By Baseball Round Table
First, a disclaimer. Baseball Roundtable has never claimed to be the best prognosticator – although this year I did get seven of the ten playoffs teams correct in a February 8 post. I missed the Indians and Orioles in the AL (had the Astros and Tigers) and the Nationals in the NL (had the Cardinals). My predictions for the post season, made October 3, were less accurate – although I still have a chance to be right on the World Series winner. I have the Cubs winning the Series (just against the Red Sox). Surprises for me? After an offensive slump in September/October, I did not expect the Blue Jays to get past the Rangers. (Note: the Jays scored the fewest runs in the AL after Aguste 31.) I also underestimated Terry Francona’s ability to manage a pitching staff.
So now, I intend to sit back and enjoy the rest of the post-season – and root for a Cubs/Indians World Series – and (in this post) present BBRT’s selections (and predictions) for MLB’s major 2016 regular season awards.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
National League ROY – Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
The competition for NL Rookie of the Year comes down to a pair of young, power-hitting shortstops – Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Rockies. Seager gets the edge, largely because Story’s season was interrupted by injury.
Seager, the Dodgers’ 22-year-old shortstop was a 2015 September call up and – while not getting enough playing time to lose his rookie status – hit .337, with four home runs and 17 RBI in 27 games. (In four minor league seasons, Seager put up a stat line of .312-62-278 in 390 games.) In 2016, Seager proved his late-season 2015 performance was no fluke, playing in 157 games, and hitting .308, with 26 home runs, 105 runs scored, and 72 RBI. He made the 2016 NL All Star team and played a key role in getting the Dodgers to the post-season. He is the real deal.
Seager’s main competition for the ROY Award comes from the early-season rookie “story” of the year – Colorado’s 23-year-old shortstop Trevor Story. After hitting .340 in Spring Training, Story started the season with a bang (several bangs, in fact). He homered in his first four regular season games (six home runs in those four contests). Story went on to tie the MLB record for rookie home runs in April with ten long balls – finishing the month with a .261 average, ten homers, 19 runs scored and 20 RBI in 22 games. Unfortunately, in early August, Story suffered a thumb injury that required season-ending surgery. He ended 2016 with a .272 average, 27 home runs, 72 RBI and eight steals in just 97 games.
BBRT Selection: Corey Seager
BBRT Prediction: Corey Seager
Brotherly Love (of the long ball)
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Dodgers’ SS Corey Seager and Mariners’ 3B Kyle Seager are the first brothers to hit 25 or more home runs in the same MLB season. Corey finished 2016 with 26 round trippers, Kyle with 30.
American League ROY – Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees
Timing may prove to be everything when the votes are counted for AL Rookie of the Year. BBRT expects a very close vote and gives the nod to Yankees’ 23-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez – although the fact that he played in only 53 games may work against him. The stats, however, back up his candidacy: a .299 average, 20 home runs, 34 runs scored, 42 RBI and 24 walks drawn (again, in just 53 games) – with virtually all of the damage done after August 1. Couple that with his praiseworthy work behind the plate and you have a deserving Rookie of the Year candidate. Before his August call up, Sanchez hit .282-10-50 in 71 games at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. BBRT side note: Sanchez was called up to the Yankees late in 2015 – made his major league debut on October 3 – and (few fans may realize) was included on the Yankees’ 2015 post-season roster.
The fewest games ever played by a non-pitcher in a Rookie of the Year season is 52 by Giants’ 1B Willie McCovey in 1959. He played his first game on July 30 and went to post a .354 average, with 13 home runs and 38 RBI.
BBRT sees Sanchez’ main competition coming from Tigers’ RHP Michael Fulmer (acquired by the Tigers from the Mets in the July 2015 trade for Yeonis Cespedes). The 23-year-old Fulmer went 11-7 (26 starts – 159 innings), with a 3.06 ERA. Timing may be important here. Fulmer, who got his first start April 29, was 9-2, with a 2.50 ERA at the end of July. In August and September, Fulmer went 2-5, 3.59. Fulmer needs to hope the voters remember his May performance – when he went 3-1 with a 0.61 ERA (two earned runs in 29 2/3 innings).
BBRT Selection: Gary Sanchez
BBRT Prediction: Gary Sanchez (in a very close vote)
From 1992 through 1996, the LA Dodgers had a record five consecutive Rookie of the Year Award winners: 1B Eric Karros (1992); C Mike Piazza (1993); OF Raul Mondesi (1994); SP Hideo Nomo (1995); OF Todd Hollandsworth (1996).
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD
American League MVP – Mookie Betts, RF, Red Sox
This is a tough one to call – Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout and, perhaps, Josh Donaldson can all make a good case. However, there is a need to narrow it down. As BBRT considers these candidates, I remind myself that this is not the award for best player of the season – but, rather (by its own definition) for most valuable player (to his team). So, despite another stellar season by the Angels’ CF Mike Trout (.315-29-100, with 30 steals), the Angels’ fourth-place finish becomes a factor. Then there is David Ortiz’ unbelievable season – in which he pretty much demolished the record book for accomplishments at age 40 or over with a .315-38-127 line. Big Papi slips a bit on my ballot because of his role as DH, but he is likely to get an emotional boost in the actual balloting based on his career, age and attitude. His leadership – on and off the field – has long meant a lot to this team. Then there is Josh Donaldson, a key element in Toronto’s 2016 success, who put up a .284-37-99 line, with 122 runs. Still, BBRT sees his impact a bit short of either of the two players on my list I haven’t touched upon yet – Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve.
Altuve led the AL in batting average at .338 and base hits at 216, while also smacking 24 home runs, scoring 108 runs, driving in 96 and stealing 30 bases – all the time serving as the spark plug for the Astros’ offense. Just 26-years-old, the 5’6”, 165-pound Astros’ 2B already has two batting crowns, two stolen base titles, three consecutive 200-hit seasons, a Gold Glove and four All Star selections – and he seems to just keep getting better. What he doesn’t have is an MVP Award – and I don’t think it’s coming this year. (It might have, if the Astros had made the playoffs.) BBRT’s choice for AL MVP is Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts – who did a little bit (a lot, actually) of everything. Betts hit .318 on the season, launched 31 home runs, scored 122, drove in 113 and stole 26 bases. How does all that flesh out? He was second in the AL in average, runs scored and base hits; third in doubles, fourth in RBI, sixth in stolen bases. Betts is just 24-years-old and, like Altuve, just seems to keep improving. Betts would get BBRT’s vote (if I had one) for AL MVP. If he doesn’t win it, I expect it will end up as a career-topping tribute to the performance and presence of David Ortiz.
