Folks, it is officially Transaction Season. To be more precise, that really started just a few minutes after midnight on Sunday for the Yankees, who extended closer Aroldis Chapman. In any case, the rumor engine will soon be churning full speed ahead and none of the big free agents will sign their contracts until late January. Get pumped!
Anyway, as you can imagine, there’s a bunch of news today. As of 5:00 pm EST, all players not signed to a contract are officially free agents. No, Gerrit Cole didn’t sign yet; no, you don’t have to tweet “announce Cole” at every beat writer until they he signs somewhere. Before we get to that though…it’s time for a trip down memory lane.
Ten years ago this night–can you believe it’s been 10 years!?–the Yankees won their 27th, and most recent, World Series as they triumphed 7-3 over the Philadelphia Phillies. Here are a few highlights from that wonderful, wonderful night:
Soon-to-be World Series MVP Hideki Matsui got the scoring started with this awesome eight-pitch at-bat against Pedro Martinez:
Three frames later, Matsui would add to the lead with this two-run double that I was convinced was a home run at the time:
Here is the final out:
Great stuff. Let’s get number 28 soon, okay?
The Yankees had until 5 pm EST to extend the Qualifying Offer (1 year, $17.8m) to Didi Gregorius. Here’s what that means: if a team extends a player the QO, it attaches a draft pick to them. In other words, if Didi signs with another team, the Yankees are entitled to draft pick compensation. Also, it means that they’re offering a player a $17.8 million contract. As the Post’s Joel Sherman reported, Didi will not get that offer:
Randy will have much more about this tomorrow, but I noticed that a lot of fans were angry about this. I think that is very silly. Think about it. Didi just had major surgery last year, didn’t return until June, and hit just .238/.276/.441 (84 wRC+) when he did play. He was the worst regular in the Yankee lineup, as much as it pains me to say.
That said, Didi is definitely not a true talent 84 wRC+ player; since 2017, only 11 shortstops have a better wRC+, and at least two of them (Gleyber and Manny Machado) haven’t played short as their primary position in that time. He is a very good offensive SS with great defense. Not extending him this offer doesn’t mean he won’t be back next year. In my opinion, Didi would have accepted the QO to rebuild his value–he has to be confident his play will improve a year away from his surgery–and then the Yankees would owe him $17.8 million. That isn’t going to fly in the age of the CBT.
Besides, there’s no way he’d get even a one-year deal worth that in this market, because [gestures at market]. This is separate from whether or not the market is fair to players; it assuredly is not, but it is the reasoning here, like it or not. We’ll have to see what happens, but this story is far from over.
BBWAA Award Finalists
Tonight’s the exciting night that MLB announces the finalists for the BBWAA award finalists. Try to contain your excitement! Anyway, Aaron Boone was named a finalist for AL Manager of the Year:
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash and Minnesota’s Rocco Baldelli are his competition here. I know I am biased, but I think Boone should get the award. He got whole a lot out of a whole lot of players, handled the team’s cascade of injuries with poise and class, and improved as an in-game manager in a significant way. There’s usually an anti-Yankees bias to MOY voting because of the expectations, but I think this is the one year where that could change. We’ll see.
Notably, DJLM was not named an MVP finalist. So that’s that, it’s Boone or bust in terms of Yankees for these awards this year.
The Yankees made some roster moves. How exciting. See them from the team here below:
Nothing really all that notable, really. Don’t blame Lyons for testing the market, not surprised Barrett is headed to Triple-A, and the other moves all make sense. (Remember, this just adds those players back to the 40-man roster.) The only question now is if they tender Bird a contract. I would not, myself. Also, hello Jacoby Ellsbury. I almost forgot about you.
According to Twins reporter Brandon Warne, the Yankees have poached Tanner Swanson from Minnesota. He will take over as the Yankees’ Major League Catching and Quality Control Coach. He was previously Minnesota’s MiLB Catching Coordinator, so a nice promotion for Swanson.
Swanson has worked at Santa Clara University in 2017 and, for the five seasons before that, coached catchers at the University of Washington. He’s had a bunch of other college coaching jobs and is the founder of D1 Catching. You can read more about him here. You can also listen to him on the Ahead of the Curve Podcast, where he talks about his role with the Twins (it was recorded in May 2019), here.
Time for some news about the rival Boston Red Sox. In what should be bad news for the Yankees, big-time slugger J.D. Martinez will not be opting out of his contract with the Red Sox. He will remain in Boston.
This means two things: 1) the free agent market is capital-b Bad for players, because it’s insane that J.D. wouldn’t want to test it; 2) the Red Sox will likely now trade Mookie Betts. They were probably doing that anyway, to be fair, but this all but seals it. Boston even has a built-in excuse now, as they’ll surely blame J.D.’s contract for the move, right before they trash Mookie on the way out, of course.
In fact, it’s already started. The team has already hinted that they “can’t” (read: won’t) pay both, and players in Boston were open about the fact that Mookie would likely be too “expensive” if J.D. opts-in, saying it outright to reporters on the final day of the season. This is a brutal look for Boston, embarrassing for baseball, and delightful for a Yankee fan (but only in the narrow sense; it’s really awful otherwise).
At this point, I’d be stunned if Betts is in Boston next year. Consider this my official guess for his ultimate destination: San Diego. Why the hell not? And a team with Manny Machado and Mookie Betts would be worth staying up to watch.
FanGraphs’ Top 50 Free Agents
FanGraphs has published their annual ranking of the free agent class, with fairly in-depth write ups of each player, as far as these things go. You’ll never guess who is number one! (Narrator Voice: you can guess who is number one.)
Anyway, I always like these–they help me keep track of who is available, their recent stats, etc.–and think they make for a fun read. Check out this year’s here.