Thoughts as the lockout looms

The current CBA expires at 11:59pm eastern tonight. As the clock winds down, it doesn’t look like a new deal is coming. Maybe things will change in the coming hours, but considering the recent run on free agents, the writing is on the wall. The owners are expected to lock out the players, thereby freezing transactions, not allowing players to use team facilities, and more. You won’t see pictures like this for a while:

@JoeyGallo24

From everything I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like regular season games are in jeopardy. There’s still a ways to go until spring training, after all. That said, prepare yourself for radio silence in terms of hot stove news for the next few weeks and months. All that buzz and excitement over the last few days? A product of an anticipated lockout, sure, but good for the league nonetheless. And yet, the owners are ready to shut that down to gain negotiating leverage.

As a result, it’s going to be pretty difficult to discuss anything Yankees-related in the near future. This could be the last Yankees-related thoughts post for some time, so let’s jump in:

The non-tender deadline went as expected.

The Yankees didn’t non-tender anyone yesterday. Sorry to those of you who wanted to see someone other than Gary Sánchez behind the plate in 2022. Perhaps you’ll have that chance come 2023, as he is eligible for free agency after next season.

As I wrote in October, the catching market is incredibly thin, so it’s no surprise that the Yankees tendered a contract to Sánchez yesterday. The Yankees could still pursue options to improve that position, but Sánchez remains the team’s safety net for now. Maybe a deal for Willson Contreras comes along, but otherwise, pickings are slim. Jacob Stallings is now off the board too: the Marlins made a deal to acquire him from Pittsburgh.

I still don’t expect Luke Voit in pinstripes in 2022 even though he remains on board for now. Whether it’s re-signing Anthony Rizzo, trading for Matt Olson, or splurging on Freddie Freeman, Voit’s time in here looks over. It’s looked that way since the Rizzo trade a few months back. Voit’s not going to fetch much in a trade, but if the new CBA includes a designated hitter in the National League, there will be more suitors.

I’m mildly surprised Miguel Andújar has survived roster cuts in recent weeks. I don’t know what the Yankees envision for him in 2022, but the 26 year-old still has one more minor league option. I guess he can keep playing left field in Triple-A next summer. Third base seems pretty hopeless for him nowadays. His trade value is next to zero, too.

Lucas Luetge and Wandy Peralta seemed like the only other arbitration eligible players potentially on the chopping block, at least from my viewpoint. Back of the bullpen lefty relievers — even as solid as they were in 2021 — aren’t too difficult to replace. In any event, it’s not like they’re going to make big money. The Yankees already cut a deal with Luetge below the amount MLB Trade Rumors projected ($0.905 vs. $1.1).

The Yankees also saved a few hundred thousand (compared to the projections) with Domingo Germán ($1.7 vs. $2.1), while paying a bit above Gio Urshela’s estimate ($6.55 vs. $6.2).

Just because the team didn’t agree to deals with the likes of Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and others doesn’t mean they’re going to arbitration. The two sides can still settle. I’m curious to see how that works depending on how long the lockout lasts, though.

There are *still* two great shortstops available, and yet, the Yankees are really going to slap us with a stopgap shortstop, huh?
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There’s been smoke for the last few weeks about the Yankees sitting out this historic shortstop free agent class. The Daily News’ Matthew Roberson reported this in mid-November, which was met with initial skepticism, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. Hal Steinbrenner’s desires have been clear for years now: a payroll below the luxury tax is top priority. Ironically, it’s going to be pretty difficult — likely impossible — for the team to subvert the tax threshold this year given where thing stand. Plus, the team reset the tax penalties this season. Yet, Steinbrenner clearly demands efficiency over building the best team possible.

Since 2017, the current Yankees’ title window, he’s cut payroll twice. He’s tried to paper it over with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton (and $30 million from the Marlins — the Marlins!) and the signing of Gerrit Cole, but let’s be real here. The club’s payroll is virtually unchanged since the turn of the millennium, while revenues have skyrocketed. I understand that the tax threshold has remained flat, but by no means is it a hard cap. The penalties are a drop in the bucket relative to how much money the team increasingly pulls in.

I still hold out hope for Carlos Correa or Trevor Story, but as we’ve watched Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Javier Báez come off the board, it’s difficult to not be concerned. Especially when recent reports have linked the Yankees to Andrelton Simmons and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Ugh.

