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Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

Well, today’s the day. The Yankees will either upgrade their starting rotation by 4 pm EST or they won’t do so at all. Remember, this year is the first year of no August waiver wire, so today’s all we’ve got. The deadline has already been a bit of an adventure for a few reasons, so here are a few assorted thoughts as we go into the day.

1. Marcus Stroman is off the Board: As we all know, Stroman was traded to the Mets in a move that shocked nearly everyone. I found this disappointing, personally, as I thought that Stroman was both the most likely SP upgrade the Yanks would make and also my preference among the rumored options. His 56.3% GB% ranks 2nd in the league among 74 qualified starting pitchers, and his 0.72 HR/9 ranks 4th among that same group. He’s averaging about 6 innings pitched a start, too. He would have made a nice addition to the Yankee rotation, even if he isn’t the dominating ace everyone expects for some reason.

As for the package the Mets surrendered to get him, well, it’s hard to say that the Yankees couldn’t have beaten it. Industry perception seems to be that the Blue Jays got fleeced in the deal–though, as always, it’s far too early to determine that!–and that the front office rushed into moving Stroman. Anthony Kay is a nice piece, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Yankees have comparable talent. Who knows what happened? I doubt it was on the Yankees’ end, though. His salary isn’t prohibitive (this year or next) and the Yanks had the pieces. Maybe Toronto just didn’t want to trade their ace within the division? Who knows. This is a bummer, though. For sure.

2. Trevor Bauer, Too: The Yankees also missed the boat on now-Red Trevor Bauer, who was shipped out of Cleveland last night in a three-team trade. Bauer is having a nice year and showed last year how dominant he can be, but his incident throwing the ball over the centerfield wall the other day just perfectly illustrates why a considerable number of Yankee fans simply didn’t want to root for him. In pure baseball terms, he’d have made the team better, though, and now he’s unavailable. I guess Cincy could try to flip him, but I doubt it. A rotation of Castillo/Bauer/Gray is pretty damn formidable.

Now, could the Yankees have beaten this package? On their own, absolutely not. Cleveland added Yasiel Puig and prospect Scott Moss from Cincy and Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova. That’s a haul better than what the Yankees could have given them. They probably could have been involved in a three-team trade, and maybe Clint Frazier gets it done, but Cleveland clearly wanted MLB talent, and they got it. I don’t know if the Yankees could have matched. Maybe Clint and Luis Gil? That feels light, and my trade proposals, like yours, suck.

What I do know is that, yet again, the luxury tax threshold is back amid Yankee trade rumors. Joel Sherman of the Post last night reported that the Yankees had “concerns” about where Bauer’s “$20 million-ish contract for next year would push a payroll that already projects to well beyond $200 million for luxury tax purposes.” Look. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of reasons not to want Bauer on the team, but his salary isn’t one. This remains the single most infuriating thing the Yankees have done in probably over two decades, so it could be worse, but man is it infuriating.

3. Mike Minor Is Still Out There: So, in other words, after a few days of inaction, the two best starting pitchers on the market are no longer around, and neither of them are on the Yankees. That’s frustrating! Fans are allowed to be frustrated by this, but all hope is not lost. There are still a few other options, including Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, who according to Baseball-Reference at least, is having the best season among all starters in the league. For real. Check out their WAR leaderboard for pitchers:

  1. Mike Minor: 5.9
  2. Max Scherzer: 5.4
  3. Lance Lynn: 5.0
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu: 4.6
  5. Justin Verlander/Stephen Strasburg: 4.5

Holy smokes! That’s some real production right there. I had written up a (very) long post in the same style as my other trade analyses the other day, and then WordPress ate it, which was insanely frustrating. Sorry about that. However, the long and short of it is this: Minor is having one hell of a season. He’s limiting homers, generating a lot of swings and misses, keeping the ball on ground, and he is averaging about 7 innings a start on the season. He’s walking more guys than you’d like to see, but you can’t argue with the success this year. It’s been real. He also has one of the highest-spin fastballs in baseball, which the Yankees love.

Now, is it sustainable over the long term? I’m not sure. Minor hasn’t ever really had results like this, save 2013. But sometimes it’s not always about the long-term. Would Minor make the Yankees immediately better? Yes. Is he available now? Also yes. The Yankees are in contention for the World Series, and I do think that adding Minor would better position the team to bring the trophy home in October, his performance next year be damned.

