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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Perspectives: Cody, DJ, Betting, and the NFL

by Paul Semendinger

January 18, 2024

***

As we get closer and closer to Spring Training, one has to wonder if the Yankees are done or if they truly realize that 2024 is the "now or never" year.


This could be it - the last year the window is open. If the Yankees fall short in 2024, it could be a long, long time before they challenge to be the best again.


The Yankees are close, very close, but a few more moves would make them a powerhouse. This is the time, absolutely, and positively, to go all-in.

***

I believe the player for the Yankees to get is Cody Bellinger. I have tried to explain this numerous times, but I don't think many completely understand.


The reason I believe Cody Bellinger is the player the Yankees should get is because of ALL of the following:


  1. He would assure that Aaron Judge does not have to play centerfield. The Yankees should be doing everything they can to make sure that the wear and tear on Judge is kept to a minimum. Playing Judge in centerfield adds wear and tear. This is obvious. Judge should not be playing centerfield.

  2. Bellinger adds another quality bat to the lineup. Better yet, Bellinger is a left-handed bat. And because the Yankees have Juan Soto, Bellinger wouldn't have to be THE big lefty bat. For all intents and purposes, Bellinger would replace Alex Verdugo in the lineup. Bellinger is a much better hitter than Alex Verdugo. (Verdugo's 2023 OPS+ was 100, Bellinger's was 133. Verdugo hit .264. Bellinger hit .307. Verdugo had 13 home runs. Bellinger had 26. On and on...

  3. Bellinger serves as insurance in case Anthony Rizzo can't play first base well enough following a long lay-off following a very serious injury. Right now the only back-up at first base is D.J. LeMahieu who doesn't hit enough to be a first baseman - and if LeMahieu has to play first, that opens a big hole at third base because the Yankees don't have another third baseman.

  4. Anthony Rizzo will turn 36-years-old in the 2025 season. If Jasson Dominguez is ready to take over centerfield, Bellinger would be able to shift to first base. The Yankees would then get younger at two positions that year. Rizzo's option for 2025 is $17 million (with a $6 million buyout). The Yankees, by shifting Bellinger to first base would save $11 million between the positions of first base and centerfield from 2024 to 2025.

  5. Bellinger gives the Yankees the needed depth to then trade excess talent (Alex Verdugo, Trent Grishman, Everson Pereira would all be expendable, Oswaldo Cabrera as well) to acquire the fifth starter the Yankees need.

  6. (This one I'm adding to the points I have made earlier) By all accounts, Bellinger is the consumate professional - a guy who plays hard and is a fantastic clubhouse presence. On a team that seems to sometimes lack the qualities of hustle and drive, a presence like Bellinger can only help both on and off the field.

  7. Bellinger is not old. He is still only 28-years-old. He will turn 29 this summer. Aaron Judge will be 32. Bellinger is three years (three very important years in a baseball player's life) younger than Aaron Judge.


Signing a pitcher (rather than Bellinger) gets the Yankees a much needed piece, but that pitcher would solve only one concern. Bellinger wouldn't simply add to the Yankees in one way. He would add to the Yankees in multiple (and very necessary) ways.


If Aaron Judge wears down from playing centerfield, or gets injured, the 2024 season could be lost. The Yankees should be proceeding in ways to assure that they minimize the wear and tear and risks to Judge. Bellinger does that. Bellinger's cost, whatever it is, would seem like pennies if he helps to assure that Judge stays healthy and productive. There isn't a stat for that, but the value should not be under-estimated.


If one wishes to debate this topic, I love discussing baseball, but the Bellinger argument isn't a debate about #1 or #2 or whatever above, it's a debate over #1 plus #2 plus #3 plus #4 plus #5 plus #6 plus #7 above. The reason to get Bellinger is the sum total of all of those parts. That is why getting him would be different than signing most other players most of the time to long term deals. This is the big point.