BBRT Selection: Mookie Betts
BBRT Prediction: David Ortiz
You could make a pretty good All Star team of players who have won two or more consecutive MVP Awards:
C – Yogi Berra, Yankees (1954-55)
1B – Albert Pujols (2008-09)
2B – Joe Morgan, Reds (1975-76)
3B – Mike Schmidt, Phillies (1980-81)
SS – Ernie Banks, Cubs (1958-59)
OF – Barry Bonds/ Pirates (1992), Giants (1993); Giants (2001-04)
OF – Mickey Mantle, Yankees (1956-57)
OF – Dale Murphy, Braves (1982-83)
P – Hal Newhouser, Tigers (1944-45)
Bench: Roger Maris, OF, Yankees (1960-61)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers (2012- 13)
National League MVP – Kris Bryant, 3B-plus, Cubs
Really not much of a race here. Yes, there will be votes cast for Nationals’ 2B Daniel Murphy (.347-25-104), Dodgers’ SS Corey Seager (although the votes cast for Rookie of the Year may work against him) and Rockies’ master of leather and lumber 3B Nolan Arenado (who led the NL in home runs and RBI for the second straight season and is likely to pick up his fourth Gold Glove). However, Kris Bryant should win the NL MVP Award hands down – he was the most valuable player on MLB’s winningest team. The 24-year-old Bryant, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, played in 155 games, hitting .292, with a league-leading 121 runs scored, 39 home runs and 102 RBI (not to mention eight steals). In the process, he started games at 3B, LF, RF, 1B and SS. Bryant’s contributions – at the plate and all around the diamond – pretty much define the term “MVP”. His presence made manager Joe Maddon’s job a whole lot easier.
BBRT Selection; Kris Bryant
BBRT Prediction: Kris Bryant
Here’s a BBRT rant you have heard before, but BBRT is nothing if not consistent. I believe we need another major award in MLB – recognizing each season’s best position player (to include the DH position). Pitchers have the Cy Young Award – recognizing each season’s best pitcher. There is, however, no equivalent award reserved for the best performance by a position player. While some would argue the MVP Award serves that purpose, the fact that numerous pitchers have won the MVP over the years argues against that contention. I believe we need a position player award equivalent to the Cy Young, as well as the MVP Award (based on contributions to team success).
By Ken Davidoff
TORONTO — No pressure or anything, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.
Though the guy the Yankees gave up to acquire the two of you has pitched the Indians into the World Series before either one of you has so much as played in a major-league game.
If Andrew Miller, your ALCS MVP, can keep going all the way to securing Cleveland’s first World Series title since 1948 and second championship of 2016, following the lead of LeBron James and the Cavaliers? That will be some kind of head start for the opposition.
The lanky lefty Miller and the Indians wrapped up the AL pennant Wednesday afternoon with a 3-0 Game 5 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, thereby wrapping this series up by a 4-1 margin. They await the winner of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Cubs and host Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday at Progressive Field.
“It’s so fun to be a part of this team,” Miller said. “I really enjoyed my time with the Yankees. It’s tough when you leave a comfort zone and a place that you like. But I knew I was coming to a team that had won a lot and had expectations to win more. I was coming to play for Tito [Francona]. I couldn’t have dreamt it up any better.”
Miller pitched a remarkable 2 ²/₃ shutout innings of relief, entering with one out in the sixth and going through the eighth, and his one strikeout gave him 14 in 7 ²/₃ innings for the series, tying him with Brad Lidge (with Houston in the 2004 NLCS) for the most whiffs in an LCS. For the postseason so far, Miller has tallied 11 ²/₃ shutout innings and struck out 21.
“The way he was able to impact both series in such an extraordinary way, there’s no way we’d be standing here without him,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It’s been a collective effort by every guy in here to be able to turn the ball over to him, but Andrew made an impact beyond even what we could have expected.”
The unexpected has defined this Indians season. A slew of injuries and absences stood in their way, yet they displayed enough promise that Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff made the aggressive decision to trade the highly regarded outfielder Frazier and southpaw Sheffield, plus two other players, to the Yankees on July 31.
On Wednesday, Miller looked the least sharp he has this month— Edwin Encarnacion powered a blast that Rajai Davis caught at the left-field wall — yet by generating a Josh Donaldson double play on his first pitch to end the sixth, he set a tone of efficiency.
“Tonight, he was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to get some groundballs and conserve my pitches,’ ” Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “That guy can do whatever he wants.”
“Yeah, I trusted my defense,” Miller said. “Maybe a little bit their approach. Maybe just the situation. But all that matters are outs. All that matters are wins. It honestly does not matter how we get there.”
You can’t help but wonder how large an October weapon Miller could have been for manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees. Alas, Miller made just one postseason appearance in a Yankees uniform, a scoreless inning in last year’s wild-card loss to the Astros, before his departure.
It goes down as a sensible call for Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who were mired in mediocrity and needed to upgrade their foundation of young talent. The baseball community generally agrees Frazier and Sheffield possess high ceilings and can make the Yankees look plenty smart themselves sooner than later.
For now, though, it’s Miller on baseball’s biggest stage. Ready to keep slinging sliders at the Cubs or Dodgers. And to remind Frazier and Sheffield the bar has been set mighty high.
By Hannah Withlam
Let’s get this straight. Pitching prospect Dillon Tate, a No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft whom the Yankees acquired Aug. 1 from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal, is a “nice kid” with a good arm and a strong work ethic, but he also “can’t pitch,” according to one scout.
The veteran scout, who — according to NJ.com — has deep knowledge of the Yankees farm system, understands why teams marvel at the 22-year-old’s rocket arm, but he’s not convinced the right-hander has what it takes to match their high expectations.
“I can’t get into too much of why I know this, but if Tate doesn’t change his pre-game and if he doesn’t change how he goes about his work, he’ll never succeed … period,” the scout told the website before a Yankees’ Arizona Fall League game.
“He works hard. It’s not his work ethic. It’s how he works. It’s what he does and his stubbornness in it. If he doesn’t change that, he won’t succeed.”
While general manager Brian Cashman feels the rebuilding Yankees struck gold with Tate, they started him off slowly in the bullpen after 16 of his 17 appearances for Texas’ Single-A affiliate came as a starter.
The 6-foot-2 flamethrower struck out 16 in his first two starts of the minor-league season, but after a hamstring injury sidelined him for three weeks, Tate’s return to the mound was a disaster. His velocity dropped from high 90s to low 90s, and he went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 17 outings.
Those alarming numbers sent Tate to the bullpen, where the scout says he belongs.
“The Yankees didn’t make out on the Beltran trade,” he said. “The Rangers absolutely thought Tate was going to be a starter when they drafted him, and I could see why. Tate has a great arm. And he’s a nice kid. A great kid. But Tate’s a guy who’s stubborn in the way that he goes about it, and unless he changes that, it ain’t going to happen for him.”
Tate’s numbers with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Fall League have mirrored his minor-league struggles — allowing four runs in three innings over two appearances.
Attitude aside, the scout largely blames Tate’s mechanics for his poor results.
“You can either spin the ball or you can’t,” the scout said.
“He is too fastball reliant,” he added.
And with that, this scout showed his reviews are as circuitous as the Yankees’ starting-pitching carousel.
By Chad Jennings
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller delivers in Game 3 of baseball’s American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Boston.
Baseball’s postseason has served as a reminder of many things we already knew.
It’s helped cement Clayton Kershaw as a generational talent, further established Francisco Lindor as one of the game’s elite young players, showcased the defensive wonder of Javier Baez, and given the Blue Jays another opportunity to complain about the many boogiemen out to get them.
