The Yankees Remain Interested in Manny Machado and Yu Darvish

The Yankees, so far this offseason, have only improved on a team that won 91 games, defeated the #1 seed Indians, and nearly went to the World Series.

But they may not be done.

John Heyman reports the Yankees are still continuing to check in on both Manny Machado and Yu Darvish, but can they acquire either player (or both, for that matter), and stay under the Luxury Tax threshold of $197 million?  It is unlikely, unless they can make some other deals.

Jacoby Ellsbury has an AAV (average annual value) of $21.85 million and a full no-trade clause.  Surely no team would be willing to take on the entire contract, but if the Yankees could dump at least half of the deal, it would fee up money for just one of the aforementioned players.

The Yankees have other options, mind you, should they decide to move players.

Dellin Betances is likely to make at least four million in 2018 and could easily be traded for a less expensive (and less dominant / erratic) bullpen piece.

Brett Gardner, though a fan favorite, is due $13 million and entering his age-34 season.  Moving Gardner would allow the Yankees to plug Frazier or Stanton into Left Field, though it’s unlikely the Yankees will move Gardner.

Currently, the Yankees have about $10 million left to spend (they must also leave room for in-season call ups and medical packages for each player).  To add both Darvish and Machado, the Yankees would need to clear about $28 million additional dollars, which seems unlikely without a major roster overhaul.

The most likely scenario is that the Yankees simply use Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar to start the season, with Gleyber Torres arriving some time in late spring or early summer.  The Yankees can use their remaining 10-million to take on salary for a mid-season pitching acquisition, if needed.

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Who will be the Yankees breakout star in 2018?

Last year Aaron Judge shocked the world.  In a year when he was a legitimate possibility that he could start the year in AAA, he not only won the right field job but was an all star, Rookie of the Year and nearly the MVP.

The same argument can be made for Luis Severino who had a terrible 2016, and bounced back to finish 3rd in the Cy Young.  Also not to be forgotten should be Chad Greene, who went from 6th or 7th starter to dominant middle-reliever thanks to a high spin-rate fastball.

Who will be this year’s breakout star

Expecting a “Judge year” from another young player is unrealistic, but there are several Yankees poised for their first big year.

Greg Bird
Bird struggled out of the gate due to an injury suffered in Spring Training that required months to diagnose and surgery to repair.  But 9 home runs in 147 at bats, as well as a strong postseason, mean Bird could be poised for the 30+ HR season that everyone has been waiting for.

Aaron Hicks
Before Hicks suffered an injury, he was having a lights-out season.  He wasn’t the same after returning from the DL but still put up 3.9 bWAR.  A healthy season could mean .280 with 25 homers from the switch-hitting center-fielder.

Clint Frazier
Frazier saw limited playing time in 2017, but had a number of great moments including a walk-off home run against the Brewers.  An injury to any of the three outfielders or in the DH spot could open the door for Frazier, who possesses a Mike Trout Lite tool set.  500 at bats could mean 20+ home runs from the young outfielder.

 

How Many Home Runs Can the 2018 Yankees Realistically Hit?

The 2017 Yankees hit 241 home runs, three more than the World Champion Houston Astros for best in baseball.  The 2018 club might even hit more.  Here are some realistic projections for what they can expect, if healthy.

Brett Gardner: Gardner bashed a career high 21 homers in 2017, following Johnny Damon’s career path of taking aim at the short porch more as his speed declines with age. Gardner will be 34, however, and should regress some. Let’s pencil him in for 15.

Aaron Judge is hard to predict. He could hit 70 or he could hit 25.  His numbers were outrageous in 2017, as he smashed 52 home runs despite being injured for much of the 2nd half. With more time at DH in 2018, as well as a year of experience, he should improve – but just to be safe, let’s regress him a little bit and pencil him in for 43.

Giancarlo Stanton had a career high 59 home runs in Miami. However, he has never come close to that number before and is usually a lock to spend some time on the disabled list.  Injuries have been a common theme and he will have to adjust to life in New York and an entire league of new pitchers.  Let’s pencil him in for a regression to 42.

Greg Bird missed much of the last two seasons with injuries, but August, September and October showed that he can be dangerous when healthy. Let’s pencil him in for his steamer projection of 29 home runs.

Didi may have maxed out his power in 2017 with a Yankee short stop record of 25 home runs despite missing a month.  His swing is built for Yankee Stadium…let’s give him 25 more in 2018.

Gary Sanchez also had huge numbers – 33 home runs despite missing most of April.  He is usually very streaky and unlike most catchers, tends to play better in the second half.  He will see less time at DH in 2018 with the addition of Stanton, but should miss less time on the DL.  Let’s pencil him in for 30 home runs, just to be safe.

Aaron Hicks is an enigma. When healthy, he seemed to turn a corner in 2017 and mashed 15 home runs.  I believe we can expect a similar season out of him – but with more playing time, he may put up better power numbers. Let’s give him a slight increase to 18.

That is 177 home runs from just 7 members of the starting lineup. We don’t know who will be playing 2nd and 3rd base, but let’s pencil in moderate numbers – 12 home runs from each position. 

That brings the Yankee starter total to 201 home runs from the starting line-up.  

Last year, the Yankees non-starters combined for 32 home runs.  If they can match that number in 2018, my projection comes out to 233 home runs, a slight DIP from 2017.

How will it shake out? We’ll see.  Bringing back Todd Frazier could easily double or triple the projected HR total from third base and put the Yankees over last year’s number.  Injuries and down years do happen, however – but as we saw with Aaron Judge in 2017 and Gary Sanchez in 2017, so do surprise surges.

My 2018 home run prediction, on a combination of gut feeling and projected numbers?  247 home runs.

