Weekend Open Thread

An update on the new writer(s) search: we’ve made our picks! Or at least I have. I’m waiting for everyone else here at RAB to give the thumbs up as well. Once that happens, I’ll get in touch with the folks we’d like to bring aboard and make an announcement on the site. I hope to do that next week. (Nudges Ben and Joe.) Thanks again to all who applied, especially for being so patient. There were a ton of quality submissions to dig through. Whittling the list of candidates down was not easy at all.

Friday: Here is tonight’s open thread. The Devils and Nets are the only local teams in action, and my goodness, that sounds awful. No college basketball tonight either. Geez. Anyway, talk about whatever here, just not politics or religion. Please please please no politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. There are no NFL playoff games today — did they always play both conference championship games on Sunday? I could have sworn they used to play one on Saturday and one on Sunday — but the Knicks, Nets, Devils, and Islanders are all playing, and there’s more college basketball on than any human could watch. You know what to do here, so do it.

Yankees rank second in Keith Law’s farm system rankings

Andujar. (Presswire)
Andujar. (Presswire)

It’s that time of year again. Prospect ranking season. Individual team prospect lists have been hitting the internet for weeks now, and in the coming days and weeks, all the major scouting publications will release their top 100 lists and farm system rankings.

Earlier this week, Keith Law released his annual farm system rankings in three subscriber-only pieces: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30. The Diamondbacks currently have baseball’s worst farm system, according to Law. The Braves, on the other hand, have the game’s best system. They’ve been hard tanking for a good two years now, so I’d hope so.

The Yankees are second in Law’s farm system rankings, sandwiched between the Braves and Padres. Law applauds the “enormous packages” the Yankees received for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at the deadline last year, as well as their recent drafts. Here’s a snippet of his write-up:

The system just keeps on going, with tons of pitching depth, a passel of natural shortstops — we need a better collective noun for that; a “belanger” of shortstops, perhaps -– who will end up playing all over the diamond, and a lot of outfielders who rake. Even Dermis Garcia, who isn’t among their 20 best prospects, has 80 raw power and finished second in the advanced-rookie Appalachian League in homers as an 18-year-old.

There’s no weakness here. They will trot out teams full of prospects at every level, and several of them will show up in the Bronx this year. I don’t know if Gleyber Torres is the new Jeter or James Kaprielian the new Pettitte, but I’ll take that bet.

Law mentioned New York’s top six prospects were either a recent first round pick or acquired at last year’s trade deadline. That means Torres, Kaprielian, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Aaron Judge, and Blake Rutherford are his top six in some order. Either that or Law really likes J.P. Feyereisen. I assume Jorge Mateo is seventh.

I love top prospects as much as anyone, having a guy like Mateo as your seventh best prospect is pretty wild, but the thing that stands out most to me about the farm system right now is the depth. The Yankees are loaded with players who project to be average big league players. There are about 50 prospects in the system now who would make the top 30 most years. Maybe 60.

As Law said, the Yankees are going to have prospects at every level of the farm system in 2017. We’re still weeks away from official minor league assignments, but right now, these guys figure to be the headliners at each level:

  • Triple-A Scranton: Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Tyler Wade, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams
  • Double-A Trenton: Torres, Sheffield, Miguel Andujar, Billy McKinney, Ian Clarkin
  • High-A Tampa: Mateo, Kaprielian, Dillon Tate, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo
  • Low-A Charleston: Rutherford, Garcia, Estevan Florial, Hoy Jun Park

There’s some wiggle room there — Mateo could start with Trenton, for example — but generally speaking, those figure to be the Opening Day assignments. And that doesn’t include rookie ball kids like Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Nelson Gomez, Drew Finley, and Nolan Martinez. Josh Rogers is a three-pitch lefty who had a 2.50 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 147.1 innings at two levels last year and no one talks about him. The system is stacked.

Whether the Yankees can turn this impressive farm system into a consistent contender in the years to come remains to be seen. The fact they have so many prospects, both high-end prospects and depth, bodes very well. Not everyone is going to work out. We know that. The system’s sheer volume of talent gives the Yankees many options all around the diamond going forward, and that’s exciting.

