By Randy Miller
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.
By Brendan Kuty
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — That was quick.
The Yankees will name Josh Bard as bench coach and Phil Nevin as third base coach Monday, according to a pair of sources with knowledge of the team’s personnel decisions. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the news hadn’t been announced publicly.
Bard, 38, spent the last two years as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach and the previous three years as a scout and a special assistant. He was teammates with manager Aaron Boone with the Indians in 2005.
Since his retirement, Nevin, 46, has managed in independent ball, Double-A, Triple-A and was the Giants’ third-base coach in 2017.
The Yankees were also expected to retain Mike Harkey as the club’s bullpen coach.
The trio will join pitching coach Larry Rothschild on the Yankees’ staff, supporting Boone, who has no coaching experience.
It’s unclear who will be the Yankees’ first base coach. They also haven’t named hitting coaches. Tony Pena, who also handled the catching coordinator duties, was the first base coach. Alan Cockrell (primary) and Marcus Thames (assistant) were the hitting coaches.
Here’s what Boone had to say regarding how he would select his coaching staff when he was announced as the team’s manager last week.
“I want smart sitting next to me. I want confidence sitting next to me. I want a guy who can walk out into that room and as I talk about relationships I expect to have with my players, I expect that even to be more so with my coaching staff.
“Whether that is a guy with all kinds of experience or little experience. I am not concerned about that.”
Owner Hal Steinbrenner had said he was concerned with the idea that the Yankees may hire a manager without previous coaching experience, but he was satisfied when his front office told him Boone was their approximately unanimous pick.
By Ken Davidoff
Here in New York, we know better.
Derek Jeter as a double agent, working to help his old team? That would make as much sense as suggesting the former Yankees captain would use Alex Rodriguez as his “Phone a friend” were he to ever appear on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
You can bet a year’s worth of gift baskets that trading his expensive, unhappy superstar Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees brought only unhappiness to the Marlins’ rookie CEO. That being cornered into making this deal, which resulted in sizable social-media mocking that questioned his true loyalties, has to add aggravation to what has been a very rough opening act of Jeter’s new career.
He’ll have his opportunity to defend this transaction, to insist that his ownership group has the financial fortitude and baseball savvy to pull the Marlins out of their morass. What he can’t say, but what everyone in New York knows, is this:
The last thing he wants to do is help the Yankees.
After playing baseball, Jeter’s greatest gift might be his ability to hold a grudge. Remember that turbulent negotiation during Jeter’s one experience as a free agent, between the 2010 and 2011 seasons? Jeter does.
In the first three years after he retired, Jeter made himself scarce on Yankees property. He came to Yankee Stadium out of respect for his honored teammates Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, then when the franchise retired his own No. 2. In Tampa, where he lives full-time and the Yankees hold spring training, Jeter met off-site a few times with Yankees minor leaguers at the request of Gary Denbo, his first professional manager and perpetual swing doctor who now works as the Marlins’ vice president of player development and scouting.
So folks in South Florida, Boston and everywhere else can dispatch with the theory that Jeter wants the Yankees to add to their trove of trophies. Besides, Marlins fans can find plenty of legitimate grievances and concerns about Jeter and his chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman.
Start with the question about money. The top asset the Marlins received from the Yankees for Stanton was payroll flexibility, as the Yankees assumed $265 million of the $295 million Stanton has guaranteed. Had the Marlins been willing to take another bad Yankees contract or pay down more of the contract, they would’ve been in position to ask for better talent in return. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported that the Marlins continue to seek out more investors.
Then go to competence. Jeter has experienced his share of missteps and misfortune already, from dismissing the franchise’s four wise men (Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Jack McKeon and Tony Perez) and clumsily attempting (and failing) to bring them back, to veteran scout Marty Scott getting fired while he was in the hospital recovering from surgery to treat his cancer. He also admitted at the owners’ meetings last month that he had yet to speak with Stanton, a most curious decision.
These actions gave Jeter less margin for error when it came to the Stanton trade, and man, it got hairy when Stanton made it clear he would decline transfers to both the Cardinals and the Giants. With the Dodgers’ offer of bad contracts (like Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir) unappetizing, the Marlins turned to the Yankees, who at least offered a decent player in Starlin Castro and a couple of lower-level prospects (Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman), whom Denbo knows first-hand, in addition to the bailout.
In South Florida, after this move, Jeter’s popularity probably polls similar to that of his Marlins predecessors Jeffrey Loria and David Samson — and far below beloved Miamian A-Rod. This marks more new territory for Jeter. More challenges. Both his legacy and that of commissioner Rob Manfred, who very much wanted Jeter to get this opportunity, are on the line.
He has so much to prove. Yet the proof exists already to acquit him of the most egregious charge. Rest assured that nothing would make Jeter happier than this trade creating as much Yankees agita as the A-Rod deal 13-plus years ago, and even less October success.
