If you’re reading this and are a Yankees fan, I’d bet you’re having a really nice morning right now. Whether you got a good night’s sleep and woke up to the Gerrit Cole news or stayed up late as the news broke, it’s no matter. This is the best news in a while.
Say it with me: Gerrit Cole is a New York Yankee. How great does that sound? Pretty, pretty good if you ask me. The Yankees did the thing we’ve all been hoping for. They also did the thing we’ve been waiting for them to do for years: dole out a big contract to a superstar.
What more can I say? I’m numb and speechless from the excitement of the news. It’s a good thing I wrote the rest of this post before the Cole news broke. I’m not sure I’d have been able to in the immediate aftermath. We’ll have a whole lot more on Cole in the coming days.
Ultimately, there’s no need to overthink this one. Be happy, everyone. I sure as hell am. Gerrit Cole is a New York Yankee and it sure sounds sweet.
Missing Didi as a fan. As great as the Cole signing is, yesterday remains somewhat bittersweet because the Phillies reportedly signed Didi Gregorius. I’m sad to see him go and I’m sure I’m not alone. After the news broke, Twitter was ablaze with fond memories of Didi’s time here, including his postgame victory tweets, clutch homers, and his success in the post-Derek Jeter era.
There was a great joy in watching Didi play for the Yankees. His passion made him incredibly fun and easy to root for, which was an element many Yankees teams lacked in years before his acquisition. Remember those business-like Yankees teams of the 1990s and 2000s? They were great, but I wouldn’t always define them as fun. Gregorius played a big role in making things different in the Bronx from many fans’ viewpoints.
Missing Didi in the clubhouse. Of course, it’s not just us who will miss Didi. The shortstop was clearly incredibly popular among his teammates and grew into a leadership role. I noticed a couple of players shared fond farewells to Didi on social media, including Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres. They’re certainly not alone.
Didi’s departure marks the second significant hole to fill in the clubhouse. We all knew about and were prepared for CC Sabathia’s departure, as were his teammates, but Gregorius’s future beyond 2019 was murky.
Other guys in that locker room will have to step up in those two’s absence. I’m plenty confident in guys like Judge and Torres doing so, but still. Sabathia and Gregorius leave big shoes to fill, and there’s still the risk of losing other significant presences like Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner, and Austin Romine.
Gregorius’s departure puts a lot of pressure on Gio Urshela and Miguel Andújar. I tweeted about this after the news broke yesterday and I want to expand upon the thought. With Gregorius gone, the Yankees’ infield is officially set: Urshela/Andújar, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Luke Voit from left to right. Even without Didi at short, that middle infield is one of the league’s best. Voit should be just fine at first too. That said, there’s some real risk over at third base. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in Urshela’s all-around game and Andújar’s bat. However, it’s not that hard to envision scenarios in which either or both struggle in 2020.
Urshela was a late bloomer as a 27 year-old this season. Even though he delivered strong xStats per Statcast and a 121 DRC+, it’s not unreasonable to be somewhat skeptical of his breakout. Again, I think he’s for real, but I can’t help a little bit of doubt trickle in because of his limited track record.
Meanwhile, who knows how long it will take Andújar to be all the way back, if at all. The recent history of hitters who’ve returned from labrum surgery, including Greg Bird, is a mixed bag. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I don’t want to count on Miggy’s bat at the outset of 2020. Even back at full strength, missing a full season will require him to shake off some rust. All this not to mention the already legitimate concerns about his ability to handle the hot corner defensively.
If the Yankees had kept Didi, LeMahieu would have remained in his roving infield role next season. Remaining in that role would have protected the Yankees against significant regression from Urshela and/or Andújar.
Right now, the Yankees’ infield depth consists of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. I like both players, but they’re a steep drop from what could have been with Gregorius. Handing either of those two extended time due to poor performance or injury from the expected regulars isn’t ideal.
Trading Happ will be costly. If the Zack Cozart trade is indicative of anything, the Yankees will have to include a good prospect to get out of what’s remains on JA Happs’ contract. The Angels sent Cozart and their 2019 first rounder, Will Wilson, to the Giants. San Francisco is absorbing Cozart’s contract, approximately $13 million.
The Yankees are seeking a trade partner, but it may not be easy to find a match. Now, nobody was expecting a heist like the Chase Headley salary dump with the Padres a few years ago. But let me ask you this: would you trade any of the following prospects to shed Happ’s deal?
- Luis Gil
- Anthony Volpe
- Estevan Florial
- Ezequiel Duran
I’d rather not. All four of these guys had 55 grades put on them per Baseball Prospectus, the same as Wilson. Now, all of their major league ETAs vary, but it’s a good start for a comp.
Unfortunately, pulling a few trade comps based on scouting grades isn’t the end-all-be-all. Happ’s deal is more complicated than the just-dealt Cozart’s. The newest Giant was owed nothing more after his $13 million this year, whereas Happ is due at least $17 million. And, if Happ throws 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020, he gets another $17 million in 2021. That additional “risk” could cost the Yankees more in prospects. Now, any suitor for Happ could plan to manipulate his innings next year. That’s a slippery slope, of course, but not unheard of.
Ultimately, the Yankees shouldn’t be in the business of attaching prospects to get out from contracts they regret. If you’re going to trade prospects, trade them for someone who can help the team win now. The organization is a financial behemoth that can sustain itself with Happ under contract for one more season. After all, it’s hard to imagine Happ meeting his incentives this season while a member of the Yankees.
On the Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Carlos Correa trade rumors. We’ve known about Lindor and Bryant being on the block for weeks and months now, but Correa is the latest addition to young studs supposedly available. And once again, it’s because of teams “facing tough payroll decisions”.
I’m tired of beating a dead horse, but let’s do so once more. It’s absurd that teams in the midst of its contention windows are contemplating trading its best players! Team valuations are through the roof, and yet, owners do not want to pay stars to maintain a winning club. As fun as it can be to speculate on blockbuster trades, this is just getting ridiculous.
Anyway, I really really hope we don’t hear about this with the Yankees anytime soon. Imagine the uproar if the Yankees decided to dangle Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres in the coming years? Good grief. I’d like to think the Yankees know better than that. Such a thing would be a massive slap in the face.