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The Rob Manfred Conundrum

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Rob Manfred is the perfect embodiment of sports in 2020.

There has never been a time in American professional sports when the intent of owners and league executives is more clear. Similar to the office of President in the minds of some men, sports are an incredible avenue to generate profit. Team owners laugh and scoff at the idea of winning championships. Their grins spread from ear to ear at the thought of the earnings their shiny toys generate. These are savvy businessmen who largely view the franchises we love as nothing more than an additional stream of income. And despite being totally unable to increase the popularity and relevance of his sport, Rob Manfred makes his bosses very happy. He has secured lucrative TV and licensing deals among other revenue-producing ventures. In some ways, Manfred’s reign is a rousing success.

Life would be great if all of our jobs were that simple. We make our bosses happy and sometimes we reap the rewards (at least during “normal” times). The issue for Manfred is his responsibility extends beyond making money hand over fist for billionaires. The commissioner is the steward of competitive integrity for the league. In order for business to maintain public trust, he or she needs to ensure that the product on the field is fair. The Apple Watch offense, the Houston Astros’ scandal, and the Boston Red Sox sign-stealing scheme are clear demonstrations that Major League Baseball has a cheating problem. The league is like the Ashton Kutcher of pro sports. The foundational integrity of the game is at stake. And yet, Manfred is seemingly content with doing the absolute least to protect it.

It is hard to imagine someone dropping the ball in two significant investigations. At the very least, the first probe should have been a roadmap for the second one. Instead, the Boston “punishment” is impressively weaker than the Houston punishment. In fact, the details of the Red Sox investigation slightly suggest the players were in some way victims of the cheating scheme. This is a quote from Manfred’s statement:

I feel bound by the agreement not to impose discipline on Red Sox players who testified truthfully in this matter. Even if I were not so bound, I do not believe that the Red Sox players who suspected that Watkins used game feeds to decode sign sequences should be held responsible for his conduct. Watkins knew of the rules and was responsible for not utilizing the replay system to decode sign sequences. Some players may have suspected that Watkins was using the replay system improperly, but they did not know that with certainty. Others had no idea how Watkins obtained the sign information. 

Rob Manfred

In Rob Manfred’s absurdist world, the video replay system operator is a bigger culprit than the players on the field. The idea that some players “suspected” Watkins was up to something but didn’t know for sure is laughable. Was Watkins simply a connoisseur of sign stealing? Was he building up his resume to be the future manager or general manager of the Houston Astros? Are we really to believe the video replay system operator wasn’t in partnership with at least one Red Sox player in a sign-stealing scheme? As my grandmother likes to say, I was born at night, but not last night.

The commissioner can’t help but view his decisions through the lens of labor. I’ve said this in a previous column, but it bears repeating. Manfred will do everything he can to limit the leverage of the players union. He granted the Astros and Red Sox players immunity in exchange for open testimony so the Players Association didn’t have a rallying cry for future collective bargaining. Despite their collective public denouncement of the Astros cheating scheme, there is no way the players would accept the precedent of historical player suspensions. It wouldn’t bode well for the future of their union members. As it currently stands, the owners are in the driver’s seat when it comes to CBA negotiations. The union has weak leadership. Manfred doesn’t want to give the players a lifeline. The rationale makes total sense, but it comes at the cost of the game he leads.

All of this begs the question, what are Rob Manfred’s intentions? Is he just an extension of the owners’ desire to cash in on the game? Does he genuinely care about the health of the sport? Is he at all interested in moving the game forward? It is becoming painfully obvious that Rob Manfred lacks vision. The obsession with pitch clocks, mound visits, and three batter minimums is nothing more than window dressing for an utter lack of progressive thinking to make the game better.

Under Manfred’s watch, we’re experiencing the major league version of corporate profit margins, downsizing, and lack of awareness. We’re witnessing a broken free agent and arbitration system. Minor League baseball will soon lose multiple affiliations. The amateur draft, under the guise of the coronavirus pandemic, will almost certainly cut down its rounds in the years to come. The sport has yet to make inroads in black communities and it severely lacks mainstream stars.