For the 2024 Yankees, Cody Bellinger is an outlier. Getting him woule be different in a host of ways than signing most other players. This is what I don't believe many understand and what I do not think the Yankees themselves understand. Please have debated me on individual points above, but they have never argued the complete package. Bellinger's worth to the Yankees wouldn't be just one factor. It is all six that I list above - and probably more. This is why he is the critical player to get.


If the Yankees fail to win in 2024, there is a chance that Juan Soto goes elsewhere. If Soto goes, along with that goes the Yankees' chances to compete in 2025. Next yerar, Judge will be that much older. In 2025, Aaron Judge will turn 33-years old. Judge's future isn't ahead of him. We have to, logically, start to prepare for his decline. There would be no reason to bring back Gerrit Cole once he opts out at the end of 2024. Why pay Gerrit Cole for his age-39 season when the prospects for competiting the next few are smaller than they have been in over a decade? All of those factors, and more, point to this being the make-or-break year.


This is why, again, Bellinger is so important. He costs only money, but that cost has so many more benefits than the typical signing of the typical player for the typical team in the typical year.


The 2024 Yankees aren't typical. Cody Bellinger's worth to the 2024 Yankees isn't typical. This is a watershed year - and Bellinger can be the player to make or break the team they currently have.

***


I have noted that I am concerned about D.J. LeMahieu playing third base as a regular player. This prompted a discussion in the comments about D.J. LeMahieu's contract.


After his two great years as a Yankee, I did not want the Yankees to resign him. I wrote numerous articles about that at the time and showed how (for whatever reason) second basemen don't age well and more how LeMahieu's two Yankees seasons were outliers. It wasn't smart to think that as he aged, he'd continue to outperform his career norms.


In a similar line of thinking,. before last season, many advocated for bringing back Matt Carpenter. "He's amazing! He's great!!" so many said. The reality was that he found a fountain of youth for a few weeks, but he wasn't going to perform at that level again. The Yankees were smart not to bring Carpenter back. Last year, Matt Carpenter batted .176. The Yankees should have similarly moved on from D.J. LeMahieu after his 2020 season.


D.J. LeMahieu as a Yankee, in his first year, batted .327, and then in the shortened Covid year, he hit .364. LeMahieu blasted 26 homers in 2019 and 10 in 2020. Those were great and fun years, but there was no reason to expect that at 32-years-old and beyond, that he'd keep that up.



D.J. LeMahieu is coming off his two best years. The Yankees got the best he has to give. He’s been great. It’s been a joy watching him. But the Yankees already got the best he has to offer. In looking at his career totals, there is no reason, other than hope, to expect that he will continue to produce at the elite level he has given the Yankees the last two seasons. That player isn’t the player D.J. LeMahieu was throughout his career prior to coming to the Bronx.


What also has to be taken into account is the fact that LeMahieu, as great as he has been, has not even been great for two full seasons. He played a full season in 2019, but in 2020, he only played in 50 games (or 30.8% of a regular season). D.J. LeMahieu has been great, but he’s only been great for about a season and a third. It has not even been two full years. It’s been 1.3 years.


The season before he came to the Yankees, D.J. LeMahieu was a solid, but not spectacular, player for Colorado. That season, 2018, he set his career high in home runs for a season with… 15. That was only the second time in his career that he hit over ten homers in a season. (Once before, in 2016, he hit eleven home runs.)


Then D.J. came to the Yankees and hit 26 home runs in 2019. He was on pace for that many, and more, in 2020. These last two season, he was hitting for more power than he ever did before. Can the Yankees expect that he is this type of a power hitter going forward, or should they expect a regression to the mean – to his career norms accumulated not over 1.3 seasons, but over the previous five seasons? Which is more likely?


Leaving home runs aside, let’s look at batting average. It is in this area that LeMahieu has really stood out as a Yankee. Again, he has performed well above and beyond his career norms. When D.J. LeMahieu batted .364 in 2020, that represented the highest batting average he ever totaled for a season. We just saw the best he has ever produced. Is it likely that he will continue to hit at that rate going forward? Or is it more likely that he regresses back to his (very good, but not superstar level) career norms? The answer is, of course, obvious.


