154 Days…

The 2015 Major League Baseball season officially ended last night, which means the 2015 offseason has officially started.  The clock is already ticking on teams to make their decisions on whether to make qualifying offers to their eligible free agents, and we’ll find out those decisions by the end of this working week.

The offseason being underway also means the countdown to the start of next season is officially underway, and including today that countdown stands at 154 days.  154 days until the 2016 Opening Day edition of the Yankees takes the field at home against the Houston Astros, and presumably gets shut out by Dallas Keuchel for 8 innings in a 3-0 loss.

I’m only half-kidding about that last part.  If the Yankees show up with the same crew that finished this year, that’d be a pretty likely outcome.  We’ve spent the past few weeks since their season ended dissecting that crew, its strengths and weaknesses, what it needs to do better, and what changes have to occur to help it be better next year.  With the offseason underway, we’ve got 154 days to see what the front office is going to do about it.  They continue to talk a good game, but their follow-up on that talk has been inconsistent the past few offseasons.  They know what they have, they know where they can be improved, what are they going to do to make those improvements?

We’ve got 154 days to find out.  Do I expect big moves and a big shakeup?  I do not.  There isn’t that much money coming off the payroll this year, and ownership still sees getting under the luxury tax threshold as a worthwhile goal.  They’ve got a lot more money coming off the books after 2016 and 2017, and coming off a return to the postseason I see them riding next year out with this same core, hoping for better health and performance from the rotation, and working in more young players to rest the aging vets.  Doesn’t mean there can’t be some trade activity or smaller signings to make the roster deeper and more flexible next year, but I don’t see the Yanks making any big moves.  They’ve got 154 days to prove me wrong.

Sunday night open thread 11/1/15

It’s November! How the heck did that happen? Doesn’t it seem like this year is flying by?

It feels like just yesterday when we were all lamenting the end of the Yankees’ season.

Anyway, I figured I’d post an open thread for the night, just in case you wanted to talk about some stuff, like baseball, because that’s actually still going on. Although, the season may end tonight if the Royals win, but on the flip side, it may actually be extended if the Mets and Matt Harvey can get their act together, not make any silly errors, and win which would take the series back to K.C. for Game Six.

Either way, it should be a good one tonight.

So feel free to post your thoughts in this thread.

Oh, and in case you missed it last night, Kevin Millar is really creepy and he freaked out poor A-Rod during last night’s FOX pregame show. Here’s a link to the video.

Flashback: October 31, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Andy Pettitte! On this day, back in 2009, you hit an RBI single and helped the Yankees win Game 3 of the World Series!

Oh, and happy Anniversary to you as well, Nick Swisher! You also had a nice night six years ago in Philly when you returned to the lineup after being benched in Game 2 and went 2-4 with a home run!

And to you too Hideki Matsui, you hit a pinch hit home run in Game 3 to give the Yanks an 8-4 lead.

I was at a Buffalo Wild Wings watching this game with my brother. It was a fun night.

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/30/15

My boss was in town this week, so I had to make my internet presence scarce and pretend to be a good, caring cube monkey.  He’s on a flight back to the east coast this morning and I think the best way to shake off the blog rust is with a new linkaround.  Let’s get to it.

– On Monday, Nick Shlain of BP Bronx reviewed the relatively strong roster foundation in place for next year and how that makes shoring up second base an even greater need this offseason.

– On Tuesday, Ben Farber of Pinstripe Alley looked back at the history of presidential first pitches in Yankee games.  The Bush one in the ’01 World Series is still a classic.

– On Wednesday, Mike Axisa of RAB recapped the up-and-down season of fan favorite second baseman Stephen Drew.

– On Thursday, Chris Carelli of Yankees Unscripted recapped Andrew Miller’s terrific debut Yankee season on the heels of him winning the American League Mo Award this week.

– Chad Jennings of LoHud mused on the possibility of the Yankees building a super bullpen around the few strong pieces already in place.  I’d support that move.  Help spread the high-leverage workload around a little bit.

From the IIATMS team:

– On Tuesday, Scott and Stacey debated both sides of the “should Yankee fans be rooting for the Mets in the World Series?” argument.

– Stacey handed out a big batch of thank yous to the Yankees for all the great 2015 moments.

– On Thursday, Stacey mused on a variety of Yankee and World Series-related topics.

– On Friday, Dom presented the IIATMS staff ideas on what to do for the 2016 season.  Lot of different options and opinions in there.

Big week for Stacey while I was on the bench.  She was Murphy to my Wright.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  Hope you’ve got some good Halloween costumes ready.  Mine’s pretty lame, a fat guy in sweatpants sitting on a couch eating a bowl of candy.