And for those of us who spent the year focused on the Yankees, it’s been a reminder of the electricity of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Chapman saved all three wins of the Cubs’ division series, and he was an Adrian Gonzalez single away from escaping a next-to-impossible jam with no outs and the bases loaded in Game 1 of the NLCS. Chapman’s been flawed, but man, he’s been fun to watch and a potent late-inning weapon.
Miller, of course, has been the secret weapon for an Indians pitching staff that lost key starters to late-season injuries. Playing a fireman role — Terry Francona basically uses Miller to get the game’s most important middle-innings outs as early as the fifth — Miller has pitched 7.2 innings with three hits, two walks and 17 strikeouts. Seventeen!
For the Yankees, it’s all too familiar.
“I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so,” Brian Cashman told John Harper. “It would justify the action they took. I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”
Should Cashman have any regrets about those trades?
In the end, the Yankees finished five games out of the second wild card, needing to pass four teams to get there. Hard to definitively say Miller and Chapman would have made up that ground. After the trade deadline, the Yankees were held to one run or less 12 times (and they won one of those games). Replacement relievers Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and Tommy Phelps each pitched pretty well (though, obviously, not nearly at the level of Chapman and Miller). Would the late-season collapse of Dellin Betances have happened or been as devastating if he were in the seventh inning? Would the Yankees have even tried Luis Severino in the bullpen if Miller and Chapman were still on the roster?
Ultimately, uncertainty was at the root of the Yankees’ deadline deals. The Yankees knew the talent they were giving up, but they also knew they’d dug a deep hole with little chance of escape. With little reason to believe they could make a real postseason run, the Yankees gave up two sure things to add some potential for the future. Check out Harper’s story for Cashman’s explanation of the leg work that went into setting high standards for the Miller and Chapman trades.
What will ultimately determine the success of those trades will be the performance beyond this season.
In Gleyber Torres and Justus Sheffield, the Yankees got two of the youngest players in the Carolina League (and two of the league’s top performers). In Clint Frazier, the Yankees gotarguably the top prospect in their entire farm system. In Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford the Yankees added depth in their long-term bullpen and outfield with players who could have an impact as early as next season.
Seeing Chapman and Miller continue to perform in October really has no impact on the Yankees. The value of those trades will depend far more on the added prospects than the lost relievers.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird is greeted at home plate by a teammate after hitting a two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 19, 2015 at Yankee Stadium.
By Randy Miller
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Yankees first baseman Greg Bird would have loved spending the whole 2016 baseball season shadowing Mark Teixeira. There’s so much he could have learned … everything from talking hitting to talking first-base play to talking playing in New York.
And all of that would have come in handy come 2017 with Teixeira now a former player and Bird being a strong favorite to take over as the Yankees’ starting first baseman because he was Gary Sanchez before Gary Sanchez hitting a bunch of homers after an August 2015 call-up from the minors.
Bird’s nagging shoulder injury last winter turning into a torn labrum just before spring training screwed things up because he ended up having season-ending surgery before the start of the Grapefruit League.
That forced Bird to take what he could get from Teixeira, which wasn’t much until Bird relocated his rehab from Yankees spring training headquarters in Tampa to New York in September.
Bird didn’t locker next to Teixeira at Yankee Stadium — he was given Carlos Beltran’s old area on the other end of the clubhouse — but there was some mentoring going on.
Bird spent time closely watching Teixeira, who hit 409 homers, won five Gold Gloves and won a World Series during his 14-year career.
Teixeira did some talking, Bird did some listening.
“I was always trying to learn from him,” Bird told NJ Advance Media after his Fall League game on Friday night.
Before Teixeira retired on the final day of the season, he offered a simple message to Bird about going to Florida Instructional League in September and then the Arizona Fall League after that.
What was said?
“He just told me before this to take it easy, get your at-bats and get ready for next year,” Bird said.
That doesn’t sound like much, but this simple advice is meaningful and valuable. The hidden message there was, “Don’t do anything stupid to get hurt again.”
And so, Bird has gone about his business this first week of AFL play in a way in which he’s concentrating on having good at-bats without pushing himself too much too soon.
Bird was the Scottsdale Scorpions’ designated hitter for three of their first five games and fared well with a .357 average and four hits, all doubles in 13 at-bats. He was just 1-for-5 on Friday night, but he put the turkey on the table during a game-winning rally in the ninth by following a leadoff walk with a double into the right-field corner to give the Scorpions runners second and third with nobody out.
Following an intentional walk, Yankees super prospect Gleyber Torres laced a bases-loaded, walk-off single for an 8-7 win.
“I’m all about quality at-bats … seeing the ball good and staying healthy,” Bird said.
That “staying healthy” line is a little misleading because Bird still hasn’t been medically cleared to play first base and he still gets occasional reminders which shoulder was hurt after some at-bats.
“I feel it less and less,” Bird said. “Sometimes I get maybe sore in one spot or feel something in another spot, but in general it feels pretty smooth.”
Bird’s early fall ball success is no surprise because, as scouts watching have been saying, Bird is overqualified as a 23-year-old with 11 homers, 157 at-bats and 46 games on his big-league resume.
No matter, Bird is in Arizona to make up 100 or so of the plate appearances that he lost this season, and that should take him into spring training with a better shot to be at his best by opening day.
“This is a great steppingstone for guys that are trying to work to get to the big leagues and progress their career,” said Bird, who was the 2015 Fall League MVP. “For me, it’s about progressing my career in a different way than it was last time … staying healthy, getting the reps, just playing again. It’s exciting for me.
Five weeks from now, Bird hopes to be feeling better and knock all the rust off his swing and hitting approach.
“I feel surprisingly good,” Bird said. “I feel on time. I’m seeing the ball well. My shoulder feels good. So it’s a start.”
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals during game four of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium
By Joe Giglio
If the Yankees have their way, a big-time bullpen will exist in the Bronx again next season.
According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the Yankees are expected to try to land one of the top two relief pitchers on the open market this coming winter:
Word is, the Yankees will target one of the two best free agent closers–ex-Yankee Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen–this winter, and also look to bolster their rotation, perhaps via the trade market.
If general manager Brian Cashman can sign one of the top two closers available, a devastating bullpen could be reformed for the start of the 2017 season.
Chapman comes with familiarity to the organization. The left-handed flame thrower dominated for the Yankees (2.01 ERA, 20 saves) before a July trade sent him to the Chicago Cubs. The idea of New York eventually reuniting with the Cuban star had legs even before he left the Bronx during the season. It could cost a record deal to bring Chapman back.
Jansen is less known to many fans on this coast, but a dominant relief pitcher for the Dodgers. Since debuting in 2010, the big righty owns a 2.20 ERA, 189 saves, 13.9 SO/9 and 5.31 SO/BB rate. Over the last two years, Jansen has posted a 9.68 SO/BB ratio while harnessing a cutter that’s been compared to Mariano Rivera’s dominant pitch.
Dellin Betances will be in tow to join any top-notch reliever the Yankees acquire this winter.
By Brendan Kuty
Let’s break it down:
1.) Short-term: The length of the deal is interesting. The contracts of manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman each expire next year, too. Coincidence? Me thinks not. Then again, he’s also 62 years old. Maybe he wants just one more year before calling it quits.
