Rob Manfred handed down discipline related to the league’s investigation into the Red Sox organization’s behavior during the 2018 season. The commissioner placed the onus on the team’s replay system operator, JT Watkins. That said, some players clearly had to be involved for the scheme to work. Manfred also noted that the team’s transgressions were not at the level of what the Astros did previously. Essentially, Watkins decoded the signals for the players to use when they were on second base and could share the information with the hitter.
As a result, these are the penalties:
Watkins has been suspended for all of 2020, including the postseason. He cannot serve in that position in 2021, though he can return in another capacity.
The Red Sox must forfeit their 2nd round draft pick this year.
Alex Cora is suspended for 2020, but not for his conduct as Red Sox manager. Rather, for his conduct while Houston’s bench coach in 2017.
My first reaction to the Variety report: this would be so weird. I know A-Rod grew up a Mets fan, but it’s just weird to envision him becoming the face of the club after being with the Yankees for so long. And J-Lo is from the Bronx, of course. But hey, money talks if they can accumulate enough of it. The power couple needs to raise a good deal of money in order to purchase the Mets from the Wilpon family. They’ve enlisted the help of JPMorgan Chase to do so.
The Mets were nearly sold to Steve Cohen just months ago before negotiations fell apart near the finish line. Nothing ever comes easy with the Wilpons, so one would have to imagine things won’t be much different this time around.
In any case, should this actually come to fruition, we could have A-Rod vs. Derek Jeter in the same division!
Checking in on an old friend
Brendan Kuty of NJ.com caught up with ex-Yankee Tyler Austin, who signed with the DeNA BayStars of Yokohama for the 2020 season. Gotta be honest, I totally missed that Austin was headed to the NPB this year. I knew he had bounced around with a few MLB clubs after the Yankees dealt him to Minnesota and figured he was still around. Anyway, playing in Japan would be a nice opportunity for Austin to re-establish himself. Unfortunately, like for everyone else, the coronavirus has gotten in the way.
We’re a bit overdue for a news and notes post, are we not? Of course, not much is going on in the baseball world these days. A few things have come about in recent days though, so let’s get to it.
Rest In Peace Hank Steinbrenner
Sad news yesterday: Hank Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 63. Hank has been out of the public eye for a few years now, though his health issues weren’t known.
Hank had a little bit of his father in him, occasionally popping up with a blustering quote about the state of the Yankees or a player on the team. He seemed like the obvious successor to George, though as was made clear in a terrific obituary today by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Hank never had much interest in taking over. Though Hank clearly loved the Yankees, he had plenty of other passions in life. Kepner’s piece gives us good insight into the person Hank was. Rest in peace.
Empty stadium sports? Dr. Anthony Fauci is on board.
Here’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says about Major League Baseball and other sports resuming in 2020:
“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
I’ll save my opinion on this for now since we just discussed it on the podcast earlier this week. Rather, I take this as a sign that the leagues really are going to try to resume play this year. Now that federal officials are essentially on board, it seems inevitable. I’d certainly welcome baseball with open arms, but I’d be lying if I told you that I had absolutely no concerns about it.
A Different Jackie Robinson Day
Obviously, with no baseball to be played at the moment, Jackie Robinson is a little different this year. Here’s what’s on the slate today instead:
Presumed backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has been keeping a diary in partnership with the New York Post. In his latest entry, he covers a myriad of topics although the highlight is, unsurprisingly, that he’d like to play baseball this year.
Higgy mentions the Arizona Plan, though he doesn’t give his opinion on it other than emphasizing his desire to play. Who can blame him? As he writes in his piece, Higgy has been in the minors since 2008 and this year was going to be his first real opportunity. He’s worked hard to get to this point and hit a number of lows along the way, so it’s easy to understand why Higashioka wants this chance so badly. I feel for him.
Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) shines for outfield defense, which came as a surprise to the piece’s authors. FRAA is BP’s defensive metric du jour, by the way. So, what does FRAA think of Yankees’ outfielders?
Aaron Judge is a terrific outfielder with 22.1 career FRAA.
After three straight years of elite defense per FRAA from 2016 through 2018 (no season lower than 11.8), Brett Gardner dipped to -0.2 last season.
Giancarlo Stanton posted strong numbers in right field for the Marlins, but has been very slightly below average in left field for the Yankees.
Aaron Hicks has -17.2 FRAA with the Yankees, which is quite bad and a bit unexpected.
Mike Tauchman was pretty good out there last year (4.0 FRAA). Clint Frazier is below average per the system (-4.7 career FRAA), but perhaps not as bad as anticipated.
