Photo Credit: “My places by Anthony Catalanotto” on Pinterest
Looks like free agency’s officially here and open for business.
Given the last few years, how can we tell if the market will favor legit stars like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg or… not-Cole/Strasburg? Last year, it was decidedly the latter; though Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually got much of what they wanted in heavy, long term contracts, they had to wait an awfully long time to actually get them (and not necessarily from teams that were first on their supposed lists). Will it be different now that we’re talking about two dominant Cy Young candidates with some good years still ahead of them heading the list? Only the GMs and the supporting stats departments know with MLB Analytics driving the conversation. As we’ve seen recently, not everything is what it seems.
Take the Yanks’ own free agents:
We already know CC is retired; hope he recovers from his latest injury well enough to enjoy his first year off from baseball in what has to have been a very long time. As for the rest, it’s easy to say that none are solid locks to be on the 2020 40-man for the Yanks; if anything, Didi would be the most likely to remain, and that’s not stated with a whole lot of confidence. Fan favorite that he is, when he came back from Tommy John surgery, he wasn’t up to what we’ve come to expect of him year-round. Personally, I would not find this to be the tipping point in any negotiations, though Didi doesn’t necessarily have the leverage he could have expected a year ago pre-injury, thanks to the year natural-shortstop-playing-second Gleyber Torres had; playoffs included. Gleyber is ticketed for stardom no matter where he plays on the diamond; provided he doesn’t get injured (which, ironically, is what we would have said about Didi last year at this time). I don’t like the idea of Didi being dismissed, given that Tommy John surgery is not something you bounce back from so quickly either as a pitcher or a position player, but the talent hasn’t disappeared either. With a full off-season to recover and rebuild, I would expect him to return to Hidden Dragon form. Hopefully the Yanks will find a way to keep him here.
Dellin Betances, too; I hope that the team will bring him back. 2019 was a disaster for Betances; first recovering from right shoulder surgery, then suffering a lat strain during rehab that cost him most of the season, and finally after returning for one game, tearing his ACL and being done for 2019. This was just a horrible season for Dellin, especially since it was a contract season where it was expected he would be lights out while either finalizing an extension or moving into free agency as one of the top sought-after relievers. Now the best he can hope for is that the Yanks decide to bring him back for a season or two to rehab and get back into form; failing that, his options are likely either accept any offer he can get from another club (which will likely be very low) or take the year off and rehab until next off-season, then take a likely pillow-contract to re-establish his value. Man, sucks to be him right now (and I mean that kindly). Again, the promise of talent is what keeps his value from slipping into AA territory, and I hope the Yanks feel that it’s worth the investment, regardless of the fact that he’s well past 30. But I dunno, it’s bad territory to be in for him.
All that being said,
the biggest name on the FA list for the Yanks has to be Aroldis Chapman has been extended for another year at an additional $18 million. He still can chuck it over 100mph, but it’s getting harder and harder as the seasons go by and we’ve seen less of it this season than in others. Then there was that slider… well, I don’t think the team will hold that against him so much (though it was not his best pitch by a long-shot) and given his usage, you can almost not blame him for using it, but that’s neither here nor there; there were plenty of other reasons the Yanks lost. The thing is, though the Yanks do have someone to replace Chapman, it came down to how much he wanted to remain in New York (a whole lot), how much they were willing to pay to bring him back (a whole lot) and, ultimately how much stronger he makes the pen (a whole lot). As freely as the team spent in the George Steinbrenner era, the team is willing to be thrifty in the Hal Steinbrenner era and seem hellbent on going down with the ship to prove to whomever that The Yanks Don’t Buy Championships (*cough-cough2018 Red Soxcough*) and also don’t need to TANK! to build a champion contender. If anything, the Winning Formula Award® now shifts to Dee Cee and the Nats, who are also the comeback players of the year (century?) and looking at some harder decisions than the Yanks this off-season. Would I like to have him back? I like having him back; having a super-duper bullpen is never-ever a bad thing, but I hope it’s not at the expense of keeping Didi + Betances and/or signing an ace; Hey-ell no.
