Tag: Stephen Strasburg

News & Notes: Cole/Strasburg Sweepstakes, Gardner Offer, Ray Trade, Voit Injury News

Happy Saturday, everyone. The Winter Meetings are almost here and I have to say: the Hot Stove is sufficiently hot. At least with real rumors. I’m very surprised. Pleasantly surprised, to be clear, but surprised nonetheless. We’ll have to see what happens this week. I’d like to see the Cole/Strasburg sweepstakes come to a quick–and satisfying–conclusion but I’m still not holding my breath. Agent Scott Boras will prey on teams’ desperation. But we’ll see. I’m more hopeful than I was two weeks ago over this not drawing out, that’s for sure.

Anyway, today is the 24-year anniversary Tino Martinez trade, which is a good excuse to post some 90s dynasty highlights. Here’s his famous grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series:

And here is his game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series:

Those are two moments that have never once gotten old for me, even knowing how 2001 turned out in the end. (Not to mention, it’s always great to hear Sterling back then, and “The Bamtino” is one of my favorite HR calls of his.) All told, Martinez hit .279/.348/.488 (114 OPS+) in 923 games with the Bombers and won four World Series. Not bad.

Back in 2019, though, there are many rumors swirling around the Yankees. Let’s get right to them.

Cole/Strasburg Sweepstakes

Not much has changed since I wrote this the other day, really, but this is why everyone is here. Here’s the quick rundown of the latest news regarding Cole and Strasburg, who are the Yankees’ big targets this offseason:

  • The Yankees would be surprised to see Strasburg leave Washington. (Jon Heyman)
  • That said, they pulled out “all the stops” in their meeting with him and treated it exactly as they treated the Cole meeting. Makes sense! (NBC Washington)
  • Brian Cashman repelled down a building yesterday and a fan put up a sign in the window of the building saying “Please sign Gerrit Cole.” He also spoke about the team’s meeting with the players with reporters afterward. (ESPN)
  • The Phillies are also interested in Cole and Strasburg, even after signing Zack Wheeler. That brings the list of known suitors to four: the Yanks, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies. Washington is also in on Strasburg. (Jon Heyman)

That’s that, folks. Nothing really new. We will continue to keep you posted on this front in real-time, obviously.

Yanks Offer Brett Gardner A Deal

File this one in the “not at all surprising” department, but the Yankees recently offered Brett Gardner a contract. Here’s the Heyman report:

I think it’s interesting that they made “another” offer but not too interesting. It makes no sense for either party to accept the first deal offered. That’s not how negotiations work!

Gardner is coming off a great year in which he hit .251/.325/.503 (115 wRC+) and looked like his old self in the second half. He probably wants a two-year deal at a higher annual salary than the $7.5 million base salary he earned this year. There is probably just a small difference between the teams as they hash this out, as even Hal Steinbrenner was laudatory of Gardner in a recent interview. He will be back. That’s good news.

I expect this to be done sooner rather than later, although it is certainly a chance it draws out until after the Cole/Strasburg saga wraps up. I just can’t imagine Gardner suiting up anywhere else, and I don’t think he, or the Yankees, can either.

Robbie Ray, We Meet Again

Multiple sources are listing Robbie Ray as a potential backup plan for the Yankees, should Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg elect to take their services elsewhere. ESPN’s David Schoenfield wrote a piece outlining a potential Clint Frazier for Ray swap, which you can check out at that link. ESPN’s Buster Olney mentioned Ray as a potential backup option as well.

Remember, this is not the first time we’ve heard this. The two sides were linked at the trade deadline. This exact deal came up, in fact, and the Yankees turned it down. That’s why I personally would be surprised to see this deal go down. Of course, things change, and maybe the Yankees’ internal valuations of Frazier and Ray have changed, too. You never know!

