By Randy Miller
By Randy Miller
By Dan Martin
Could Josh Harrison’s desire to get out of Pittsburgh get him to New York?
Both the Yankees and Mets are in need of another infielder and in the wake of the Pirates trading both Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen in the last week, the 30-year-old Harrison said in a statement to The Athletic on Tuesday that, “If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded. I want what is best for the organization that gave me a chance to be a Big Leaguer.”
Each New York team has been linked to Harrison this offseason, largely because of their interest in other players.
The Yankees talked to the Pirates about Cole and the Mets spoke with them about McCutchen before both veteran players went elsewhere.
The Yankees, as of now, are willing to go into the season with some inexperience in the infield.
General manager Brian Cashman hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, as well as looking at Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada to replace the traded Starlin Castro and Chase Headley. And the Yankees also signed Jace Peterson to a minor-league deal as another potential option.
In Harrison’s statement, he said, “I want to win, I want to contend, I want to win championships in 2018, 2019 and beyond.”
According to a source, the public request for a trade won’t influence any potential pursuit by the Yankees of Harrison, who is due $10 million this season and has team options for both 2019 and 2020.
But the Yankees have more than enough outfielders thanks to the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, and the Pirates are in need of one now that McCutchen is in San Francisco.
The Mets still seem more interested in going the free-agent route to play either second or third, since their farm system is already depleted.
On that front, a number of options, including Neil Walker, Jose Reyes, Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, remain available.
By Jeff Todd
Cole, now 27, was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. He ascended quickly to become Pittsburgh’s top pitcher, though he has not exactly been at his peak of late. In 2017, he worked to a 4.26 ERA in 203 frames. Clearly, though, Houston still believes it is getting a top-flight starter to fill out the team’s rotation as it embarks upon a World Series defense. Cole will cost a projected $7.5MM in 2018 with one more season of arbitration control thereafter.
With the swap, the Pirates are not necessarily giving up all hope on the coming season, but their 2018 expectations will clearly take a significant hit. The team does still have a variety of rotation options in-house, along with a reputation for finding gems at a bargain rate on the open market. For a low-budget organization, this sort of re-shuffling is a frequent, if sometimes frustrating, necessity.
Having cut ties with Cole, it stands to reason that the Bucs will be more willing than ever to part with long-time star Andrew McCutchen. That’s just one possible element of the fallout from this agreement, though. Houston had been one of the most notable potential suitors for top free agent starters, up to and including Yu Darvish. Now that they have landed Cole, they’re likely out on Darvish and others, which may help give clarity to that market. And having parted with young talent to boost the rotation, it’s fair to wonder whether Houston will look to free agency to finish compiling its bullpen.
By Randy Miller
By A.J. Herrmann
The New York Yankees are still in the midst of making roster moves ahead of the 2018 season, and one area they’ve been looking to address is the addition of another young starting pitcher.
The Winter Meetings brought the massive news of Giancarlo Stanton’s trade to the Bombers, but while there, the Yankees also had discussions with the Pirates about a potential deal to acquire 27-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole.
Those talks have since cooled, Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday, however a different top-flight starter has recently made his way onto the Yankees’ radar.
Free agent Yu Darvish, still without a contract for 2018, has reportedly been another candidate attracting the interest of Brian Cashman and the Yankees this offseason. The 31-year-old righty has been an All-Star in four of his five MLB seasons, while he sat out all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Darvish was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers at last year’s deadline, and dominated in his first two postseason outings for Los Angeles before imploding in the World Series. In both of his starts against the eventual champion Astros, Darvish could only record five outs before he was removed.
Postseason struggles and injury concerns aside, Darvish would potentially supercharge an already strong Yankees rotation heading into 2018, which features the youthful electricity of Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery with the veteran leadership of CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, the latter of which competed against Darvish in Japan before the pair joined MLB.