Saving the 2016 Season in Three (Possibly) Easy Steps

The Yankees have not played a game in twenty-four days, and it feels even longer than that – which is unfortunate, because we’re still 156 days away from Opening Day (against those dastardly Astros, to boot). The off-season has begun for the Yankees, at least in earnest, and yet we’re still a couple of weeks away from the “real” off-season kicking off. As such, we’re stuck twiddling our thumbs as we await the beginning of hot stove season. And that gives us plenty of time to tackle rumors and rosterbate with a bit more than a simple glance at the available free agents.

In the interim, we decided to discuss moves that could be made to prepare the Yankees for 2016, and hopefully set them up to stay healthy and competitive for the entire season. Or, failing that, preparing them for the future. A few of us chipped in with three ideas apiece, which range from simple and (ostensibly) cheap, to somewhat laughable and/or expensive. Without further ado:

Scott Moss

1) Try to trade Mark Teixeira. Yep, he was terrific for 111 games, which is about the best case for a brittle 36 year-old in 2016. But he’ll be 36, so he’s not likely to post the .900 OPS he logged in 2009 and 2015, but no other years between. We’ve seen enough of Bird to expect better than the 100-120 games of a 100-120 OPS+ that Teixeira is very unlikely to exceed. Not sure what Teixeira would fetch, but in 2015 a lesser player with a similar skill set (Brandon Moss) fetched a top lefty pitching prospect, so it’s worth a try for Cashman to work the phones.

2) Figure out whether J.R. Murphy or Eric Jagielo can play 3B, because Headley is on life support. It’s hard to overstate how troubling Headley’s 2015 was. It was both his worst offensive year ever and his worst defensive 3B year ever, and he’s under contract three more years. There’s no cause for optimism about the age 32-34 years of an average but declining hitter, and a declining fielder, at a rough position, who’s had back problems. He may turn into a backup 3B/1B awfully soon. So the Yankees’ two talented but very flawed 3B options are worth exploring. Jagielo looks like a big-league hitter, but at high-A and AA, his fielding percentages were .887 and .883, with bad range factors; he may have enough bat to make up for mildly subpar defense, but can he improve to “mildly subpar”? Murphy may be the opposite: he’s just an average hitter, but it’s worth exploring whether he could play a solid 3B. Murphy probably was shifted to catcher not because a subpar defensive 3B projected well at a harder position like catcher, but just because anyone who plausibly could play catcher is usually more valuable there. With Gary Sanchez about ready for MLB, Murphy’s higher-value use could be as Headley’s backup or replacement. A defensive catcher with the quality hands, arm, and agility of Murphy might well play a strong 3B, but can he re-learn a position he hasn’t played in years?

3) Devote maybe two million dollars to soft-tissue-injury management and, I don’t know, pilates? For all we know they’re already secretly doing this tactic Red Sox reportedly have thrown a lot of resources at mastering, but I suspect not – or, at least, they haven’t done it effectively yet. All applause to Cashman for getting a tick younger in the past few years by landing Eovaldi, Gregorious, and Pineda, and for giving shots to Severino, Bird, and about 14 young righty relievers – but they’re still an old, brittle team. Beltran, Ellsbury, Gardner, A-Rod, Headley, Teixeira, and McCann all are valuable when healthy, but they’re all prone to a mix of major injuries, nagging injuries, and late-season fatigue. Maybe the team has been doing its best already on this front – but it hasn’t been working, and the cost of maxing out the investment in cutting-edge staff, equipment, and techniques is chump change compared to these guys’ hundred-million-plus salaries.

Brad Vietrogoski

1) Take The Reins Off Their Starters

I know there were a lot of health concerns in the rotation this season, and I applaud the Yankees for attempting to manage that risk with extra rest and the 6th starter here and there. But they can’t expect to seriously contend when they need 8-12 outs from their bullpen every game. They need more length from Tanaka, Pineda, and Eovaldi next year and Joe needs to be willing to lean on them for more outs.

2) Add Another Starter

The injury risk isn’t going away anytime soon. Tanaka just had elbow surgery, and Pineda and Eovaldi both spent time on the DL this past season with arm injuries. Luis Severino is legit, but he’s going to experience growing pains, and the tandem of Nova and Sabathia is nothing more than a pair of injury risky 5th starters at this point. This team needs more starting pitching and it needs that in the form of something much better than Chris Capuano.