4. Robbie Ray, Too: The Yankees have also been linked to Arizona’s Robbie Ray, who is I think the most intriguing of the available starters. Let’s first focus on the good: holy cow does he miss bats. His 12.07 K/9 is 5th highest among qualified pitchers, and this isn’t a new skill. Check out his K rate rankings among pitchers with at least 100 IP in each season over the last few years:

  • 2016: 28.1% (9th)
  • 2017: 33.0% (5th)
  • 2018: 31.4% (8th, min 100 IP)
  • 2019: 31.6% (6th)
  • Cumulative (2016-19): 30.8% (3rd among 153 qualified pitchers)

So, yeah. That’s legitimate stuff right there, and it speaks to why Ray is appealing. Here’s the bad news: Ray also walks a lot of guys. A LOT of guys. I don’t think I need to do the same exercise again to prove this point, but here are the cumulative walk rate numbers from 2016-2019 among qualified pitchers for Ray: 10.7%, which ranks 6th highest out of 153. That’s way, way too many walks for my tastes. This year, though not as much historically, Ray is also surrendering a lot of homers, and walks and homers are an ugly combination. Especially in the AL East. Those might be warning signs.

However, with that said, I think the fanbase at large is a bit too dismissive of Ray. He’s not the big name we wanted or maybe even expected, but you don’t miss that many bats without legitimate stuff. The Yankees may see in Ray the potential to unlock an ace. I’d have to look under the hood to get a better sense of what that might be, but again, his stuff is clearly legit. Now, that’s also what’s been said about guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, and, most recently, James Paxton. We know what those results have been. I can see why fans wouldn’t want any more experiments like that.

But you know what? The Yankees also developed Luis Severino, which you never hear discussed, and that guy is pretty damn good. And the Yankees pitching staff has actually been one of the best in the league in 2017 and 2018 and it was pretty good until 10 days ago this year, too. The idea that the Yankees are completely lost when it comes to pitching is misguided at best, though there’s no denying that it’s been frustrating this week. (Also: pitching is hard and there aren’t many success stories out there, as a whole. Keep some perspective, please.)

Point is, the Yankees are very smart, and may be able to tweak Ray’s approach and turn him into a real difference maker, and if they don’t, they’d be adding a pitcher who can soak up innings, generally limit the damage, and help stabilize the rotation for now. That’s a win in my book.

5. Madison Bumgarner’s Availability: Is Madison Bumgarner really available? That’s a huge question today, and I have to say that I’m conflicted. But first, let’s establish something: Bumgarner is flying under the radar, a bit. I think signs of his decline are way too premature.

When I wrote about Bumgarner a few weeks ago, I was impressed to see some under-the-hood figures that suggested a resurgence was in order. I even talked myself into being excited should the Yankees acquire him. He made a start the next day after that posted. Here’s his line since: 3-1, 3.47 ERA (2.97 FIP, 81 ERA-) with 9.64 K/9 (26.3% K%) and only 1.74 BB/9 (4.7% BB%) in 46.2 IP. Sign me the hell up for that!

Now, back to the conflicted part: the Giants are on quite a run right now and have literally been the best team in baseball for the past month. They’re only 2.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Now, Bumgarner is almost surely going to walk after the season, but aren’t the Giants–the GIANTS!– the perfect case study in “make the playoffs and anything can happen?” I think it would be a distressing sign for the health of the league if the Giants sold MadBum. It would really bother me on a deep level as someone who cares deeply about baseball as a whole.

*John Sterling Voice* Howevah, I really, really, really want the Yankees to win the World Series and I think Bumgarner would greatly improve their chances of doing so, so I’d be willing to look past this obvious red flag if the Yankees got him. Any other team, though? Time to be mad online, folks. But for real, in terms of Ray, Bumgarner, or Minor, I think Yankee fans should be happy if Cashman acquires any of those 3 today. They can really pitch, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of squinting to see real positives from any of them. They’d all help make the team better, which is the point of all this.

6. Adding a Reliever Instead: But what if they don’t? Cashman and the Yankee front office’s modus operandi in recent years, particularly with pitching, seems to be sticking to a set price and never once wavering. We’ve seen it a million times. Corbin, Cole, Scherzer, etc. I don’t need to keep going, do I? I think it keeps most of us up at night.

Anyway, if they stick to this again and don’t make a move for a starter, I don’t think they’l stand pat. They’ll add a reliever, preferably a high-leverage one, and bank on being about to go four-and-fly come October with one of the best pens in league history. And yes, everyone will whine about the starters not being championship level or whatever, but this exact strategy worked for the Kansas City Royals (who had a much worse offense) exactly…*checks notes*…3 seasons ago. That’s not ancient history. I don’t know who that is–Archie Bradley? Will Smith? Edwin Diaz (lol)–but this feels inevitable should the Yankees miss out on a starter. Hell, it might be inevitable anyway. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yanks add a reliever either way. Who that is might just depend on the SP market.

