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Winter Meetings Day 3 Recap: Mets get moving, Cleveland listening on Lindor, MiLB announcement

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While the Yankees remain quiet, there are rumors involving other ballclubs to pass along today. Particularly with the Yankees’ crosstown rivals, the Mets. The Yankees will do something…eventually…but that day doesn’t appear to be today, unless something comes out of the blue. For now, let’s get to the latest around the league:

Mets closing in on deal with James McCann — or are they?

Conventional wisdom indicated that the Mets would be in hot pursuit of JT Realmuto this offseason. Instead, it appears the team is going with James McCann instead. There’s no doubt that Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball at this moment, but McCann certainly will come at a lower cost.

McCann has been quite good since 2019, albeit after an extended stretch of pretty lousy play in years prior. Through 2018, the soon-to-be Met had a .240/.288/.366 (75 wRC+) and -0.1 fWAR in 1,658 plate appearances. Since, in his age 29 and 30 seasons, he’s batted .276/.334/.474 (116 wRC+) and racked up 3.8 fWAR. Not only did the bat come around, but so did the defense.

Obviously, the Mets are banking on McCann’s recent success to continue. Realmuto would be the safer bet, but there is potential for McCann to provide similar production at a lower cost. At the same time, there’s a much lower floor here than what Realmuto offers.

All that said, perhaps Rosenthal’s report is a tad premature. Jon Heyman indicates that the Angels are in on the backstop too:


Mailbag: Cubs fire sale, free agent shortstops next year, Kluber, and a Lindor proposal

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Happy Friday, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since our last mailbag, so apologies for the delay. We have a few good questions to address today. But before that: if you’d like to be considered for a future edition, please email viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We plan to choose our favorites each week. Now to the mailbag.

Sam asks: With Theo leaving the Cubs, it really feels like they’re about to tear everything down. What Cubs players make sense for the Yankees to target in the trade market? Adding Schwarber’s left-handed power is very appealing.

Yup, a selloff certainly seems to be coming. Schwarber feels like someone the Yankees would pursue, especially since the team was connected to him in the past. That said, I don’t like the fit in spite of his undeniable power from the left side. Even though he absolutely crushes the ball, he’s another low-contact bat (28 percent career strikeout rate) and is without a position. Statcast had him in the 2nd and 23rd percentiles in Outs Above Average and Outfielder Jump this season. With Giancarlo Stanton parked at DH, there’s really no place for Schwarber.

There are a bunch of other players on the Cubs I’m interested in, though. Javy Báez would be cool as a Francisco Lindor/DJ LeMahieu fallback. He had an oddly bad 2020 (57 wRC+) after hitting .286/.321/.544 (123 wRC+) from 2018 through 2019. One thing remained steady: his elite defense, which would unequivocally help the Yanks.

I’d also love to bring in Yu Darvish, who I mentioned yesterday in our news and notes post. The 34 year-old has been dominant since mid-2019 and can probably be had for very little because his contract goes through 2023. I’d bet that the Yanks would be able to get the Cubs to take Adam Ottavino’s deal as part of a trade too.

The VF314 Official 2020-2021 Offseason Plan

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We’re a couple of weeks later than last year, but better late than never. It’s time for us to unveil our Official Offseason Plan for the Yankees. Everyone on staff has discussed and debated various decisions the Yankees have ahead of them this winter and are ready to share our consensus today.

As a preface, this plan is a bit conservative and would get the Yankees under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. It’s not clear whether or not the Yankees will exhibit austerity this winter, though there have been hints in the media. That led to some difficult decisions that you’ll see unfold below. That said, we are planning to share another less-stringent plan soon. It’ll be more fun, we promise.

With that, let’s dive right in.

Option decisions

We wouldn’t do anything differently than what the Yankees actually did. On the option front, Zack Britton stays while Brett Gardner and JA Happ depart.

Team Free Agents & Qualifying Offers

DJ LeMahieu: It’s tough to say goodbye, but something coming later will explain why.

Masahiro Tanaka: Another really tough goodbye here. Tanaka was terrific for seven years in pinstripes, but in trying to fit under the $210 million tax threshold, it just couldn’t be done.

Yankees Trade Target: Francisco Lindor

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In case you hadn’t heard last week — and I can’t imagine what possibly could have distracted you from this — Cleveland plans to trade star shortstop Francisco Lindor in the coming months. The Yankees, along with a number of other teams, are sure to be involved in trade discussions. Let’s take a look at Lindor in our first trade profile of the offseason.

Background & Performance

Lindor hails from Puerto Rico, though his family moved to Florida before he started high school. He attended Montverde Academy, a school you may be familiar with if you follow the NBA. D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, among others, attended. Cleveland drafted Lindor out of Montverde with the 8th overall pick in 2011. He signed for a $2.9 million bonus.