Headley embraces new challenges while his Yankee status is anything but guaranteed

by Sung Min Kim/River Avenue Blues
(Sung Min Kim/RAB)

Chase Headley showed up to Yankee Stadium yesterday with a beard, as if he had been traded away to another team awhile ago. However, he still remains a member of the New York Yankees. He will shave his face clean before showing up to the Spring Training next month.

When it’s all said and done, it’s unlikely fans will remember Headley as a part of the great Yankee lore. As we know, he is an average hitter with solid glove and, well, that doesn’t exactly sell a lot of jerseys. The club also owes him $26 million for the next two years.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when the Yankees looked to trade Headley during this offseason. At yesterday’s press conference, Brian Cashman sounded off when asked about Headley’s future with the organization.

“I can’t predict that. I expect him to be here as a starter at the third base,” Cashman said while adding he shopped Headley around this winter, but couldn’t find a return that he liked. There weren’t many replacement options at third available either.

Headley admitted he saw heard the trade rumors, though he didn’t pay attention to them.

“I’ve dealt with that for a lot of my Major League career,” he said. “I don’t act like I’m angry about it … I understand that those are certainly business decisions that are made and me worrying about that isn’t going to change one thing one way or another.”

But still, to Cashman, Headley is a valuable commodity.

“Tell you what, in New York, when you struggle, everyone lets you know about it,” said Cashman. “It’s tough to pull yourself out of it, so he showed some serious mental confidence to continue to stay focused and (bounce back). He showed some toughness and I really respect that. I’m looking forward to a bigger year this year because I think he’s even better for that kind of experience.”

Two and half seasons into being a Yankee, the fans have an idea what to expect from their starting third baseman: a reliable glove and a decent-but-forgettable bat. In these past two seasons, Headley registered a 92 wRC+ each, which means he was a bit below average in runs created metrics. It’s safe to say we are not getting the guy who led the NL in RBI in 2012 anytime soon.

Entering the third year of the four-year, $52 million contract, Headley seems determined to set the tone this coming season by diagnosing one of the things that went wrong with him last year: that brutal 9-for-60 start in April.

“Trying to get a couple hits in April would be great,” he said. “There was a mechanical thing from the left side of the plate and once I got corrected, I started to swing a bat a little bit better … Hopefully I’ll be a mechanically better.”

The encouraging part of that statement is that Headley hit for a .265/.338/.418 line the rest of the season after April. Not the sexiest numbers, but they look better than the .252/.315/.405 line that the entire team averaged in 2016.

The discouraging part is that Headley is not getting any younger. The 2017 season will be his age 32 season, and we shouldn’t expect some kind of renaissance with his bat. If anything, the fans can be realistically optimistic by hoping he avoids a slow start and puts up slash line similar to what he did after the dreadful April last season.

However, as long as he is the member of the 2017 Yankees, Headley has a bigger off-the-field aspect to look forward to: being a more vocal clubhouse leader amidst the Yankee youth movement.

“I am looking forward to getting know (the younger players) and, hopefully, offering them help that I can to help them to this level and to help (the Yankees) to be successful,” Headley said. “I am excited about having the opportunity to have a little bit more leadership in the clubhouse … I’m excited to be able to be more vocal and speak my mind a little bit more.”

I don’t know if the Yankees will win a division title while Headley is under his current contract. This year is looking like a rebuilding year. The 2018 season could feature some exciting young talent on the ML roster, but I don’t think the Yankees will really compete until 2019, when they will possibly have added one of big 2018-19 free agents (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw, if he ops out, just to name a few) and fuse them with the talented youngsters.

If the Yankees manage to find a young big league ready third baseman, Headley will probably not be the starter going forward. However, because there are games to be played and valuable youngsters to be taught, Headley is a perfectly fine team asset for now, and I think it is in the team’s best interest to play him and hope for the best possible performance.

Cashman confirms the Yankees will go to an arbitration hearing with Dellin Betances

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

According to Brendan Kuty, yesterday afternoon Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees and Dellin Betances are indeed heading to an arbitration hearing. Betances filed a $5M salary prior to last week’s deadline and the team countered with $3M. Cashman says the $2M gap is simply too big to bridge, so they’ll let the arbitration panel make the decision.