7. “Adding Severino is The Best Trade We Can Make”: Look, I know we hate it. We all hate it. But that’s what Brian Cashman is going to say, and in fact, he’s already said it. I know it sounds like a BS PR excuse, and the reality is that it is that to a great extent. But what if I told you…it’s also…true? There isn’t a pitcher out there as good as Severino. Here are some key stats from 2017-2018, with his rankings among qualified starters in parentheses:

  • Wins: 33 (4th)
  • ERA: 3.18 (11th)
  • FIP: 3.01 (5th)
  • Innings Pitched: 384.2 (10th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 10.53 (9th)
  • Walks per 9: 2.27 (13th)
  • HR per 9: 0.94 (17th)
  • fWAR: 11.2 (5th)

The Yankees aren’t getting a pitcher like that out there on the market. Pitchers like that barely even exist. Now, should that stop them from acquiring a starting pitcher today? Absolutely not! Say it again: absolutely not! In no way, shape, or form should the Yankees count on Severino (or Betances) for a single inning this year. They should make every possible move to ensure that they don’t need to rely on him, in fact. That should be, and I think it is, a priority.

But, even if they do trade for MadBum or Minor or Ray, if Severino returns and is able to start games for the Yankees in 2019, then Brian Cashman will be right: the very best starting pitching “acquisition” of the entire season will have been the return of Luis Severino. There’s no denying it.

8. Delayed Keuchel Reaction: Good grief has this deadline really hammered home the fact that the Yankees made a big mistake in passing on Dallas Keuchel a few months ago. I wrote about it at the time, but it’s not exactly a radical position. Everyone seemed to feel that way except the Yankees. It remains utterly baffling to me that the Yankees didn’t sign him. He’d have been a perfect fit. This entire deadline would be way, way less stressful for everyone, and the Yankees would be way less desperate.

Keuchel has made 8 starts since he signed with Atlanta, and he’s averaging over 6 innings per start with a 3.86 ERA (4.82 FIP) and a 60% grounder rate. He’s surrendering a few more homers and walks than you’d expect, but by and large, Keuchel has been exactly what you’d have expected and exactly what the Yankees need. The team simply wouldn’t budge from their internal value for Keuchel and they’re paying the price. Now they’ll have to surrender several prospects or they’ll have to stand pat with this rotation (which, I *insist* is much better than people think). Not great.


We’ll have an active thread throughout the day, dutifully updated by Derek. Additionally, we will provide as-instant-as-possible reaction to any trades that do go down. The Yankees are, in my view, the best team in baseball in terms of pure talent. They have a real opportunity to get better today. Let’s hope they do just that.

Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

Well, today’s the day. The Yankees will either upgrade their starting rotation by 4 pm EST or they won’t do so at all. Remember, this year is the first year of no August waiver wire, so today’s all we’ve got. The deadline has already been a bit of an adventure for a few reasons, so here are a few assorted thoughts as we go into the day.

1. Marcus Stroman is off the Board: As we all know, Stroman was traded to the Mets in a move that shocked nearly everyone. I found this disappointing, personally, as I thought that Stroman was both the most likely SP upgrade the Yanks would make and also my preference among the rumored options. His 56.3% GB% ranks 2nd in the league among 74 qualified starting pitchers, and his 0.72 HR/9 ranks 4th among that same group. He’s averaging about 6 innings pitched a start, too. He would have made a nice addition to the Yankee rotation, even if he isn’t the dominating ace everyone expects for some reason.

As for the package the Mets surrendered to get him, well, it’s hard to say that the Yankees couldn’t have beaten it. Industry perception seems to be that the Blue Jays got fleeced in the deal–though, as always, it’s far too early to determine that!–and that the front office rushed into moving Stroman. Anthony Kay is a nice piece, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Yankees have comparable talent. Who knows what happened? I doubt it was on the Yankees’ end, though. His salary isn’t prohibitive (this year or next) and the Yanks had the pieces. Maybe Toronto just didn’t want to trade their ace within the division? Who knows. This is a bummer, though. For sure.

2. Trevor Bauer, Too: The Yankees also missed the boat on now-Red Trevor Bauer, who was shipped out of Cleveland last night in a three-team trade. Bauer is having a nice year and showed last year how dominant he can be, but his incident throwing the ball over the centerfield wall the other day just perfectly illustrates why a considerable number of Yankee fans simply didn’t want to root for him. In pure baseball terms, he’d have made the team better, though, and now he’s unavailable. I guess Cincy could try to flip him, but I doubt it. A rotation of Castillo/Bauer/Gray is pretty damn formidable.

