun Moments In 2016

What can be said about a Yankees season that ended with no playoff appearance, no chance at championship number 28 and some really bad days and nights with no pitching and  zero offense at times? It was a lost season and everybody knew it by August 1st, as management seemingly threw in the towel at the deadline trading, the team's best player (Carlos Beltran) and two thirds of the bullpen "college of closers."

But damn, it was fun.

Consider how the Yankees just swept the Red Sox three the Bronx.  Tuesday night the Yankees had the lead but lost it, only to have a late Tyler Austin home run seal the win. Wednesday night was one of many no offense nights in 2016--until the 9th inning. Boston closer Craig Kimbrell was called on to protect a 3-0 lead but gave up a hit and three straight walks, not getting anybody out. Mark Teixeira sealed the deal with his walk off grand slam off Joe Kelly, 5-3 Yankees, but it was Boston with the champagne in the club house. Then CC Sabathia pitched a gem, 5-1 Yankees and the playoff hopes were dashed despite winning Thursday night.

The Yankees, sellers at the trade deadline, regrouped with the addition of young players, not the least of which was Gary Sanchez, and the departure of some veteran players, not the least of which was Alex Rodriguez. The season came down to play on the road in the four AL East cities, Baltimore, Boston, Tampa/St Pete and Toronto, a combined 11-27 record. But despite that record it became fun, a lot of fun.

The Yankees will finish above .500 for the 24th consecutive year, the second longest streak in baseball history (Yankees 1926-64 is the longest streak of above .500 seasons, 39 years)

What we just witnessed over the past two months was a little slice of what might be in store for the Yankees future. Yes, the Yanks recently suffered through a 4-11 stretch, which ended any hopes for playing in a wild card game next week, but we all witnessed some incredible things, Remember the debut home runs of Austin and Aaron Judge, back to back, first at bats? Remember everything that Sanchez did, behind the plate and at the plate? Didn't I hear some talk of Sanchez being in the running for Rookie of the Year? Recent pitching performances by youngsters Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell and the aging CC Sabathia, have to give the Yankees some hope, wouldn't you say? Didi Gregorius is the real deal for the Yankees future at shortstop. And look at all these guys down on the farm, some acquired in recent trades and some who have been in the organization since day one. They all represent the future of the Yankees, either as players who will debut someday in the Bronx, or as future trade chips.

It was loads of fun and should be fun to watch in 2017. The off season will begin following Sunday's game with Baltimore. I'll come back in a week with some perspective on what might happen to these Yankees this coming winter.

We should all be looking forward to clinching a playoff spot a year from now.  Now that will really be fun.