And yet, financially the game has never been healthier. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the revenues were pouring in. The business side of baseball is booming. The bottom line is a great smokescreen for a stagnant game. The frustrating part is a lot of us know it’s stagnant, but we keep coming back for more.

And that is what makes Rob Manfred great at his job. He can feign being tough on baseball crime knowing that baseball fans will really be the judge and jury for teams like the Astros and Red Sox. He just needs to do the bare minimum because he knows the fans will do a lot of the heavy work. Fans will continue to watch on tv and pay for tickets. We’ll keep buying apparel. Some will keep creating gifs for social media consumption so MLB doesn’t have to spend more money on marketing. And others will write blog posts complaining about the commissioner’s unimpressive performance. All the while, Manfred continues to make his bosses happy.

Rob Manfred is the perfect embodiment of sports in 2020.

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News & Notes: Red Sox Discipline, Minor League Contraction, & Some Old Friends

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Red Sox Sign Stealing Penalties

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.

State of the Minor League structure

According to Baseball America’s JJ Cooper, the MiLB is prepared to concede 40 affiliates in a new Professional Baseball Agreement with the MLB. There was quite a bit of public pushback when we first heard this rumored months ago, but to hear that MiLB is willing to accept this is a bit of a shock. For what it’s worth MiLB released a statement countering Cooper’s report.

There’s been some concern about the future of the Staten Island Yankees with regard to the new PBA. Pinstriped Prospects’ Robert Pimpsner wrote about what this means for the Yankees’ short-season A-ball affiliate.

A-Rod and J-Lo to bid for the Mets?

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.

Checking in on another old friend

The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler caught up with Aaron Small of 2005 Yankees’ fame. The journeyman righty provided that 2005 club a shot in the arm when he pitched to a 3.20 ERA in 15 games (9 starts) and went 10-0. Then 33 years-old, it was the only real success Small had at the big league level. But wow, was it an incredible run and story at the time.

Offseason Review: Boston Red Sox

Now that the dust has (finally) settled on the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, we can finally put a cap on the Red Sox’ offseason. I’ve always been glad to not be a Red Sox fan, but after watching how the team’s winter unfolded, I’m especially glad. Boston went from a World Series juggernaut just two years ago to a team ready to kick the can down the road.

Management overhaul

The direction of Boston’s organization has changed dramatically in the last few months, and it started from the top. Some changes were expected, whereas others not so much.

First, we knew the Red Sox would have to replace Dave Dombrowski, who was let go in September. It’s pretty clear that his replacement, Chaim Bloom, was brought in to undo all of Dombrowski’s work. What, a 108-win World Series champion GM doesn’t get a pass for one disappointing season? Who’d have thought.

Bloom came over from the Rays’ front office where he was VP of baseball operations. Tampa Bay’s executives tend to get poached more than other organizations, and the reasoning is pretty clear: wealthy owners are impressed by those Rays’ teams win totals on low payroll. So, John Henry wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Bloom should be able to keep Boston afloat in terms of being a merely good team. Even though he’s clearly here in some part to trim payroll, he’s also working with a higher budget than the Rays have ever had. The Red Sox should win in the mid-to-high 80s this season, but the next time they are World Series contender isn’t going to be in the short-term.

In addition to Bloom, the Red Sox made an unplanned managerial change. Once Alex Cora’s name came up in the Astros’ cheating scandal, it was only a matter of time until he and Boston parted ways. Ron Roenicke, Cora’s bench coach, will take the helm.

They voluntarily traded Mookie Betts

Pretty much, Dave.

I’ve already spent some time ranting about the Mookie Betts trade here and here. Anyway, anytime you can trade the best player not named Mike Trout for pennies on the dollar, you gotta do it. Payroll flexibility is in vogue these days and the impending free agent Betts posed a big financial threat to Henry’s $6.6 billion Fenway Sports Group conglomerate.