I can’t say I really know how FRAA works, but it’s interesting as one data point. I think we’re better off looking at an array of metrics along with the traditional eye test to get a sense of who’s good and who’s bad in the field.
To wrap up what I started last week, today we build a pitching staff of one-and-done Yankees pitchers. I’ll put together my five man rotation, seven arm bullpen, and a bunch of honorable mentions. Oh, and as I forgot to mention last week: I’m only considering players from my lifetime (I was born in 1990). With that, away we go:
Bartolo Colón’s career sputtered after he won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award. A myriad of health issues resulted in Big Sexy making just 47 starts from 2006 through 2009. After that, he didn’t make a single start in 2010. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the righty’s career. He made a triumphant return with the 2011 Yankees, winning a bullpen job out of camp before joining the rotation in late April. Overall, Colón threw 164 1/3 innings and recorded an impressive 4.00 ERA (95 ERA-) and 3.83 FIP (91 FIP-). That season with the Bombers was the jumpoff for his late career resurgence.
Jon Lieber underwent Tommy John surgery in late-2002, and although he was set to miss all of 2003, the Yankees signed him to a two-year contract. The bet paid off, as Lieber’s one season in pinstripes — 2004 — was solid. Though he got off to a rough start, he settled in during the second half. After a 4.77 ERA in the first half, Lieber closed out the year with a 3.94 ERA the rest of the way. The righty also pitched well in the playoffs: in three starts (21 innings), he had a 3.43 ERA, though he took the loss in Game 6 against the Red Sox in the ALCS.
The Yankees acquired Brandon McCarthy in early-July 2014. The tall and lanky right-hander was great down the stretch: he posted a 2.89 ERA and 3.22 FIP in 14 starts (90 1/3 innings), though unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the Yankees back into the playoffs that year. It did land McCarthy a nice contract with the Dodgers after the season, at least.
I’m still mad that the Yankees didn’t bring back Lance Lynn (only half-kidding). Lynn was terrific for the Rangers last year after pitching decently for the Bombers in late-2018. The Yankees picked up Lynn from the Twins for Tyler Austin at the deadline that year and the burly right-hander pitched 11 games (9 starts) and had a 4.14 ERA (2.17 FIP!). He did get wrecked in relief of Luis Severino in Game 4 of the ALDS vs. Boston, although now we (still) wait to find out the extent of Boston’s cheating that season.
Lastly, what could have been for Jake Westbrook had he not been traded? He was part of the David Justice trade, so I’m sure the Yankees don’t have too many regrets. After all, Justice was a big part of that 2000 World Champion team. Still, Westbrook went on to have a nice career with Cleveland and St. Louis after pitching just three games for the Yankees. Honestly, I have no recollection of Westbrook actually debuting with the Yankees. I had assumed they dealt him while he was still a prospect in the minors.
One-time Cubs wunderkind Kerry Wood pitched in the Yankees’ bullpen in 2010. He began that season in Cleveland’s bullpen, but struggled to the tune of a 6.30 ERA. However, following a deadline day trade to the Bronx, Wood was dominant. He allowed only two runs in 26 innings with the Yankees and struck out 31 opponents.
Before I knew anything about regression to the mean, I was absolutely ecstatic when the Yankees signed Chris Hammond following his 0.95 ERA season in Atlanta. The lefty pitched well in his one season with the Yankees (2.86 ERA and 3.25 FIP), but was traded after the 2003 season to Oakland.
I’m throwing Jesse Orosco into the mix because I find it hilarious that he was 46 (!!!) when he made a cameo in pinstripes. He came aboard as a lefty specialist in a midseason trade, appeared in 15 games, and was traded away before the season ended. Orosco was best known for his time with the Mets in the mid-80s, but by virtue of being left-handed, he stuck around for 24 seasons including part of his final one with the Yankees.
LaTroy Hawkins got an absolute raw deal in New York. Yes, he pitched poorly (5.71 ERA in 41 innings), but certain segments of the fanbase were unnecessarily harsh on him. All he did “wrong” was wear number 21 for part of the year (For some reason the Yankees still won’t circulate it. It’s been almost 20 years since Paul O’Neill retired. Come on.). Hawkins was very good after they traded him to Houston mid-season and went on to continue his strong career in the bullpen through 2015.
Luis Ayala surprisingly emerged as a key fixture in the Yankees’ 2011 bullpen. The righty recorded a 2.09 ERA in 52 games. That, after signing a minor league deal, was an unexpected boon to the club’s ‘pen.
