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News & Notes: Cashman on YES, Hicks, Cortes returns

The Winter Meetings have come and gone with a thud. Sure, a few deals went down, but nothing earth-shattering. I suppose this was to be expected. Rather than a steady flow of rumors and moves, it was just like every other week this offseason.

Brian Cashman sheds some light on the Yankees’ offseason

The Yankees stood pat this week, but we do have some team-related news to relay, mostly thanks to Brian Cashman’s interview on YES yesterday. NJ.com’s Randy Miller transcribed a number of relevant quotes which I’ll break down here as well.

  • Cashman expressed the team’s intent to bring back free agent DJ LeMahieu. No shocker here.
  • After discussing LeMahieu, Meredith Marakovits asked if Masahiro Tanaka fits into the picture if the team re-signs LeMahieu. Cashman was very coy here, basically saying he couldn’t answer the question about what fits into the team’s budget. I’ve seen folks read that response as if Tanaka is a goner. I understand that sentiment, especially given his openness about wanting to bring back DJLM. However, it’s not like he was directly asked about wanting to bring back Tanaka. I wonder if he used the question being targeted toward the financial aspect to avoid talking about Tanaka at all. Perhaps that means a reunion with Tanaka isn’t out of the cards, though maybe I’m just overthinking it.
  • The GM had plenty of good things to say about Gary Sánchez, though he couched his statement by saying that they’re not giving him a pass. Cashman cited how hard he hit the ball this season when he made contact, which was obviously an issue for him (36 percent strikeout rate). It should come as no surprise that the team tendered him a contract last week based on Cashman’s steadfast belief in the backstop.
  • It sure sounds like Domingo Germán has been welcomed back based on the way Cashman spoke about the rotation. Hal Steinbrenner had previously said the team would need “proof that he [Germán] turned his life around”.
  • Cashman would like to add to the rotation this offseason, but he also stated that “you could certainly daydream” that the pitching staff might actually have everything that it already needs. Look, I love some of the young arms that this team has, but let’s add some depth please.

Aaron Hicks says his elbow still isn’t 100 percent

In addition to Cashman, the Yankees’ center fielder was also on YES last night. I believe Hicks mentioned this during the regular season, but I found it notable that he said yesterday that his elbow still doesn’t feel 100 percent after Tommy John surgery. Perhaps it won’t be, which stinks.

As Hicks noted in the interview, he felt like it took him until the end of the year to really feel more like himself. His numbers bore this out too. Offensively, that may be as a result of changing his swing so he doesn’t hyperextend his elbow. I’m pretty sure this is the first we’ve heard of Hicks having to adjust his swing mechanics since the surgery.

Nestor Cortes is back in the organization

Per his own Instagram account, Nestor Cortes has re-signed with the Yankees after spending 2020 with the Mariners. The Yanks dealt him to Seattle last offseason, and sheesh, did Cortes struggle. He had a 15.26 ERA in 7 2/3 innings with the Mariners. Elbow issues appear to be the blame here as an elbow impingement shut his season down mid-August. The lefty is now pitching in the Dominican Republic, so he’s presumably healthy.

The Yankees haven’t announced the move yet, but it’s safe to assume that this is a minor league deal. I’m sure we’ll see Cortes receive an invite to spring training, too. Odds are he’s just minor league depth during 2021, though he could serve as a mop-up man if absolutely needed in the big leagues.

Yankees non-tender Holder, re-sign Cessa and Heller, tender others

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So long, Jonathan Holder. He was the one player the Yankees non-tendered this evening. Don’t rule out some sort of reunion, but for now, he’s a free agent. Meanwhile, the Yankees came to agreements with Luis Cessa (reportedly $1.05 million) and Ben Heller (undisclosed). While the Yankees didn’t announce any contracts with its other arbitration-eligible players, it’s safe to say that all of them were tendered contracts. Yes, including Gary Sánchez. These players can still come to terms with the Yankees and avoid arbitration.

With Holder gone, the Yankees now have one open spot on the 40-man roster. Maybe they’ll announce DJ LeMahieu soon? We’ll see. Anyway, non-tendering Holder wasn’t a total surprise, but I definitely didn’t expect Heller to return. No details on Heller’s contract yet, but I’m sure it’s below the $700-800k that MLB Trade Rumors projected. As for Cessa: the $1.05 million agreement is below the $1.1-$1.3 million range estimated.

Around the league, there are a few players non-tendered who likely will interest the Yankees. Namely: Kyle Schwarber, David Dahl, Eddie Rosario, and Archie Bradley, among others. We’ll talk about them more in the coming days and weeks.

Earlier this week, we crowdsourced who the Yankees should non-tender tonight. There are some…interesting decisions made by some of you here. But the players with the most votes are those who you would expect.

The upcoming non-tender decisions for the Yankees

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Tomorrow’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the non-tender deadline. In case the sarcasm didn’t come through: this offseason has been so slow and boring that the best we can look forward to is a day when teams cut ties with a bunch of players. To be specific, all players must be tendered a contract for 2021 by 8pm eastern tomorrow if they have not received one yet. This really just affects the arbitration eligible players set to receive substantial raises, though pre-arbitration (i.e. near league minimum) players must receive offers too.

Now, this year will be a little different than usual. Teams are more cost-conscious after a shortened and fanless season, so there’s an expectation that a bunch of players will hit the open market. There have even been rumors that stars like Kris Bryant could non-tendered, though that would really shock me. Still, there will be better players than usual added to this winter’s free agent crop.

As for the Yankees, the front office has decisions to make on eleven arbitration eligible players. I’ve grouped them into three categories: keepers, questionable, and doubtful in terms of the likelihood the Yankees tender them contracts. After that, I’ve added a poll question for you to pick who you’d non-tender. Let’s get to it.

Keepers

Clint Frazier, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and Luke Voit aren’t going anywhere. All will play important roles on the 2021 squad. The projected arbitration salaries are bargains for this group. There’s really nothing more to add here.

What on earth happened to Gary Sánchez? [2020 Season Review]

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What a nightmare. Not only did Gary Sánchez have the worst season of his career, but he was also one of the worst players in the league in 2020’s 60 game sprint. His once potent bat vanished and his catching left a lot to be desired. By postseason’s end, he wasn’t even number one on the depth chart. Let’s try to sort out the mess that was Gary’s disappointing campaign.

Power, but almost nothing else offensively

There’s simply no way to sugar coat a batting line of .147/.253/.365 (69 wRC+). That’s what Sánchez did in 178 plate appearances this season. After showing so much potency with the bat in 2016, 2017, and even last year, this is now two out of the last three years where Gary has been downright bad offensively. Remember, he hit under the Mendoza line in 2018 as well, though he did muster a 91 wRC+ that season.

As dreadful as Sánchez was this season, he still hit for power and drew a decent amount of free passes. Sánchez hit 10 homers, posted a .218 isolated power, and recorded a 10.1 percent walk rate. The problem? He struck out 36 percent of plate appearances and had a .159 BABIP. Just terrible.

News & Notes: Winter league participants, coaches poached, and more

Got a quick news roundup as Game 6 gets started. Go Dodgers, right? Without further ado:

Miguel Andújar will play winter ball and Gary Sánchez could join him

No shock that Andújar will play ball in the Dominican Republic this winter. He’s got just 114 plate appearances dating back to 2019 as a result of shoulder surgery, a pandemic shortened season, and Gio Urshela in his way.

Sánchez might follow in December. Nothing is set in stone there yet. He doesn’t need the workload to make up for lost time like Miggy, but if he does wind up playing, hopefully he can figure out what went wrong in 2020.

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