By trading Betts, Boston significantly downgraded its outfield and playoff odds. PECOTA projects Betts to slash .294/.381/.538 (142 DRC+) and accumulate 6.2 WARP, second to that Trout fellow. Alex Verdugo, the headliner in return for Mookie, will presumably take over in right field. Verdugo’s projection is pretty average: .271/.330/.434 (101 DRC+) and 2.4 WARP.

Boston will have the right to keep Verdugo for the next five seasons, though it’s difficult to imagine him ever approaching Betts’ production. Yes, he’s already a solid player and was Baseball Prospectus’s 19th-best prospect entering last season, but Betts is a superstar and only three years older than Verdugo. Moreover, all indications are that Betts is a great guy. Meanwhile, Verdugo reportedly was present during an alleged sexual assault with other Dodgers’ minor leaguers that’s seemingly been swept under the rug.

An incomplete rotation

Boston starters had a 4.90 ERA last season, 11th-worst in the majors. Naturally, they decided to do absolutely nothing to improve the pitching staff. Granted, I think Chris Sale is a good candidate to rebound after a down 2019, but everything else isn’t very pretty.

First of all, they traded away David Price in the Betts blockbuster and will absorb half of the $96 million remaining on the southpaw’s deal. Price wasn’t very good in 2019, but he’s just a year removed from being a Boston postseason hero.

Now, if the Red Sox simply think Price isn’t good anymore, then that’s fine. But if that’s the case, at least do something to boost those around him. Instead, barring any last minute moves, Boston is going to trot out this rotation in 2020:

  1. Chris Sale
  2. Eduardo Rodríguez
  3. Martin Pérez
  4. Nathan Eovaldi
  5. ???

Yep, that’s noted offseason addition Martin Pérez joining the middle of the rotation. That’s the move Boston made to shore up its rotation that needs Sale to rebound, E-Rod to repeat his strong 2019, and Eovaldi to stay healthy and rediscover his 2018 form.

To make matters worse, the rotation is incomplete and seriously lacks depth. The fifth starter is a mystery — maybe Chris Mazza? Matt Hall? Yikes. Last year, at least they had some respectable names for depth in Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner. The downside this staff has, particularly if Sale gets hurt, is remarkable. Boston may still hit aplenty even without Betts, but it’s going to be hard to outslug teams with this rotation.

Quick hitters

Boston’s other offseason moves are pretty unremarkable. They added José Peraza to replace the still-available free agent Brock Holt. The Red Sox also found themselves a new backup catcher in Kevin Plawecki. He replaces Sandy León.

One bullpen move may pan out nicely for Boston: the trade for Austin Brice. Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach as I was trying to find *something* positive Boston did. Brice, a right-handed reliever last with Miami, posted a 3.43 ERA and struck out 46 batters in 44 2/3 innings last season. He’s not a hard thrower, but his curveball appears to have some potential with a 94th percentile spin rate.

Offseason Summary

Lastly, here’s a quick look at the changes to the Red Sox major league roster.

In:

  • Alex Verdugo
  • Martin Pérez
  • José Peraza
  • Kevin Plawecki
  • Matt Hall
  • Jeffrey Springs
  • Austin Brice
  • Chris Mazza
  • Josh Osich

Out:

  • Mookie Betts
  • David Price
  • Steve Pearce
  • Rick Porcello
  • Brock Holt
  • Jhoulys Chacín
  • Andrew Cashner
  • Travis Lakins
  • Sam Travis
  • Sandy León

So You’ve Decided to Trade for Mookie Betts

Bowl on over to the Bronx, why don’t you? (MLB Gifs)

Leading off for the Yankees, the center fielder, No. 50, Mookie Betts, No. 50.

The Boston Red Sox reportedly are considering trading their franchise centerpiece. Teams including the White Sox, Padres, Mets or just about anyone would be interested in the former MVP, but the Yankees are the one team you really can’t imagine him playing for in 2020.

There’s a good reason for that; Brian Cashman has spoken in the past about how he’s talked to 28 teams, obviously excluding the Red Sox even when his frequent trade partner in Dave Dombrowski was at the helm. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry sits on an emotional faultline which makes any trade of non-scrub players untenable in the current environment.