I remember wanting Octavio Dotel on the Yankees for years. That wish eventually came true, but unfortunately well past Dotel’s prime. The Yankees signed him for the 2006 season knowing he still had a few months left of Tommy John rehab. He pitched 14 games (10 innings) upon return, but allowed 13 runs and 11 walks while striking out just 7.
The Yankees had Armando Benítez for a hot minute in 2003. Formely a strongly disliked rival with Baltimore and later Mets’ closer, the Yankees traded for Benítez mid-2003. The Mets got Jason Anderson in return. The Yankees only kept Benítez for a few weeks as they dealt him to Seattle for old friend Jeff Nelson.
Honorable Mentions: Chan Ho Park, Chad Qualls, Matt Thornton, Mark Wohlers, Buddy Groom, Alan Embree, Kirby Yates, Felix Rodriguez, Andrew Bailey, Luis Ayala, Brett Tomko, Jay Witasick, Anthony Swarzak, Sergio Santos, Chaz Roe, David Carpenter, Rich Hill, Derek Lowe, Luis Vizcaíno
Times are tough right now and there’s not much baseball to write about or discuss (our podcast has you covered if you’re looking for that). So, why not go for a little twist on an All-Time Yankees roster? Today, I’m starting a two part series on players who spent no more than one year with the Yankees. I’m building a 25-man roster with 13 position players (covered today) and 12 pitchers (coming sometime in the future). With that, let’s get right to it.
Catcher (2): Iván Rodríguez and Sal Fasano
Pudge in pinstripes is one of the weirder images in the Yankees’ history. The Hall of Fame backstop was a longtime rival, whether with the Rangers in the late 90s, that pesky 2003 Marlins squad, or those annoying mid-aughts Detroit clubs.
The Yankees brought in Pudge at the trade deadline in 2008 in exchange for Kyle Farnsworth. Jorge Posada, who hit the disabled list for the first time in his career that month, was out for the rest of the season. At the time, Rodríguez wasn’t much of a (power) hitter anymore, but his bat was still respectable and his glove remained top notch. Unfortunately, Pudge sputtered in pinstripes: in 101 plate appearances, the catcher hit .219/.257/.323 (51 OPS+). His OPS+ had hovered right around league before his acquisition and the previous couple of seasons, but the Yankees weren’t so fortunate to get that kind of production in Posada’s absence.
Considering that Posada was a bastion of health for most of his career, and that the Yankees were pretty stable behind the plate even after he retired (Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Gary Sánchez), it’s hard to find a backup catcher for this squad. So, just for fun, we’ll go with Sal Fasano. Because why not? He fits the criteria and was fun. Just look at this bundle of joy:
Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Dioner Navarro, Chris Widger, and Kevin Cash
First Base (1): John Olerud
For a franchise that’s seamlessly gone from Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez to Jason Giambi to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees sure have had a ton of random first baseman throughout the last three decades. Best laid plans and all, am I right?
Giambi and Teixeira had a few seasons mired by injuries which resulted in a number of replacements. A lot of fun names as you’ll see in the honorable mentions below, but I took Olerud here.
The Yankees brought in Johnny O mid-2004 after Seattle released him. Then 35, he had hit .245/.354/.360 (90 OPS+) with the Mariners before the Yankees grabbed him. He closed with a better .280/.367/.396 (101 OPS+) triple-slash in pinstripes.
In the playoffs, an injury kept Olerud out of games four, five, and six of the ALCS before he pinch hit in Game seven. You may remember this homer against Pedro Martínez before Things We Will Not Discuss happened in that series:
Honorable Mentions: Doug Mientkiewicz, Tony Clark, Richie Sexson, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Steve Pearce, Travis Lee, Craig Wilson, Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Ji-Man Choi
Second Base (1): Martín Prado
I have to say: it caught me by surprise that Prado was eligible. I really thought he was around for at least a couple of years. Then again, those mid-2010 teams weren’t clubs to remember. Prado only played 37 games in pinstripes and was great: he batted .316/.336/.541 (144 OPS+) for the Bombers in 2014.
The Yanks brought Prado aboard at the deadline that year in exchange for power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien. He played all over the field for the final two months of the season — the first year in which the Yankees were without Robinson Cano.
In the offseason, the Yankees packaged Prado with David Phelps to the Marlins in return for Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo Germán, and Garrett Jones.
Honorable Mentions: Neil Walker, Tony Womack, Brian Roberts, Mark Bellhorn
Third Base (2): Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell
The Greek God of Walks had an illustrious career in pinstripes, did he not? Oh, those 2013 Yankees were a treat. With Alex Rodriguez out for the start of the season, the Yankees brought in Youkilis for a cool $12 million to handle the hot corner. It did not go well. The then 34 year-old lasted just 28 games with the Yankees and hit a putrid .219/.305/.343 (80 OPS+).