“We’re not going to reach a resolution with Dellin,” said Cashman to Kuty. “The conversations we had with our representatives were if we file, we trial. Based on all of our discussions, it was clear that the different perspectives were such a wide bridge. We’ll go out and just basically have a polite discussion about market value and history of where the marketplace sits versus attempts for new market creation. We’re going to wind up in an arbitration hearing with Dellin.”

Arbitration hearings usually take place in early-to-mid February and the two sides could still negotiate a contract of any size prior to a hearing (and even after), though Cashman indicated that won’t happen. At the hearing, each side will state their case and the three-person panel will chose either the $5M or $3M for Dellin’s 2017 salary. Nothing in-between. I have some quick thoughts on this.

1. Dellin’s case is very unique. Arbitration salaries are based on the salaries of similar players at similar service time levels, so Betances is referencing other top relievers when they went through arbitration the first time. The problem? He has very few peers in terms of performance, and those that have been this good are closers. When a pitcher comes up and dominates like Betances has, he tends to wind up in the ninth inning. That hasn’t happened with Dellin because the Yankees have always had multiple high-end relievers, and the veteran got the ninth inning. Saves matter in arbitration and Betances doesn’t have many.

2. The Yankees seem to have an easier case. I broke this down earlier this week, but it’s worth repeating: the Yankees are offering Betances what sure seems to be a record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible non-closing reliever. I can’t find another setup man at $2M in their first arbitration year, nevermind $3M. That $5M ask by Dellin’s camp says he wants to be paid like a top closer. The Yankees are instead offering an unprecedented salary for a setup man. Because of that and Betances’ general lack of saves, I think the team has an easier salary to defend. Dellin’s camp will have some convincing to do at the hearing.

3. Arbitration hearings can be ugly. Maybe uncomfortable is a better word than ugly. Like I said earlier, during the hearing itself, the two sides will state their case to the arbitration panel. For the team, that means detailing the player’s shortcomings and explaining why he deserves the lower salary while he sits in the room. Awkward! Cashman said they’ll have a “polite discussion,” but who knows.

Here’s what Vinnie Pestano, former Yankees non-roster invitee to Spring Training, told Jordan Bastian following his arbitration hearing with the Indians a few years ago:

“You’re being honest and accountable and saying the right things and being there,” Pestano said, “and then later you find your own words in the paper, and somebody is trying to use your words against you to drive your value down. Whether that played a big role in the decision, I don’t know.

“That was the only thing that I didn’t care for. I definitely think it’ll affect how I see things going forward. I don’t really know if I can be as honest and up-front anymore. I’ve got three more years of arbitration left. I don’t know what they’ll pick to use against me next year or two years from now.”

At the end of the day, this is a business, and the player is making the decision to go to a hearing by not agreeing to a contract beforehand. Betances knows what he’s getting into, just like last year, when he rejected the team’s modest raise to $540,000 and instead had his contract renewed for the $507,500 league minimum. He knew that was a possibility and he accepted it. Same with the hearing.

4. A hearing doesn’t have to ruin a relationship, though. I can understand why Yankees fans would worry an arbitration hearing would damage the team’s relationship with Betances, one of their best and most popular players. And you know what? I’m sure it’s happened in the past, a team going to a hearing and their relationship with the player never quite being the same afterward.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. The Yankees haven’t been to an arbitration hearing since 2008, when they beat Chien-Ming Wang and saved $600,000 ($4M vs. $4.6M). The team’s last arbitration hearing before that? Mariano Rivera in 2000. The last two before that? Rivera and Derek Jeter, both in 1999. The Yankees and those players went on to live happily ever after following the hearings. (Injuries ruined Wang’s career, not an arbitration hearing.)

Point is, even though avoiding an arbitration hearing is always preferred, sometimes they are necessary because the two sides value the player very differently. It doesn’t have ruin relationships. The Yankees offered Betances a record first year arbitration salary for a setup man as best I can tell, but he wants to be paid like a closer, and that’s his right. He’ll allowed to try to get it. And because salaries carry over from year to year and affect raises, there’s a lot more on the line here than $2M in 2017. It adds up in future years.

Mailbag: Depth Chart, German, Bird, Farm System, Straily

Only five more weeks until the first Grapefruit League game. Almost there, folks. Anyway, we’ve got eleven questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us any questions.

