We’ve been writing an awful lot about the Yankees the past few weeks, and with good reason.
They are becoming the best story in baseball. Imagine the Yankees being the “feel-good” franchise of 2017, complete with potent young sluggers in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, a terrific young starter in Luis Severino, and a six-deep bullpen that is often unhittable.
They’ve stormed deep into the playoffs, way ahead of schedule and to the point where they might not have to do anything this offseason.
The biggest decision is whether to re-up CC Sabathia, and for how much and how long? Another big decision is whether Masahiro Tanaka opts out of the remaining three years and $67 million on his deal. That seems unlikely, but who knows if Tanaka is emboldened by his postseason performance.
Tanaka feels comfortable in New York and pitching on the big stage. Players feel it’s hard to leave the Yankees or the Red Sox because the organizations are first-class; the players are treated very well and love the amenities afforded to them and their families.
The Sabathia situation is a little more complicated. He has bad knees, but has found a way to pitch effectively with the condition. He’d likely accept a two-year deal because the feeling is that’s about all his knees can take. But how much money does the 37-year-old Sabathia need?
Sabathia has made just shy of $243 million in his career. It appears there’s no chance the Yankees will pay Sabathia the $25 million he made each of the last two years, because there’s bound to be times when the knee condition flares up. The Yankees know it and Sabathia knows it. Can they get Sabathia at $15 million? We shall see. The Yankees don’t want to lose him and it doesn’t appear Sabathia wants to play for anyone else.
Sabathia is also a respected team leader, but the Yankees feel they have an emerging leader in Didi Gregorius, and Yankee insiders will also tell you that this is Brett Gardner’s team. Gardner is under contract for 2018, with a club option for 2019.
The Yankees have to decide whether Greg Bird is their first baseman. Bird has shown signs that he’s an everyday player, but he’s also been hurt an awful lot in his career. If they decide against Bird, they have a clear path at free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, who would make a nice Yankee. They have the money to lure him.
If they want to get crazy, they could try to acquire Giancarlo Stanton and create a Stanton-Judge dynamic. They have the prospects the Marlins would want to make it happen.
They could go after a third base solution in Mike Moustakas, another Royals free agent who would obliterate the upper deck in right at Yankee Stadium. But they could also stick with what they have. Chase Headley is under contract for another year. They could re-sign Jersey boy Todd Frazier, who has been a factor in the postseason and seems to fit the clubhouse dynamic. Or they could go with youngster Gleyber Torres, who was lost for the season June 19 and had Tommy John surgery. He may not be ready until May or June.
The Yankees will also lose Alex Rodriguez’s contract, having to eat the final $21 million this season. They will also not re-sign Michael Pineda, which means $7.4 million in savings, and Jaime Garcia, who made $12 million. DH Matt Holliday, who made $13 million on his one-year deal, is unlikely to return.
All in all, the Yankees could lose $67 million off the books if Tanaka stays and Sabathia isn’t re-signed, but they’ll have big arbitration payouts that could extend their payroll by about $30 million.
To say the Yankees are in good shape for 2018 and beyond is an understatement. They have hard throwers in the minors in Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu who should make an impact in 2018. They can stay under the luxury tax threshold if they want. They’re in great shape. They could add a great international two-way talent in Japan’s Shohei Otani and stay under the threshold.
Sorry, Red Sox fans — the Yankees could be good for a long time.
Managers learn a lot in first job
If reports are true that Alex Cora is the new Red Sox manager (although the Nationals have asked permission to speak with him after the ALCS), then it’s a bold move to hire a first-time manager in an environment such as Boston. Cora seems to be the popular candidate among the fan base. I guess people like fresh faces.
But what’s wrong with experience? Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Terry Francona, and Buck Showalter, to name a few, found success after unsuccessful runs at their initial jobs. In fact, the “retreads” will tell you they were a lot better at their second jobs than they were at their first.
“I’d say that’s true,” said La Russa, who recently resigned as the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball analyst. “I think every year you manage you should learn something. So sure, those first couple of years can be a challenge, but for some it isn’t. So each organization knows what they need. You see people get fired and sometimes you wonder why. But over the years I’ve come to realize that sometimes the needs of the organization change and that guy no longer fits.”