3) Come Up With a Proactive Rest Plan for Their Older Players

Certified old guys A-Rod, Beltran, and Teix will all be back next year, as will semi-older regulars like McCann and Headley. The Yankees need to figure out a way to get all of those players enough regular rest to get them through the full season and keep them productive through the full season. That’s going to require a lot of planning and a deeper and more flexible bench, but it would be time and money well spent to get the most out of these aging bats and big money contracts. Using the upper-level MiL talent as part of this plan would be a smart way to bridge to the future.

E.J. Fagan

1) Attempt to trade any or all of Gardner, Teixeira, McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran. The Yankees are an old team, on the decline. Luckily, every contract above is in some way tradeable. They might not get rid of everyone, but should be able to get some kind of return.

2) Play the young guys. Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and possibly Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo are all fine replacements for the above veterans. They may be slight downgrades, but not huge ones, and have considerable upside. This isn’t a hard rebuild. In many cases, they have a better Steamer projection than the veterans.

3) If you’re going to aim for $189 million, aim for it this year. Otherwise, sign Jason Heyward. Ownership has indicated that they still want the Yankees to get under the threshold. Some have looked at the 2017 season as the likely year, after some big contracts expire. But if the Yankees can trade enough players, they can get it done this year. Then, in 2017, they can assess what they have off the farm, and start building a true powerhouse. But if I’m wrong, sign Jayson Heyward. Unlike the guys you’re trading away, he’s going to be good for a long time.

Matt Bove

1) Forget About the $189 Million Threshold

The Yankees stopped being the Yankees once they started worrying about the luxury tax. It’s no coincidence they stopped winning at the same point they started caring more about the bottom line. This is a much better free agent class this year then next when they have money coming off. They will continue to hide behind their second largest payroll even though they’re middle of the pack in percentage of revenue spent in payroll.

2) Trade Brett Gardner

Gardner is a fan favorite, but what good is he if he can’t be productive in the second half of seasons? This seems like a trend that Gardner can’t last a whole season. I don’t see Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran waiving their no trade clauses. Gardner should be able to get back something nice.

3) Get Right-Handed Bats

The Yankees should always be more of a lefty team because of their ballpark but the current lineup has gotten out of hand with A-Rod being the only true righty. You have to have more balance than that.They’re always going to have major trouble against lefties like they did at the end of the year. This is another reason to trade Gardner unless you want to replace him with Jason Heyward.

Jason Rosenberg

1) Don’t trade Brett Gardner

Let’s get some basic facts out of the way, some of which you’ve heard already:
· The team needs to get younger

· The teams needs to be more athletic

· Brett Gardner had another bad second half

Trading Brett Gardner in order to sign Jason Heyward or another OF is not the right decision, even though I seriously love Heyward. Brett Gardner is on a reasonable contract*, provides decent speed (which should be better utilized, see #2), and is generally regarded as a very good OF although he grades out far better in center than left. Trading Gardner to allow a defensively challenged Beltran to play more is a short-sighted mistake and one this team should never make. I’d soon see the Yanks pay half whatever it takes of Beltran’s contract and send him away to get Heyward. Please do not trade Brett Gardner**.
* Gardner’s remaining contractual obligations:
2016 $13.5M (age 32)
2017 $12.5M (33)
2018 $11.5M (34)
2019 $12.5M (35), team option for $12.5M or $2M buyout; net $10.5M decision
** Unless we’re getting at least a #2 SP, and even then…
Now, if you can somehow find a way to get Teixeira to agree to be traded and find a team willing to spend a few million on him, do it now. I don’t care what we get back.

2) Run, Brett, RUN!

Again, more facts, or facts according to me:
· Brett Gardner is fast

· Brett Gardner does not steal many bases

· Brett Gardner should be stealing more bases

Over the last three years, Gardner has averaged just 21.5 SB per year, getting caught roughly one out of every 4 attempts (65; 18). This is not very good. We’ve all seen Gardner looking tentative on the bases, missing opportunities to run or choosing the wrong pitches to run on. Way back in 2010-11, Gardner stole a combined 96 bases. Has he slowed down? Or is just not a good base runner? Can he learn to be a better base stealer? It’s worth bring a guy like Rickey Henderson or someone else in to work with Brett on the nuances of base stealing. If Gardner is getting on base 34+% of the time, popping 15-18 home runs, and stealing 35-45 bases, he will provide the team with a tremendous boost. The first two are more than achievable. The last one is the difference-maker and the biggest question mark.