A lot of fans, including my co-writers here, are not very excited by the prospect of Robbie Ray, which I understand. On the other hand, I don’t think you have to squint very hard to see his under-the-hood stuff and dream about unlocking his full potential. That said, he’s a complementary piece, not the big fish. Just sign Cole, please, then we can talk about this.

Luke Voit Injury Update

Finally, Luke Voit is determined not to rush back from his latest injury. He won’t play until he’s 100% healthy, he told the YES Network the other day, by way of Bradford William Davis of the New York Daily News. Here is the money quote:

“After that thing in London, I was fighting through it and you know it’s one of those things where (the training staff) told me ‘just rehab and everything’s gonna get better’ and I just couldn’t get over that hump.I wasn’t the most truthful in telling them that, you know, everything was hurting down there.”

Not great! It’s a common issue though with athletes, though. They want to play and help the team. I probably would in their shoes, too. But even though I understand it, I do hate it. Voit says it’s a lesson learned going forward, which is good to hear.

Anyway, Voit’s self-described “thickheadedness” definitely hurt his performance down the stretch and may have even exacerbated his injury. It’s too bad because 2019 was an otherwise excellent campaign for him and I do believe his absence cost the Yanks in the playoffs. Hopefully, Voit is able to rest and get healthy following his surgery and return to form next season. That sure would be nice.

Free agent target: Stephen Strasburg

(MLB GIF Hub)

Could Stephen Strasburg have picked a better time to become a free agent? Fresh off his first fully healthy season since 2014 and World Series MVP honors, the 31 year-old opted out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his contract with the World Series champions. He might be able to nearly double those amounts in the coming months.

It’s weird to think of Strasburg as a consolation prize this winter, but that’s sort of what he is. Gerrit Cole is clearly the top free agent available, but Strasburg may be 1B. If the Yankees don’t get Cole, perhaps they turn to Strasburg. Here’s what the Yankees would get if they signed him.

He’s dominant — when healthy

Since Strasburg entered the league in 2010, he’s been one of baseball’s best pitchers. Here’s where he ranks in some key categories over the last ten years:

  • ERA: 16th
  • FIP: 7th
  • K-BB%: 6th
  • fWAR: 8th
  • RA9-WAR: 14th
  • Innings pitched: 28th

It’s pretty remarkable where he stands in both WAR metrics in spite of having fewer innings pitched than his counterparts. And this season, he was the best pitcher in baseball according to DRA. Clearly, he’s great on a rate basis, but he’s not always going to be available. His medical history makes that pretty clear.

Strasburg has been placed on the injured list 11 times in his 10 year big league career. He’s dealt with a number of different maladies, and a number of them have been pitching arm related. He missed most of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, but has also had a number of issues flare up with his shoulder and elbow. Even though he didn’t hit the injured list in 2019, which was for the first time for him since 2014, the righty’s injury history is daunting.

Including the postseason, the longtime National threw a career high 245 1/3 innings in 2019. That’s far more than 2014, his last fully healthy season, when he tossed 215 regular season frames and another five in the postseason. That’s a little worrisome entering 2020.

Now, even if an injured list stint or two can be expected annually, Strasburg can be counted on to deliver when he’s on the mound. As the aforementioned rankings show, and his career 3.17 ERA and 2.96 FIP indicate, he’s an excellent pitcher. His next team will just have to hope he’s healthy when they need him most.

Current Stuff

As expected for any pitcher 10 years into his career, Strasburg’s fastball doesn’t have the velocity it once did. He came up with the Nationals throwing triple digits, whereas now he sits right around 94.

(Baseball Savant)

The good news is that Strasburg isn’t merely a thrower on the mound. He’s got the ability to sink his fastball (19.7 percent of all pitches) while also reaching back on four-seamers (28.6 percent). Plus, he’s got a nasty curveball and changeup that he mixes in with aplomb.

Poor Corey Seager right there. Stras throws his curveball more often than anything else (30.7 percent), and for good reason. His yakker’s spin rate was in the 86th percentile of the league in 2019 and featured above average horizontal movement. He also had a ridiculous 39.2 percent whiff rate on the offering this year.