Since his MLB debut on April 9, 2012, Darvish has been among baseball’s most accomplished strikeout pitchers. He led the Majors in 2013 with 277 punch-outs (finishing runner-up in Cy Young voting that year), and has averaged a sterling 11.0 K/9 ratio over his first five big league seasons.
His command is also masterful; Darvish has issued fewer than 90 walks every year he’s been in the Majors, and averages more than three times as many strikeouts (3.33) as he surrenders free bases on balls.
Following his Tommy John recovery year in 2015, Darvish bounced back to post a 3.41 ERA over 17 starts and 100 1/3 innings of work, while striking out 101 more batters (132) than he walked (31).
Darvish remains arguably the most talented free agent still available, with other hurlers like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn also still seeking deals. There’s no doubting Darvish’s talent, but would the Yankees make yet another surprising offseason splash by signing the strikeout machine to a hefty deal? Only time will tell.
By Brendan Kuty
By Brendan Kuty
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Yankees and Diamondbacks have engaged in trade talks recently, and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was among the various names that were tossed around, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.
But Arizona didn’t show strong interest in the 34-year-old, the source said, though nothing is believed to be off the table.
The source requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
Ellsbury, who has a full no-trade clause, is due $63 million over the last three years of his contract and has a $5 million buyout for the 2021 season. The source said the Diamondbacks particularly weren’t thrilled with money attached to Ellsbury, who figures to be the Yankees’ fifth outfielder next season.
Ellsbury was the Yankees’ starting center fielder from when he signed a seven-year, $153-million deal to put on pinstripes in 2014 until the postseason, when Aaron Hicks took over for him.
Ellsbury has a house in Arizona and the Diamondbacks would appear to have an open starting spot in their outfield.
Shedding salary was a priority for the Yankees at the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings, which wrapped up Thursday morning. They were able to knock about $13 million off their books when they sent third baseman Chase Headley to the Padres. They included pitcher Bryan Mitchell to sweeten the deal, which also included the Yankees receiving outfielder Jabari Blash.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner has said it’s his goal for the Yankees to keep payroll below the $197 million luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season. Doing that will reset the club’s luxury tax penalty for 2019.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman first reported that the Yankees and Diamondbacks were talking. They discussed lefty starting pitcher Patrick Corban and third baseman Brandon Drury, according to Sherman. The Yankees are “working hard” to add starting pitching, manager Aaron Boone said, and they have a hole at third base with Headley gone.
By Joel Sherman
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Winter Meetings were killed by smart guys. Date of death, December 2017. Send money to Scott Boras in lieu of flowers.
Many reasons coalesced to create the least active meetings perhaps ever — the methodical Boras having five of the biggest players in the market, for example. But nothing has frozen the market more than the groupthink that now pervades the industry by a bunch of bright folks who so similarly value players and how to spend money and on what.
The day of the overheated GM jumping out to unfreeze the market is in decline, if not gone. Consider Derek Jeter lost his pristine reputationbefore a non-catcher position player other than Leonys Martin (who had a .513 OPS last year) signed a major league free-agent contract this offseason, showing the lockstep that teams are striding.
Want more proof?
Five years ago the majority of executives believed relievers were fungible and just about anyone with stuff could close. Thus, why spend big in that area?
But then analytics revealed that most starters should not face a lineup more than two times, increasing the need to deepen bullpens. This only becomes more dramatic in the postseason, motivating the best clubs to concentrate on bulking up.
Thus, the one market that has moved in December is setup men getting the kind of sizable two- and three-year contracts that would have made those handing them out the laughingstock of executives five years ago — who, by the way, were them.
Meanwhile, the starting pitcher market has thus far cratered. Two of the three starters who received major league contracts at the Meetings – Michael Pineda and Drew Smyly – had Tommy John surgery last summer and might not even pitch in 2018. The largest starter pact given out so far this offseason is $38 million over three years by the Cubs for Tyler Chatwood because, among other things, he has an elite spin rate on his breaking ball.