The season before he came to the Yankees, D.J. LeMahieu hit a whopping .276.


Let me ask the obvious question. If D.J. LeMahieu bats exactly as he did in 2018 (.276 with 15 home runs) is that the type of player who is worth the kind of money he is asking for? Again, the answer is obvious. It’s a clear no. It’s abundantly clear – absolutely not.


We can look at all of D.J. LeMahieu’s career numbers this way.


Before coming to the Yankees, LeMahieu had an On-Base Percentage of .375 or better in a season only once.


As a Yankee, LeMahieu has had a Slugging Percentage over .500 both seasons. That’s great! How many times did he slug over .500 for the Rockies? Never.


In the comments the other day I noted that the Yankees made a mistake in bringing back DJ LeMahieu. They shouldn't have. In my comments, I shared the following (edited a little for clarity):


To date, D.J. LeMahieu has been a disappointment. To date, it has not been a good signing. He had one good year by WAR (3.7) and two not-so-great years (1.5 and 1.3).


Two out of three ain't...good. (Now we're looking at the last three years of the contract where, logically, he'll regress even more. Player don't usually get better as they enter their late 30's.)


In the first three years of his new contract (since being resigned), DJ's OPS+ has been 101, barely better than an average player. In two of the three years, he's had an OPS+ under 100.


Two out of three... ain't good.


The Yankees have batted DJ lead-off in 294 of the 411 games he's played over the last three years. That's 71.5% of all his games (411). Further, he's batted in the top 4 spots in the batting order in 338 games (82.2% of the time).


That means for much of the last three years he's been a drag at the top of the line up.


All of this seems to tell me that the signing hasn't worked out.


Also remember, because they signed DJ LeMahieu, They didn't sign another player. What else could the Yankees have done with that $90 million over 6 years?


DJ (first 2 years as a Yankee) - .336/.386/.536/.922 OPS+ = 146

DJ (since the new contract) - .258/.345/.375/.720 OPS+ = 101


I think if the Yankees knew his first three years of his six year deal would produce what they have, they wouldn't have re-signed him. (I'll add this - they should have listened to me.)


As I have said, a lot, it's not that the Yankees don't spend money, but they don't make good decisions with their spending. And if you spend poorly over many years, you're going to have to spend that much more to fix the problems you created.


I like D.J. LeMahieu. He's been a good Yankee. But the Yankees got the best years he had to offer and they should have never brought him back for six more years. At all. It made little sense at the time. Now the Yankees are considering him as the every day third baseman - a position he has never played more than 69 times in any season - ever. And he's going to turn 36-years-old this summer.


When the Yankees state that they can't afford the next player (let's say Blake Snell or Cody Bellinger) part of the reason is that they made poor decisions years previous that seemed obvious at the time. This is, and has been, a huge problem with the Yankees.


***


Some of the greatest coaches in the NFL are available to teams willing to bring them in. I am amazed that the Jets aren't at least interviewing them. They have a coach who has had a host of bad seasons. This is a chance to get a great, legendary, coach to help get the franchise going in the right direction, finally, but the Jets seem stuck in place.


I wonder what the Yankees would do if the same situation presented itself. Do you stay committed (stubbornly committed) to a coach or manager who isn't working out when bigger names, coaches (or managers) with long resumes of success, are available?


Imagine if this was happening with Major League Baseball. What if the greatest managers were available right now? Would the Yankees stick with Aaron Boone?


In this imaginary scenario, if the Yankees could bring in one current or recent manager, right now, to replace Aaron Boone who would you want? Bruce Bochy seems a great choice.


How about an all-time manager, one from baseball history? John McGraw? Connie Mack? Joe McCarthy? Casey Stengel? Frank Robinson? Joe Torre? Sparky Anderson? Dusty Baker?