3) Figure out a way to keep these guys healthy

a. Design and gain buy-in on a scheduled plan for the old guys (Beltran, Teixeira, ARod), the by-product of which is more playing time for the younger guys (Bird, Judge, etc.)

b. Proactively rest/treat/pre-hab the brittle guys (Headley, Ellsbury, Gardner), the by-product of which is more playing time for the younger guys (Heathcott, Judge, etc.)

c. Figure out how to take the governors of Eovaldi, Pineda, Warren, Nova, etc. and just let them go. Treat/pre-hab them so they can make 33 starts. Stop worrying and let them pitch. Babying them clearly isn’t helping so let’s let them build up the strength required to repeatedly throw the ball 200 innings.

d. Furthering the Brett Gardner theme and monitoring his health so this doesn’t happen yet again (career splits, not just last year):


Stacey Gotsulias

1) Wrap Jacoby Ellsbury in bubble wrap so he doesn’t suffer some weird injury that will make him unavailable for weeks at a time and make him less productive when he comes back. The Yankees needed him in the second half and he did a tremendous disappearing act which brings us to #2 on my list…

2) Get a sports psychologist to examine Brett Gardner’s head so he, and the rest of us, can find out why he can’t ever seem to perform in the second half. If the Yankees do that, and Gardner can be productive both before and after the All-Star break, it could help the lineup a lot in 2016.

3) Find a second baseman and stick with him. In other words, sign someone who can actually play second every day. If not, bring up one of the kids to do it and call it a day. The Yankees started more second baseman in 2015 than Bewitched had Darrens, Roseanne had Beckys and Valerie, Valerie’s Family and Hogan Family shows had name changes. Enough is enough!

Domenic Lanza

1) If the plan is to break the bank eventually, do it sooner rather than later. This off-season has several high-quality pieces that will not cost a draft pick to sign – David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist represent massive upgrades in areas of need, and would not do anything to harm the team’s movement towards youth. Price and Zobrist may break the bank, but their combined contracts would look less egregious once Teixeira and Beltran come off of the books after 2016. And, if a repeat of the 2008-2009 off-season is in the cards, Jason Heyward could be a legitimate cornerstone for the next great Yankees team.

2) For heaven’s sake, build a real bench. As it stands, the bench on most days would probably be John Ryan Murphy, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan, and a token RHH outfielder to be named. Murphy and [Chris Young? Drew Stubbs? Chris Denorfia? Rajai Davis] make sense; but the idea of having a defensively-challenged second baseman that might be able to pick up some innings in the outfield and an offensive zero with declining defense representing half of the bench is frightening. I do not like the idea of having a platoon at second, particularly when half of the platoon is not a versatile defender. Having Ackley starting and Refsnyder on the bench represents a real competitive disadvantage. It is for this reason that I would endorse signing or trading for a full-time second baseman, as it should improve both the lineup and the bench.

3) Don’t hesitate to cash-in on Teixeira and Beltran as trade chips (if at all possible). Both players are free agents to be, and both played well-enough in 2015 to have regained some luster – and that is especially true as one-year rentals. Their injury histories are scary, but if a team would be willing to part with a solid prospect or two, or a moderate upgrade anywhere else on the field, the Yankees have a chance to replace most of both players’ production with in-house options. Bird can start at first (and perhaps Murphy or Gary Sanchez can learn the position to platoon, if necessary), and Heathcott, Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave can battle it out to play right (and platoon with the aforementioned token RHH OF). It may not be ideal, but neither is counting on Teixeira and Beltran to remain healthy and productive.

Video: A-Rod talks about the World Series and working for Fox Sports

Alex Rodriguez went on the Michael Kay Show yesterday afternoon and he discussed what’s happened so far in the World Series, what he thinks the Mets should do in order to get back into it and he talks to Michael Kay and Don LaGreca about he prepares for his new gig as a baseball analyst for Fox Sports.

And an added bonus video, former Yankee Jason Giambi called into Dan LeBatard’s radio show and revealed that not only did Derek Jeter wear the infamous gold thong but that it helped him snap out of a long hitless streak.

Personally, I think that a site like Grantland needs to do a longform oral history about the gold thong.

Quick hit: The Gold Glove finalists were announced

The Gold Glove nominations were announced today and the Yankees have a few guys in the running for some hardware! The awards themselves will be announced on November 10.

Congrats to Tex, Didi and Brett on their nominations.

Mattingly to sign a four-year deal with the Marlins


Former Dodgers manager, and Yankee great, Don Mattingly, will be signing a four-year deal to manage the Miami Marlins. The news, first reported by Vice Sports, broke early this morning.