Torreyes is set to back up a few positions in 2017. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Torreyes is set to back up a few positions in 2017. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Michael asks: Injuries always happen. Seems like there are a few places we’re vulnerable. What’s your opinion of what will happen if injuries happen in spring training this year – a DL stint, not out for the season – to, Chase Headley, Gary Sanchez or more than one member of our three ‘for-sure’ starters in the rotation (seems like one always gets hurt)? (re; possible Sanchez injury, would Higashioka back up for a month?)

I think the Yankees would respond to any short-term injury — in this case, I’m thinking six weeks or less qualifies as short-term — by going with internal options. Long-term injuries are another matter. The Yankees might pounce and sign Luis Valbuena should Headley blow out his knee during an offseason workout, for example.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s lay out the Yankees’ depth chart at each position and go four deep. This pretty much answers the “who would play if _________ gets hurt?” question. There’s quite a bit of overlap at some positions.

Starter Backup Third String Fourth String
Catcher Gary Sanchez Austin Romine Kyle Higashioka Wilkin Castillo?
First Base Greg Bird Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder Ji-Man Choi
Second Base Starlin Castro Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Shortstop Didi Gregorius Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Third Base Chase Headley Ronald Torreyes Ruben Tejada Donovan Solano
Left Field Brett Gardner Aaron Hicks Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder
Center Field Jacoby Ellsbury Aaron Hicks Brett Gardner* Mason Williams
Right Field Aaron Judge Aaron Hicks Tyler Austin Rob Refsnyder

* Last year Joe Girardi showed he’d prefer to keep Gardner in left field whenever possible, so if Ellsbury were to go down with an injury, I think Hicks would take over in center field.

I’m leaving out designated hitter because that’s a unique position. Should Matt Holliday get hurt — or worse, play the outfield regularly — I think the Yankees would rotate players in and out at DH, with Austin and Hicks seeing increased playing time. Otherwise the depth chart is pretty straight forward until you get the fourth string, and I don’t think anyone has a great fourth string option at any position.

As for the rotation, well, you just start going down the depth chart and calling up kids. There are the three veterans (Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda), the four kids (Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green), the two Triple-A top prospects (Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams), and two Triple-A non-top prospects (Ronald Herrera, Dietrich Enns). I don’t think the Yankees will put Adam Warren in their Opening Day rotation, but he’s an option too. Whenever there’s an injury to a starter, you just go right down the list and pick the next in line.

Chase asks: My question is a bit morbid, but does a Tanaka elbow pop early in the season completely change the season goals for the yanks. I think it makes a wildcard unattainable, which allows full attention on young player development and could signal a sell off of everything not nailed down. I guess the short version is Tanaka is the yanks MVP.

Yes, absolutely. Tanaka is the Yankees’ best and most important player. Any realistic path to the 2017 postseason involves him having another ace-caliber season. Without that, it’ll take a minor miracle for the Yankees to contend. So yes, if Tanaka’s elbow gives out in Spring Training, it changes the season outlook dramatically. I can’t speak for everyone, but my focus going into the season is on the kids anyway. Should Tanaka go down, I’m guessing more than a few folks will shift gears from “can they win?” to “let’s see how the kids develop.” Tanaka is far and away the team MVP. No doubt about it.

Sal asks: Domingo Acevedo gets a lot of the press, but what about Domingo German? Any news on him? He was old for his level, but decent results first 50 innings back from TJ.

German was the prospect the Yankees received in the ill-fated Nathan EovaldiMartin Prado trade. He blew out his elbow in Spring Training 2015, so it wasn’t until June 2016 that he took the mound for the Yankees in an official game. German, 24, had a 3.29 ERA (3.82 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts and 5.9% walks in 54.2 innings split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. Baseball America says he hit 100 mph with his fastball, so that’s encouraging.

Last offseason the Yankees non-tendered German and re-signed him to a minor league contract while he rehabbed from his Tommy John surgery. They were impressed enough with what they saw in those 54.2 innings last season that they re-added him to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. German has two great pitches in his fastball and changeup, though his slider is a work in progress.