He was a top prospect throughout his minor league career and debuted in the big leagues mid-2015. Since, Lindor has hit .285/.346/.488 (118 wRC+), swatted 138 homers, and stolen 99 bases in 126 attempts (78.6 percent). He’s elite defensively too: the two Gold Gloves to his name aren’t just because of name recognition. All told, Lindor is a five tool player at a premium position and hasn’t turned 27 yet.

Judge or Lindor? Why not both?

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Yesterday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal weighed in on a potential choice the Yankees could face soon:

No decision is necessary just yet. But if I were running the Yankees, I’d think twice about signing the oft-injured Aaron Judge to a monster extension. Instead, I’d consider taking that money and going hard after Francisco Lindor when he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season.

I won’t give away the details of Rosenthal’s rationale since it’s behind a paywall. The gist of his argument is that Judge’s long-term health is murky, the team is loaded with outfielders, and have a ton of salary commitments already. Rosenthal believes Lindor might be the team’s better option as it’s next splurge. Not only is Lindor great in his own right, but he’s also younger and has a healthier track record. None of Rosenthal’s points are wrong, per se. But as you might have expected us to say, why can’t the Yankees have both?

Let’s address Rosenthal’s biggest concern: Judge’s health. Frankly, I can’t deny that it worries me too. He’s on the injured list yet again after playing in just 112 and 102 of the team’s games in each of the last two seasons. He probably would have played a similar total this year if not for the pandemic because of his broken rib and collapsed lung. The only real “bad luck” injury was the wrist fracture on a hit by pitch in 2018. Otherwise, we’ve seen a couple of muscle strains and that broken rib (which to his credit, he played through at the end of 2019). I suppose the rib fracture could be bad luck too. That said, it worries me that an impact play like that in right field could hurt him again.

Depending on your WAR metric of preference, Judge was a five-win player in 2018 and 2019 in spite of missing so many games. There aren’t many outfielders who do that in a full season! If you could only pencil in Judge for 115 games annually but knew you’d get 5 WAR a pop, I think you’d be thrilled. And with guys like Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier around to fill the void, those other games aren’t exactly being filled by scrubs. The caveat: Judge needs to be healthy when it matters most in October.

Speaking of Tauchman and Frazier — yes, the Yankees have in-house options to step in for Judge after 2022, when he becomes a free agent. But as good those two look, they’re not Judge and they almost certainly never will be. Plus, Tauchman is 1.5 years older than Judge. Frazier is a little more than a year younger, though. Hell, Jasson Dominguez might be ready for the show come 2023, but that’s a ways away from now. Who knows what happens between now and then.

Finally, we get to payroll. I think we’ve argued this ad nauseam, but the Yankees aren’t in dire straits as much as some may lead you to believe. There is a lot of money coming off the books this season, even if you consider the large arbitration raises for guys like Judge, Gary Sánchez, and Gio Urshela (among others). Masahiro Tanaka ($23M), JA Happ ($17M), James Paxton ($12.5M), DJ LeMahieu ($12.5M), and Brett Gardner ($12.5M) could all depart this winter. Now, it wouldn’t be great to lose that much talent, it’s just worth noting. Per Cot’s, these are the Yankees’ salary commitments through 2024:

  • 2021: $132M
  • 2022: $103M
  • 2023: $82M
  • 2024: $78M

Almost all of that is tied to Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton (but don’t forget, the Marlins are paying a. Of course, this doesn’t account for the larger arbitration increases for guys like Judge in 2021 and 2022, but still. There’s money to play with and it doesn’t have to be Judge or Lindor. It can be both.

Keep in mind that Judge might not be as expensive as you think. The Yankees can continue to go year-to-year in arbitration through the 2022 season. While that could cost them something like $40 million over the next two seasons, that’s a pittance for Judge’s production. Further, Judge becomes a free agent in advance of his age-31 season. This isn’t a Manny Machado or Bryce Harper free agency when guys sign for $300 million in their mid-twenties.

So, I’ve spent all this time talking about Judge’s health and the Yankees’ financial status without really talking about Lindor. He’s great and the Yankees should absolutely sign him after 2021. Move Gleyber Torres back to second base, and depending on what happens with LeMahieu in free agency, the Yanks can play either DJ or Urshela at third. Don’t forget about Luke Voit at first base. That probably would be the Yankees’ best infield since 2009.

It’s exciting to think about the prospect of Judge and Lindor in pinstripes, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It would be awfully fun to have both of them around, but the focus at the moment is winning this year and next. Unless there’s a trade, Lindor can’t help just yet.

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