Now, could the Yankees have beaten this package? On their own, absolutely not. Cleveland added Yasiel Puig and prospect Scott Moss from Cincy and Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova. That’s a haul better than what the Yankees could have given them. They probably could have been involved in a three-team trade, and maybe Clint Frazier gets it done, but Cleveland clearly wanted MLB talent, and they got it. I don’t know if the Yankees could have matched. Maybe Clint and Luis Gil? That feels light, and my trade proposals, like yours, suck.

What I do know is that, yet again, the luxury tax threshold is back amid Yankee trade rumors. Joel Sherman of the Post last night reported that the Yankees had “concerns” about where Bauer’s “$20 million-ish contract for next year would push a payroll that already projects to well beyond $200 million for luxury tax purposes.” Look. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of reasons not to want Bauer on the team, but his salary isn’t one. This remains the single most infuriating thing the Yankees have done in probably over two decades, so it could be worse, but man is it infuriating.

3. Mike Minor Is Still Out There: So, in other words, after a few days of inaction, the two best starting pitchers on the market are no longer around, and neither of them are on the Yankees. That’s frustrating! Fans are allowed to be frustrated by this, but all hope is not lost. There are still a few other options, including Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, who according to Baseball-Reference at least, is having the best season among all starters in the league. For real. Check out their WAR leaderboard for pitchers:

  1. Mike Minor: 5.9
  2. Max Scherzer: 5.4
  3. Lance Lynn: 5.0
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu: 4.6
  5. Justin Verlander/Stephen Strasburg: 4.5

Holy smokes! That’s some real production right there. I had written up a (very) long post in the same style as my other trade analyses the other day, and then WordPress ate it, which was insanely frustrating. Sorry about that. However, the long and short of it is this: Minor is having one hell of a season. He’s limiting homers, generating a lot of swings and misses, keeping the ball on ground, and he is averaging about 7 innings a start on the season. He’s walking more guys than you’d like to see, but you can’t argue with the success this year. It’s been real. He also has one of the highest-spin fastballs in baseball, which the Yankees love.

Now, is it sustainable over the long term? I’m not sure. Minor hasn’t ever really had results like this, save 2013. But sometimes it’s not always about the long-term. Would Minor make the Yankees immediately better? Yes. Is he available now? Also yes. The Yankees are in contention for the World Series, and I do think that adding Minor would better position the team to bring the trophy home in October, his performance next year be damned.

4. Robbie Ray, Too: The Yankees have also been linked to Arizona’s Robbie Ray, who is I think the most intriguing of the available starters. Let’s first focus on the good: holy cow does he miss bats. His 12.07 K/9 is 5th highest among qualified pitchers, and this isn’t a new skill. Check out his K rate rankings among pitchers with at least 100 IP in each season over the last few years:

  • 2016: 28.1% (9th)
  • 2017: 33.0% (5th)
  • 2018: 31.4% (8th, min 100 IP)
  • 2019: 31.6% (6th)
  • Cumulative (2016-19): 30.8% (3rd among 153 qualified pitchers)

So, yeah. That’s legitimate stuff right there, and it speaks to why Ray is appealing. Here’s the bad news: Ray also walks a lot of guys. A LOT of guys. I don’t think I need to do the same exercise again to prove this point, but here are the cumulative walk rate numbers from 2016-2019 among qualified pitchers for Ray: 10.7%, which ranks 6th highest out of 153. That’s way, way too many walks for my tastes. This year, though not as much historically, Ray is also surrendering a lot of homers, and walks and homers are an ugly combination. Especially in the AL East. Those might be warning signs.

However, with that said, I think the fanbase at large is a bit too dismissive of Ray. He’s not the big name we wanted or maybe even expected, but you don’t miss that many bats without legitimate stuff. The Yankees may see in Ray the potential to unlock an ace. I’d have to look under the hood to get a better sense of what that might be, but again, his stuff is clearly legit. Now, that’s also what’s been said about guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, and, most recently, James Paxton. We know what those results have been. I can see why fans wouldn’t want any more experiments like that.

But you know what? The Yankees also developed Luis Severino, which you never hear discussed, and that guy is pretty damn good. And the Yankees pitching staff has actually been one of the best in the league in 2017 and 2018 and it was pretty good until 10 days ago this year, too. The idea that the Yankees are completely lost when it comes to pitching is misguided at best, though there’s no denying that it’s been frustrating this week. (Also: pitching is hard and there aren’t many success stories out there, as a whole. Keep some perspective, please.)