It’s entirely possible German will never figure out a reliable breaking ball, and if that happens, he’s likely headed for the bullpen full-time. He still has two minor league options remaining, so the Yankees can afford to be patient and let German work as a starter both this coming season and next. My guess is he’ll start back with High-A Tampa and receive a quick promotion to Double-A Trenton. German is kind of a forgotten arm in the system. Kid can bring it.

German. (Presswire)
German. (Presswire)

John asks: With the Yankee farm system being highly regarded these days it got me wondering about the success of other clubs with high ranking systems in the past. Do teams that have the best farm systems generally turn out to be winning teams? And how long does it historically take for a stacked farm system to pay dividends at the MLB level on a wins basis?

There have been several studies about this over the years — Sky Andrechek’s is one of the best, though it’s a bit old now (Matt Swartz did one too) — and they’ve almost all found top farm systems correlate extremely well to big league success in subsequent seasons. A great farm system doesn’t guarantee success because there are other factors at play, like veterans on the roster and whatnot, but generally speaking, a top tier farm system bodes extremely well going forward. The top systems tend to have top prospects and depth, so the odds of producing several quality big leaguers are quite good. That frees up to money to do other things and improve the roster even more. Farm system rankings are completely subjective, remember. The consensus says the Yankees have one of the best systems in the game though, if not the best, which suggests they’re in great shape moving forward.

Chip asks: Looking at the list of MLB Free Agents, who do you think could be this year’s Eric Chavez? The once really good player who just randomly appears on the list of Yankees non-roster players at Spring Training. It can’t be Ruben Tejada, because he was never really that good. I’m thinking someone like Ryan Howard or maybe CJ Wilson would qualify.

The first year the Yankees signed Chavez, he basically just showed up to camp. There were no rumors at all, and on the day position players reported to Spring Training, the team announced he was in camp as a non-roster player. It was a complete surprise. I remember thinking Jimmy Rollins would be that player last year, but then the White Sox signed him in late-February.

This year, if the Yankees pull a stealth signing like that, I think it’ll be a pitcher. C.J. Wilson is a good candidate, though I think the Yankees would go after a healthy pitcher who could step on the mound right away. Wilson is coming off elbow and shoulder surgeries. I keep coming back to this name, but Jorge De La Rosa seems like the guy to me. The Yankees were connected to him numerous times over the years, and a veteran lefty used to pitching in a tough environment (Coors Field) seems like a solid bet for a minor league deal. Edwin Jackson, Chris Johnson, and (gasp!) Stephen Drew could be other candidates.

Ross asks: Given that Greg Bird might need more time to get his timing back, it had me wondering, how long would he need to be in the minors next season for the Yankees to get that year of service time back?

Bird picked up 53 days of service time in 2015 — and a full year of service time last year while on the big league disabled list, but that’s besides the point — which means he’ll need to spend about 65 days in the minors to delay free agency another year. Two months, basically. It might be worthwhile, you know. If Bird still looks rusty in Spring Training, sending him down until June to “buy back” the year the team lost to the injury last season wouldn’t be a terrible idea. It gives Austin two months of regular at-bats in the big leagues and allows Bird to get back on track in a low-pressure environment.

The Yankees kept Severino in the minors just long enough to delay his free agency last year, though they had to send him down at midseason because he stunk. Bird is coming off an injury, and sending him down on Opening Day to regain his timing may be their only opportunity to send him to the minors. If he’s healthy and rakes, they can’t send him down. I mean, they could, but it would look fishy. The Yankees have the money to pay Bird when the time comes, so maybe this isn’t a big deal. But, if he winds up in the minors again for whatever reason, 65 days is the magic number.

Michael asks: Gary Sanchez for Jose Quintana straight up. Who says no?

Both teams. I think the Yankees would sooner trade minor league prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres than Sanchez, who plays an extremely valuable position and has had big league success, albeit in a limited sample. At the same time, the White Sox are not wrong to demand more for Quintana than just Sanchez. How much more? Well, that depends. But I don’t think asking for more is unreasonable. I think both teams would pass on this one. The Yankees want to keep the high-end catcher and the White Sox want more than one player for by far the best available starting pitcher on the trade market.