Furthermore, the Yankees have budgeted themselves under the top luxury tax tier in the past season and one would assume they’ll do so again. If they’re going to pursue a top starter, adding Betts without shedding salary doesn’t quite work. We, for example, apportioned $30 million in AAV for Gerrit Cole, and that is on the low-end of projections. Boston, meanwhile, would mostly consider trading Betts to get under the lowest luxury tax year.

But let’s ignore rational thoughts for a second and a few hundred words. What if the Red Sox actually make Betts available and are willing to sell him to the highest bidder, rivalry or otherwise? What would a package for Betts look like?

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe put together the following hypothetical trade in a column recently:

Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts and MiLB LHP Jay Groome
Yankees trade: Miguel Andújar, Clint Frazier, Luis Gil and Michael King

On the surface, that checks out. Run that deal through Baseball Trade Values and the site finds it fair on both sides. While Betts is far and away better than anyone else in that deal, he’s also only under contract for one season. The Yankees would be giving up one of their top pitching prospects, a pitcher in the upper Minors and two right-handed hitters who could thrive at Fenway despite their defensive limitations.

(I have thought that Frazier would be a particularly good fit for Fenway Park. Playing the Green Monster would take time to learn, but once he got used to it, it would allow his arm to play up while making his lack of range or first step a secondary concern. Any right-handed pull bat also gets to hit off the Monster.)

However, Boston isn’t going for just fair. They want to extract their pound of flesh. That might not apply just to the Yankees — You can’t give up Betts for just a fine set of prospects — but it’s especially pertinent with the Bombers.

The situation makes me think of Roy Halladay back in 2009. The Blue Jays entertained offers from the Yankees, but they reportedly expected a premium to acquire the veteran ace in-division. That’s fair; Can you imagine what it would have been like to watch a franchise cornerstone like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera thrive in Toronto while you were mired in fourth place? That’d be an ordeal.

So the Yankees would have to give up something that hurts. The Red Sox would ask for Gleyber Torres and Brian Cashman would threaten to hang up before Chaim Bloom beckoned him to stay on the call. Aaron Judge, too, is off the table, even if Betts is arguably the better player.

Therefore, I’m not sure a deal is workable without Deivi García. The Yankees would still have to give up at least one of Andújar and Frazier, and perhaps a fourth prospect as well. García, though, would be the piece that would hurt, the player Boston could hail as the future to their rotation and as the centerpiece of a retooling rather than a rebuild. New York doesn’t have another MLB or near-MLB ready player to headline the package.

So I kept the basic framework of Abraham’s deal and changed it into the following:

Red Sox trade: Mookie Betts
Yankees trade: Deivi García, Clint Frazier, Jonathan Loaisiga and Mike King

This deal still provides the Red Sox with an outfielder to replace Betts and exchanges Gil for García, giving Boston a player closer to the Majors. While Andújar has more value than Loaisiga, the Red Sox could use the pitcher more than a likely DH who overlaps on defense with Rafael Devers.

I’ll remind everyone that your trade proposals suck, and my trade above is certainly included. I accept all of your critiques, though I remind you that a Betts-to-the-Yankees trade is just not in the offing. Baseball Trade Values has my proposal as an even deal, which means New York would likely have to give up even more and include someone such as Andújar instead of King.

(Baseball Trade Values)

The Yankees could, however, look to acquire Betts in free agency a year from now, making him their center fielder and moving Hicks to left field. This is nearly as much of a pipedream, but they’ll have plenty of money coming off the books. In that hypothetical, New York would avoid what Cashman often mentions as paying twice for a player, giving up both prospects and an extension.

Even if it’s entirely unrealistic, the dream is fun. Maybe one day, with one of the teams or both out of contention, we’ll get a Yankees-Red Sox blockbuster with reputations on the line. Until then, all we have is frivolous speculation and hypotheticals on which the offseason thrives.