Steinbrenner’s likely justification to go the stopgap route is that Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are coming soon. They’re very good prospects! But uh, the Yankees have a ton of players either eligible for free agency after 2022 (Judge, Gallo) and/or are getting older. It’s only going to get more difficult to win a title with this core, and Peraza and Volpe are doubtful to make big impacts in 2022. Nor Simmons nor Kiner-Falefa.

The Yankees did right by releasing, rather than trading, Clint Frazier.
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When the Yankees designated Frazier for assignment a couple of weeks ago, I figured the team would work out a small trade. Something along the lines of the deal that sent Tyler Wade to the Angels. I have no idea whether or not there were opportunities to do so for Frazier, but in any event, releasing him and allowing him to pick his next team looks like an act of good faith from the organization. Clint has been through a lot over the years in New York. Though things ultimately didn’t work out, he deserved a better outcome.

I’d guess some team might have sent cash for Frazier, but at the end of the day, letting Clint take some control of his career is the best outcome. Considering all of the years he had been blocked in the outfield corners, his initial concussion and subsequent symptoms, and the apparent recurrence of them this year, Frazier hasn’t had much sway in determining his fate. He’ll get that shot with the Cubs.

I can’t think of many better places for Frazier to thrive. Wrigley Field should be pretty friendly to his offense, though defensively, it can be a difficult outfield to play. In any case, he’s likely going to play everyday provided that he’s healthy. That, along with the hitter-friendly ballpark, makes for a very good fit.

The Yankees certainly had hoped for bigger things when Frazier and Justus Sheffield headlined the Andrew Miller trade in 2016, but at least he delivered a strong 2020 season. The Yankees really needed it too, given all of the injuries on the roster. That .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) batting line and Gold Glove finalist defense in 2020 was awfully fun. Good luck in Chicago, Clint.

Quick thoughts
  • Chris Gittens, who the Yankees released this week, is going to play in Japan for Rakuten in Japan. He’ll be teammates with Masahiro Tanaka. Great opportunity for Gittens, who is simply too good for the minor leagues here and had no clear path in the Bronx. He may have been able to latch on as a DH somewhere in MLB, especially if that expands to the NL, but waiting for an opportunity would have been a gamble.
  • In the never ending MLB is incompetent and/or negligent and/or malignant, take some time to read Bradford William Davis’ excellent reporting on the league using two different balls in 2021. DJ LeMahieu is quoted within the article, along with ex-Yankee Andrew Miller (among other players).
  • Rougned Odor will play for the Orioles in 2022. He signed a one-year deal and presumably will play a lot for them. The odds he hits a big home run next year against the Yankees are annoyingly high.
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14 Comments

  1. DZB

    The deal that Harper signed looks better and better as so many players sign mega deals, and while I know the Yankees don’t really need an outfielder, missing out on great free agents like him looks worse by the day as this team fades through its window of contention

  2. Alex

    How is Cashman avoiding criticism here? Hal is awful and clearly doesn’t care about winning but Cashman has still had a top-3 payroll in the league under him more times than not. Where’s his accountability for putting together an expensive roster that has this many holes throughout it? Nobody forced him to give Hicks 7 years or pay Chapman and Britton like they were prime Mariano. He’s put this team in an awful spot.

    Cashman has no right being here anymore, especially if Hal won’t give him high-200 million dollar payrolls to work with. he honestly should’ve been fired years ago. It’s time for new blood.

  3. Wire Fan

    The Yankees talking up Peraza and Volpe should have been a sign they weren’t signing a SS mega contract.

    The Yankees will go over the LT this year and say “see we aren’t beholden to the LT”, but it is clear that they are. And a few years from now assuming it is the same LT structure in the new CBA, they will be crying poverty and the need to dip under the LT again.

    The Verlander offer was telling, especially if/when they don’t sign a big name SS. They are willing to go way over for a year or two,but that is it. In the past you have the Hicks and DJL contracts… Contracts which are both way too long but used to drive the AAV down. If the Yankees didn’t care about the LT both contracts would be 1-2 years shorter. And Harper, not Stanton, would be a Yankee right now.

    • Scout

      One reason a team talks up prospects is to create the impression among free agents and their representatives that the team feels no great urgency to offer a mega contract. I doubt it works. But would you really expect the Yankees to say, “Not only do we have no shortstop now but we also don’t have a viable one on the horizon”? I don’t think the Peraza-Volpe hype was really a sign that the Yankees weren’t serious about spending money. We had enough other signs of that.