Back injuries ruined any chance of Youkilis having any success with the Yankees. He hit the injured list twice, with the second time being the last straw: he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.
Performance aside, Youkilis in pinstripes has to be one of the most bizarre marriages in recent memory. He was a longtime loathsome foe up in Boston that I can’t imagine any Yankees had a fondness for.
Then comes Lowell, who like Youkilis, had a successful run in Boston. Before that though, Lowell emerged as one of the sport’s better third basemen with the Marlins. Even further back: Lowell was once a Yankees prospect who got a cup of coffee with the ’98 squad. Instead of becoming the Bombers’ third baseman of the future, he was blocked by Scott Brosius. Thus, the Yankees dealt him to the Marlins for Todd Noel, Mark Johnson, and Ed Yarnall. Whoops!
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Boone, Todd Zeile, Morgan Ensberg, Todd Frazier, Casey McGehee, Kelly Johnson
Shortstop (2): Troy Tulowitzki, Jerry Hairston Jr.
Tulo has the most star power of the one-and-done shortstops here, and there aren’t many choices nonetheless. That’ll happen as a result of Derek Jeter and Didi Gregorius dominating the position since 1996.
Tulo was the product of the Yankees’ peculiar plan to make him the starting shortstop as Gregorius recovered from Tommy John surgery last year. It only took five games for the oft-injured Tulowitzki to go down for good, but at least he tallied one homer with the Bombers. Remember, Tulowitzki idolized Jeter and seemingly longed to play for the Yankees for years, so that was a cool moment for him.
I have to say, I was surprised to see Hairston actually play far more shortstop in 2009 than second base. It was his second most played position that year to third base, though I always remember him at the keystone for the Orioles early in his career. With that, Hairston’s my utility infielder on this roster.
Anyway, Hairston was a nice trade deadline pickup for the World Champion 2009 Yankees. He’ll perhaps be best remembered for racing around to score on Melky Cabera’s grounder in the 13th inning to win Game 2 of the 2009 ALCS.
Honorable mentions: Erick Almonte, Tony Fernández, Ángel Berroa, Adeiny Hechavarría, Pete Kozma, Reid Brignac
Left Field (2): Rondell White, Vernon Wells
Even in the dynasty years, the one position the Yankees struggled to fill was left field. Not that it really mattered, of course. The Bombers were a juggernaut. Come 2002 though, I remember being really excited about Rondell White coming aboard.
To that point, White had a lifetime .295/.351/.484 (115 OPS+) batting line and was entering his age-30 campaign. No one could have anticipated the drop off he exhibited in pinstripes, particularly after he had just finished 2001 with a career high 134 OPS+ with the Cubs. White recorded an ugly .240/.288/.378 (76 OPS+) with the Yankees and was subsequently traded in the winter. White bounced back with the Padres in 2003, but the Yankees were unquestionably happy to have Hideki Matsui roaming left field.
Vernon Wells is my fourth outfielder. He was one of the many random players to grace that 2013 squad. You may recall that he was terrific in April: Wells hit .300/.366/.544 with six dingers in 101 plate appearances, seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, things weren’t so hot the rest of the way. Whenever each mark in your triple-slash starts with a 2, it’s not good folks. Wells finished with a .216/.258/.296 line the rest of the way. Yikes. But at least his heyday with Toronto and name recognition make him viable on this fake roster’s bench.
Honorable Mentions: Randy Winn, Austin Kearns, Glenallen Hill
Center Field (1): Kenny Lofton
2004 was a little bit awkward. Bernie Williams, the longtime Yankees center fielder, had a challenger in another longtime (but aging) great: Kenny Lofton. Though Bernie got the majority of reps in center, Lofton received his fair share and recorded 539 innings at the position in 2004.
It’s pretty well documented that Lofton wasn’t happy during his time in pinstripes because of sporadic playing time. Unfortunately for Lofton, the then 37 year-old was stuck in a crowded outfield situation with Bernie, Matsui, and Gary Sheffield. Nonetheless, Lofton was solid in limited time: he posted a a 95 OPS+ and 1.5 WAR in 83 games. Years later, when the Yankees were courting CC Sabathia in free agency, Lofton reportedly tried to steer CC away from the Bronx.