2.) Cashman: The GM said in his year-end press conference Wednesday that he didn’t want to make changes to the coaching staff. So Rothschild has Cashman’s confidence. This wasn’t strictly an ownership move.
3.) Successes: You could call Rothschild’s work with several pitchers success stories. The ones that stand out? The recent CC Sabathia; Nathan Eovaldi’s splitter, Adam Warren’s versatility, Brandon McCarthy in late 2014 and getting through Andy Pettitte’s velo drop. Yankees pitchers have often credited Rothschild’s encyclopedic knowledge of them the moment they even join the team, with the coach often immediately having an impact on them mechanically.
4.) Failures: For whatever reasons, Rothschild wasn’t able to unlock the mystery of Michael Pineda or get Luis Severino comfortable with his changeup again. On one hand, that’s his job — to fix pitchers. On the other hand, Severino seemed to simply refuse to throw his changeup while Pineda’s long-time command issues clearly don’t suggest that there’s a quick fix out there for him. Ivan Nova seemed to find it once he left the Yankees, too, but that could also be a product of pitching the National League and in a bigger park.
5.) Final thoughts: Girardi leans heavily on Rothschild. It shows in how often he references needing to check with Rothschild on various pitching matters in spring training and throughout the season. It’s likely that Girardi wanted him back, too. With Cashman, Rothschild and Girardi each in the final years of their contracts, if things torpedo early in 2017, there could be many different faces in important places in the Bronx.
By Jonathan Lehman
Clint Frazier isn’t lacking for confidence.
The Yankees minor leaguer, acquired in the midseason trade of relief ace Andrew Miller, boasted on Twitter on Thursday night — as Miller was dominating Game 1 of the ALDS for the Indians — he would be an impact rookie in The Bronx “starting next year.”
That’s a cocky timeline for the recently turned 22-year-old. After a season in which he put up decent numbers — 16 homers, 55 RBIs and 122 strikeouts in 119 games (slash line: .263/.335/.447) — as a relative youngster at Double-A and Triple-A, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this week not to expect Frazier in the big leaguesuntil the midseason 2017 at the earliest. There also isn’t a logical spot for him in the outfield.
“He has more developing to do,” Cashman said. “But players with tools like his can come fast. I don’t anticipate him coming out of spring training making the major league club, but I would not deny anybody the opportunity.”
The kid with the untamed ginger mane has been passing the time by taking his hacks in the dating field. Soon after arriving to the Yankees, Frazier used social media to ask out Instagram fitness model Jen Selter.
“@JenSelter now that both of us are in New York, I think it’s only fair you let me take you on a date! #SelterFrazierDate,” he wrote.
No word on whether Frazier and Selter have made a connection. Perhaps that romance is “starting next year” as well.
By Chad Jennings
New York Yankees’ Brian McCann greets Gary Sanchez (24) after scoring on Sanchez’s fourth-inning home run in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016
On the day he did what only baseball’s greatest offensive catchers had ever done, Brian McCann was actually a designated hitter.
With his home run on Sunday, McCann became only the fourth player ever to hit 20 home runs in 10 different seasons in which his primary position was behind the plate. The others: Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza.
That’s the company McCann keeps. But give Gary Sanchez nine more years, and he might be there as well. He also hit 20 home runs this season, except he did it in 53 games, and everyone knows what that means.
“Listen,” McCann said. “Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time. Just have to kind of see where my role fits in; see where everything fits.”
Three years into a five-year contract, McCann is not necessarily on his way out of Yankee Stadium. His name will certainly pop up in trade rumors this offseason – he was connected at the trade deadline to his hometown Braves – but McCann has a full no-trade clause, and the Yankees still have a need for a left-handed power bat in the middle of the order.
“I hope I’m back,” McCann said. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”
McCann turns 33 in February. He won a Silver Slugger award last season and had an .809 OPS with 14 homers in the first half of this year. Defensive shifts might have wrecked his ability to hit for average, but McCann’s hit at least 20 homers nine years in a row, and his left-handed swing has played well with Yankee Stadium’s short porch.
He had a disappointing second half, but ended with a flourish in the final month. Even with Sanchez in the everyday lineup, the Yankees kept giving McCann regular playing time as a designated hitter against righties and as the personal catcher for CC Sabathia, who had a resurgent season.
“He (played) a huge role,” Sabathia said. “We sat and talked most of the time and used the cutter in different situations and talked during the games a lot, and even away from the game. He’s been a huge help for me in making this transition.”
The Yankees’ offense is also transitioning to a year without Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira, all of whom joined McCann in the middle of the order most of this season. Five different Yankees reached 20 home runs this season, but McCann is the only one coming back who’s done it with any regularity. Sanchez never even did that in the minors.
Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have combined for a total of 20 big-league home runs.
“I’m hoping to use (McCann) in a lot of different ways,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Getting his bat into the lineup, his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, having him catch. This is a guy that takes a lot of pride in that. Understands how to work young pitchers, old pitchers. He understands that. So, this is a guy that’s in our plans. He might move around and do different things, but we want his bat.”
Designated hitter. Part-time catcher. Perhaps even an option at first base. McCann might not have the role he’s used to next season, but he’s not convinced he doesn’t have a place in the clubhouse.
Ultimately, the decision will be up to him. If he doesn’t want to be traded, he can keep it from happening.
“There’s a lot of variables that go into a decision,” McCann said. “So we’ll see how the winter plays out. But again, this place is special.”
By Jon Heyman
Someone recently tweeted to me that it would be a travesty if Mike Trout doesn’t win the MVP again. When I challenged the use of such an extreme word as travesty, the tweep turned it down half a notch and said Trout not winning would only prove the system was flawed.
There’s a lot of that going around, it seems. When the result isn’t what one wants, the game (or election) is flawed or rigged.
I do understand the support for Trout. He is the best position player in the game, and he’s had the best season statistically in the American League.
If the award went simply to the best player, I’d say it would have to be him. But since the award is for “most valuable,” and the rules leave open to interpretation exactly what that means, I still think a player’s effect on the pennant race is some part of the equation.
If someone wants to tell me Trout should still be the MVP, even though the Angels have been out of it since May, I get it. I understand. If that’s how someone interprets “most valuable,” it’s OK by me. It certainly would be no travesty if he were to win, and I think he may.
But I also think there is merit to valuable equating to winning. I’m maybe not quite to the extreme of Josh Donaldson, who colorfully opined in this space a couple weeks back, “you gotta win,” to explain how he saw the MVP. And while the other side often seems very sure of themselves, you’ll notice that not a lot of players have come out for the other side, the one that says winning doesn’t matter.
As I see it, winning isn’t a requirement. But it still counts.
So, without further ado, here are my ballots for all the awards …
1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox. Some say his age-23 season has been comparable to Joe DiMaggio’s. I’m not sure about that. But it’s good enough to take the AL MVP in a tight, tough, interesting year. He gets the nod over David Ortiz for playing defense (and an outstanding right field), and he gets it over Trout as he was almost as brilliant as Trout (9.5 WAR compared to Trout’s 10.2). That 0.7 extra WAR (based mostly on more walks) isn’t enough to disregard how Betts helped his team win baseball’s best division, and dominated games in the division, especially against the Orioles.
