News & Notes: Bird, Villar, Hill, Playoff Shares, Balkovec

What once was.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope you all have a great holiday filled with family, friends, and great food. It really is a great holiday. Tyler Wade sure is excited:

Anyway, as Derek said in yesterday’s Thoughts post, things will be fairly quiet around here today and over the weekend, as you’d expect. But not that quiet! I figured I’d throw up a brief news and notes post to cover some of the smaller items that have fallen through the cracks recently. Let’s get right to it before we all fall asleep in a post-turkey slumber.

Greg Bird, Free Agent

Yesterday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that former Yankee first baseman Greg Bird cleared waivers and is now a free agent. This doesn’t surprise me. The 27-year-old lefty bat has just 600 plate appearances since the start of the 2017 season, hitting just .194/.287/.388 in those chances. That just is not going to cut it at any position, let alone an offense-heavy one like first base. It’s too bad. Bird was given every chance in the world–he was the Yankees’ opening day first baseman this year–but his body just wouldn’t cooperate.

As for what’s next for him, perhaps the Yankees bring him back on a one-year MiLB deal, but I doubt it. I think that ship has sailed. Bird will probably find a suitor somewhere who will take a chance on his talent, but time is running out, and fast, on Bird’s MLB career. It’s a shame.

Jonathan Villar on Waivers

In an explicable move dominated by financial considerations, the Baltimore Orioles placed Jonathan Villar, their best player, on waivers. Villar hit .274/.339/.453 (107 wRC+) on a dismal Baltimore team last year and was worth 4 fWAR. It’s a sad state of affairs when terrible teams are just dropping their only good players.

If the Yankees let Didi walk, Villar could make some sense as another piece of the rotating infield puzzle. The switch-hitting middle infielder offers positional versatility and a reliably league-average bat. He would fit in easily on the Bombers, I think. But we’ll explore this option in more depth in the coming days.

Yankees Interested In Tim Hill

The Yankees are reportedly interested in Royals reliever Tim Hill, per a report from’s Mark Feinsand. In fact, they’re considered “chief among the suitors”, to be exact. Hill is an older player–he turns 30 next season–but didn’t make his MLB debut until 2018, which means that he has four years of sweet, sweet team control left. And some of his peripherals are encouraging, too.

He owns a 3.93 ERA (92 ERA-) in 85 career innings pitched with a 22% strikeout rate against an 8% walk rate. He doesn’t throw very hard, but he’s had some good results in limited action. Hill seems like he could be a different look in a dominant Yankee pen, so sign me up for this, at least in theory. We’ll keep you posted if anything develops here. The stove is so, so hot. Better be careful.

Playoff Shares

According to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, the Yankees distributed 71 full postseason shares in 2019, the most of any team. The value of a full share was worth $114,367.19.

Players vote on which members of the staff received shares–as well as whether they’re half or full shares–in the last week of the season. Last year, at least, the rules were that a player had to have been continually rostered from June 1 through the end of the year and been eligible for the World Series roster. Members of the coaching and training staff are not guaranteed a share.

This is all notable because there was a little controversy last season over all of this, with former reliever David Robertson at the center of it. He was in charge of the meeting when it was decided that only 45 full shares would be given out. That apparently upset some members of the team, though Robertson, for his part, had a different story. The past is the past, though. We don’t know what happened and we probably never will. All that matters now is that the Yankees were evidently much more generous with their shares this year. That’s a good thing.

Yankees Hire Rachel Balkovec

The Yankees made history last week, hiring Rachel Balkovec to be a Minor League hitting coach for the 2020 season. We don’t know what level at which she’ll coach just yet, but Lindsay Berra reported the hire. It is believed to be the first time a woman has been hired for such a position in any organization. It’s about time. Good for Balkovec. May she be the first of many.

In Berra’s New York Times story covering the hire, it’s apparent that the Yankee organization is really impressed with her background and coaching acumen, Dillon Lawson in particular. She’s worked with the Astros and Cardinals organizations in the past, though Balkovec notes in the story that at least one organization outright refused to hire her because she is a woman. Infuriating.

Anyway, this seems like another smart hire by the Yankees as they revamp their minor league coaching infrastructure for 2020. Once we find out where she’ll be coaching, we’ll let you know.


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  1. MikeD

    Not a big surprise that the Yankees distributed the most playoff shares. All the injuries they had means more players were not only eligible, but many of them contributed greatly.

    Keep up the great work guys, Enjoy reading content with a thoughtful POV.

  2. RetroRob

    A quick look at Fangraphs shows Tim HIll had a ground-ball rate of 57.3% last season, and 61.8% in 2018. Similar numbers in the minors. He’s a lefty ground-ball machine. The Yankees have two lefties in the pen already in Chapman and Britton, but neither can be deployed as lefty killers. Chapman’s the closer; Britton the likely 8th inning guy. Adding Hill could give them an added weapon against lefties earlier in the game, especially if they’re seeking a double play.

    The Villar situation is peculiar. I don’t believe Villar is a lock to put a 4 WAR season again. Last year probably represents peak ability, but he’s probably still a 2.5-3.0 win middle infielder with excellent speed. He can be deployed at 2B, SS, even 3B. Still just 28. I can’t see a baseball universe where that type of player isn’t worth a one year $10 million deal, which is what he’s expected to make in arbitration. From what I’ve read, the Orioles put him on outright waivers, which means any team can claim him between now and Monday and they will then own him, but the claiming team will also be responsible for either signing him or going to arbitration and paying him the likely $10 million award. If no team claims him, however, then the Villar will remain an Oriole until the non-tender deadline later that day. It’s possible the Orioles could then sign Villar at a lower rate during that several hour window. Villar perhaps, seeing no team claimed him, may opt to take a $6 or $7 million deal offered by the Orioles. The Orioles save several million while retaining Villar. Nice in theory, but I don’t see it happening. Villar will be given a gift. Whatever the Orioles offer some other team will offer as much, maybe more, and he gets to escape the Orioles.

    A potential Yankee benefit here? If Villar signs with a team currently looking at giving Didi (think the Phillies or Reds), then Didi has one less landing spot. Could depress his market, as well as what the market will pay, perhaps leading him back to the Yankees.

  3. Bill Baxter

    The Villar situation makes me wonder if there is some other aspect involved that isn’t publicly known. Presumably, the Orioles tried to trade Villar before dropping him, and found no takers. So that would mean that no team in the league was willing to risk having to pay a player coming off of a 4 fWAR season $10-11M on a one-year deal? Something doesn’t add up.

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