SSTN Weekly Mailbag: Labor Negotiations, Pitching Depth, and Sevy!
By Andy Singer
It’s kind of incredible to realize that pitchers and catchers are just a few short weeks from reporting to Spring Training when we’re buried under multiple feet of snow here in the Northeast. Between the snow and the number of Free Agents with unsettled futures, it doesn’t feel like pro baseball is (hopefully) just around the corner. Personally, I’ve always looked forward to the start of Spring Training like a holiday. That goes even more so for 2021. Most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing prospects that we haven’t seen on screens or in-person for close to a year. A ton of development, both positive and negative, has likely occurred behind the scenes. I can’t wait to see how some of the kids I’ve been excited about look…many of you will know who I’m talking about, but I’m not going to give it away now, because over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about a lot of these players. I’m just ready for a season of optimism to get here already.
As always, thanks for the great questions. Keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll discuss MLB’s recent offer for playing conditions in the 2021 season, analyze the Yankees’ pitching depth as it stands right now, and discuss Luis Severino’s prospects for 2021! Let’s get at it:
Chris asks: What are your thoughts on MLB’s 154 game offer to MLBPA? Full salaries for players, DH, and expanded playoffs sounds pretty good to me. Why did MLBPA not even counter?
Everyone knows that one of MLB’s primary objectives in any negotiation in the next year or two is expanded playoffs. There is so much TV revenue up for grabs with expanded playoffs, not to mention additional in-stadium revenue for owners who wouldn’t normally get an end-of-season bump, that it’s a no-brainer request for owners. My question is: what, exactly, do the players get out of this deal?
Players are already guaranteed full salaries and popular opinion dictates that MLB should have implemented the universal DH years ago. It’s only through negotiating cynicism that MLB continues to utilize the universal DH as a bargaining chip, and by the way, it’s a ploy to ensure that MLB doesn’t ever have to give up something that would actually be a real win for the players. Meanwhile, in the “deal” offered by MLB, the owners get to hedge their bets that vaccines bring virus numbers low enough in more areas such that more fans will be allowed in stands at the beginning of the season (despite the fact that owners have been driving fans out of seats for years to begin with) and stand to earn significant additional revenue through TV money and revenue from additional playoff rounds. In an offseason where owners ensured that Free Agents were squeezed, thus ensuring that owners maintain a greater revenue split above and beyond what the players earn, the owners are the only group that actually earns more revenue in this deal. All things being equal, always follow the money, and the money is clearly lopsided in favor of owners in this deal.
I think the MLBPA has been far too weak in negotiations over the last decade, so it’s good to see that they are finally pushing back against MLB. Ultimately though, I fear that this corrective course will eventually lead to a highly acrimonious labor negotiation when the current deal runs out. MLB continually publicly issues deals to MLBPA that may seem palatable on their face, but continually provide for significant revenue increases for owners while decreasing the players’ revenue load and providing nominally pleasing rule changes. It’s not enough, and frankly, the players’ union should hold firm as long as that negotiation strategy is employed by MLB.
David asks: The rotation (if everyone stays healthy, ha) looks good on paper. Cole headlines, Kluber and Taillon can be premium mid rotation pieces and Montgomery and someone else slots in the back of the rotation as they should. If things go wrong as they always do with the Yankees, who steps up? What do the Yankees have that they can rely on?
The answer to that is that the Yankees have employed a high-risk/high-reward strategy in the rotation, and it’s either going to make Cashman look really smart, or it’s going to flame out spectacularly. Realistically, I think there is good reason to believe that both Kluber and Taillon will be healthier than they have been in recent years, and the additional time off in 2020 may even be a blessing in disguise for the wear and tear on both guys’ arms. The Yankees have chosen to place faith in 3 pitchers (including Severino) who are returning from injuries, but the rotation as-built can survive for stints if one or even two of those pitchers goes down.
Beyond the projected starting 5 (including Monty and Deivi Garcia), the Yankees depth chart looks like this:
******Luis Severino****** (Sometime in the 2nd half, we hope)
All of these guys either have big league experience or are projected to have enough stuff to turn over an MLB lineup at least once or twice. The truth is, if guys get hurt, you may see multiple of these players play 2-5 inning roles to help fill in the gaps, and you know what? I think there’s enough stuff here to cover it. Would I have loved Tanaka in the fold? Yes, but I think the rotation can still be really good, even if one or two guys gets hurt for a period of time.
It takes a village to build a winner, and I think it’s going to take the whole village to build a good rotation. Frankly, it usually does. Maybe I’m naïve, but I believe in the Yankee kids.
Greg asks: Should we be worried by Cashman’s update on Severino? I thought we were looking at June, not late Summer…
I know the Yankees’ history on all things injury-related in recent history is suspect at best, but don’t panic yet. Cashman did a lot of work to cover for Severino in 2021 by reshaping the rotation, so I have a hunch that this is just a modest projection meant to allow Severino time to come along slowly. This is the right approach. Severino is set to be a key cog in the Yankee rotation for years after last winter’s extension. Sevy was rushed back last time, and he’s essentially lost 2 years because of it. It’s time to get it right, and I’m glad Cashman confirmed that to be the case.
I have high hopes for the new training staff now that they’ll get a real offseason to work with the players. I remain upset about the past, but I have hope for the future until proven otherwise. If Sevy gets healthy and ready for MLB caliber baseball, I’ll wait as long as it takes to get him back. I think people forget just how dominant he was in 2017 and 2018. If even 85% of that guy comes back, the Yankee rotation will be in fine shape for the playoffs.