Just Another Busy Day
By Ed Botti
We were patient (kind of), and it payed off. DJ is staying a Yankee, and they added a starter.
Photo by Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Now that DJ is signed for an additional 6 years (that was a surprise) how does this impact the current makeup of the roster?
Whether DJ was re-signed or not, it appears that the overriding consensus amongst most fans, and even the GM, is that Gleyber Torres leaves much to be desired defensively at shortstop.
His bat is special. But in my opinion, he is a second baseman, the foot work just isn’t there.
My initial question was did they sign DJ to play 2nd base? Or is something else at play? The most obvious position switch for DJ would be first base.
Ironically, Luke Voit has been the most vocal supporter of re-signing DJ. Is DJ destined to replace Voit if the Yankees go out and get a shortstop? If so, where does that leave Voit, since the Yankees are tied to Stanton until the end of 2028, at a top dollar value? Voit would be a perfect fit as DH/1B, but that’s not happening.
It would appear that the uncertainty was answered by Cashman Friday when he stated “I am not pursuing a plan of trying to trade Luke Voit to sign LeMahieu to play first. My plan is, if we sign [LeMahieu], for him to play second base.”
That leaves us with the infield we finished with in 2020. Urshela, Torres, DJ, and Voit.
It sounds like we have to live with less than gold glove defense at shortstop. The good thing to keep in mind is Gleyber is young and he came to summer camp not in the best of shape. Is it possible that he overcomes some of his defensive weaknesses and becomes average to above average defensively?
We are going to find out very soon. I guess we can all put the “Didi Come Home” signs away.
Oddly enough, the Yankees have 11 on-field coaches. None are listed as infield coaches. Is that something they may want to look into? Paging Luis Sojo!
About that contract, yes the negotiations moved at a snail’s pace, but in the end the structure helped the Yankees stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, by amortizing the overall value over 6 years instead of the four or five DJ wanted. By doing so it will provide luxury tax benefits over the term for the Yankees. DJ should be complimented for being so flexible, and sacrificing for the good of his team. Yes, I get it, it’s still a lot of money, but I don’t see too many other players doing something like that in MLB, especially the best all-around player on the team.
The DJ contract was only the first of the holes that needs filling.
The starting rotation, bullpen and offensive balance are still not close to being championship caliber, in my opinion.
Throw in the mix that the team does not have a legit leadoff hitter, they finished the season with an 8 or 9 hitter batting third, and a catching situation that seems to get worse by the year.
In other words, there is still plenty of work to be done before spring training and ultimately opening day. When I say “plenty of work to be done” I am not suggesting simply opening up the check book and signing free agents.
No, it’s time for some creativity and good old fashioned scouting and trading. We have seen it before, just 2 years ago Cashman and crew brought in Gio Urshela, and he became a perfect fit at third base.
Each year, there are others just like Gio. It takes a little luck for sure, but it also takes a good keen eye for talent. Billy Beane seems to do it each year, ditto for Erik Neander in Tampa Bay.
The job of finding them is now at a critical point, as it does not seem likely that they will spend a lot more this off season. But they should spend “some” more, and let’s start with Masahiro Tanaka.
As we stated last week, they are playing a dangerous game of wait and see with Tanaka. In today’s market a 2 -3 year deal with an AAV of $10-$12MM does not seem unreasonable. He is 32, three years younger than Kluber.
Last we heard, A. J. Preller and the Padres are now interested. Cashman cannot let that happen. He needs to be retained. Let’s assume he is.
Photo by Chuck Crow, Cleveland Plain Dealer
The signing of Corey Kluber, who will turn 35 in April is a nice step in the right direction. Healthy, he is a perfect fit behind Cole as the number two starter, especially when you consider the contrasting repertoires. Let’s not forget, last year in the Division Series the Yankees opted for a ridiculous combination of Deivi Garcia as the “opener” then went to Haap. If a healthy Kluber was available to the Yankees in Game Two, that would have been a massive upgrade, one we may see this October.
Again, if healthy. But, he is just a one-year bet. So it is well worth the risk.
Cole, Kluber and Tanaka would leave 2 open spots in the rotation. Like I said, a lot of work needs to be done. Can they count on the “kids”? That is a lot of innings to leave in the hands of untested starters, for a team that has a mission to win it all.