Craig asks: How is it that the White Sox can get 2 top 20 pitching prospects for Adam Eaton? I like him as much as the next guy, but he doesn’t seem like a game changer. I know Gardner is older and more expensive, but they seem like very comparable players. If we threw in money could we have landed even one of these guys for Brett Gardner?

Nah, Eaton is quite a bit better than Gardner. It’s not just the age and production, it’s the contract too. Here are their stats over the last two years (this makes Gardner look better and Eaton look worse):

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ XBH HR SB-CS fWAR bWAR
Eaton 1,395 .286/.362/.430 117 103 28 32-13 +9.7 +10.2
Gardner 1,290 .260/.347/.381 102 80 23 36-9 +5.1 +6.7

Gardner turns 34 in August and is owed $23M over the next two seasons with a $12.5M club option for a third year. Eaton turned 28 last month and is owed $18.4M over the next three seasons with $9.5M and $10.5M club options for an additional two seasons. Pretty huge difference there, especially when you consider their on-field performance.

Personally, I think the White Sox did extremely well for Eaton, and I’m not a big Lucas Giolito fan. They sold as high as possible on Eaton — his WAR jumped last year because he moved to right field, and now that he’s going back to center, his good but not great glove will cost him some — and turned him into three good arms. If the Yankees could have one of those young arms for Gardner, I’m sure they would have jumped all over it.

Paul asks: I asked a version of this in last week’s chat. I keep hearing that the Yankees have a very deep farm, but I don’t know how deep that is. There are 30 teams, and let’s talk about each team’s top 30 prospects. That’s 900 total prospects. How many of the top 900 prospects in baseball are in the Yankees’ system? Anything over 30 is good. Is it 35? 45?

I’m not sure I can answer this, though keep in mind the top 30 prospects in each system do not automatically equal the top 900 prospects in baseball. Right now players like Ben Heller and the Holders (Jonathan and Kyle) are just outside my top 30 Yankees prospects — that’s subject to change before I post the final list, I always go through multiple iterations — but I’m certain they’d be in the top 30 for most other teams.

Look at the Angels, for example. MLB.com says Nate Smith, their fifth best prospect, has a ceiling of a fourth or fifth starter. That’s their fifth best prospect. Smith might not crack New York’s top 30. This is nothing more than a guess, but ballpark figure, I’d bet something like 50-55 of the top 900 prospects in baseball are Yankees right now. Maybe even a little more. The system is crazy deep with players who project to be average or better big leaguers, and those types of dudes are more valuable than they great credit for.

Stan Draily. (John Sommers II/Getty)
Stan Draily. (John Sommers II/Getty)

Joe asks: For months was hoping Yankees would pursue Straily from Cincinnati. Now he’s been traded to Miami. What would’ve been a similar comp trade wise that cash could’ve put together? Thoughts on him as a pitcher?

I both can and can not believe the Marlins gave up that much — three of their top ten prospects, per MLB.com! — to get Dan Straily. Dan Straily! I can believe it because Miami always seems to pay big in trades. I can’t believe it because, well, it’s Dan Straily. He was bouncing around waivers last offseason.

Straily, who turned 28 last month and comes with four years of team control, had a fine season for the rebuilding Reds last year, pitching to a 3.76 ERA (4.88 FIP) in 191.1 innings. Look under the hood and you’ve got a pitcher who:

  1. Averaged 89.2 mph with his fastball.
  2. Walked 9.2% of batters faced last season and 9.3% in his career.
  3. Doesn’t keep the ball on the ground or in the park (32.0 GB% and 1.46 HR/9 in 2016).

That is not someone I would be looking to bring to Yankee Stadium and the AL East. If he were on waivers again, fine, scoop him up as depth. But trade three legitimate prospects for him? Not a chance. Luis Castillo and Austin Brice, the two best prospects going to Cincinnati, are on par with Acevedo and Heller, I’d say.

The goal should be finding the next Dan Straily via waivers or free agency or whatever, not trade actual prospects for the real Dan Straily. The Marlins have a history of doing that, paying big to acquire some other team’s random older breakout player. It’s too bad Miami has like no prospects left. The Yankees could hook them up with a shiny new Austin Romine or Ronald Torreyes or something.

Rich asks: To me, Tyler Austin looks like he is physically built and has the offensive profile to play third base. Do you think a) you could agree with that analysis and b) Girardi would give him some reps in the hot corner this spring if they’re still not comfortable with Castro as the back up 3B?

