Betances and Enterprise Warning Signs

Sitrep: We've lasted about 72 hours since news of the arbitration hearing broke. EJ and Dominic had some excellent points Sunday on the matter, but I was indisposed during the podcast, so I'm going to peel off the bandage and see what happens.

To start, mutually beneficial sports deals do not happen in front of an arbitrator. Dellin had every right to exercise the arbitration process; however, actually going to arbitration rarely leaves both sides in a better state. If Dellin's team sought an above-standard contract for a setup man, they needed to find a way to leverage the Yankees into a deal before the hearing occurred. Dellin's team should have known they stood little chance in a hearing, and they should have protected him a discussion that could only distract him moving forward.

Equally though, this is a case where the Yanks should have exercised a little grace. The Yanks had an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to exceptional talent and differentiate themselves from other organizations in proactively compensating talent. Instead, they smacked their star closer on the back of the hand because he asked for more porridge, and then they ridiculed him for being hungry. The pay difference comes down to 0.05% of the Yanks estimated value.  This is a bad look for the company, but they've recovered from worse.

I worry more that this signifies a step back for the Yankee organization. For me, watching the 2016 team finally embrace a unified strategy of building for the future satisfied me on so many levels. Superficially, the team's actions last year followed the proven blueprint for developing a dominant roster for years to come, but last summer also revealed clear leadership emerging within the team. Cashman had finally appeared to align the personalities in the organization on a plan, and for the most part, the team seemed to be flowing into a Hal-Cashman-Girardi structure. That structure might not be ideal, but I could see the team winning with that formula because at least it allows for consistent messaging within the team.

As a result, I think it's very telling that the one time the media puts a mic in front of Levine, he grabs it with both hands and tells the world how great he is at his job. It seems crazy, because for the first time in a while, the teams health is improving. Bad contracts are rolling off the books, and the supporting levels are producing big league talent. Levine is not publicly associated with either of those contributions, though, and I think that rattles him. To me, Levine's gloating over the arbitration result seems like a manifestation of insecurity more than anything else, and insecure executives have the means to layer bad decisions for their companies. I take Levine's resurgence as a sign that the front office may not be as steady as I had hoped. Since the Boss's passing, I think this team has struggled with establishing direction at its upper levels, and I think that their inconsistent direction a significant contributor to the team's recent stagnation.

At best, this Betances-Yankees arbitration demonstrates the need for leadership within the organization capable of reigning in stray exec's. At worst, we're witnessing early signs of unsatisfied egos at the higher levels of the front office. Neither one of these issues is immediately concerning as Gary Sanchez's bat or the number 4 starter, but if the team wants to return to dominance, I think they'll need to sort out their front office at some point. 

Though unlikely to help, Niese a worthwhile addition on a minor league deal

Somewhat lost in the hubbub of Randy Levine's scorching comments this weekend was the addition of Jon Niese. The former Met and Pirate has joined the Yankees on a minor league contract.

Niese, a southpaw, started last season with Pittsburgh and was a disaster before being traded back to his original team, the Mets. His season was cut short in late August when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Perhaps the tear had something to do with his 5.50 ERA and 5.62 FIP, as Niese was a solid back of the rotation pitcher with the Mets for a few years. From 2010 through 2015, Niese's tenure as a full season starter in Queens, he posted a 3.86 ERA and 3.84 FIP in over 1,000 innings.

There are two big league roles that Niese will have a chance to earn in camp. One is in the back-end of the rotation. The veteran will be competing with some of the Yankees' younger options for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, like Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green. If that doesn't work out, perhaps the 30 year-old becomes a bullpen option. The Yankees already have one situational lefty, Tommy Lane, but could utilize Niese in such a role if something awry occurs with Layne. Given Niese's history as a starter, he could also serve as a long reliever.

It's farfetched to think that Niese could return to his old form in 2017, which is why he signed a minor league deal. Maybe the Yankees get lucky and he does revert to his past self, but it's unlikely. His poor performance and surgically repaired knee make it difficult to foresee anything good coming out of this deal. Turning to the projections systems doesn't portray a rosy outlook, either. Steamer and ZiPS both project a mid-4 ERA and FIP for Niese.

Despite his shortcomings, this is a low risk addition. Signing Niese to a minor league deal will allow the Yankees to cut bait before he could significantly hurt the team with his performance. Hell, he might not even get the chance to throw one pitch with the Yankees all season. Basically, the Yankees have purchased all of the upside (a decent back-end starter) while minimizing risk. If all goes well, great. If not, it'll be easy to move on.

Podcast Episode 75: Dellin Betances Arbitration Decision Reaction

Emergency podcast! E.J. and Domenic discuss the Dellin Betances arbitration decision and the reaction by New York Yankees President Randy Levine to it. 

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The injury bug takes its first victims: Tyler Austin and Mason Williams

Position players have yet to report to Tampa, but that hasn't stopped them from catching the injury bug. Both Tyler Austin and Mason Williams are the Yankees' first victims of the season.

That Chris Carter signing sure looks good now, huh? Austin's six week timeframe takes us up to Opening Day, which probably means he'll also need a month or so to have a Spring Training of his own. With that in mind, we might not see Austin in game action until May, most likely with Scranton.

With Carter around, there was a strong chance Austin wouldn't have been in the Bronx to begin the year anyway. Nonetheless, he would have had a chance to supplant Greg Bird or Aaron Judge, depending on the former's shoulder and the latter's mechanical adjustments.

Williams was likely ticketed for the Triple-A outfield before this knee injury. Fortunately for him, the current prognosis doesn't have him losing too much of camp, so there's a chance he's still ready for the opener should he be needed in New York.

Losing depth is never a good thing. But if there's a bright side, these two injuries will give us more opportunities to watch Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler over the next month.

Podcast Episode 74: Rules Changes, Spring Training Battles

EJ, Jim and Derek discuss potential MLB rule changes and the upcoming Spring Training roster battles. 

We're sponsored by seatswaptickets.com, a great new website where fans can trade their unused tickets with other fans. Use the promo code "SWAP" to get $20 off your next purchase on Swap Seat's partner website, Seat Geek.

Want to help us out? Please share is podcast with at least one of your friends. We're proud of the podcasts we put out, and would like to try and reach more people. Thank you for listening!

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Quick Hit: The King Has Returned... To The Cage

It's no secret that this period of spring training is typically a mixture of taking attendance, we're looking at you Delin, and light calisthenics. However, courtousy of a well-placed home plate camera, we were treated to some fireworks from Mr. Sanchez. To those lucky enough to visit spring training, keep your head on a swivel when you're walking behind the outfield wall, because Gary can reach you.

Great effort, Orange-Shirt-Guy. See you at Marlins camp.

8 days until game action saves us all from February.