2. Mike Trout, Angels. He was very likely the best all-around player in the league once again. But his numbers are almost identical to those of Betts, except for the walks. Walking more, and a 0.7 extra WAR doesn’t quite do it, at least not for me.
3. David Ortiz, Red Sox. He’s having an inexplicably brilliant final campaign his best ever year at 40, and is in fact the only player with an OPS over 1.000. He was also the heart of the best offense in the game, and the best in years. He set the tone for a wonderful finish, too.
4. Jose Altuve, Astros. He led the league in batting average, added surprising power and refined an already excellent all-around game.
5. Adrian Beltre, Rangers. This may be a bit of a surprise. But his numbers are right there with the other great third baseman (Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado), his defense is right there, too, and he was once again the unquestioned leader of a division champion.
6. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays. Last year’s winner actually had a slightly better statistical season this time around, thanks to many more walks. However, he didn’t have the signature moments or same sort of finish, and his team had to settle for being a wild-card contender.
7. Manny Machado, Orioles. I’d give him the nod as the best defender in the AL. Plus, 36 home runs aren’t bad.
8. Zach Britton, Orioles. What an incredible season he had. No way the Orioles would be where they are without him.
9. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays. He set himself up beautifully with a big walk year, and helped the Jays stay in the race.
10. Robinson Cano, Mariners. Simply, one of the best all-around players in the game.
Close: Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis, Indians; Carlos Beltran, Rangers; Mark Trumbo, Orioles; Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox; Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; Carlos Correa, Astros; Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz, Mariners; Gary Sanchez, Yankees; Brian Dozier, Twins.
AL LVP (Least Valuable): Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Yankees. What great careers they had. But you wonder where the Yankees would be if they had Sanchez and Greg Bird all year. They two great veterans both will finish with negative WARs and average barely above .200.
1. Kris Bryant, Cubs. He pulled away in what was a close race in the late summer. No superstar has been so good and so willing at so many different positions. Doesn’t hurt that the Cubs are the story of the year, either.
2. Corey Seager, Dodgers. Wow were the Dodgers ever smart to hang onto him. His numbers aren’t that dissimilar from his brother Kyle’s, but he played shortstop, did it for a division winner and did it as a rookie. What an amazing future.
3. Daniel Murphy, Nationals. He learned to pull the ball midway through his career, and the Nats are the main beneficiary (though the Mets did OK in the playoffs with Murphy last year, too). He leads the league in OPS when no one would have believed he’d lead this stacked team in that category.
4. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs. He is the heart and soul of this great and young Cubs team, a smart and powerful player who drives this great train.
5. Yoenis Cespedes, Mets. Perhaps the NL’s most talented everyday player had many of the big hits for the Mets in a season where his teammates dropped around him like flies.
6. Nolan Arenado, Rockies. A case could be made that he’s the best player in the league, but the Coors advantage and Rockies’ retreat from the race in the second half pushes him out of the top five here.
7. Joey Votto, Reds. Reds star walked and hit like few others ever have in the second half
8. Justin Turner, Dodgers. He’s turned himself into a star (no pun intended).
9. Freddie Freeman, Braves. One of the better hitters in the game got even better once Matt Kemp got there. The 30-game hitting streak is emblematic of his huge second half.
10. Max Scherzer, Nationals. He didn’t have quite the rotation or pen help of Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. But all three were spectacular.
Close: Trea Turner and Wilson Ramos, Nats; Paul Goldschmidt and Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester; Cubs; Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford, Giants; Ryan Braun, Brewers; Noah Syndergaard and Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets; D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers.
NL LVP: Jason Heyward, Cubs. Great guy, and great defender, no doubt about that. But he’s about the only thing that didn’t go right for the Cubs. That .629 OPS is pretty unsightly.
AL Cy Young
1. Zach Britton, Orioles. I don’t like to pick relievers, but nine have won, and no one’s had a better season than Britton. He saved every chance and allowed four earned runs all year. If he doesn’t win, we should all just say relievers are no longer eligible.
2. Corey Kluber, Indians. He could easily win his second Cy Young in three years, as his season looks just a touch better statistically than a trio of other AL starters (Rick Porcello, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander). His 6.5 WAR is a win better than anyone else, but it’s not really clear why as the other stats are just about even with the other aces.
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers. He’s back, with big strikeouts and excellent across-the-board numbers.
4. Rick Porcello, Red Sox. A year after taking hits for getting what some believed to be a deal beyond what he deserved he looks like a bargain. He won 21 games and has a sub 1.00 WHIP.
5T. Chris Sale, White Sox. Some may consider him a cut-up (weak joke) but he’s the AL pitcher I’d pick to start a game
5T. Andrew Miller, Indians. He’s been nothing short of brilliant for two teams, and he gets bonus points for being willing to pitch in any inning even though he’s one of the three or four best relievers ion baseball. The 115 strikeouts and nine walks and 0.70 WHIP are pretty darned good.
Close: Cole Hamels, Rangers; Jose Quintana, White Sox; Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, Jays; Michael Fulmer, Tigers; Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees.
AL Cy Old: James Shields, White Sox. He had his moments with both teams. But he may finish with the worst record (6-18), ERA (5.82) and WAR (-1.1) among starters who threw a qualifying 162 innings, though he doesn’t have the innings to qualify in either league. The stats weren’t great when he went east, but they got so much worse after he got there.
NL Cy Young
1. Max Scherzer, Nationals. He leads in WAR, WHIP and strikeouts. Someone might say run prevention is what matters most, and that’s fair, but more innings and some better peripheral stats gives him the slightest of edges over the two Cubs guys. Plus, he was their unquestioned No. 1 starter throughout the year while the Cubs guys had reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, as well, who sometimes faced the opposing aces.
2. Jon Lester, Cubs. Big finish put him squarely in the picture. Could win it, easily.
3. Kyle Hendricks Cubs. Some say he did it with mirrors. I don’t care. Superb season includes the top ERA and second best WHIP in the league.
4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. He was, of course, the best pitcher in baseball. It just depends how much his 75-day absence matters to you. Should be on the ballot somewhere, hard to say where.
5T. Madison Bumgarner, Giants. He’s in the top three in WAR, WHIP, ERA and K’s, not to mention a mighty fine hitter.
5T. Jose Fernandez, Marlins. Brilliant pitcher led the league in strikeout percentage and kept Marlins in the race before his untimely and tragic death.
Close: Johnny Cueto, Giants; Carlos Martinez, Cardinals; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Noah Syndergaard, Mets; Jake Arrieta, Cubs.
NL Cy Old: Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks. This is an easy one, so bad it apparently carries the potential to wipe out a front office of legendary names.
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Sanchez, Yankees. He did things no one’s ever done before, even if he did them in a very short period.
2. Fulmer, Tigers. He may win the ERA title, and while he didn’t start the season in the majors, either, his longer time and higher WAR probably make him the favorite.
3. Nomar Mazara, Rangers. He showed flashes of big-time power and other considerable skills. Yet another fine Rangers talent.
Close: Tyler Naquin, Indians; Edwin Diaz, Mariners; Mychal Givens, Orioles; Chris Devenski, Astros.
