Author: Derek Page 2 of 88

An all too familiar ending for Aroldis Chapman [2020 Season Review]

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Even though Aroldis Chapman is no longer unique in terms of elite fastball velocity, he’s still among the best relievers in all of baseball. But for as great as he’s been in the regular season all these years, 2020 is the second straight year in which he’s given up a homer to send the Yankees packing for the winter.

This wasn’t how the Yankees envisioned Chapman finishing the team’s season when he was first acquired in 2016. It was supposed to be him clinching the last out of a World Series victory. It was supposed to make the acquisition of him (twice, by the way) “worth it” after his domestic violence allegation and suspension. Ick, to put it lightly. Instead, Chapman’s been a mercenary who hasn’t gotten the job done when it’s mattered most. Maybe 2021 will be different, but for now, Chapman’s memories as a Yankee haven’t been very good in spite of the impressive statistics.

A late start to his season

Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 in July and missed the beginning of the regular season. Although he was cleared to return to the team before the end of the month, the closer didn’t get back on the mound for the Yanks until mid-August. As such, the hardthrowing lefty wasn’t the team’s saves leader for the first time since he was initially acquired him for the 2016 season. Zack Britton took the mantle in 2020 with 8 saves to Chapman’s 3.

We only have 13 regular season games to look at, but all indications are that Chapman was his usual self this season. He struck out a ton of batters (48.9 percent) and maintained the same fastball velocity as 2019 (~98 MPH). There were a couple of memorable outings, not in a good way, but there was nothing pointing toward decline for the 32 year-old closer under contract through 2022.

So, about those not so good performances. Chapman blew two saves in the span of a week against the Mets, including getting walked off at Yankee Stadium.

Giancarlo Stanton is still great, when healthy [2020 Season Review]

To no one’s surprise, the hit pieces regarding Giancarlo Stanton and his contract are out in full force. Someone has to get the blame for the Yankees quiet offseason thus far, I guess. Rather than blame a payroll that’s been stagnant over the last two decades or lost revenue from COVID-19, Stanton takes the brunt of it. Sure, it stinks that he hasn’t been healthy over the last two seasons. But he himself isn’t holding back this organization.

Despite injuries muddying another season for Stanton, the slugger still managed to shine through when opportunities arose. He can still hit with the best of them and he thrived under the postseason spotlight. Like everyone else, I wanted to see more of Stanton in 2020, but at least there’s some silver lining.

Personal and organizational changes didn’t keep Stanton healthy

Stanton played 158 games in his first season in pinstripes, but has appeared in just 41 games since. In 2019, a biceps strain, right knee strain, calf strain, and a mysterious shoulder injury kept him off the field almost all year. The Yankees made sweeping changes to the team’s training staff because of the myriad of injuries the team suffered in ’19, so Stanton wasn’t alone. There was hope that the change would help keep Stanton (and others) available more often in 2020 and beyond, along with Stanton trimming down over the winter. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition.

Yankees trade target(s): Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon

Aside from DJ LeMahieu’s free agency, we haven’t heard much about the Yankees’ workings this offseason. It’s been remarkably quiet, though not unlike many of the league’s other 29 teams. Typically, we start to get a decent amount of transactions by mid-December, particularly during the winter meetings. But this year, that of course was not the case thanks to COVID-19. We did get one rumor worth chewing on, though:

Unless I’ve missed it elsewhere, Jason Mackey is the only reporter to relay this rumor. Nothing from Yankees beat writers or national insiders just yet, at least. Nonetheless, I think the names involve pass the smell test for the types of players the Yankees are interested in. Allow me to explain why.

Josh Bell

Background & Performance

Bell, 28, was the Pirates’ 2nd round pick back in 2011. He’s been Pittsburgh’s primary first baseman since late-2016. The switch-hitting slugger had put together some solid offensive campaigns through 2018, but really broke out in 2019. That year, Bell hit .277/.367/.569 (135 wRC+) with 37 dingers in 613 plate appearances. It all came crashing down for him this year, though, as his wRC+ dropped to 78 and his strikeout rate (26.5 percent) eclipsed the 20 percecnt mark for the first time in his career. Now, with two seasons until free agency, the Pirates appear ready to move him.

News & Notes: Cashman on YES, Hicks, Cortes returns

The Winter Meetings have come and gone with a thud. Sure, a few deals went down, but nothing earth-shattering. I suppose this was to be expected. Rather than a steady flow of rumors and moves, it was just like every other week this offseason.

Brian Cashman sheds some light on the Yankees’ offseason

The Yankees stood pat this week, but we do have some team-related news to relay, mostly thanks to Brian Cashman’s interview on YES yesterday. NJ.com’s Randy Miller transcribed a number of relevant quotes which I’ll break down here as well.