2018 Roster

The 2018 New York Yankees roster as it stands now:

Catchers:
Gary Sanchez
Austin Romine

1B:
Greg Bird
Tyler Austin (OF/1B)

2b:
Tyler Wade
Ronald Torreyes (util)

SS:
Didi Gregorius

3B:
Miguel Andujar

OF:
Jacoby Ellsbury
Brett Gardner
Aaron Hicks
Aaron Judge
Giancarlo Stanton

 

Starting Pitchers:
Masahiro Tanaka
Luis Severino
Sonny Gray
Jordan Montgomery
CC Sabathia

Relievers:
David Robertson
Tommy Kahnle
Chad Greene
Dellin Betances
Chasen Shreve
Adam Warren

Closer:
Aroldis Chapman

 

Ready in AAA:
Gleyber Torres IF (#2 MLB prospect)
Justice Sheffield (SP)
Chance Adams (SP)
Luis Cessa (P)

Clearly the Yankees would like to add a little more infield depth and starting pitching depth.

April Rotation Report

Folks, we are nearing the end of April and we have seen some encouraging and discouraging things throughout the rotation.

Luis Severino looks like he might be developing into one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and he has been very consistent in 2017.

CC Sabathia appears to have turned a corner into a full-on Jamie Moyer type of pitcher, granted his fastball still is a bit better. He consistently induces soft contact, and though he rarely will put up big strikout numbers, he seems to be on track to becoming a consistent and reliable pitcher – as long as he can stay healthy.

Jordan Montgomery, though a small sample size, appears to be for real. He will likely not dominate the way that Severino can, but he throws strikes, keeps the ball down, and has several pitches to choose from. Again, if he stays healthy he can keep the team in the game and give the nasty bullpen a chance if the Yankees can put some runs on the board.

Masahiro Tanaka was terrible his first few times out, and has shown to be streaky in his career – not just in the MLB, but in Japan as well. When he goes on hot streaks, he tends to stay on them for a while. His cold streaks generally last 2-4 starts. He appears to be putting it together and the results have improved. A great start against the Red Sox tonight would be a sign that he has turned the corner and is about to go on a run for 4-5 more starts.

Michael Pineda has been slightly more consistent in 2017. He appears to be commanding his pitches a little better and using his changeup a little more. I am not personally sold that it will last, because we have seen this before. I think the best case scenario for Pineda is to have 3.5 really good months, and then to deal him at the deadline and call up Chad Greene or Luis Cessa. I think that if he is dealing at the level he is now for the next few months, he can bring back a decent prospect or two and a bullpen arm.

Thoughts on one week’s worth of games

The Yankees have played seven games and have won only three of them, but with a little luck could have won five.

What’s gone right? What’s gone wrong?

What’s gone right?

Aaron Judge appears to be improving right before our eyes. Much as Didi Gregorious showed steady and noticeable improvement after his first 100 or so games with the Yankees, Judge appears to be making all of the right adjustments.  Not only has he cut back on his strikeouts (so far), but he is punishing the ball when he makes contact – having hit 4 of the 9 hardest balls in MLB this season.  He has two homers, 4 RBI, and is batting a respectable .261 – and playing great defense.  Stay healthy, your honor.

Chase Headley is off to a hot start.  Last season, Headley, despite making $13,000,000 per season, could not buy a hit.  This season he is 9-for-24 (.375), with 5 walks (.483 OBP), 2 homers, and he has played well at 3B.

Jacoby Ellsbury also seems to have gotten off to a positive start.  With 8 hits in his first 23 at bats, including a homer, Ellsbury seems to be thriving in the five hole.  He has only stolen one bag, and that is sure to improve.  Gardner also has 8 hits in seven games, and has swiped five bags.

Ronald Torreyes is on pace for nearly 200 RBI.  Filling in for popular Didi Gregorious was sure to be a tough task, but Ronald has risen to the challenge.  Though he has yet to draw a walk, despite having a strike zone the size of a cell phone, he has gone 6-for-24 with a homer, a triple, and 8 RBI. He has also looked solid on defense.

Honorable mentions to Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks who have all played well.

What has gone wrong?

Masahiro Tanaka has been terrible.  After two starts, he is still sporting a double-digit ERA, and though he is likely to straighten things out, his sub-par performance has essentially cost the Yankees two games.  His arm looks healthy and strong, but his command has been off.

The rest of the starting rotation has been so-so.  Severino had four good innings before being beaten with a Machado longball.  Sabathia looked great in his first outing, but struggled through a second outing in which the Yankees eventually won.  Pineda had a terrible first start, and absolutely dominated in his second outing.

Injuries and illness.  Gary Sanchez is out for a month, and will return around the same time as Didi Gregorious.  Greg Bird fouled a ball off of his foot which cost him two games, before missing another two due to the flu.

Honorable mention to the bullpen which blew leads of 5-4 on consecutive nights.

 

 

 

Gleyber Torres – on the fast track?

Gleyber Torres was the key piece acquired last season for Aroldis Chapman, a deal that was essential in bringing the Cubs their first World Series in over 100 years. Torres showed immediate dividends by becoming the youngest player ever to win the Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player Award (side note, Greg Bird also won this award in 2014).

Torres is interesting because he is a shortstop with good hands, a strong arm, and off-the-charts hitting ability. His ability to drive the ball to right field should help him in Yankee stadium and he is versatile enough to play second or even third (though management wants to keep him in the middle of the field). He also is said to have a great makeup, especially for a 20 year old.

How soon could he be in the Bronx? The most likely scenario is 2018, but if he dominates AA and AAA there is a chance the Yankees could bring him up in 2017. Would he be a candidate should something happen to Didi or Castro? Time will tell, but he has all of the tools and his arrival in the Bronx appears to be inevitable.