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Seager, Dodgers. One of the best rookies in years and a runaway winner in a pretty good year for rookies in the NL, he looks like he’ll have a Hall of Fame career.
2. Trea Turner, Nationals. He had a brilliant campaign, in another year his spectacular half year might have been good enough.
3. Trevor Story, Rockies. He showed big power and bigger potential before going out with injury.
Close: Zach Davies, Brewers; Ryan Schimpf, Padres; Aledmys Diaz and Seung Hwan Oh, Cardinals; Tommy Joseph, Phillies; Wilson Contreras, Cubs; Kyle Barraclough, Marlins; Brandon Drury, Diamondbacks; Jon Gray, Rockies.
AL Manager of the Year
1. Terry Francona, Indians. He’s adapted perfectly to new-world stats and remains amazing as a clubhouse leader.
2. Jeff Banister, Rangers. He was the absolute perfect choice for that team. Great leader was a hidden gem. The Rangers were 36-11 in one-run games for what it’s worth.
3. John Farrell, Red Sox. The Red Sox blew away baseball’s best division with their amazing final month. He got a lot of heat for his pen moves, but by the end, no one was playing better.
NL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Maddon, Cubs. He set the tone for a near-perfect regular season by “embracing the target” rather than avoiding the subject.
2. Dusty Baker, Nationals. Things seem better around the Nats following their disastrous, divisive 2015 season.
3. Dave Roberts, Dodgers. He turned out to be the perfect pick in a much more difficult market than most imagine.
AL Executive of the Year
1. Jon Daniels, Rangers. He does a consistently good job, taking the right number of chances and making them pay off. That they are looking for a third World Series appearance is no coincidence.
2. Chris Antonetti/Mike Chernoff, Indians. The hiring of Francona, signing of Mike Napoli and procuring hot trade-deadline name Andrew Miller all worked beautifully.
3. Dave Dombrowski/Mike Hazen, Red Sox. Dombrowski’s one of the best, but hat tip to Ben Cherington, who procured many of the excellent young players who form the best everyday nucleus in the league, plus of course Porcello, who Dombrowski drafted for Detroit but decided to trade away rather than give him the big bucks (Cherington did that).
NL Executive of Year
1. Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer, Cubs. Epstein has almost iconic status in Chicago, and he should be able to get just about anything he seeks in negotiations after he, Hoyer, Jason McLeod and Co. made these seven moves.
2. Mike Rizzo, Nationals. The Trea Turner trade was a brilliant stroke, and the Mark Melancon deal wasn’t bad, either.
3. Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi, Dodgers. The hiring of Roberts might have been their best move. But Chase Utley, Howard Kendrick, Andrew Toles and all those relievers helped them win another division title, too.
All eyes are on the D-backs as they are expected to announce shortly after the season whether chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa and GM Dave Stewart still have their jobs. From here, it’s awfully early to cut the cord … D-backs people say they “don’t blame” Chip Hale for the team’s disastrous season, nor should they. But there are no guarantees, especially if his immediate bosses go.
The Braves have had a fantastic finish, playing right until the end, and making a strong case for interim manager Brian Snitker to keep his job. It’s hard to remember they had a worse record than the Twins at one point. Snitker deserves to take a bow at least, for keeping his team playing until the end … Along with Matt Kemp’s 33 home runs and .798 OPS, Kemp still manages to have a -0.3 WAR, which provides an idea about his range in the outfield. On the plus side, that he has had a positive effect on the rest of the lineup doesn’t figure into that negative WAR number … The Braves keep making trades, right until the very end.
GM Dan Duquette received praise from a rival owner for three flyers on hitters that have worked. For $25 million total, he signed Nelson Cruz a few years ago, then Mark Trumbo and Hyun-Soo Kim this year. Duquette, who once signed Manny Ramirez for the Red Sox, understands the value of power in the AL East … The Orioles and All-Star catcher Matt Wieters are believed to be tens of millions of dollars apart, and word is in fact the sides didn’t even talk about an extension when they met last week. It would have been a waste of time. Wieters is believed interested in a Brian McCann/Rusell Martin type deal, while the Orioles aren’t expected to get near that. He’s had multiple Gold Gloves and four All-Star Game appearances, plus the injury to top free agent catcher Wilson Ramos could actually aid his free agency, and never forget, it only takes one to see the value (but if it’s close to McCann/Martin, it’s unlikely to be the Orioles). The Orioles also don’t seem to believe his value is up to the expected $17-million qualifying offer, so it’s seen as not that likely that they’ll make him a qualifying offer again (assuming there are still qualifying offers) … The Orioles also didn’t talk about an extension for Pedro Alvarez, as they are concentrating on the pennant race.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are, fairly, the AL Favorite after their big finish, and could make it four World Series wins in 13 years after none in 85 … The Red Sox passed on Yulieski Gurriel, but it should be no surprise they are interested in his much younger brother Lourdes, who had a nice showcase a couple weeks back and is in the process of setting up private workouts for a half-dozen or so teams. Lourdes, 22, is a decade younger than his brother, which fits Boston’s M.O. … Robby Scott has been a big help as a lefty out of the pen, with six scoreless appearances. He’s put Fernando Abad’s postseason roster spot in jeopardy. Scott Trivia: Scott’s mother Margie Scott is in the Florida State Hall of Fame as a volleyball player … We always knew the Red Sox knew how to draft, and they took Hunter Renfroe in the 31stround as a high schooler out of Mississippi before he went to Mississippi State.
The Cubs are the easy favorite to get to the World Series. And, as just-extended president of baseball operations Theo Epstein put it by phone, “There’s no team I’d rather take in.” They do seem to have everything working for them, and it will be a decent-sized surprise if they don’t make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945 … Despite his uncharacteristically poor offensive season, expect Jason Heyward in Cubs lineup, at least for now. They love all the other things he brings to the party … The Cubs’ pitching has been absolutely brilliant, and even No. 4 starter John Lackey posted the best WHIP of his career, at 1.06.
Chicago White Sox
While it was reported that manager Robin Ventura can return next year “if he wants to,” people around the game believe the beloved Ventura won’t be back as manager next year, however it shakes out. Club owner Jerry Reinsdorf is fairly known as the most loyal man in baseball, but after four disappointing years, it would be a shocker if Ventura returns, people inside the game say. GM Rick Hahn did not return a text … Rick Renteria and Joe McEwing could be viable managerial candidates if they make an in-house change. Renteria has made a quick impression there … Jose Abreu has been terrific in the second half … Carlos Rodon has given hope they could wind up with a “big three” with his nice finish
MLB should really look at that rule where saying a challenge on the last play has to be issued “immediately.” It was understandable the Reds weren’t happy they didn’t have decent opportunity to issue their challenge. It should have been a ground-rule double for Yadier Molina, not a game-winning double. And the Reds deserved more opportunity to challenge the wrong call … Scott Schebler is among leaders on hard-hit balls the last few weeks. The Todd Frazier trade may turn out OK. Jose Peraza certainly can play … Dan Straily has been huge. Can’t really blame the Reds for holding onto him.
Mike Napoli has been huge for the Indians this season, so it’s no surprise they want him back … Sources indicate Michael Brantley could miss significant time in 2017 … The Indians absolutely must have Corey Kluber back, and it seems there’s a chance he’ll recover in time for the ALDS. They are already without Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, their Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers.