Musings following Dombrowski firing, Yankee injury news

Wow indeed, Dave. (MLB Gifs)

There’s been a ton of Yankees and Yankees-adjacent news in just the last couple days, so let’s get at them in a thoughts post.

1. Dombrowski firing shakes up Red Sox: Just on the face of it, the Red Sox firing Dave Dombrowski, their president of baseball operations, less than 11 months after they won the World Series is wild. We’ve seen them move on from Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington in just the last eight years, but this was quite the move, even if it had been rumored for over a month.

Dombrowski has a reputation for coming in when a team has built up its farm system and has some Major League talent, then taking the next step in the rebuild for trading away prospects to get more MLB talent to supplement the roster. That’s worked for perennial contenders in Detroit and a championship team in Boston.

Bringing in J.D. Martinez, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale and David Price, among others, worked in an all-time great 2018 season. You can rightfully quibble with some of his offseason moves after the title, but some of the problems this year are simply bad luck.

But 63-year-old Dombrowski might not fit a rebuild, or retooling as the case is, in Boston. Martinez is likely to opt-out and the team may decide to trade Mookie Betts (more on that in the next point), all while the team is trying to figure out a pitching staff that went off the rails in 2019. The Sox still have the core of a title contender with Betts, Bogaerts, Devers and Benintendi, but the team also is looking to off-load payroll and not run into the top luxury tax tier.

Subsequent reports paint Dombrowski as creating disfunction in Boston’s front office, but I suspect the payroll concerns and change in direction of the team coupled with Dombrowski’s apparent old-school nature were larger factors.

For now, reports say that four people from the Red Sox’s front office — Raquel Ferreira, Brian O’Halloran, Zack Scott and Eddie Romero — will run the team on an interim basis while they search for a new top exec.

Ferreira will be the highest-ranking woman in a baseball front office, according to Jeff Passan, while Romero ran the international scouting department when the team signed Yoan Moncada. At the same time, they also were busted for violating international bonus pool rules, though I figure a lot of teams do similar tricks. They were just one of the teams that were caught.

2. Future for Betts in Boston: Are the Red Sox on the precipice of another step back? I figured their contention window might be limited to Chris Sale’s time under contract when they traded for him and that might be correct as far as his first contract goes. His extension, kicking in next year, makes his improvement paramount to the team’s ability to compete for another title soon.

But with the team already sporting the highest payroll in baseball, it looks like ownership will cut back. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox are unlikely to retain both Martinez and Betts next year. That would alleviate payroll concerns, yet it would likely create even bigger roster questions.

Betts has just one more year under contract. The team could certainly get prospects and perhaps a young pitcher for him, but they won’t get a haul unless the team acquiring him gets to negotiate an extension, something Betts might be unwilling to do.

The Red Sox should keep Betts. That’s simple. It’s crazy not to. He’s one of the best players in baseball on both sides of the ball and is young enough for one to believe he’ll continue to be for a while. He’s the type of player you break the bank for and figure out the rest of the roster later.

How can you not want this guy on your team? (MLB Gifs)

Without Betts, even if Martinez is retained, the Red Sox would be a lesser contender in 2020 and certainly far worse than the Yankees on paper. Selfishly, I’d like to see him traded to the NL, but there’s no way Boston should let him go. He’s Mookie freaking Betts! (Related: If he’s a free agent after 2020, the Yankees should pursue him. It doesn’t matter how crowded their outfield is. You make room for a player like him.)

3. Aaron Hicks + Mike Tauchman injuries hit NYY hard: The Yankees got a one-two gut punch with Hicks have a setback/going for a second opinion followed by Tauchman’s calf injury on Sunday night. What a rough 48 hours.

The clock is ticking for both players. Hicks returned with six games to go in 2017 and played the entire postseason, but he’s now been hurt in September or October for all four of his seasons in New York. This injury seems like one that could end his season prematurely. We don’t know very much on the Tauchman front, but he had a tremendous opportunity in front of him with Hicks out. He’s, at the very least, a valuable pinch runner and defensive replacement in October. His recent slump makes one less confident of his bat shining through.

Gotta feel for Tauchman after yesterday.