Last but not least, the changeup he threw 20.7 percent of the time this campaign. He does use it a little more against left handed hitters, as one would expect, but he’s not afraid to use it against righties (as the clip above shows). Opponents whiffed at 42.4 percent of his changeups last season.

Postseason tested

Strasburg was ridiculously good this October, but he had a few strong postseason starts prior to this season too. He started one game in the 2014 NLDS against the Giants and allowed two runs (one earned) in five frames. In 2017, he started twice against the Cubs in the division series. He pitched seven frames in both outings, struck out 22, and allowed only two runs (both unearned).

This playoff run was something else, though. It started with a relief appearance against the Brewers in the Wild Card game and finished with a deserved World Series MVP. Here’s what he did in total during the Nationals’ title run:

6 games (5 starts), 36 1/3 innings, 47 strikeouts, 1.98 ERA

After three shutout relief innings in the Wild Card game, he threw at least six innings in each October start. He saved his best for last too: in Game 6, down in the series 3-2 in Houston, Strasburg led Washington to victory with 8 1/3 innings of one run ball.

It was a playoff run for the ages, no doubt. Granted, none of what he’s done for the Nats in postseason play is predictive of what he’d do for the Yankees or anyone else, but two things are quite clear: one, he’s a great pitcher and two, he’s risen to the occasion in the past. That should inspire plenty of confidence in a big spot down the line.

Contract Estimates

Fangraphs seems too low whereas Bowden may be a tad high. Bowden’s prediction would beat the previous starting pitcher contract record, set by David Price. Of course, Cole is likely to set the record this winter and beat Strasburg. Meanwhile, MLBTR’s number seems about right.

I do anticipate the deal’s duration to be on the shorter side given Strasburg’s injury history. So to that end, I think Fangraphs’ crowdsourcing is right in terms of years he’ll sign for. I just think he’ll get more money annually. 5 years, $160 million is my uninformed guess.

Does he make sense for the Yankees?

Do I really need to answer this? Of course he does. There’s not a major league team signing Strasburg doesn’t make sense for. Strasburg would be the best pitcher on just about any team, including the Yankees. That said, I don’t expect him to be in pinstripes next year. Odds are he reunites with the Nationals or goes to play for his hometown squad, the Padres.

News & Notes: BP’s Top NYY 10 Prospects, DeGagne, Award Season, Gregorius, Cole, Germán

Happy Saturday, everyone. It’s a cold one out there. The last few days have really felt like the offseason, haven’t they? Nobody is playing baseball in 30-degree weather. Next week (November 11-14) will be the GM Meetings, where team executives get together and talk about the business of the game…and also about transactions.

Last year, for example, Brian Cashman learned that James Paxton would be available. It’s also when the Aaron Hicks extension went down. So we could get some real news soon. Hooray for that. Anyway, here’s the latest and the greatest from Yankeeland in the last few days.

Baseball Prospectus’ Top NYY Prospects

It’s prospect ranking season, everyone. We’re working on compiling our own list internally here at Views, but why not see what the experts have to say? Baseball Prospectus released its Top 10 NYY Prospect List yesterday, which is available to basic (free) members of Baseball Prospectus.

Friend of the Blog Jarrett Seidler was responsible for much of the work here, so definitely check it out. Here is their Top 10:

  1. Deivi Garcia, RHP
  2. Jasson Dominguez, OF
  3. Albert Abreu, RHP
  4. Luis Medina, RHP
  5. Luis Gil, RHP
  6. Anthony Volpe, SS
  7. Estevan Florial, OF
  8. Ezequiel Duran, 2B
  9. Clarke Schmidt, RHP
  10. Kevin Alcantara, OF

High on Abreu, low on Schmidt, but a very good list overall, in my opinion. A few of those guys had great seasons last year, and, of course, our son Deivi Garcia sits atop the list. Seems right.