Manager Walt Weiss is well-liked by ownership and the players, but without a contract for 2017 and the front office feelings unknown, his job remains a question. Weiss was hired by previous GM Dan O’Dowd … D.J. LeMahieu is a brilliant defender as well as a hitter. The Rockies definitely have a nucleus.
Justin Upton is one of the most consistent players year to year, but within each year, he is very streaky. Good thing for the Tigers he’s been on one of his good streaks lately … If they don’t make it, they can blame the Indians, who pounded them all year.
Alex Bregman made a miracle recovery and return. So add toughness to the list of his attributes … Too many injuries, especially to their rotation, caught up to the Astros. Though manager A.J. Hinch did a nice job of keeping them in the race longer than they had a right to be … Meanwhile, OF George Springer has the longest active streak of games played (181) games). Note courtesy of Astros’ p.r. guy Steve Grande … Yulieski Gurriel has been in the league less than a month, and he has already done something few players have ever done. He became the first player to ground into four double plays in a game since Joe Torre in 1975 … The Astros will look at his brother Lourdes in a private workout.
Kansas City Royals
Kendrys Morales has put himself into good shape as a free agent with 30 homers after a slow start … Edinson Volquez can’t get a qualifying offer after his rough year.
Los Angeles Angels
Ricky Nolasco posted a 3.21 ERA with the Angels after coming in from out of the cold … Albert Pujols can still do it. Good thing because he’s still got five years to go … Jered Weaver seems to be vacillating about whether he will try to play again next year, though someone close to him insists he will. Weaver did hit 87 mph in a recent game (not to mention will lead the Angels in innings and wins) … Jefry Marte’s grand slam bring up this trivia question: What do he, Mat Latos, Mat Gamel and Donn Roach have in common?
Los Angeles Dodgers
They are in much better position than they were just a few weeks ago, with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill back and effective (even if Kershaw isn’t quite 100 percent). The big question is who will get the ball in game four, following those two and Kenta Maeda, and the candidates are Julio Urias, Ross Stripling or some combination of those two and others … Andrew Toles has earned a spot on the postseason roster. But Andre Ethier, who’s still trying to regain full strength after his tough leg injury, is likely a question for the roster, especially with the Dodgers perhaps needing an extra pitcher or two to get through … Yasiel Puig has handled his platooning very well, and he has even done well coming off the bench … The Dodgers have more good free agents than almost anyone with Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Rich Hill, Chase Utley and Josh Reddick. One longtime Dodgers follower said he could see the Dodgers passing on all or most, ultimately, due to their reluctance to go extra years for over-30 players (all but Reddick are over 30, and he hasn’t played well with L.A.). Turner and Jansen look pretty important from here, if not quite indispensable, and they’ve liked Hill for a couple years now. So I’m not putting too much stock in that theory, necessarily … Vin Scully is, unarguably, the greatest baseball announcer ever. (Please, no cards or letters from folks who are fans of other teams/announcers. I said it was unarguable.)
Fantastic tribute by Dee Gordon to his friend Jose Fernandez. One of the best moments of the year … The Marlins did a nice job with their tributes for their fallen hero throughout an impossible week … It hasn’t been mentioned often but also killed in the boating accident were Fernandez’s friends Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivera. They were also in their mid 20s … Martin Prado and the Marlins are indeed working their way toward a $40-million, three-year deal, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald first reported … They will take a close look at Cuban shortstop Lourdes Gurriel.
Zach Davis had a very nice year for the Brew Crew. Doug Melvin made some excellent trades in his final year as GM … Hernan Perez has perhaps played well enough to earn a job. Perez could be the third baseman next year, with Jonathan Villar going to second … The Brewers did some reorganizing in the front office, with scouting director Ray Montgomery moving over to take a different VP job, Tod Johnson becoming the scouting director and Zack Minasian becoming a special assistant.
The pending hiring of Derek Falvey to run the baseball operations is raising eyebrows across the league … Folks thought Brian Dozier was too pull happy early in the year when he was struggling. He got the last laugh, boy did he ever.
New York Mets
Asdrubal Cabrera is said to love New York, and it shows. He hit better than anyone else in the NL the final month of the season … Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Neil Walker, Fernando Salas and others were good pickups by the Mets front office. Plus, of course Yoenis Cespedes … It’ll be an interesting call as to whether the Mets pick up Jay Bruce’s $12-million option. His overall year warrants it, but he’ struggled in New York and they need to have the money to try to re-sign Cespedes, a must. One rival exec opines that they shouldn’t take a chance to pick up the option, but another said they should pick it up, then trade Bruce, who should be worth more than that on the open market. Bruce is said to love his new Mets teammates, but constant movement has added to a tough transition from his beloved Cincinnati (Bruce has switched hotels five times, in some cases due to noise considerations, shuttling between the La Guardia area and Long Island City) … Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero, as one Mets person put it, “three pitchers who couldn’t get the Triple-A Las Vegas team to the playoffs,” just may be en route to pitching the Mets into a Wild Card position. The three have been very good, especially Gsellman, who looks unhittable at times. Trivia: he played basketball at CIF (California) powerhouse Westchester High in L.A. which produced Trevor Ariza, Hassan Adams and others … The Mets seem like a very confident team.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are expected to seek power, plus pitchers this winter. The Yankees aren’t used to seeing division rivals Boston, Baltimore and Toronto all have multiple 30-homer hitters while their leader has in the low 20s, and that’s an issue for them. They will also look to improve the rotation and back end of the pen … Dellin Betances may be worn out, and if so, who could blame him? But there are some with Yankees ties who simply believe he is better off setting up than closing. That will mean a look at ex-Yankee Aroldis Chapman, as was noted in this space last week, or possibly Kenley Jansen. Since Mark Melancon came up with the Yankees and wasn’t seen as that type of pitcher, he might be somewhat less likely … Some Yankees people believe they need more production from the outfield. While Brett Gardner is still very good in the outfield, offensively, one scout says “he’s regressing.” … There could be a debate within the Yankees’ front office over whether Luis Severino is a starter or reliever, but the likelihood is that he’ll be given a chance to start next year. They will also look outside the organization for starters … Brian McCann is OK with DHing, but a trade to the Braves still makes sense from here … His bosses seem to think Joe Girardi did a pretty good job with the material he had to work with.
Jharel Cotton, who came in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade, started his career with four straight games allowing one earned run in each. Some figured he’d be a reliever when he was traded. Oakland just may have gotten a gem … The year was not a total loss as Ryon Healy looks like a star at third base. Huge power.