He has the offensive profile for third base, for sure, but he can’t play third. Teams, especially the Yankees, do not hesitate to move prospects to more valuable positions if they think the player can handle it. That’s why Refsnyder was moved from right field to second base, and why Adams went from reliever to starter. Heck, they even tried Peter O’Brien at third base. If they think it’s possible, they’ll try it in the minors.

Austin did play some third base in the minors. Thirty-five total games, in fact, with 24 of the 35 coming back in 2011, when he was in rookie ball. He played three games at the hot corner in Triple-A last year because the roster was thinned out due to injuries and promotions, and they really didn’t have anyone else. Austin doesn’t have the defensive tools for third. His reactions aren’t quick enough and his arm isn’t accurate enough. The Yankees could stick Austin at third in an emergency, but as far as playing there regularly, it won’t happen. He doesn’t have the tools for it.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Alex Rodriguez‘s post-playing career is alive and well. A-Rod is going to host a reality show pilot in which former athletes who run into financial trouble after they retire are paired with mentors who help them get back on track. The working title is “Back in the Game” and Michael Strahan is one of the executive producers. It’ll air on CNBC at some point. Business is booming for A-Rod Corp., eh? He’s not a businessman. He’s a business, man.

This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks, Rangers, and Islanders are all playing, and there’s a ton of college hoops on the schedule too. Talk about those games, A-Rod’s new show, Brian Cashman loving RAB, or anything else right here.

Cashman confirms the Yankees looked into signing Edwin Encarnacion

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Prior to the holidays, the Indians got maybe the bargain of the offseason when they agreed to a three-year contract worth $60M with free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. When the offseason started, I thought he would get double the guaranteed money. The market for sluggers collapsed though, and the defending American League champions got themselves a middle of the order thumper on a nice contract.

As Encarnacion sat out there waiting to be signed, it was hard not to think about the possibility of the Yankees swooping in to get him on a smaller than expected contract. New York had already signed Matt Holliday, but Greg Bird and Tyler Austin are no sure things at first base, and Encarnacion would have solved that probably capably. And added a ton of offense, which the Yankees need.

Alas, the Indians signed Encarnacion, not the Yankees. The Yankees did look into signing Encarnacion, however. Brian Cashman confirmed at the team’s town hall event earlier this week. A fan asked about passing on Encarnacion and here is Cashman’s answer (video link):

“We looked into him. We talked about it. Given where we currently are — the payroll flexibility that we’re going to try to provide ourselves moving forward, the draft pick it was going to cost us at the same time — the timing wasn’t right. And, just as important, we’ve got two kids knocking on the door that are cost effective. Are they Edwin Encarnacion? No, they’re not, but their ceilings are pretty interesting. The only way to find out about them is to provide (playing time).”

It’s a very similar answer to what Cashman said about the possibility of trading for Chris Sale during his end-of-season press conference. In a nutshell, the Yankees don’t think they’re in position to make win-now moves, like trading top prospects for Sale or spending big/forfeiting a draft pick to sign Encarnacion. The Red Sox and Indians are in that position, so they went ahead and made the deals.

With actually saying it, Cashman indicated during the town hall that 2017 is going to be something of a rebuilding year, and I think we all knew that already. They’ll have kids playing their first full season in the big leagues at catcher, first base, and right field, not to mention in the back of the rotation. There will inevitably be bumps along the way. Probably more than we expect or are willing to admit.

Signing Encarnacion would have unquestionably made the Yankees a better team. I don’t think anyone will say otherwise. But, if this coming season is going to be a transition year, you’re wasting what figures to be the most productive year of Encarnacion’s contract. He’s already 34. Decline is coming. And by time the Yankees are ready to contend, they’d have Encarnacion tying up a roster spot at big dollars while providing declining production.

Who knows. Maybe Encarnacion will age like David Ortiz and never miss a beat. I’ll always bet against it though. Using first base to find out about Austin and especially Bird is far and away the most sensible move for the Yankees at this point in time. If they were on the playoff bubble and a win or two away from being real World Series threats, then by all means, sign the big free agent and give up the pick. That’s not the case though. Not right now.