It's fun to think about (as I shovel snow and ice).


***


I wish two of my favorite coaches (and players) of all-time were with the Yankees: Dave Righetti and Willie Randolph.


But, this makes me feel old - Dave Righetti is 65-years-old and Willie Randolph is 69. Yikes!


Roy White turned 80 last month.


***


Last week in the NFL Wild Card Weekend, the teams I rooted for all... won. That was fun! When does that ever happen?


"If I was a betting man... "


I'm not - and that's the key. That's the trick. People start to say, "If I had made that bet then..." But they didn't.


The busineses of betting and gambling plays on that line of thinking. "I would have made quick money if..." Remember, people don't run casinos (or betting apps) to lose. They run them to they win. And they win. Always. The house always wins, eventually. That means, over time, if you bet, you will lose. The odds are always against you. Why are there so many betting and gambling apps? The answer is simple- because they make tons of money. They make money because in the end, betting is always a losing proposition.


Betting and sports are not good combinations. They are not good for the sports who will, one day, have a scandal and lose a lot of legitimacy, but they're also not good for the individual people themselves who get hooked.


When you play the longshot and it hits, you might think that you won because of your brilliance. You might convince yourself it's true. The danger there is that you'll then bet more and you'll be more convinced that you'll win again even though logic and the numbers tell you that you won't.


This was the mistake (in a similar fashion) Brian Cashman made with D.J. LeMahieu. He rolled the right numbers on that first two-year deal. He hit the long odds. He put his money on red and red came up. Then, rather than walking away after hitting it big, he doubled down and signed him for six years at $90 million dollars. Cashman convinced himself, against all the facts, that LeMahieu was better than the numbers and logic.


The Yankees are paying the price for that and will for the next three seasons.


It was a bad bet, but it is a great example of how a person or an organization can have clouded thinking after experiencing some immediate success.


***

As you probably know, I'm not a big football fan, but I often enjoy watching the playoffs. Last weekend, the teams I usually root against all lost: The Cowboys, the Eagles, and the Dolphins. Amazing.


This coming weekend, I'll watch some of the games, but, I don't have a strong rooting interest anywhere:


For the NFL Playoffs this weekend


Texans at Ravens - I don't really have a rooting interst here. I guess I'll pull for the Texans because of their young quarterback, but Lamar Jackson is a superstar and it's fun to watch great players being great.


Packers at 49'ers - I'll root for the Packers. I've always had a soft spot for the Packers. I used to love rooting for Joe Montana, though, so if the 49'ers win, I won't be disappointed.


Buccaneers at Lions - Detroit never wins, so it would be nice to see them win. But, I like the Baker Mayfield story of how he brought Tampa Bay to the playoffs. I'll root for the Buccaneers, but again, if the Lions win, that would be fun too.


Chiefs at Bills - I always feel bad for the Bills. They always fall just short. Because of that I'll be rooting for them, but if the Chiefs win, again, I like when great players are great and Patrick Mahomes is great, so that would be fine also.


It's a little less fun watching when I really don't care about the outcomes...


***

I do care about the Yankees winning. Let's hope they're not done building the 2024 team quite yet.


***

To all media members, podcasters, sportscasters on TV and radio, newspaper types, bloggers, writers, thinkers, debaters, and etc... I am glad you read my columns and this site. You have to admit that our takes are original, well-thought out, and very often very correct. If you use my thoughts or ideas or perspectives, please do the right thing and give credit where it is deserved - to me and to this site.


Also, please share all of this with Mr. Cashman and Mr. Steinbrenner. They spend millions on people who analyze stuff - but their money might be better spent just reading this site each day (or offering some of those millions to us).