Point is, the Yankees are very smart, and may be able to tweak Ray’s approach and turn him into a real difference maker, and if they don’t, they’d be adding a pitcher who can soak up innings, generally limit the damage, and help stabilize the rotation for now. That’s a win in my book.

5. Madison Bumgarner’s Availability: Is Madison Bumgarner really available? That’s a huge question today, and I have to say that I’m conflicted. But first, let’s establish something: Bumgarner is flying under the radar, a bit. I think signs of his decline are way too premature.

When I wrote about Bumgarner a few weeks ago, I was impressed to see some under-the-hood figures that suggested a resurgence was in order. I even talked myself into being excited should the Yankees acquire him. He made a start the next day after that posted. Here’s his line since: 3-1, 3.47 ERA (2.97 FIP, 81 ERA-) with 9.64 K/9 (26.3% K%) and only 1.74 BB/9 (4.7% BB%) in 46.2 IP. Sign me the hell up for that!

Now, back to the conflicted part: the Giants are on quite a run right now and have literally been the best team in baseball for the past month. They’re only 2.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Now, Bumgarner is almost surely going to walk after the season, but aren’t the Giants–the GIANTS!– the perfect case study in “make the playoffs and anything can happen?” I think it would be a distressing sign for the health of the league if the Giants sold MadBum. It would really bother me on a deep level as someone who cares deeply about baseball as a whole.

*John Sterling Voice* Howevah, I really, really, really want the Yankees to win the World Series and I think Bumgarner would greatly improve their chances of doing so, so I’d be willing to look past this obvious red flag if the Yankees got him. Any other team, though? Time to be mad online, folks. But for real, in terms of Ray, Bumgarner, or Minor, I think Yankee fans should be happy if Cashman acquires any of those 3 today. They can really pitch, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of squinting to see real positives from any of them. They’d all help make the team better, which is the point of all this.

6. Adding a Reliever Instead: But what if they don’t? Cashman and the Yankee front office’s modus operandi in recent years, particularly with pitching, seems to be sticking to a set price and never once wavering. We’ve seen it a million times. Corbin, Cole, Scherzer, etc. I don’t need to keep going, do I? I think it keeps most of us up at night.

Anyway, if they stick to this again and don’t make a move for a starter, I don’t think they’l stand pat. They’ll add a reliever, preferably a high-leverage one, and bank on being about to go four-and-fly come October with one of the best pens in league history. And yes, everyone will whine about the starters not being championship level or whatever, but this exact strategy worked for the Kansas City Royals (who had a much worse offense) exactly…*checks notes*…3 seasons ago. That’s not ancient history. I don’t know who that is–Archie Bradley? Will Smith? Edwin Diaz (lol)–but this feels inevitable should the Yankees miss out on a starter. Hell, it might be inevitable anyway. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yanks add a reliever either way. Who that is might just depend on the SP market.

7. “Adding Severino is The Best Trade We Can Make”: Look, I know we hate it. We all hate it. But that’s what Brian Cashman is going to say, and in fact, he’s already said it. I know it sounds like a BS PR excuse, and the reality is that it is that to a great extent. But what if I told you…it’s also…true? There isn’t a pitcher out there as good as Severino. Here are some key stats from 2017-2018, with his rankings among qualified starters in parentheses:

  • Wins: 33 (4th)
  • ERA: 3.18 (11th)
  • FIP: 3.01 (5th)
  • Innings Pitched: 384.2 (10th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 10.53 (9th)
  • Walks per 9: 2.27 (13th)
  • HR per 9: 0.94 (17th)
  • fWAR: 11.2 (5th)

The Yankees aren’t getting a pitcher like that out there on the market. Pitchers like that barely even exist. Now, should that stop them from acquiring a starting pitcher today? Absolutely not! Say it again: absolutely not! In no way, shape, or form should the Yankees count on Severino (or Betances) for a single inning this year. They should make every possible move to ensure that they don’t need to rely on him, in fact. That should be, and I think it is, a priority.

But, even if they do trade for MadBum or Minor or Ray, if Severino returns and is able to start games for the Yankees in 2019, then Brian Cashman will be right: the very best starting pitching “acquisition” of the entire season will have been the return of Luis Severino. There’s no denying it.