That is not exactly what would have prodded a cigar-chomping wheeler-dealer of yesteryear like Trader Jack McKeon to move. But those days are done. In its place is a love for young, controllable players and financial fear of extending contracts too far into the future and baseball operations staffs so thick that every concept is examined to a point of paralysis.
Is this concerning for the Players Association? You bet. They are always looking for signs of collusion. But where teams seem to be in cahoots is in how they view the market.
In this free-agent field, for example, they see a lack of great players at the top. There are debates between analysts and scouts about the true value of Eric Hosmer and if J.D. Martinez can play the field. Atop the starting pitcher market, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish worry teams with the current state of their stuff and/or their long-term hopes for durability.
It is hard to establish a market without someone setting the high mark for others to slot under.
With a meh crop of free agents yet requests for top-of-the-field salaries, teams have focused on trades, and the Marlins’ Jeter-led teardown has led to the two biggest moves so far – Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals.
But even trades are mostly stalled because teams so widely protect their best prospects now.
Add in that traditional big spenders like the Yankees and Dodgers are actually cutting payroll, as is perhaps half the league, including the Mets. That leaves fewer teams to bid strongly and thus this dynamic:
No club wants to set the top of the market when they believe time creates leverage as players get desperate when the calendar turns to January, spring training nears and agents lower the prices. Meanwhile, no representative wants to lower the top of the market and hurt not just his client but everyone else.
So you have a freeze that, for example, keeps the Mets wondering if someone like Jay Bruce’s price plummets in January, and they can scoop him up at what they find is a more tolerable price.
After all, the Meetings concluded on Dec. 14, and the first spring camps open Feb. 14. That leaves roughly 60 days to sign, perhaps, still 60 free agents who believed they would get multi-year contracts when this offseason began.
On the dawn of the free-agent market, Stanton was traded and Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels, and that was supposed to unfreeze the market. Instead, the chill persisted through the Winter Meetings with no immediate signs of a thaw in sight.
By Brendan Kuty
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Thumbs down?
Might be thumbs up.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has met with the representative for third baseman Todd Frazier, Cashman told reporters at Day 2 of the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort on Tuesday night.
“Todd did a tremendous job for us and was a valuable member of our positive results on the field, as well as that clubhouse,” Cashman said, sitting at a table in a suite at the resort.
Cashman didn’t say how many times he’s met with Frazier’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenan of Creative Artists Agency. Frazier, a Toms River native, has said he would “love” to return to the Bronx after a midseason trade sent him there from the White Sox last year.
When he arrived, Frazier displaced regular third baseman Chase Headley.
Headley wouldn’t be an obstacle next season. The Yankees traded him and nearly all of his $13 million salary, alongside talented but inconsistent pitcher Bryan Mitchell, to the Padres in exchange for outfielder Jabari Blash, who doesn’t figure to be long for the pinstripes. Blash, a right fielder, is blocked by at least six outfielders on the club’s depth chart.
Frazier won’t just accept whatever the Yankees toss him, though.
A source with knowledge of his requests told NJ Advance Media early Tuesday that Frazier wants a multiyear deal. The Yankees may prefer Frazier on a one-year pact as they wait for Miguel Andujar, the team’s No. 5 overall prospect according to MLB.com, to mature into an everyday third baseman. Andujar’s bat seems ready but his defense, particularly his hands and throwing accuracy, is a work in progress, several opposing talent evaluators have told NJ Advance Media.
The Angels, who may be in the market for a third baseman, could prove as competition for the Yankees.
Cashman said the club could go into spring training with Andujar, Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes and top prospect Gleyber Torres competing for time at third base and at second base, where the team has a hole following the trade of Starlin Castro to the Marlins in exchange for slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
“We have some hungry, talented, inexperienced kids ready to prove they can take that next step. But at the same time, there might be some opportunities that exist, may it be free agency or trade that could make us gravitate in a different direction. So we’ll see,” Cashman said.