Francona tells us all about his experience as Phillies manager and all the mistakes he made. It was almost embarrassing. Francona had been a hot choice at the time. He was coming off his experiences as manager of the Double A Birmingham Barons, where he managed Michael Jordan and got the spotlight. He also managed Jordan in the Arizona Fall League. I remember covering Francona then and came away so impressed with his handling of what was a pretty tough situation for a young manager who had to deal with hordes of national media every day.
It’s amazing to me how some coaches who have never managed are hot managerial names one year, and if they’re not hired the buzz just goes away. I remember when DeMarlo Hale was a rising star in the coaching ranks of the Red Sox farm system. But he never got a managerial job. Why wouldn’t Hale be a better choice to manage than Alex Cora? I love Cora, who’s now the hot name. He should get one of the four jobs currently open. But why is he better than Hale, or San Francisco’s Ron Wotus or Boston’s Brian Butterfield and Gary DiSarcina?
Why would Cora be a better choice than a hundred coaches who have toiled in the majors or managed in the minors and never gotten a sniff despite their honorable work for so many years?
And so Boston’s Dave Dombrowski, Philadelphia’s Matt Klentak, and the Mets’ Sandy Alderson have to decide which direction will they go. The Tigers’ Al Avila chose the experienced Ron Gardenhire. The Phillies have the resources to sign free agents and become competitive quickly, and we’ve heard they like a lot of names, from DiSarcina to Showalter.
If the Red Sox choose Cora, great. He’s a wonderful guy with tremendous knowledge of the game who will be a huge factor with the growing number of Latino players on the team. He would also have the blessing of Dustin Pedroia, who in his first three seasons was a teammate of Cora.
Apropos of nothing
1. Tony La Russa said he’s done with managing but is seeking another advisory role with an organization. The obvious place is Boston. He and Dave Dombrowski have forged a long relationship after both were hired at virtually the same time by White Sox executive Roland Hemond in 1979. “There’s nobody in baseball I respect more than Dave Dombrowski,” La Russa said. La Russa spent this season in Arizona working with general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo. “I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said the Hall of Fame manager. “They were a quick study. I gave my evaluations of players I had signed and knew a lot about and they were very respectful of those opinions. I was with the team when they were home and then I’d go off to the minors to scout our team. It reached the point I didn’t feel they needed me anymore.” Dombrowski also had an affectionate response about La Russa, whom he respects as a friend and a baseball man. Dombrowski said, “We’ll see,” when asked if he would consider a job for La Russa in the Red Sox organization.
2. Larry Lucchino’s new stadium project keeps getting more and more support. An independent study commissioned by the Pawtucket Foundation through Dr. Mark Rosentraub and the University of Michigan Center for Sport & Policy (UMCSP) indicated in its report, titled “The Economic, Fiscal, & Developmental Impacts of a Ballpark At Slater Mill,” that “the findings in this report, while conservative, predict positive, fiscal returns to both Rhode Island and Pawtucket, from their respective investments in a new, publicly-owned ballpark. It is the view of UMCSP that the partnership forged between the Pawtucket Red Sox, the City of Pawtucket, and the State of Rhode Island is judicious, and is in the best interest of taxpayers.”
3. Not a peep out of John Farrell. He’s laying low. His name has yet to come up in the managerial vacancies. The Mets don’t seem interested. Let’s see what happens with the Nationals.
4. I was amazed at the number of e-mails I received with the basic theme being, “I saw your list of managerial candidates and none of them are as good as Farrell.”
5. Astros prospect Kyle Tucker became the first courtesy runner last Thursday, when he took second base to start the 10th inning in an Arizona Fall League game. It’s part of an experimental rule where a runner is placed at second to begin the first extra inning. Tucker scored on Taylor Gushue’s single to center, helping the Mesa Solar Sox to defeat the Surprise Saguaros, 6-4.