Cutch was with the Yanks for basically one month, but feels like an easy choice for one of these outfield spots. Acquired at the August 31st waiver trade dealine in 2018, the former NL MVP raked as a Yankee. In 114 plate appearances, McCutchen belted 5 homers, a .421 OBP, and a 145 OPS+.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Guiel, Matt Lawton, Terrence Long, Brennan Boesch, David Delucci
Designated Hitter (1): Raúl Ibañez
Need I explain my choice any further?
Honorable Mentions: Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner, Ben Francisco, Matt Holliday, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Canseco, Billy Butler, Garrett Jones
As part of the agreement between the league and players’ association, MLB owners are advancing $170 million in salary to the players. At the forefront, this seems like a victory for the union. It’s real money that can’t be clawed back if the 2020 season is ultimately canceled. There’s more to this than meets the eye, though.
The MLBPA frequently kicks its most vulnerable members (or future members!) to the side during its negotiations with the owners. We discussed this on this week’s podcast, particularly when it comes to the draft. This salary advance isn’t much different. Although an irrevocable $170 million sounds like a big chunk of change, there are significant caveats. From ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.
The key here? How the MLBPA will allocate the money among its members. The spread of the amount is clearly regressive as it goes to players who have been fortunate enough to sign guaranteed contracts. In other words, the already highest paid players will get most of this $170 million. I guess that’s not a surprise, but it would be nice if the union helped out some of its more junior members.
Today, we received more detail on how this money will be distributed from an AP report. Once you look down from the guaranteed deals, its based on the amounts per each players’ split contracts. Here’s how it goes over the sixty days of pay:
Guaranteed contracts: $4,775 per day ($286,500)
$150,000 salary in minors: $1,000 per day ($60,000)
$91,800 to $149,999 in minors: $500 per day ($30,000)
Less than $91,800 in minors: $275 per day ($16,500)
All pre-arb and arbitration players (to my knowledge, at least) sign non-guaranteed split contracts dictating salary in the majors vs. minors.
As you can see, things get hairy for those at the bottom two tiers. Granted, I understand that it’s not easy for fans to feel sorry for players losing out on paychecks when some have accumulated millions already via signing bonuses. Especially when so many people around the world have lost or are going to lose their livelihoods because of COVID-19. But we can’t simply assume that all big leaguers are wealthy or comfortable, either.
Take Mike Ford, for example. The Yankees signed him as an undrafted amateur free agent in 2013 for an undisclosed amount. You can safely assume any signing bonus was minimal, if there was one at all. He didn’t make the majors until last year, and according to Spotrac, he earned just under $240,000 in 2019. Definitely a nice living for one year! But remember, Ford had earned a pittance in the minor leagues for about five years.
Think about what Ford would have made given normal circumstances this year. Depending on his assignment, he’d have earned at least the prorated amount of the major league minimum ($563,500) and/or minor league minimum for 40-man players signing a second major league contract ($91,800). Instead, Ford’s set to earn $500 day during this sixty-day window. $30,000 is a nice amount of money over that time, no doubt, but that could be it for him all year. Plus, that’s before things like taxes, agent fees, and union dues. After finally breaking through for big money, Ford’s been set back to what he scrapped for in prior years.
You can do a similar exercise for plenty of other Yankees and players around the league. Two others that come to mind are Kyle Higashioka and Jonathan Loáisiga. The Yankees drafted Higgy is 2008 and gave him a nice $500,000 bonus. That said, he hadn’t received a full season’s worth of major league money yet. 2020 would have been his first time doing so. Meanwhile, Loáisiga received an undisclosed bonus in 2013 as an international amateur free agent (read: minimal). Since then, the righty has suffered various injuries. He finally emerged with the Yankees over the past two years, but it seems like his arm is a ticking time bomb.
Lastly, the newbies to the 40-man roster could be capped at $16,500 for all of 2020. These players, who have signed their first 40-man contracts, earn less than $91,800 on their split contracts in the minors. Here are the Yankees in this category, with amateur bonuses in parentheses: Deivi García ($200k), Estevan Florial ($200k), Luis Gil (?), Luis Medina ($280k), Brooks Kriske ($100k), Nick Nelson ($455k), and Miguel Yajure ($30k). Any way you slice it, this advance is a tough pill to swallow for this group.
Are there things in the world to be more concerned about than baseball players with non-guaranteed contracts? Of course. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, though. We can feel horrible for all who have fallen ill and those whose livelihoods have been crushed by this pandemic. Meanwhile, it’s OK to feel frustrated with the players’ union (yet again). There are plenty of players who are going to be adversely affected by COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, the group most vulnerable are those the MLBPA typically least prioritizes.