48 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jan 18

I totally agree with you about wanting Dave Righetti as a Yankee coach. Matt Blake is great and he would be very useful as a "pitching coordinator" or someone who can help train pitchers on the finer points of pitching, and use his techniques to make pitchers better. But the one thing that is missing with Blake is major league pitching experience, actually personally pitching in, and getting out of, situations while pitching in the majors. Righetti is unique, because he has this experience, both as a starter and as a reliever. Righetti had a very long run as the San Francisco Giants pitching coach, surviving 3 different manager changes, each new manager coming in opting to keep Righett…

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jan 18
Replying to

Yes! Old Timers Day AND as the Yankees pitching coach. If he can get Yankee pitchers to give up fewer home runs the way he did with the Giants pitchers, he would be a true asset in that position.

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jan 18

I am concerned about "going all in" for 2024, because it implies that we'll have to suffer through many years of mediocrity AFTER 2024 (like we did AFTER the championship of 2009). If the window really is going to close after 2024, the time is actually now to HOLD ON to as many prospects as possible, trade veterans like Gleyber Torres to an organization willing to give up their top prospects in return, and build a new CORE, so we can have great teams every single year, the way the Astros seems to be able to keep on doing. The Astros have lost many key players since they began their league dominance, yet they always seem to be able …

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jan 18
Replying to

Jeff -


I'll push back a little here.


Going All IN 2024:


1b - Rizzo (My plan wouldn't have him return in 2025) - Bellinger to 1b in 2025 , the team just got younger

2b - Torres (I wouldn't re-sign him to a long term deal) - Peraza to 2B in 2025, the team just got younger

SS - Volpe - He's young

3b - I'm concerned here anyway...

LF - Soto - He is the future. He's still a kid, but a great one

CF - Bellinger - Dominguez in 2025, assuming he's ready and able - the Yanks got younger

RF - It's Judge anyway

C - Tevino/Wells - Wells is the heir apparent - still young


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etbkarate
Jan 18

I was in on DJ for 4 years not 6. This would be year 4. That was a bad decision, regardless of the luxury tax implications.


I like Bellinger as well, but he also comes with a considerable amount of risk for the team that goes the nine-figure contract route, which is agent is looking for. He is just one year past putting up consecutive horrible offensive seasons, to put it mildly.


Despite his rebound in 2023, I have some concerning red flags in his batted-ball profile. For example, he only ranking in the 10th percentile among all batters in hard-hit rate. He also struggled against pitches of at least 95 mph last season. That would potentially be a problem…


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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jan 18

You asked, who of the AVAILABLE managers would I hire to replace Aaron Boone? I am a supporter of Boone, even though he is not a great strategist. I support him because of his great communication skills with the players, the fact that the players love playing for him because he always has their backs (as evidenced by all of his ejections), and the way he will never say anything negative about any player to the press (the way Bobby Valentine did with his Mets and Red Sox players). There is talk that the players may lack accountability for their "screw-ups" because of this. I would only get rid of Boone if there was anyone BETTER out there wh…


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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jan 19
Replying to

One person I would NOT recommend is Brad Ausmus, even though he is now the bench coach. Ausmus had two unsuccessful stints as manager (Detroit and Anaheim), and he has sort of the same type of personality as Boone, a "one of the guys" type, instead of a "father figure" type. I mentioned Joe Torre as a "father figure" to those Yankee teams of the late 90's. I would also classify Don Zimmer as sort of the "grandfather figure" for those teams. Elite players often excel best with more mature leadership figures like those two guys.

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Jonathan Silverberg
Jonathan Silverberg
Jan 18

So many questions:

If the Yanks thought they could be in on Bellinger, why'd they get Verdugo?

Which Bellinger are you getting in '24? '25? '26? etc. etc. etc.

Will Bellinger take a contract for less than 5 years?

Will Hal spend more on a position player in '24? Will such spending extending past '24 negatively impact the chance of signing Soto? Conversely, will another non-WS season in '24 negatively impact signing Soto?

I know Dr. Simendinger is worried about Judge playing center leading to physical harm; others have stated they are not that worried. Who is right?

There is a non-zero chance of a Bellinger out-years contract being an albatross. How much bigger than zero is that chance?

Is…

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