I noticed that some folks were surprised to see Jasson sit at number two here, but you shouldn’t be. He’s only 16, sure, and few have seen him play, but the Yankees did use up all of their IFA money (upwards of $5m) on him. That tells you something. Plus, as we’ve covered here before, those who have seen him, love him.

The BP staff goes in-depth into each of these players with their take on each of them. They also profile prospects 11-20, who just missed the cut, highlight some of their other favorites from the system, and rank the Top 10 Under 25 talents in the system. (Hint: Gleyber is Number One)

The verdict: the Yankees have a number of high-ceiling arms in the lower minors who miss a ton of bats but struggle with command. Sounds about right. The Yankees have graduated so much talent in the last few years–it’s forming the core of their championship-caliber team–that you can’t expect anything else. The next few years will be big for a number of these guys.

Welcome Aboard, Brett DeGagne

As I noted a few weeks ago after the team parted ways with Larry Rothschild, the Yankees also made sweeping changes to their MiLB pitching coach tree, too. We now have our first (public) hire to fill that gap: Brett DeGagne, by way of North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC). He announced it himself on Twitter last night:

Pitching Coordinator Sam Briend confirmed the news and player development guru Desi Druschel weighed in as well. This should be obvious at this point, but that tells us that DeGagne is analytics-friendly and a forward thinker. Briend and Druschel are viewed as cutting-edge in that regard. One would think their overhaul of the MiLB pitching infrastructure was to bring in other coaches cut from their cloth, so I’m excited to find out more about the DeGagne hire and what level he’ll be coaching. We’ll keep you posted as more develops on that front.

Here’s what we do know: DeGagne was recently an Assistant Coach with the NIACC system in the 2019 season. Before that, he was Pitching Coach at St. Cloud University in 2017 and 2018, and he coached in the Northwoods League collegiate summer program. He pitched five seasons himself at the University of North Dakota. Welcome aboard, Brett.

In related news, new MLB Pitching Coach Matt Blake was chosen in part because he is “ahead of his time”, according to a profile in the New York Post. Exciting stuff happening across the team these days. As I noted above, there are a number of exciting arms in the system, and it’s great to see the team equipping them with cutting-edge coaches. I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out next year.

Award Season for DJLM and Judge

Two Yankees won some notable awards in the last few days. They both deserved them. First, DJ LeMahieu won the Silver Slugger Award for second base. No surprises. Our guy hit .327/.375/.518 (136 wRC+) and was a force at the plate day-in and day-out for the Bombers. He can now add the Silver Slugger Award to his resume, which includes three All-Star appearances, an NL batting crown, and three Gold Gloves. Not bad!

Second, Aaron Judge won Wilson’s Defensive Player of the Year for right field. This is recognition for Judge that I’m really happy to see him get. I truly believe Judge is underrated, which feels insane, but I think it’s true. He’s certainly underrated as a fielder, that much is for sure. I noted this during the ALDS, but the defensive metrics are favorable to our guy. Check out his Statcast “Outs Above Average” metrics:

  • 2019: 6 OAA (24th out of 92 qualified)
  • 2018: 1 (42nd of out 87)
  • 2017: 10 (12th of out 90)
  • All years (16-19): 18 (22nd out of 565)

And his (take with a huge grain of salt) UZR ratings:

  • Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR): 27.2 (2nd)
  • UZR/150: 13.2 (2nd, next closest is Billy Hamilton at 9.5)

I don’t like defensive metrics–especially not zone-based ones–but I sure do love singing the praises of one Aaron Judge. But I also think these figures track well with what we see in right field each night with Judge. The man is a great fielder, and it’s about damn time someone who doesn’t watch the Yankees every night noticed it, too.

The End of the Age of Gregorius?