In a note in this space last week it was suggested that free agent to be pitcher Jeremy Hellickson could get the $17-million qualifying offer. But one rival suggested they’d be “nuts’ to try it, and that Hellickson would surely take it if offered. Hellickson had a nice year and the supply/demand issue will play in his favor, but after receiving what they deemed to be so-so or worse trade offers at the deadline for Hellickson, who made $7.8 million this year, they may view the choice as a “calculated gamble” they may not want to take … The Phillies have a whole host of young starters to choose from next year, with Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff and Aaron Nola likely penciled in, and Zach Eflin, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson, Adam Morgan, Ben Lively and a couple other kids among the other rotation candidates … Phillies people challenged Freddy Galvis to play better defense this year, and he responded spectacularly … Likely free-agent target Martin Prado is off the board. Ian Desmond remains a possibility. Though it is said that the Phillies “aren’t ready to dive in feet first” into free agency, as they understand they are probably still a year away … Tommy Joseph should get significant time at first base if not a full-time job. The Phillies could go get a lefty to play some first base and some right field … While Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche had rough, injury-affected years, the Phillies certainly haven’t given up on them … The pen is breaking down now. “In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run,” manager Pete Mackanin was quoted by Phillies writers after two games against the Braves. “That’s unheard of.” The streak ended the next game; only two of the three relievers Mackanin summoned allowed a run.
It makes sense that the Pirates are already trying to re-sign Ivan Nova before his free agency. It might make sense from his perspective to try to get something done, too, as he has generally thrived there … Hard to believe the great Andrew McCutchen has a -0.3 WAR. That might be the most surprising stat of the year.
St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Holliday’s absence has stung, especially with Brandon Moss still mired in a slump that sees him batting .067 over about a month. Holliday has tried to return a few times from his finger issue … The Cardinals do not plan to pick up Holliday’s $17-million option or offer him the similarly-priced qualifying offer. So he will become a free agent …The Aledmys Diaz grand slam after flying to attend the funeral of best friend Jose Fernandez was another very nice and special moment … Alex Reyes, who has a 1.58 ERA, wouldn’t be such a bad choice to start a Wild Card game if it came to that. Reyes has even beaten the Cubs, the NL’s best team, for three of his four victories … One interesting thing was to see Reyes’ velocity, usually 101, show up as 97-98 on the Wrigley scoreboard while Aroldis Chapman consistently hits 103-104 on that gun/board … Yadier Molina, despite playing at less than full strength, has been carrying the team at times, and was back in the No. 3 spot in the batting order … They will hold a private workout for Lourdes Gurriel … The Cardinals’ streak of 240 straight games with 40K attendance went by the boards Monday vs. the Reds. So even Cardinal Nation is wondering about their team (34K showed on a nice evening).
San Diego Padres
Hunter Renfroe looks like a star, giving the Padres a potential middle-of-the-order bat. Their stash of young players looks pretty good right now … Some folks believe the Padres may not have been punished enough, but the 30-day ban is strong as a symbol and certainly hurts the Padres for that reason … Edwin Jackson ended up being a pretty good pickup. He actually did better than Andrew Cashner, who went the other way, at a much lower cost.
San Francisco Giants
GM Bobby Evans said he is hard on himself in this space last week, then followed up with Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle to explain the second guessing he’s done after Mark Melancon went to the Nats … Giants people may be regretting not getting the closer they sought, but the deal to import Matt Moore may prove to be the best one of the deadline. Remember, he has three team options … The Giants are an NL-worst 26-41 in the second half, yet have scored more runs than they’ve given up.
Scott Hunter, who was elevated to scouting director, is winning wide praise … Jesus Sucre, one of my favorite names, got on a real hot streak. Sweet Jesus! … The Mariners handled Steve Clevenger’s idiotic comments appropriately, sending him home for the year. While Clevenger has the right to say whatever stupid thing he wants, the team has a right to send him home. Clevenger’s apology didn’t do it. He blamed his hateful thoughts on the “wording.” While his tweets were poorly worded, the meaning was clear enough.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay’s starting pitchers will once again be highly coveted on the trade market this winter, especially in such a weak free-agent field. Alex Cobb has returned to show he’s healthy, so teams will likely target Jake Odorizzi, who’s had a nice second half, and others …. While assistant GM Chaim Bloom didn’t get the job with the Twins, he’ll be on the radar of teams looking for GMs, especially for one with a sabermetric bend.
Carlos Gomez has contributed since changing teams in state, posting a .274/.353/.519 slash line. That’s nothing like what he was doing in Houston. His free agency looks much better today … It’s good for the Rangers to have Jeremy Jeffress back. But I have to wonder, with his history of substance abuse, whether three weeks provides a cure … The Rangers are 36-11 in one-run games, but that doesn’t make them lucky.
Toronto Blue Jays
Is Jays team president Mark Shapiro a kingmaker? People around the game say he’s grown close to Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry, the search firm who made the recommendation to hire Indians executive Derek Falvey to the Twins. It’s not certain how far back their relationship goes, but ex-Indians president Shapiro did hire Korn Ferry for his GM search in Toronto before he hired his longtime Indians employee Ross Atkins from Cleveland, someone he’d hired in Cleveland and promoted a couple times. David Stearns, the Brewers GM hired after a Korn Ferry search, also worked briefly in Cleveland. In any case, Shapiro’s influence is the talk of the industry. But the Falvey hire really got people’s attention. One source said Falvey may have been recommended by his current and former Indians bosses, but Falvey simply “blew them away” in the interview, and the Indians have been a great pipeline for GMs over the year, with lots of very bright folks coming through there, including Dan O’Dowd, Josh Byrnes, Ben Cherington, Neal Huntington and others. Others around the game say the evidence suggests Shapiro seems quite influential in this case. But for his part, Shapiro said, “My word carried a lot of weight in the hiring of the Toronto Blue Jays GM. Beyond that I am not sure my opinion carries any more weight than anyone else.” … The torn calf for Joaquin Benoit is a blow. He’s been the “bridge” to Roberto Osuna since coming over from Seattle … Michael Saunders, a consideration to receive a qualifying offer at midseason, seems like a long shot to get one today. His aim is to get a multiyear deal, and without a qualifying offer, he should get one easily … Troy Tulowitzki still can pick it.
The list of injured Nats is getting worse by the day, and it’s all key guys. Jose Lobaton will replace Wilson Ramos (with rookie Pedro Severino perhaps catching Scherzer), it’s doubtful Stephen Strasburg will make it back at all (his best chance would be if they got to the World Series), and Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are dealing with issues though expected to play … Gio Gonzalez, the one lefty starter, could be a key man for the Nats vs. the Dodgers, whose one vulnerability is vs. lefties … Joe Ross is coming back, which is a big plus. But if Strasburg can come back at all, it would have to be in later rounds … Nats exec Dan Jennings, a top executive and former manager with the Marlins was heartbroken by the death of Jose Fernandez. Jennings, who shared some great and some tense moments with the Marlins superstar, saw him as “like a son.” When Jennings was sent down to the manager’s office from the front office, Fernandez challenged Jennings, asking him in the very first meeting why they should trust a suit to manage the team. Jennings gave an answer that helped them become even closer … The controversy over whether Bryce Harper had a shoulder injury or not may be a matter of the perception of how far down the pain radiated from his shoulder, but the belief here is there was at least some shoulder weakness at some point … Jayson Werth vs. Gsellman gets Hair/Beard matchup of the month.
A record average of 9.2 pitchers used per game in September may be cause for concern and the impetus for some new rule limiting that. The games this month are too long, way too long … Condolences to MLB umpire Rob Drake who recently lost his wife Yvonnka, 38, who died suddenly. Rob Drake, who lives in the Phoenix area, has two school-aged children.