Mattingly, who managed the Dodgers for the past five seasons, interviewed with the Miami earlier this week, and will be the eighth manager of the Marlins since 2010. Let’s put that number into perspective. The Yankees have had three managers since I was in high school, and I turned 41 in August. The Marlins have had eight since I turned 36.

The one thing that may work in Mattingly’s favor is that he’s friendly with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria so he may stick around a little longer than his predecessors. Then again, it’s Loria and things can go haywire in a hurry down in Miami. He meddles with his managers, he once made his General Manager acting manager, and he will change his mind about how he wants to run the team on a dime. Remember 2012’s fire sale?

As for Mattingly, this change could be a good one for him if Loria keeps to himself. He will be going from managing a team with a $300MM payroll and extremely high expectations to managing a team known for not spending a lot and that finished 71-91 in 2015, but is anchored by young players like Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. Mattingly will also be reunited with Dee Gordon, who played under him from 2011-2014. And who knows, if Stanton can stay healthy, and the Marlins can improve their record in 2016, Loria may be inclined to spend some money and build a better team for Mattingly to manage.

Under Mattingly, the Dodgers won the National League West the past three seasons, but the team had trouble advancing past the National League Division Series, accomplishing that feat only once and watched their rivals, the San Francisco Giants, win two World Series in 2012 and 2014.

Mattingly, who went to the Dodgers in 2008 with Joe Torre, after his time on the Yankees’ coaching staff, was 446-363 with L.A. which gives him the sixth-best winning percentage in franchise history.

Random baseball thoughts on a World Series off day

This is going to be a little different than the usual random thoughts post. Instead of one or two sentence thoughts, I figured I’d behave like an actual writer for a change and compose full paragraphs.

I know, wow. Here we go.

The Relentless Royals

We are two games into the 2015 World Series and the Kansas City Royals find themselves up two games to none heading back to Flushing. They were able to beat Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom and got a tremendous pitching performance from Johnny Cueto last night. And I mean, tremendous. He’s one of only seven pitchers to pitch more than eight innings and give up only two hits in a World Series start in the past 60 years. The last guy to do it was Greg Maddux in 1995. He’s also the first American League pitcher to throw a complete game in the World Series since Jack Morris did it in 1991.

With the way Cueto pitched, the Royals didn’t need seven runs but they got them anyway. And how did they do that? Like they always do. They hit and they keep on hitting. Just when a team thinks they may have the Royals in a spot where they may not get anything done, the Royals will put up a four-spot – including scoring three runs with two outs.

It’s actually a lot of fun to watch.

Praising A-Rod

If you had told me even three months ago that Alex Rodriguez would be working for Fox Sports as an analyst during the playoffs, and that he would be getting nearly universal praise on the job he was doing, I would have said that you were insane. But it’s actually happening. He’s getting so much praise that they’re starting to have him talk to the booth during the game to give his thoughts on in-game situations and more importantly, taking time away from Harold Reynolds. It’s stunning. In a good way, of course.

It’s really a treat to see people who would normally be doing something as silly as calling A-Rod “A-Roid” actually complimenting his work on Fox. Some people even went so far as to say that they were hoping he’d permanently replace Reynolds in the booth for the rest of the World Series. I am beside myself with joy.

Oh, and Michael Kay even tweeted about Alex:

I told everyone that Alex would be good. What’s great right now is that he’s explaining baseball in a smart way but that is still easy enough for people to understand. He hasn’t been told to dumb down his analysis which is what seems to happen to a lot of guys who make the jump from playing baseball to broadcasting.

Pissy writers

There are a lot of pissy baseball writers on Twitter right now. It’s mostly tweets complaining about the airport in KC or the airlines they’re using. From the way people tweet and complain about air travel these days, I’m glad I haven’t set foot on an airplane in five years. It sounds truly miserable. People strangle their fellow passengers for reclining seats! What a world!

Rapid fire thoughts:

  • Last night, A-Rod said that it would be important for the Mets to have Yoenis Cespedes start hitting again. He added that while it’s been nice to have Daniel Murphy on such a hot streak, Cespedes is the better player and he needs to get going.
  • Pete Rose needs to be reined in a bit on the pre and postgame show. Frank Thomas joked about Cueto being one of Pete’s stepsons and Pete responded with, “My stepsons speak English.” Oy.
  • No, really, two days off? What the heck am I going to watch?
  • Maybe I can catch up on this season of The Affair. Does anyone else watch that show? It’s pretty intense and I am way behind.
  • I predicted the series would go 6 but if the Royals win on Friday or Saturday, it may only go five. I don’t see them losing two games in Citi Field.

Happy Thursday!