8. Delayed Keuchel Reaction: Good grief has this deadline really hammered home the fact that the Yankees made a big mistake in passing on Dallas Keuchel a few months ago. I wrote about it at the time, but it’s not exactly a radical position. Everyone seemed to feel that way except the Yankees. It remains utterly baffling to me that the Yankees didn’t sign him. He’d have been a perfect fit. This entire deadline would be way, way less stressful for everyone, and the Yankees would be way less desperate.

Keuchel has made 8 starts since he signed with Atlanta, and he’s averaging over 6 innings per start with a 3.86 ERA (4.82 FIP) and a 60% grounder rate. He’s surrendering a few more homers and walks than you’d expect, but by and large, Keuchel has been exactly what you’d have expected and exactly what the Yankees need. The team simply wouldn’t budge from their internal value for Keuchel and they’re paying the price. Now they’ll have to surrender several prospects or they’ll have to stand pat with this rotation (which, I *insist* is much better than people think). Not great.


We’ll have an active thread throughout the day, dutifully updated by Derek. Additionally, we will provide as-instant-as-possible reaction to any trades that do go down. The Yankees are, in my view, the best team in baseball in terms of pure talent. They have a real opportunity to get better today. Let’s hope they do just that.

The Yankees Value Trades Over Free Agency: Is It Working?

Embed from Getty Images

With the recent Edwin Encarnación trade, the rich are getting richer. It is a tad bit funny to write that opening line because the Yankees sparingly flex their financial might nowadays. As I wrote in my Dallas Keuchel piece, the team has undergone a paradigm shift in their approach to player acquisitions. This strategy is all in the name of financial flexibility and controlled spending (and yes, putting money in Hal’s pockets).

From the outside looking in, the organization is more apt to acquire contracts of known value rather than negotiate a value. The Yankees clear preference is to pursue players with prospect capital rather than financial capital. This is a topic of major debate amongst fans. There are many accusations of the team being cheap. After all, the franchise has an estimated value over $4 billion and earns considerable annual profits. But what if the draft, development and trade approach is the more effective route to not only building a contender, but a potential dynasty?

The Mandate Heard ‘Round The World

I’m a finance geek. I guess I always have been. That’s my background. Budgets matter. Balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side, and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll. You don’t. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent.

Hal Steinbrenner

This quote may induce nightmares for some. It was the official declaration that the franchise was no longer playing in the deep end of the free agent spending pool. The underlying philosophy is to develop enough young players that could either establish the new core or be trade bait to supplement that core. Here is a list of premiere free agents the team has passed on since 2013:

  • Zack Greinke
  • Josh Hamilton
  • Robinson Cano
  • Shin-Soo Choo
  • Max Scherzer
  • Jon Lester
  • Nelson Cruz
  • David Price
  • Justin Upton
  • Ben Zobrist
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Justin Turner
  • Charlie Morton
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Manny Machado
  • Bryce Harper
  • Dallas Keuchel

Wow. There are multiple World Series champions on this list. It is safe to say if the Yankees signed some of these players they would have been in the hunt for a title well before 2017. The counterpoint is you are potentially putting your franchise’s long term health at risk by signing older and more expensive players to a team that doesn’t have a young, productive core. This is especially true from 2013 to 2017. The Yankees consciously made the decision to start from the bottom up and create a new generation of young talent. Fans believed the team would then supplement these players with big time free agents. The organization had different plans.

Trades Are The Name Of The Game

Drafting, development and trades have brought the Yankees back to prominence. Since 2015, the Yankees have acquired these players via trade:

  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Chad Green
  • Starlin Castro
  • Aaron Hicks
  • Chasen Shreve
  • Dillon Tate
  • Clint Frazier
  • Justus Sheffield
  • Gleyber Torres
  • Giancarlo Stanton
  • Sonny Gray
  • Todd Frazier
  • David Robertson
  • Tommy Kahnle
  • Luke Voit
  • J.A. Happ
  • Zack Britton
  • James Paxton
  • Edwin Encarnación

This list is impressive as hell. Some of these players are foundational pieces at relatively low cost. These moves accelerated the “rebuild” for the franchise and immediately put the team in a position to contend.

In continuing with this idea, the Yankees continue to develop minor league players with the intent of bringing in more high end major leaguers. In his article discussing the trade for Encarnación, Marc Carig writes:

But the Yankees have also drawn rave reviews from rival execs for their ability to develop tradeable arms on the farm. Specifically, one rival executive lauded the Yankees for seemingly churning out pitchers with elite fastballs at the lower levels of the minors. Velocity is a weapon that has become increasingly coveted. If the Yankees are as good at unlocking it as some within the game believe them to be, they’re essentially printing currency to be used on the trade market.

