Perspectives: Around the Horn
by Paul Semendinger
January 25, 2023
It has been pretty quiet recently in Yankees land. Maybe that means some big news is coming... the calm before the storm?
This is, of course, the time of year when waiting for baseball becomes the most difficult. It's getting closer and closer, but it still feels far away.
Here are some random observations, thoughts, ideas, and the like:
The big news out of California is that Arte Moreno is no longer planning to sell the Angels. These has been a ton of speculation that an upcoming sale of the team would mean that Shohei Ohtani would be available at some point this season in a trade. Does this "non-sale" change that thought or hope?
I never thought that the sale of the team would mean that Ohtani would be traded. I thought the new owners would want to keep their most iconic and special player. I didn't understand the thought process that had an investor buying the Angels and then selling off their best asset. For example, if the Yankees went up for sale last year, would the new owners have traded away Aaron Judge? To me, it would not have made any sense. Why would the new owners of a team want to rid themselves of the team's best player? To me, they wouldn't. It would be a quick way to turn the fan base against them immediately.
I would love to see Shohei Ohtani on the Yankees, but I have never realistically seen that as a possibility. I don't see him being traded now.
Also, if Ohtani seeks free agency, I don't see him choosing to come to the Yankees.
I also don't think the Yankees would be willing to invest the $400 to $500 million it would take to sign him as a free agent.
The 2023 baseball season will feature a much more wide open game. With pitchers being limited in the amounts of time they can step off the rubber or throw to first and with larges bases, base stealing should increase dramatically in 2024. If that's the case, teams are going to need catchers with strong arms.
Does that make Gary Sanchez more attractive as a possible player to acquire? I don't want the Yankees to go there, but it's an interesting question.
The other day, Brian Cashman indicated that the Yankees would still like a left-handed bat to help balance the lineup. I agree and have been hoping on this for years now. Anthony Rizzo is the only legitimate lefty bat in the lineup for 2023 at this point.
On the SSTN Podcast, E.J. Fagan did a quick study and noted that there are fewer left-handed hitters in baseball. This could explain, in part, why the Yankees have been struggling so much to acquire one.
Still, since the Yankees passed on Bryce Harper, they have tried and tried to find more left-handed pop and still haven't found it. Anthony Rizzo, again, is one piece of the puzzle. But he isn't enough. Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Joey Gallo, Matt Carpenter, Rougned Odor, Andrew Benintendi, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Rizzo have all been tried as left-handed middle-of-the-order hitters Due to injuries, poor performance, or both, most of those players haven't been the ultimate answer. The Yankees have been searching for the answer and can't seem to find it.
Said another way, Trevor Hauver, Ezequiel Duran, Glenn Otto, Josh Smith, Kevin Alcantara, Alexander Vizcaino, Josh Stowers, Antonio Cabello, Chandler Champlain, T.J. Sikkema, and Beck Way are some of the players the Yankees have traded away to try to find the left-handed bat they need. These are the players traded for the players listed above.
Looking at that list:
Beck Way is the Royals' #9 prospect
T.J. Sikkema is the Royals' #19 prospect
Kevin Alcantrara is the Cubs' #3 prospect
Ezequiel Duran reached the Major Leagues
Glenn Otto reached the Major Leagues
John Smith reached the Major Leagues
The Yankees have given up a lot.
Because many were acquired during the seasons and/or traded during the seasons, I'm not able to determine how much the Yankees paid in salary for the players above, but I wonder if the costs for those players in total for any given year equal or exceeds Bryce Harper's annual salary.
I wonder if, deep down, the Yankees realize that passing on Harper was a big mistake. The thing that will always upset me about that whole situation was they didn't even try. They didn't even make an offer.
Scott Rolen is now in the Hall of Fame. This means that of all eligible third basemen, the one with the highest career WAR (baseball-reference) who is not in the Hall of Fame is Graig Nettles. It's time for the committee of his era (when they next gather to vote) to put Nettles in.
Scott Rolen's bWAR was 70.1. Nettles was 68.0.
In their careers, Nettles had more hits, home runs, runs batted in, and total bases than Rolen.
Graig Nettles' skills were unappreciated in his time, but like many other players, it is clear today, that he was elite, especially at his position. Third basemen are under-represented in the Hall of Fame. Most people don't know this, but Graig Nettles led all American League position players in WAR in 1971 and in 1976. He was never in serious consideration for the MVP in those years. No one understood how good he was at the time. They know now. It's time for Nettles to get the honor he justly deserves.
Nettles also deserves to be in Monument Park. There is no reason for him not to be there. The Yankees have never included a third baseman in Monument Park. That makes no sense. And, for the Yankees, Nettles was the best.
A lot is being made about Aaron Judge being named Captain. Graig Nettles was also a Yankees captain. Every captain since Lou Gehrig is in Monument Park except Graig Nettles. It's time for the Yankees to correct this mistake.
I recently read On the Eighth Day, God Made Baseball by Mark Littell. This is Littell's own book about his career. It was Littell who gave up the famous 1976 ALCS winning home run to Chris Chambliss. This book gives an honest (and often funny) look at Littell's career. It's a quick read and a fun read.
I just started reading Paul O'Neill's book Me and My Dad.
If you haven't pre-ordered From Compton to the Bronx, you might want to do that today. It's going to be a big hit! Here's an example of a positive review the book has received: "More than the autobiography of a great player, a revealing portrait of a great man, and a paean to dedication, hard work, and decency." —JB Manheim, author of The Cooperstown Trilogy