Ok, dramatic header there, but now we know the obvious: other teams are interested in the services of one Sir Didi Gregorius. Per Jon Heyman:

Gregorius, of course, came up with the Reds as a 22-year-old shortstop back in 2012. He only made 21 plate appearances with the big league club, but we do know the organization there likes him. Gregorius is probably the best middle infielder on the market this offseason, so get ready for more rumors like this as the offseason progresses. For what it’s worth, I expect Didi to fully rebound next season. Also, interestingly enough, MLBTR predicted Gregorius would ultimately land with the Reds. We’ll keep you posted as things develop on this front, of course.

Here’s his grand slam in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins because why the hell not:

Yankee (Players) Recruiting Gerrit Cole

No, there’s nothing really to report here (do you think it would be buried here if there was?) but there was one really hilarious thing that I wanted to highlight. On last week’s R2C2 podcast, CC Sabathia had this to say about Gerrit Cole: “you offer that motherfucker enough money, he’s going to want to come here.” I agree, CC. I agree.

He also noted that he’s had “many” conversations with Cole about pitching in the Bronx as a West Coast guy, which I thought was interesting. There’s nothing to read into there, but it’s interesting. He also compared Cole’s free agency to his after 2008, which is fitting. Give it a listen, if, for some reason, you haven’t yet. One final note: it is physically impossible for me to love an athlete more than I love CC Sabathia.

Also, Giancarlo Stanton told TMZ that he wants the Yankees to sign both Cole and Stephen Strasburg, to which I say:

Very good, Giancarlo. Very good. I agree.

Domingo Germán Update

Ken Davidoff and Dan Martin of the New York Post report that MLB’s investigation into Domingo Germán’s alleged physical altercation with Mara Vega, the mother of his children, is expected to wrap up in a few weeks. Germán himself hasn’t spoken to the MLB yet but Vega has, per the reports.

Players don’t get paid while suspended for domestic violence, but Germán was paid while on administrative leave–meaning he’d owe the Yankees money when this is all wrapped up. We will keep you posted as this develops further.

Now and Later

2019’s Yankee ace? Close enough. (MLB Gifs)

At the beginning of each school year, my students ask me about tests, exams, and the like. I tell them there won’t really be any. Sure, essays count as exams and serve as ‘tests’ when we finish reading units, but I remind them that it’s English class and the line between a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer is pretty blurred. As a student who struggled with math, I always appreciated that flexibility, the power of interpretation. Last week, the Yankees–Hal Steinbrenner specifically, served up something ripe for interpretation:

Right now, these words mean more than one thing. On their face, they mean Hal believes in his pitchers, as he should; they’re talented and capable of great things. And from a practical standpoint, he has nothing to gain by pointing out whatever shortcomings they may have.

The words also serve as a bit of posturing to gain leverage in any potential free agent or trade negotiations. By sounding content with what they have, they’ll appear less desperate and needy on any open market. This interpretation is logical, but part of me wonders if it’s a bit dated. In this information age of baseball, everyone knows the same sorts of things. Is there really an edge to be gained here? Eh, I’m not so sure anymore. But it’s still worth doing; it may not help much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Those two interpretations are optimistic. They see Hal’s comments as necessary for morale and harmony, as well as, at the least, a directionally neutral step before the markets really open. But there is a more pessimistic interpretation we’ve acknowledged before.

Hal’s comments were a little too on the nose. Many have predicted he and Brian Cashman would use the return to health from Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery as an excuse for passing on elite pitching talent like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. To those people, this statement reads like it’s laying the groundwork for the inevitable explanation for not signing or trading for a big time pitcher.

All three explanations are about equally plausible. We won’t know which one is ‘true’ for a long time. Hal’s statement is a starting point, the beginning of the offseason’s journey, to be dramatic for a second. The meaning of the statement will hardly be static; with each twist and turn of the winter, it may change meaning from time to time until Spring Training starts and the roster is set. As frustrating as that is, we’ll have to wait until then.

When will then be now? Soon. And soon we’ll find out if Hal’s words were simply posturing or the foundation for an excuse.

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