  • Cashman expressed the team’s intent to bring back free agent DJ LeMahieu. No shocker here.
  • After discussing LeMahieu, Meredith Marakovits asked if Masahiro Tanaka fits into the picture if the team re-signs LeMahieu. Cashman was very coy here, basically saying he couldn’t answer the question about what fits into the team’s budget. I’ve seen folks read that response as if Tanaka is a goner. I understand that sentiment, especially given his openness about wanting to bring back DJLM. However, it’s not like he was directly asked about wanting to bring back Tanaka. I wonder if he used the question being targeted toward the financial aspect to avoid talking about Tanaka at all. Perhaps that means a reunion with Tanaka isn’t out of the cards, though maybe I’m just overthinking it.
  • The GM had plenty of good things to say about Gary Sánchez, though he couched his statement by saying that they’re not giving him a pass. Cashman cited how hard he hit the ball this season when he made contact, which was obviously an issue for him (36 percent strikeout rate). It should come as no surprise that the team tendered him a contract last week based on Cashman’s steadfast belief in the backstop.
  • It sure sounds like Domingo Germán has been welcomed back based on the way Cashman spoke about the rotation. Hal Steinbrenner had previously said the team would need “proof that he [Germán] turned his life around”.
  • Cashman would like to add to the rotation this offseason, but he also stated that “you could certainly daydream” that the pitching staff might actually have everything that it already needs. Look, I love some of the young arms that this team has, but let’s add some depth please.

Aaron Hicks says his elbow still isn’t 100 percent

In addition to Cashman, the Yankees’ center fielder was also on YES last night. I believe Hicks mentioned this during the regular season, but I found it notable that he said yesterday that his elbow still doesn’t feel 100 percent after Tommy John surgery. Perhaps it won’t be, which stinks.

As Hicks noted in the interview, he felt like it took him until the end of the year to really feel more like himself. His numbers bore this out too. Offensively, that may be as a result of changing his swing so he doesn’t hyperextend his elbow. I’m pretty sure this is the first we’ve heard of Hicks having to adjust his swing mechanics since the surgery.

Nestor Cortes is back in the organization

Per his own Instagram account, Nestor Cortes has re-signed with the Yankees after spending 2020 with the Mariners. The Yanks dealt him to Seattle last offseason, and sheesh, did Cortes struggle. He had a 15.26 ERA in 7 2/3 innings with the Mariners. Elbow issues appear to be the blame here as an elbow impingement shut his season down mid-August. The lefty is now pitching in the Dominican Republic, so he’s presumably healthy.

The Yankees haven’t announced the move yet, but it’s safe to assume that this is a minor league deal. I’m sure we’ll see Cortes receive an invite to spring training, too. Odds are he’s just minor league depth during 2021, though he could serve as a mop-up man if absolutely needed in the big leagues.

Rule 5 Draft Recap: Yankees lose Garrett Whitlock, Kyle Holder, and Trevor Stephan

Don’t get too excited.

As expected, the Yankees lost a few prospects in today’s Rule 5 draft. Garrett Whitlock, Kyle Holder, and Trevor Stephan will start 2021 in new organizations, though there’s still the possibility that they will return to the Yankees before season’s end.

Boston, badly in need of any sort of pitching, took righty Garrett Whitlock with the 4th overall selection. Whitlock had Tommy John surgery mid-2019 but should be a full go come spring training. Perhaps he cracks a spot in the Red Sox rotation. The former 18th round pick in 2017 made 14 Double-A starts in 2019 and posted a 3.07 ERA and 3.14 FIP.

The Phillies grabbed shortstop Kyle Holder, the Yanks’ first round pick in 2016. Holder spent time at the Alternate Site this summer and now possibly could replace Didi Gregorius as the Phillies’ shortstop. He’s best known for his defensive chops at short.

Lastly, Cleveland selected righty Trevor Stephan. He was the Yanks’ third round selection in the 2017 amateur draft. Somewhat surprisingly, he wasn’t at the Alternate Site this summer as he seems prime for a big league relief gig soon. Granted, 2019 was a bit of a roller coaster for him. The year included a demotion from Double-A to High-A, but he did look better and returned to Trenton by the end of that season.

These three aren’t lost for good, so you know. They must stick in the big leagues for the entirety of the 2021 season, so all three could be back in the Yankees’ organization before too long.

The Yankees will also lose a few players in the minor league phase this afternoon. That said, the minor leaguers taken during this phase rarely are notable prospects. I’ll update this post if there are any surprises.

Meanwhile, because the Yankees have an open 40-man roster spot, the team could have made selection in today’s draft. But to no surprise, the organization passed. The Yanks haven’t made a pick in the Major League phase since 2011 (RHP Brad Meyers, Nationals).

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