Can they count on Montgomery? What can we reasonably expect from Severino, and when? Is German in the picture? Also, remember over a full season you can count on at least 9 or 10 starters being needed. Who fills that void?
The leadoff hitter it would appear is going to be DJ again in 2021. That’s not the most effective spot in the order for DJ. He should be the 3 hitter with his great contact, eye, and ability to hit the ball all over the field. That is how you manufacture runs. Something this teams needs to do more of.
The leadoff hitter (in my book) should be a speedy, high OBP player. That could be Hicks. Why not flip them? With Judge in the 2 hole, DJ will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth, if hitting behind high OBP players like Hicks and Judge. Plus, Hicks hitting third does not protect Judge if he hits second.
The lineup balance is a tougher problem to solve. Some of you think I am overstating the impact of an almost completely right handed team (Hicks is a switch hitter, we do not know if Gardner will be back), but I am not. Balance is critical from a strategic perspective, and let’s face it, in Yankee Stadium it’s always a good idea to have 4 or 5 lefties in the lineup.
I’ll put it to you this way, of the 27 Championship teams, how many were completely right handed?
Bullpen wise, we have heard the speculation of including Adam Ottavino’s $9 million in a bigger trade or finding some team to take a piece of it, and moving the two years at $32 million Aroldis Chapman is owed.
I don’t see how that helps. If anything, they need to add pieces, not delete them. Tommy Kahnle has already been removed from the equation.
With Kahnle gone and Ottavino in question, the Yankees need at least one more quality arm to solidify the bullpen.
One of the biggest pitching uncertainties is what role Jonathan Loáisiga will play in 2021. In 2020 he pitched in twelve games, three as a starter for a total of 23 innings. He has shown flashes of being a special pitcher, but is also inconsistent. He had a 3-0 record last season with a 3.52 ERA.
It was reported that he had a “mysterious illness” last year that contributed to his inconsistency. Something was wrong, he looked like a different pitcher when they came back for summer camp. I am still bullish on him.
How the starting rotation unfolds may play a role in where Loáisiga pitches in 2021.
On other business matters, the Yankees also avoided the ugly process of arbitration with eight players Friday by signing them to one-year contracts. All received nice sized raises.
Aaron Judge – $10.175-million deal, Gary Sanchez – $6.35 million, Luke Voit – $4.7 million, Gio Urshela – $4.65 million, Gleyber Torres – $4 million, Chad Green – $2.15 million, Jordan Montgomery – $2.13 million and Clint Frazier – $2.1 million.
To complete the busy day the 2020-21 international signing period opened on Friday.
The Yankees had the second-lowest bonus pool in MLB after being stripped of $1 million of their signing bonus pool money when they landed Gerrit Cole, who was connected to a rejected qualifying offer.
The procedures allowing for teams to trade for additional bonus pool space were deferred this year, leaving teams with just their base allotment.
The Yankees came away with the following four players:
Hans Montero, SS, Dominican Republic Fidel Montero (no relation to Hans), SS, Dominican Republic Ramiro Altagracia, OF Dominican Republic Kleiner Delgado, SS, Venezuela
From what I have read, Hans Montero is the best prospect of the bunch. It was reported he signed for $1.7-million. Baseball America ranked him as the 23rd-best international prospect available this winter, but he did not make MLB.com’s top-30 prospects list, for what it’s worth.
An interesting development is that over the winter I had read about Jesus Galiz, a 17 year old Venezuelan catcher ranked eighth by MLB.com who was linked to the Yankees. In an unusual move he switched his commitment from the Yankees and signed for less with the Dodgers.
There are still plenty of highly touted prospects available including Cuban outfielder Oscar Colás, ranked the second-best international free agent by MLB.com, and 17-year-old Cuban shortstop Dyan Jorge, ranked 20th by MLB.com.
So, it’s great they got the DJ matter settled, they added Kluber, and they got eight of their own signed sealed and delivered, and signed four international prospects.
We can all share a cumulative sigh of relief, the Yankees are back in business!
But being realistic, a lot has to happen between now and opening day for this version of the Yankees to be considered serious contenders to unseat the Dodgers!
Judging by the rapid pace we saw Friday, I would not be surprised at all if we saw some trades in the coming weeks. Names we might not have even considered yet.
Am I crazy, or should they check in on James Paxton?