News & Notes: Staffing shakeup continues, Luxury Tax Bill, Germán update, and more

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Gerrit Cole has been the apple of everyone’s eye over the past week or so. That’s understandable, of course. It’s nice to have the best pitcher in the world suit up for the Yankees, isn’t it? Anyway, there are a few other things that have happened over the last week. Some of the forthcoming items may have flown under the radar during all the excitement surrounding Cole.

Yankees fire strength and conditioning coach

Shocker. Injuries decimated the Yankees this season, so something had to give. There’s no official announcement, but the New York Post reports that the Yankees let go of Matt Krause, the team’s strength and conditioning coach for the last six seasons. Whoever replaces Krause won’t have a high bar to clear.

Although there were some injuries out of anyone’s control, such as Aaron Hicks’s elbow or Edwin Encarnación’s wrist fracture, the sheer number of muscle injuries grew unbearable. It seemed like the entire roster combined to strain every muscle known in the human body. Plus, there were far too many setbacks — from Giancarlo Stanton to Luis Severino to Dellin Betances.

Krause may be the fall guy here, but it’s not all his fault of course. For instance, what happened during various players rehab work may have been largely out of his hands. But in terms of preparedness for game action? That seems to have been more up Krause’s alley. Perhaps a revised or new conditioning program will help prevent and reduce the amount of muscle injuries.

Yankees’ 2019 luxury tax bill comes in at $6.7 million

The Yankees are luxury tax payers once again. They were under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold last year, but exceeded the limit in 2019 per the AP. In terms of real dollars, the Yankees payroll totaled $226 million this season.

The Yankees will be over the threshold again in 2020 which makes the team a “repeat offender”. There are harsher penalties for clubs that are over the limit in consecutive seasons, as follows:

…New York’s rate will rise from 20% to 30% on the first $20 million over, 32% to 42% on the next $20 million and 62.5% to 75% on any amount above $248 million. If the Yankees exceed $248 million, which now appears likely, their top selection in the June 2021 amateur draft would be dropped 10 places.

The Yankees may be able to get under the $248 million limit depending on what happens with JA Happ and Jacoby Ellsbury, but it’ll be hard for them to get down to the next lowest tier of $228 million. Cot’s has the Yankees at just over $256 million for Competitive Balance Tax purposes currently.

A Domingo Germán update

Klapisch’s tweet pretty much tells the story. Hopefully Germán is indeed getting the help he needs and the victim has received and/or is continuing to receive ample care.

The Yankees can’t plan to have Germán early on in the season as a suspension of some length seems likely. He’s not needed anyway with JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, and Michael King around for the fifth starter’s gig.

Erik Kratz is back

With Kyle Higashioka lined up to take over backup catcher duties, the Yankees retained a veteran insurance policy in Kratz on a minor league deal according to Jon Heyman. The 39 year-old backstop spent time with the Giants and Rays this season and the Brewers a year prior. He’s also spent time in the Yankees’ organization every year since 2017. He went 2-for-2 with a double in four games for the Bombers in 2017 and spent time in Scranton in both 2018 and 2019.

MLBPA files grievance on behalf of Jacoby Ellsbury

It’s been about a month since news broke that the Yankees are planning to withholdin Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2020 salary. Now, as expected, the MLB Players Association has filed a grievance on Ellsbury’s behalf.

This stems from the Yankees’ claim that Ellsbury received unauthorized medical treatment which would be a violation of his contract. On the flip side, Ellsbury’s contention is that he was treated for a non-baseball related condition, which doesn’t require his employer’s permission.

I’m inclined to think that this will end up settled before any hearing occurs. The PA certainly doesn’t want a precedent to be set with having a guaranteed deal turned to dust, whereas the Yankees would probably be happy to settle for pennies on the dollar rather than the full $26 million remaining. How any savings would affect the luxury tax is unclear, though I’d assume it would reduce the team’s bill for 2020.

Yankees have discussed free agent Joe Panik

According to Buster Olney, the Yankees have considered signing second baseman Joe Panik. The former Giant and (briefly) Met is a free agent, though is unlikely to receive more than a minor league deal with a spring training invite.

Not pretty. (Baseball Savant)

Panik had a few nice seasons with San Francisco, but has struggled offensively since 2018. He first came up in 2014, the most recent championship season for the Giants, and hit .282/.345/.408 (106 wRC+) in 1,818 plate appearances and accumulated 8.9 fWAR. Since then, the 29 year-old left handed hitter has batted .249/.311/.334 (76 wRC+).

Panik is a local product and ostensibly has interest in staying close to home, though there’s not necessarily a clear path for him on the Yankees’ major league roster without injuries. He hasn’t hit for two years and his underlying Statcast data isn’t promising. Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada would be ahead of Panik on the depth chart, meaning Panik would be destined for Triple-A.

One step closer to an automated strike zone

The Major League Umpires Association and Major League Baseball announced a five-year labor deal. As part of the deal, we could see an automated strike zone within the next five years. The umpires agreed to cooperate with the league on its testing and implementation should the league decide to institute the change.

The Atlantic League experimented with a computer calling balls and strikes this summer. If and when it comes to MLB, it’s going to take some getting used to:


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  1. RetroRob

    Krause’s termination is no surprise. It leaves questions unanswered, although they’re ones we’ll likely never know the answer to. Keep in mind, Krause wasn’t a new hire or an unknown entity. According to that article, he has nearly 20 years of strength and conditioning on the MLB level. He’s been with the Yankees for six years and was regularly praised. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been fired. Not at all. The bad injury record occurred on his watch and he’s the guy in charge, but I wonder if this reaction is more one of “hey, we have to do something,” as opposed to, “yup, we studied this for the last several months, we understand it, how to correct it, and he’s to blame.” i hope it’s the latter, because if it’s not, the internal problem may still be there. My guess: They don’t know why this happened, but they had to make a change and their hope is the new head of strength and conditioning will figure it out.

    As for the Ellsbury situation, as I outlined in a note last weekend, whatever settlement the Yankees reach (if there is one) is unlikely to have much of an impact on their luxury tax situation. Ellsbury is in year seven of his deal, so a reduction in what they owe him in 2020 won’t move the AAV that significantly, unless they can completely negate the last year of the deal. This is likely more about recovering real dollars than clearing luxury tax space, although every million saved will be important.

    • Your a Looser Trader FotD

      On Ells…maybe. If the redo of the final year is akin to what happened with the Mets and Cespedes, it’d move the needle. And really, even 1mm/year savings in terms of AAV helps in terms of getting under 248. When they trade Happ, a little savings on Ells gives them slighter more room in the negotiation ie they won’t need to dump 100% of Happ’s salary which in turn could mean not having to give as much in terms of actual prospects to sweeten any deal.

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