  4. Steve

    I love when people take Eddard seriously.

  5. Efficiency and Building the Best Team are in no way mutually exclusive goals. I don’t care much for Hal, and absolutely can’t stand Cashman who acts and sounds like Tom Hayden in The Godfather more and more each day, but this Yankee team is the worst use of a couple of hundred million dollars anyone could imagine. It’s a roster of stars and scrubs, and no matter what people want to believe adding another star is not going to change that. Cashman’s not so flattering nickname is Cashmoney for a reason – he’s never been able to do anything but throw money at the deficiencies he has built into the Yankees org, and now the money has dried up. You see what skill Cashman has as a GM and team architect when you look at what we have.

  6. Scout

    Derek gets to the heart of the matter when he writes, “Hal Steinbrenner’s desires have been clear for years now: a payroll below the luxury tax is top priority.” Not winning world championships. I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze him. I don’t care why he doesn’t prioritize winning. But none of us should be fooled when he says the team needs to get better. He has shown us who he is and what he cares about.

    Prospects? I love young players; there’s nothing better than seeing them become stars for your team. But the window to win doesn’t stay open forever. Even if Volpe or Peraza turns out to be an all-star, that won’t happen for three years or more. By then Cole and Stanton will be past their prime. And the team could still have big holes at catcher, center field, third base, and first base.

    Cashman admitted at the end of the season that there were times the team was unwatchable. We all agree! There is still time to fix things, and ample talent on the market whether thru free agency or trades. We’re waiting.

  7. Feliz Navideddard

    I’ve never been one to hyperbole, Derek, but I think this season is over before it even starts. This FO has learned nothing from past mistakes. Stop gap players do nothing and are often cut by June. Youkilis, Jay Bruce, Kendrys Morales. These broken down old farts just never end up doing anything which is why your opening day SS for the New York Yankees will be Elvis Andrus. They could sign Freeman or trade for Olson, sign Story or Correa, add one more quality SP and be the best team in baseball but Hal is too busy washing down his caviar with dom perignon. George was rich too but he was a common man at heart who knew that winning was the most important thing to keeping the fans happy.

    Getting nothing for Clint was typical for this FO. The Andrew Miller trade turned out to be a gigantic bust after everyone praised ninja Cash. They got Justus and Clint and now neither is doing anything for anybody. Justus was flipped for broken back Paxton and Clint is one concussion away from Jim McMahon territory. I think he’ll hit 30 dingers for the Cubbies and they got one hell of a ballplayer if he can stay healthy. That was a steal and Cash let him go for nothing. Allen, Velazquez, Wade, Clint, Gittens. All this great talent let go for nothing while fat lazy Gary Sanchez gets a raise and an extension. This is why this franchise has been in the dumps for the last decade.

    • John

      Clint was DFA’d and no one wanted to make a deal, even for a few cents like the Angels & Wade – that should tell you what Cashman could’ve got. Absolutely nothing.

      The mistake was not trading him years back when they had no intention of playing him – always holding on too long. Andujar will be next.

    • If you think a team with Allen, Velasquez, Wade, Clint and Gittens is going to win, you’re crazy.

    • Jim M

      The one thing I remember about George was that he was also a sports fan. I think that drove his desire to win. I don’t think Hal is a sports fan, but is more of a finance geek which is a different kind of game. It’s really too bad for us. 🙁

      • Fid

        When he was younger, I never really got the sense that Hal even wanted to be part of the Yankees organization. It seemed like George’s son-in-law was destined for the eventual leadership role until divorce wiped him from the scene. It’s unfortunate for us that a reluctant son is left holding the keys. I think Hank had a more competitive spirit, and it’s unfortunate he is no longer a counterbalance for his brother.

  8. The Original Drew

    I am excited to see what Clint does in Chicago next year and wish him nothing but the best.

    If the Yankees don’t end up with Correa or Story then I have to seriously access whether or not this team is going to be worth my time going forward. A baseball agnostic sounds better and better every day.

  9. John

    God, if they don’t sign someone today it’s going to be a long hellish few months in Yankeeland.

    Come on SantaCash, put a nice Olson-shaped present under the tree.

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