By George A. King III
Mike Harkey could come back as the Yankees’ bullpen coach.
Carlos Mendoza and Reggie Willits are under consideration to join new manager Aaron Boone’s coaching staff.
Mendoza, 38, recently completed his fifth year as the Yankees’ minor league infield field coordinator and could be Joe Espada’s replacement as the third-base coach.
The former Yankees minor leaguer has worked with infielders Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and Thairo Estrada and is highly thought of within the organization.
Espada left the Yankees following the postseason to join the Astros as the World Series winners’ bench coach.
Willits, 36, played six seasons for the Angels and has been the Yankees’ minor league outfield/base-running coordinator for the past three seasons.
When Boone, who received a three-year deal with an option, is announced Wednesday at Yankee Stadium as Joe Girardi’s replacement, the Yankees won’t officially have a bench coach, hitting coach, first-base coach, third-base coach or bullpen coach. Nevertheless, there are indications Mike Harkey will return as the bullpen coach.
The Yankees announced Monday that pitching coach Larry Rothschild will return for his eighth season.
Former Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson moved to the Phillies for the same job. Alan Cockrell and Marcus Thames, the Yankees’ hitting coaches the past two seasons, could return. Like all Yankees coaches, they were granted permission to look elsewhere for work following the ALCS loss to the Astros. Tony Pena just completed his 12th season on the big-league staff, the past six as the first-base coach.
Star Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani.
By Brendan Kuty
STAMFORD, Conn. — Oh-no-tani.
Ohtani, 23, is considered one of the best talents to have come out of the country and the Yankees were expected to be heavy front-runnersto nab him.
“We have been informed today that we have been eliminated from the Ohtani sweepstakes, so we are out,” Cashman said. “I got a call (Sunday), this afternoon, the first round was presentations. And I don’t know who’s invited to Round Two, but we’re not.
“I started getting a feel that wasn’t good a few days ago. I knew that our presentation was excellent. The feedback from that was outstanding, but I did get a sense that I can’t change that we’re a big market and I can’t change that we’re in the east. So that was something that presentation or not, might be a difficult thing to overcome. But we would see. Then I got the unfortunate news today that we were out of the picture. That does not mean that anybody east coast and anybody big market is out of the picture. I can’t speak for them. But I did get a feel that we were in jeopardy when I got praise on the presentation, but it felt like I was getting prepared for something that was coming that I wasn’t going to want to hear.”
Ohtani’s two problems with the Yankees? Cashman said he was told that it was that they’re not a small-market club, nor are they on the West Coast.
Cashman said he got the news earlier Sunday. The GM said the Yankees made a sterling presentation to his crew and that Ohtani’s agents — Creative Artists Agency — told him they were impressed, but that he received hints the pinstripes might not be in the running.
Cashman said he got the feeling that the Yankees were never really even being considered by Ohtani.
It’s a big loss for the Yankees, who had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to could slot Ohtani into the front of their rotation as a ace-level pitcher and possibly as an impact designated hitter.
“Listen,” Cashman said, “when players are in the marketplace like that, you do everything g you possibly can. In this case, we prepared with trade-deadline money acquisitions in international slot money, and we put forward everything we’re about. But if it’s not a fit, it’s not a fit. You move on and continue to engage anything that’s available to make your better…We’re proud about what we have going on here in the city with the fans we have. It’s just not for everybody. We wish him the best of luck, he’s an exciting young talent. Some fan base is going to be excited about it, but unfortunately I’m delivering news I’d rather not.”
“My understanding is that Round Two is going to be in southern California, but again we got informed that we’re not invited to that second round.”
Last season, Ohtani hit .332 with eight homers and 31 RBI in 65 games, battling various injuries. In 2016, he hit .322 with 22 homers and 67 RBI while also going 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA in 21 games (20 starts). Several scouts have told NJ Advance Media they expect Ohtani to transition into full-time pitching eventually.
“It was a pretty extensive presentation, I can tell you that. Something we were real proud about. I know we knocked their socks off, but because of the way CAA responded to us that they were amazed about the amount of time and effort and passion that was put into it. I told our staff when we filed this, if it’s not gonna be us, it’s not because of us. I felt real comfortable and confident and proud about everything that we did. I can tell you with ease, if it’s not going to be us, it has nothing to do with us and everything we did to try to put ourselves in position to be the team to secure him. It’s just not going to be us.
“We’ve scouted him since 2012, we’ve been around it and unfortunately the one thing you can’t do is get in the house and get to know the person and the player. You’re flying blind a little bit, so all you can do is educate them about who you are and what you are and let the brand stand for itself. We did that, but at the end of the day, he has an opportunity as a posted player to pick where he’s gonna be most comfortable. That’s yet to be determined, but I can just tell you that it’s not going to be the New York Yankees.”