LADY AT THE BAT: Quiet Off-Season For Yankees? What Might (And Might Not) Happen

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quiet Off-Season For Yankees? What Might (And Might Not) Happen

Kudos to the Yankees for reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Too bad the post season only lasted a few hours. It is amazing how quickly our thoughts then turned to the 2016 season. No time like the present to look ahead to next year. 

What kind of off season can we expect? A quick look at the roster shows only a few free agents possibly leaving the Bronx. One could easily conclude that it's going to be a quiet winter, with much of the team remaining intact when players report to Tampa in February.

And yet, when the final out of Houston's 3-0 win at Yankee Stadium was recorded, the blogs and social media were filled with suggestions for Yankee ownership and management. Here are a few thoughts that were mentioned or that I have added myself, all for your consideration.

1. Fire Girardi and the coaching staff.
This would have already happened, probably Wednesday morning. Girardi is signed through the 2017 season, and ownership has shown no interest in making a change. Message to the Steinbrenner siblings: This is definitely not your father's Yankees. A coaching change or two is always possible, but that is about all that will happen.

2. Trade Brett Gardner and sign a right handed hitting free agent outfielder. Justin Upton, perhaps.  
This one actually might happen and the reasons are numerous. Despite slumping tremendously in the second half, Gardner is arguably the most marketable player on the Yankees roster, His contract goes for another three years and appears manageable for a number of potential teams. Several teams could be in the market for a top of the order, speedy outfielder. For Gardner, 31, it's the old adage: it's better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late, The Yankees need to be a little more right handed and  this may be the one place they dip into the free agent market, which makes Gardner available. Also. it allows the Yankees to use left handed hitters like Slade Heathcott, Dustin Ackley or even Greg Bird off the bench. We'll leave it to Cashman to make one of his "under the radar" type trades, so the player(s) coming to the Bronx in return would likely be something we would not have considered anyway.

3. Non tender Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.
Cashman has already weighed in on Nova, saying he will be tendered a contract in what will be Nova's final year of arbitration. Nova had come back strong in his mid season return from Tommy John surgery, but seemingly ran out of gas during  the stretch run. This is not uncommon following this kind of surgery. Historically though, Nova has had an up and down career, and is still searching for consistency.

Pineda has been hurt at points every year, including missing an entire season in 2012 and appearing only in minor league games in 2013. A long term contract may not be in the Yankees plans and maybe it's time to consider cutting their losses. Still, at 27 on next opening day, the Yankees might try and give Pineda one more chance, this time without a guaranteed rotation spot.

4. CC Sabathia is done and must be jettisoned somewhere else.
 Sabathia had a rough go in 2015 but was better in the stretch run. The primary concern was and still remains the condition of his knee, That was, at least, until Sabathia dropped his bombshell of going into alcohol rehab, There is some uncertainty as to how that will turn out for Sabathia, but expect him to complete the program and be ready for spring. The main issue for anyone going through any type of addiction issue is maintenance and concerns about possible relapses. Sabathia is under contract for 2016, so the Yankees will try to get the most out of him. A buyout or outright release appears unlikely at this point.

5 Sign David Price or another free agent pitcher.
It doesn't appear the Yankees will sign any of the potential free agent pitchers. Price would command a huge commitment, and is now on the wrong side of 30, meaning Price will likely be under contract into his late 30's. Jeff Samardzija has been mentioned as an alternative. He struggled mightily in his Chicago return this past season. The spelling of his name would likely not be the only problem if they signed him.

6 Chasen Shreve and Greg Bird will not be on the opening day roster.
Shreve is the easy one. Despite having a big season, at least until August, Shreve might find himself behind Jacob Lindgren or James Pazos on the left handed reliever depth chart. He should have options for 2016.

Bird not making the opening day roster is a possibility and many find the thought to be quite appalling. The problem is that the makeup of the roster needs to change, assuming both first baseman Mark Teixeira and designated hitter Alex Rodriguez are healthy. The Joe Girardi Yankees carry 12 pitchers, which leaves only a four man bench. Automatic spots are given to a backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy), and a middle infielder (Brendan Ryan has an option for 2016 and may return), with a fourth outfielder and one more player. Slade Heathcott and Dustin Ackley, at this point, might be the the other two players to fill out the bench. Ackley can play the outfield, second base and first base. The Yankees would have to get creative this off season to make room for Bird on Opening Day.It's a problem, but at least it is a good problem to have.

7 Give Rob Refsnyder the second base job.
Have we seen the last of Steven Drew? It's Refsnyder time. Plus Refsnyder gives the Yankees a right handed bat, which is much needed in their left leaning lineup and bench projection. Barring a trade, this seems to finally be a reality. Defense, which was the issue keeping Refsnyder at AAA for most of 2015, improved as the season concluded.

8. Shore up the bullpen to help limit the "Scranton Shuttle."
Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson are locks, and the Yankees will likely choose at least one of Shreve, Lindgren and Pazos, which leaves three open spots. One will go to a long man like Bryan Mitchell. The Yankees auditioned numerous bullpen candidates throughout 2015, so chances are someone will emerge from that group to fill out the bullpen. Hopefully, they will choose a few pitchers that can lock down a spot, thus limiting the "shuttle" to a dull roar.

Which brings us back to the starting rotation.  There is great need to have a starter, any starter, pitch around 200 innings. Two or three starters approaching the 200 inning threshold would really be nice. It would reduce the stress on the bullpen and perhaps stabilize the back end of the bullpen as a result. If healthy, CC Sabathia is likely to claim one of the spots, until he proves he can no longer pitch. Luis Severino is poised to became a young ace from Opening Day. Masahiro Tanaka needs to cut down on his tendency to give up dingers in order to reach ace status. Nathan Eovaldi was reportedly healthy and ready to contribute in the division series which was good news. The bad news, of course, was the division series never came. Adam Warren should be a starter and Cashman has said as much. So a rotation of Severino, Tanaka, Sabathia, Eovaldi and Warren leaves Pineda and Nova on the outside looking in.

The Yankees will certainly have some time to sort out the rotation, Cashman could swing one of his surprise trades for a starter, possibly dealing one or more of his current starters in a an upgrade type of deal. Seems that Nova will get a contract offer, but will he start? Pineda was once viewed as an ace in the making but his future seems uncertain, Not sure he would really get dumped, but a rotation spot doesn't appear to be guaranteed for him either.

Suddenly, the "quiet off season" doesn't look to be so quiet alter all. Expect Cashman to make at least one or two significant moves.

And on Another Note
This will be my last weekly post of the season. I want to thank Bernadette for accepting me as a contributor to Lady at the Bat. Thanks to both Bernadette and Christina for sharing some space on the blog with me. I enjoyed reading both of their posts. I will be writing a few things in the off season, either commenting on breaking news, trades, signings or rumors, as well as writing about some Yankees nostalgia. Have a great winter. You can follow me on Twitter @nyypete.  Talk to you soon.


Fazerblast said...

What I am hearing is a trading Brett Gardner and Mark Teixiera(If he did give the permission as we are hearing.) and then sign Price and Upton. Thats what I'm hearing as of right now.

Bernadette Pasley said...

I doubt Teixiera will grant permission for a trade.

Price will command a LOT of money and even MORE years. The Yankees will end up with another A-Rod/Sabathia (dead contract) if they sign him. They would have signed Cano if they were still willing to do that.

I like Upton but I'd rather keep Gardy and wait for Aaron Judge, who can replace Carlos Beltran in '17 (or sub for him or Ellsbury in '16 if there's an injury.