Now, the Yankees’ outfield depth is Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and some question marks. Those two will be in right and center for the postseason as of today, while left field and a fourth outfielder role are tough to predict. Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t ramped up his rehab yet. Cameron Maybin subbed in for Tauchman last night, but he’s dealing with a wrist injury himself. The team has been hesitant to use Clint Frazier, even this month.

Ideally, Stanton would return, man left field and relegate a healthy Maybin or Tauchman to fourth outfielder status. But with his PCL strain, there’s a real chance Stanton doesn’t come back or is limited to DH. In that scenario, the Yankees will do what they’ve done all season and rely on the next man up, though October doesn’t favor pure depth. A healthy Stanton in left field like he was on Opening Day remains the Yankees’ best option for October.

4. Piggybacking CC Sabathia and Domingo German: Aaron Boone told reporters that Sabathia will come off the IL on Wednesday and will be followed in his start by German. That’s both an acknowledgment that Sabathia can’t go deep into games right now and a move to give German a much-needed blow.

It’s the perfect team to have the duo face. The Tigers have the worst record in baseball. Their offense is historically bad. Sabathia and German could clear six innings at least against that roster.

But what does this mean moving forward? Boone also said that they’re preparing German for a potential bullpen role in the postseason. This duo, provided Sabathia is healthy, would form a pretty good starting pitcher for October, but that also means spending two roster spots on one rotation spot. German could pitch again in a series out of relief but not right away.

If Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Luis Severino are all ready to go Oct. 4, then this combination makes sense. Perhaps even a (gulp) Happ-German pairing could do the trick if Sabathia isn’t right. But that all precludes German from starting himself, which he’s proven he can do in some big spots. He’s definitely one of the Yankees’ four best starters with Severino back.

Still, German’s home run problems and the homer-heavy nature of October baseball might make him best suited for a swingman role if he has good starting partner. He could give you six impressive innings, or allow a pair of back-breaking homers, though so could the rest of the staff. A shorter outing of 1-2 times through a lineup would optimize German, though better pitchers than him have been hooked that quickly in October.

5. East September Schedule: The Yankees have a cupcake schedule down the stretch. Following tonight’s game with Boston, they play three games against the aforementioned Tigers squad, six with the Blue Jays, three with the Angels and the close with two in Tampa and three in Texas.

After Boston, the two games against the Rays are their only remaining games against a team either over .500 or in postseason contention. The Yankees also have three days off in the final two weeks of the season.

That gives the team plenty of leeway to rest players without compromising the pursuit of homefield advantage. Those days off, as well as Severino’s return and the idea of a six-man rotation, also give the Pinstripers a chance to set up their rotation however they please for October.

Is it that unrealistic to hope for a 12-6 run over these last 18 games? That would leave the Yankees with 106 victories. That might be enough to hold off the Astros, who own the tiebreaker over New York but have four games with the A’s starting today. Hard not to root for the A’s until at least the ALDS.

6. Roster spots up for grabs: As a follow up to my postseason roster article, I wanted to look into which roster spots are actually up for grabs for the Yankees right now.

By my count, there are 18 locks + Happ, who I think is moving towards that status with his last few starts and his success vs. lefties. Severino, Stanton and Dellin Betances figure to have enough time to return and make the roster.

That puts the Yankees with 11 hitters and 11 pitchers. I’m guessing they won’t go with 14 position players and will instead ride with 13 hitters and 12 pitchers. One of the bubble position players will be an outfielder, either Tauchman, Maybin or a healthy Hicks. The other spot could to another from that trio or Tyler Wade as a speedy utility hitter. Fraizer, again, remains unlikely.

That leaves one pitcher left. Sabathia is a prime candidate if healthy. If he’s not right, or the Yankees go with 13 pitchers in October, then Luis Cessa, Nestor Cortes Jr., Jonathan Loaisiga and Cory Gearrin are possibilities. I doubt Ben Heller has enough time to gain Boone’s trust. Loaisiga might be the best in terms of upside and ability to eat innings, though Cessa has been an ideal long man.

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