6. The Cubs went 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position in the NLCS. Anthony Rizzo was 1 for 17 overall, Kris Bryant 4 for 20 with an RBI. The Cubs’ offense is usually terrific, but it wasn’t against the Dodgers. Think Theo Epstein will do something dramatic offensively in the offseason?
7. Three Yankees were in the top 10 of average velocity for 2017. Aroldis Chapman was No. 1 at 100.2 m.p.h, Tommy Kahnle was eighth at 97.9, and Luis Severino was ninth at 97.6.
Updates on nine
1. Christian Yelich, CF, Marlins — With the Marlins likely to whittle down to a $90 million payroll, keep this in mind: If they’re unable to trade Giancarlo Stanton, then someone else has to go. It may be that both Yelich and Marcell Ozuna get moved, but of the two it would appear Yelich would be the one to be shopped around. Yelich, 25, is signed through 2022 on a team-friendly contract; he’ll earn $7 million in 2018, followed by pay bumps to $9.7 million, $12.5 million, $14 million, and a $15 million club option in 2022. Ozuna would also be sought-after following his outstanding season. The feeling is the Marlins want to hang on to him because of his on-field and off-field contributions.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins — There was buzz in the Marlins organization late in the season that Stanton would not approve a deal to the Phillies, a team that definitely has had Stanton on its radar. What we’re trying to determine is whether the buzz came directly from Stanton. There’s no question the Phillies, who have tons of money to spend, had Stanton on their list. They also like Yelich.
3. Dana LeVangie, bullpen coach, Red Sox — The highly respected coach could have another avenue afforded him if he’s not retained by the new Red Sox manager. Don’t forget, LeVangie was elevated from bullpen coach to bench coach under Torey Lovullo when John Farrell underwent cancer treatments and Lovullo took over as manager. Lovullo just lost his bench coach, Ron Gardenhire, hired as the Tigers’ manager. Connect the dots.
4. Brandon Morrow, RHP, Dodgers — Here’s a guy who has resurrected his career. Morrow has found his niche in the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’ll be a free agent and the most sought-after reliever if the Dodgers don’t tie him up. He didn’t allow a homer in 43⅔ innings this year and has not taken a loss in his last 71 appearances with the Blue Jays, Padres, and Dodgers dating to Sept. 14, 2014.
5. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Marlins — He turns 44 Sunday but wants to continue playing. In 2017, he had 27 hits in 100 pinch-hit at-bats, so he’s still a valuable off-the-bench hitter. New Marlins CEO Derek Jeter was a teammate of Ichiro with the Yankees, so that may help his staying power.
6. Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox — Playing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, Owens is 2-0 with a 9.00 ERA. Same old problems for Owens, who is adjusting to a new arm slot. In five innings, he’s allowed five earned runs, six hits, and seven walks.
7. Wade Davis, RHP, Cubs — Davis now becomes a free agent and we’ll see if Theo Epstein is eager to re-sign him. Davis didn’t sparkle when it counted most. He gave up seven homers in his final 34 innings compared with allowing four homers in his previous 249⅔ innings dating to September 2013, courtesy of Elliot Kalb of MLB Network Research.
8. Eric Wedge, consultant, Blue Jays — As we reported last week, Wedge has a history with Phillies president Andy MacPhail, as he was the manager MacPhail wanted to hire in Baltimore before Buck Showalter got the job. Wedge also drew interest from Detroit in its managerial search.
9. Brad Ausmus, former Tigers manager — Ausmus removed himself from consideration for the Mets job and wanted the Red Sox job, but it appears Dave Dombrowski is leaning toward Cora. That could leave Ausmus out of the running for jobs in 2018, unless the Nationals consider him. Ausmus could also hook on with someone as a special assistant.
From the Bill Chuck files — “In 2016, Rick Porcello had an OPS against of .635; in 2017 it was .826.” . . . Also, “In John Farrell’s five seasons, the Red Sox went 432-378 (.533) with a 3.96 ERA and hit .265 with 838 HRs. In Terry Francona’s final five seasons (2007-11), the Red Sox went 465-345 (.574) with a 4.13 ERA and hit .275 with 965 HRs.” . . . Happy 76th birthday, Wilbur Wood.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.