Marc Carig

Attractive, young and cost-controlled player assets are the new currency the Yankees want to be flush in. In the trade market, the Yankees can evaluate the current production of a player against his existing contract. Free agent signings are based on future projections and how much money you are willing to spend for that projection. Recent news sends a clear message which side the Yankees fall on.

Keuchel vs. Encarnación

The Yankees need starting pitching. I know it. You know it. Brian Cashman knows it. Hal Steinbrenner knows it. There was a pretty good pitcher on the market available for just dollars. Knowing they had some wiggle room before hitting the next luxury tax threshold, the team held fast to their offer of a prorated 11 million dollars. Of course, Dallas Keuchel went with the higher offer.

The Yankees have an insane offense. I know it. You know it. Brian Cashman knows it. Hal Steinbrenner knows it. This fact did not preclude the team from acquiring the American League leader in home runs. They don’t need Edwin Encarnación, but why turn down a chance to get a premiere hitter for just 3 million bucks. As Jack Curry tweets:

The Yankees know they’re going to get elite offensive production at a cheap cost. They aren’t as sure what they will get from Keuchel especially considering the analytics department being skeptical of him moving forward. The front office chose the trade route to accentuate a strength rather than sign a player that addresses a clear weakness because of 8 million dollars. Nothing captures this new organizational paradigm shift than these two player personnel moves.

Maybe It’s Working?

The original intent of this post was to simply highlight the Yankees recent history of favoring the trade market over the free agent market. In writing it, I began to realize that my ongoing belief that the team is cheap may not be true. The question we can ask is what is more valuable? Is it cash currency or is it really player currency? The industry is currently not interested in handing out appropriate free agent contracts. This is obviously rooted in labor suppression and maximizing profits for owners. With that said, the most effective way to supplement a contender is by offering attractive prospects to teams looking to rebuild.

The Yankees are excelling at this. They’ve identified the leanings of the industry and taken full advantage. This strategy avoided a tear down and immediately made the team favorites to win the World Series. The new paradigm is working really well. It’s funny to say this, but we probably wouldn’t be clamoring for the organization to sign elite free agents if they spent the last six years signing every top free agent to bloated contracts. There is certainly room to criticize recent decisions made by the team. There is also room to give credit where it is due.

DoTF: Keuchel shuts down RiverDogs

Notes

  • The Yankees signed first-round pick Anthony Volpe and the new member of the organization was at the Stadium on Monday to answer questions from the press and meet with players. 
  • He signed for $2,740,300, just under $400,000 over slot. Bombers had to go over slot to get him out of his commitment to Vanderbilt.
  • Chance Adams was sent down to Trenton to make today’s start, which didn’t happen as you’ll see below. Here’s a little insight into the decision from The Trentonian.
  • Giancarlo Stanton will be in Tampa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Excited for his return!

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: Scheduled day off for the Railriders, who will be in Norfolk tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton Thunder: Thunder were postponed in their wraparound finale with Erie. Chance Adams was supposed to start, but he may not travel with the team to Binghamton.

High-A Tampa Tarpons: (1-0 loss to Fort Myers)

  • Starting Pitcher: RHP Rony Garcia: 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 6/8 GB/FB — 63 of his 98 pitches (64%) were strikes … Solo homer in the second inning did him in.
  • In Relief: RHP Hobie Harris: 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Hitting Star: RF Isiah Gilliam: 3-for-4, 1 K — Picked off first base.
  • On Deck: CF Estevan Florial: 2-for-4, 1 K — Batting .330 with a .990 OPS.
  • Other Notables: DH Dermis Garcia had a hit in four ABs … 1B Steven Sensley doubled for the Tarpons.

Single-A Charleston RiverDogs: (1-0 loss at Rome) … Percentage points behind first-place in division … faced Dallas Keuchel, who allowed one hit in seven innings while striking out nine. The irony didn’t need to hit this hard.

  • Starting Pitcher: RHP Luis Gil: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 60 of his 86 pitches (70%) were strikes … Three scoreless starts in his last five outings … Has a 1.81 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.
  • In Relief: RHP Carlos Espinal: 2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — Gave up hit with runner placed on second to begin 10th.
  • Hitting Star: 3B Max Burt: 1-for-4 — Had the only hit for Charleston and was one of only two players not to strike out.
  • On Deck: C Anthony Siegler: 0-for-3, 1 K — Season debut for the 2018 first-round pick.
  • Other Notables: DH Canaan Smith drew a walk … CF Brandon Lockridge and 1B Mickey Gasper went 0-for-4



Keuchel and the Official End of the Yankees 2018 Offseason

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Dallas Keuchel signing a one year deal with the Braves closes the door on the 2018 player offseason. The remaining free agents of note are now off the board. One could make the case that the Yankees had a very successful winter with the acquisition of James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, DJLM and Zack Britton. An equally strong case can be made that the inability to sign Dallas Keuchel highlights the fundamental flaw in the Yankees 2018 offseason strategy. 