So what’s left:
Brett Gardner… another tough call, honestly. He is the realest example of a True Yankee; drafted and bred in the Yankees system, made an impact from day one and through sheer hard work and perseverance became a solid everyday player and a fairly important one at that, even when his production went down, the team gambled on him holding the fort while others played in front of him and that gamble paid off in different ways, culminating in one of his best seasons of production in his career this past season. However, he’s 36, he’s not stealing many bases anymore even if analytics suddenly found them useful and there are quite a few guys on the team who are champing at the bit to do what he does (at a cheaper rate to boot). Between Clint Frasier, Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman(!), Gardner had his hands full just staying on the roster, But it says a whole lot that not only did he remain, but he competed hard and was quite productive in the process. It was a gamble both he and Cashman won this season despite ups and down throughout. This time, I don’t think fans would be so averse to having him around for another season, also given how injury-prone Stanton and to a certain degree Judge have been. Plus, he’s the last link the team has to their last championship on roster, and at a glance probably the only player in the clubhouse with a championship on his resume; at least as a starter. That cannot be discounted in any regard.
Austin Romine, however… there’s a lot to be said about having a good backup catcher. For one, they are very rare. For another, the Yanks sure do need them. With the way Gary Sanchez’ career has played out so far, they were blessed to have Romine on the roster. It may or may not stick with him, but he proved to be very valuable given the playing time he had and the number of times he had key hits that either kept them in contention or won games for them. And more importantly, pitchers liked pitching to him. That always is something to take into consideration. That said, this may not simply be a matter of if the Yanks want him back or not, but rather if they are willing to compete for him. Several teams need upgrades in the backstop department, and Romine could fit in any contender’s roster as well as a rebuilding team in search of a steadying force in the infield. He’s not a star per se, but he might be just what some team needs to keep the pieces together. I’m not sure if there;s an immediate replacement for Romine in the system if he were to walk; top catching prospect Anthony Seigler is way too far away from the majors, and Kyle Higoshioka is decidedly not Austin Romine.
Cameron Maybin, well he deserves a decent contract somewhere. He proved to be a solid contributor for the Yanks after signing with and being released by San Fran, signing with Cleveland and then being bought out by the Yanks all in 2019. After effectively replacing Frasier who was inept in the outfield and in interviews with reporters, he hustled his way to consideration as key fourth outfielder beyond all of the injuries plaguing the team until his momentum was stopped cold by the same injury bug that felled many of his teammates. But he returned in due time and was a key contributor the rest of the way, including the playoffs. He’s a talented player; even if he doesn’t often hit for power, he puts bat on ball more often than not and he’s a good outfielder to boot. I’d hate to lose him to someone else, but I would not begrudge him a starting role somewhere else (out of the division, of course).
Edwin, thanks for the memories. However, you proved to be the exact definition of a luxury; the homers were nice and it’s a good thing you could play first, but nah, we’re good. By the way, you weren’t when we needed you to be, but you already knew that. This… is an ex-Parrot.
The rest are not so much a Who’s Who gallery as it is a Who Dat? list. David Hale is the most familiar name as the Yanks have released him several times and reacquired him and sent him every which-a-way for the past couple of seasons, so I wonder if he’s also a masochist. Cliff Pennington, I only wondered if he was related to former NY Jets QB Chad Pennington (PS: I doubt it). Cory Guerrin and Eric Kratz; I’ve got nuthin’.
Okay, so feel free to chime in and sound off; this will probably stay open for a couple of weeks if it remains active, after which we’ll likely throw in another stream of consciousness or distract you with a Where & When cameo (those were fun) or even maybe try to pick up where we left off recounting famous Yanks For A Minute or who knows, something new for the Hot Stove Season to keep us engaged? Only time will tell, but thanks for the fun season, for sticking around and psst, keep
an eye on the cash register having fun>;)