Offseason Acquisitions

Hal, Cashman and company made it clear on multiple occasions during the winter that bolstering the rotation was priority number one. The first move they made was to bring back future hall of famer CC Sabathia for his final season. Despite not representing an upgrade from last year’s rotation, you could do much worse than having Sabathia as your fifth starter.

The first big move to strengthen the starting corps was the trade for James Paxton. By trading top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, the Yanks were making a win now move that brought the team much closer to achieving their stated goal of improving upon 2018’s rotation. With top pitching free agent Patrick Corbin available and reportedly very interested in signing with the Yankees, it made sense for the two sides to come to an agreement. 

It made so much sense that Patrick Corbin signed with the Washington Nationals to a deal the Yankees could have matched. The team was so focused on upgrading the rotation that they signed 36 year old J.A. Happ to a three year deal including an option despite clear downward trends in his performance.  Despite pitching well in Toronto his last time out, inconsistency is probably the best (or nicest) way to describe Happ’s season up to this point.

Now, the rotation has performed pretty well as Bobby goes into detail here. But there are two pretty significant issues the rotation is facing that signing a healthy Keuchel would have addressed. The rotation, featuring only one true upgrade from last year, lacks both depth and in game length. 

Starting Rotation Depth Concerns

The available and viable starting rotation options are limited. This is obviously the case because of injuries to Luis Severino, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery and now Domingo Germán, but this was an issue coming into the season. Assuming full health of the projected rotation, the 40 man roster depth options were Germán, Luis Cessa, Loaisiga, and Chance Adams. These options, outside of Germán, don’t inspire much confidence for a contending team.

The timing of Germán’s hip flexor injury couldn’t have been worse. The rotation already features multiple health risks and Domingo’s unexpected injury compounds this issue. Combine this with an innings limit that he is facing whenever he returns, the Yankees have at least one spot in the rotation that will still need to be filled later in the season. The problem is they don’t have a suitable replacement. It feels a little premature to say Luis Severino will be the one to take the spot. Increasing the depth, and more importantly the quality of the depth, should have driven the Yankees to make stronger acquisitions both during the winter and in season especially considering the onslaught of injuries this year.

The Rotation Doesn’t Stick Around Long

Length is a significant issue for the rotation. As Bobby notes in his post:

Of the current division leaders and 1st Wild Card spot teams, only two teams get fewer innings out of their starters than the Yanks.

There is a major emphasis on bullpen usage and third time through the order stats, but for a team that made it clear that rotation upgrades are in order this stat is pretty disappointing. They’re essentially giving the same length as the last couple of years. Dallas Keuchel, when healthy, has pitched over 200 innings in multiple seasons. Above to slightly above average production over 200 innings is incredibly valuable. It also creates opportunities to give the bullpen more rest, which is always a good thing.

We’re Living In A New World

There was a lot of time and energy spent on the team not signing Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The more significant issue is the team simply did not do enough to improve the rotation despite multiple quality options being available. It’s mind boggling that this was the very publicly stated goal of the winter and then the Yankees simply refused to achieve it. The easy explanation is the team is being cheap, but is this the core reason for these decisions?

The question “are the Yankees cheap or smart?” sits at the center of many conversations amongst the fans nowadays. As their player acquisition model continues to change, the organization’s dependence on their analytics department grows greater by the day. Of course, analytics provides an opportunity to assign specific financial values to a player that almost always skews to the benefit of ownership. Beyond that, the analytics department has seemingly created a rigid profile of player skills that the team will pursue let alone sign. It is increasingly clear this profile is valuing different players than the ones fans believe the team should acquire. Dallas Keuchel is the latest example of the analytics team winning the discussion of whether or not it’s the right move to sign a specific guy regardless of need and what the market was willing to pay.

We can complain about it all day, but this approach is not going to change. It may be time for us to finally adjust to this new paradigm despite its obvious flaws and frustrations. In truth, the team is experiencing success with it, which only validates the strategy. The true measure will obviously be the playoffs. The Yankees are betting on their player development and analytics staff to win them a title. These next few years will determine the big payoff of that bet.

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