By Brett Malamud
MLB free agency is upon us. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll preview teams around the Major Leagues, and give you a look at what to expect. We start off with my team, the New York Yankees
The Yankees will not see too many losses this offseason, losing just Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew and Chris Young to free agency. I see all three in different uniforms in 2016.
With Mark Teixiera and Greg Bird (who should and will start the season at AAA) at first base, Didi Gregorius at Shortstop, and Chase Headley at third base (and of course Alex Rodriguez at DH/3B), the Yankees are pretty set at the infield positions. I will say that they need “could use” an improvement at second base. They don’t NEED one. With Jose Pierla traded to the Padres earlier today, I’d look to use the 25 year old Rob Refsnyder at second base as the Yankees look towards the future. Brendan Ryan is going to be 34 years old on opening day, and should stay as a utility infielder. The argument for Ben Zobrist is intriguing but he’s going to turn 35 next year. I’d only take him on a two year deal. Today’s trade of Pierla does open up a spot for him though.
There aren’t really any holes in the outfield either. The Yankees have Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Dustin Ackley, plus Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott locked in the outfield. If I were the Yankees, I don’t think that I’d trade Gardner, as he represents the leader of the clubhouse after Derek Jeter’s retirement. But, it was reported Wednesday morning that Brian Cashman discussed trading Gardner with the Seattle Mariners. It’s not a big surprise as the Yankees look to trim payroll and Gardner has three years at $39.5 million left on his contract. Speaking of the Mariners, an interesting NY Post column on Tuesday questioned whether the Yankees could trade a hefty Ellsbury contract and a prospect northwest to Ellsbury’s hometown team (Although he’s really from Oregon), for the hefty contract of Robinson Cano. Boy, would that change things. I don’t really see that happening because Seattle is in “win-now” mode, but an interesting idea none the less. If the Yankees were to go out and trade Jacoby Ellsbury though, I’d welcome it. The Yankees could however trade one of their outfielders, and make room to sign Justin Upton, who’d be a great addition to the team and would succeed in Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, the team just acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins, trading away catcher J.R. Murphy. Hicks was a .256 hitter with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Clearly this is an acquisition of a right handed hitter to replace Chris Young. I like the move, as it gives the Yankees a great defensive player in Hicks. Not much to change, but acquiring an outfielder would be ok with me.
The Yankees do need some pitching. Yes, their bullpen is good, but it can always improve. The reports of Brian Cashman being open to trading Andrew Miller are definitely true, because other than Severino, a guy who I really wouldn’t trade for anything, no player is un-tradable. (See side note below)
Side note: One of the things that I’d like you, the readers, to take away is that General Managers have hundreds of discussions with other GM’s over the course of the season. Many of these do not turn into actual trades, and so hearing that a name was discussed doesn’t really mean much. That’s because every name is discussed, whether the GM wants to trade him or not. That’s how Josh Donaldson got traded to the Blue Jays last season. Do you really think that over 17 years, Cashman was never approached to discuss trading Derek Jeter? Of course he was. He just never traded him. So when we hear these names dropped over the next few months, just remember that every name has been discussed.
Ok back to the pitchers market. If Miller is traded, I’d slide Delin Betances into the closer role and go after Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman. Chapman and Betances would make for a deadly combo. But I like the Betances-Miller combo right now so I’m not so quick to trade the closer. Then we get to the starters. Masahiro Tanaka is the ace and he is going to stay. So is Michael Pineda and Luis Severino. Then there’s CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Ivan Nova. There is room for improvement and I will immediately look at David Price, and not Zack Greinke. They’ll both go for a lot of money, but what’s the defining factor for me? The draft pick compensation. By signing Greinke, the Yankees would have to forfeit their first round draft pick. With Price, they won’t have to surrender anything because Price was traded mid-season. So if you’re the Yankees, why sit back and wait till next offseason to get a starter? One of the best is right in front of them, so they should definitely get their feet in the door. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been raised in possible Yankee targets. My personal favorite option comes out of our nations capital (and no, I’m not talking about Bryce Harper, who many have already declared a future Yankee in 2019). I’m talking about Stephen Strasburg. Well why would the Nationals get rid of Strasburg, you might ask. Well, the former number one overall pick will become a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. His agent, Scott Borus, has been known to take his players into the open market. Why not test drive Strasburg for a year before making a decision on him and overpaying? Strasburg to the Yankees would be an interesting acquisition and shouldn’t go overlooked. All in all, the Yankees should mostly be looking at pitching for this offseason.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
I never thought that it would ever come to this. Yesterday I was in disbelief as I read your letter announcing your retirement. Ever since I was a year old, you’ve been in the Yankees lineup. You became my favorite player when I was only two years old and I was able to name all of the Yankees and their numbers (true story). You’ve taught me many, many things over the years. Going back to 1995, your play in Columbus AAA convinced Joe Torre to name you the starting shortstop to open the 1996 season. In typical Jeter fashion, you homered on Opening Day. You became the leadoff hitter and led the Yankees to their first championship in 18 years. You were also a unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year. But that wasn’t important to you. You cared more about the championship, and satisfying Mr. Torre and Mr. Steinbrenner. But you weren’t done there. You led the Yankees to a three-peat in 1998, 1999, and 2000 and took home the World Series MVP in 2000. But you didn’t care. You wanted the championship. You were also named an all star 13 times. And while you were thankful for the honor, it wasn’t important to you. You wanted that World Series ring. You taught me to put the team before yourself.
I watched as each hit became more memorable, as you passed hall of famers on the hit list. But no hit will be bigger to me than hit number 2722. It came on September 11, 2009, the eight-year anniversary of the tragic attacks. It drizzled all afternoon and the game was in danger of not being played. I came home from school that day and my dad surprised me with tickets. I was so excited and I ran to my room to put on my Derek Jeter jersey. This could be the night that Derek passes Lou Gehrig to become the Yankees all time-hit leader. But as I hopped in the car, the drizzle became worse and my dad said, “I think we should turn around and go home.” I grew upset. “No!” I replied. “We have to go. If there’s a rain delay, we’ll just walk around the stadium. We have to go! It’s Derek Jeter and he has a chance to make history.” My dad complied and we proceeded to Yankee Stadium. There was a rain delay but we waited it out. You hit the ball down the right field line, and history was made. That is one moment I will never forget and I’m thankful that I was a there to see it in person. That season continued and once again, you led the Yankees to another championship.
I watched on television as you smacked your 3000th hit into the left field bleachers. And after about a minute of celebration, you said, “We have a game to play,” and got back to business. You went five for five that day, including the game-winning hit. That was what you cared about: helping the team. When you got injured in the 2012 playoffs, I cringed and feared that it was the last time I’d see you on a baseball field. I’ve never seen you in that much pain. Even after you dove into the stands against the Red Sox back in 2004, you seemed to be okay and told everyone you would play the next day. But you weren’t on this play. There was a long path to recovery ahead of you and you took it one step at a time. That first pitch you saw this past July, you belted into the right field bleachers. You taught me to never give up and to battle back when the odds are against you.
You are the kind of person who I strive to be each and every day. You are a huge inspiration to me both on and off the field. You will always be my favorite athlete in any sport. And so Derek, as your farewell tour begins, I’m going to leave you with a story. Back in April 2011, my family and I hit the road to look at colleges in upstate New York, as I was going to be applying that Fall. As we visited SUNY Oneonta, we decided to stay in Cooperstown so that we could check out the Hall of Fame. When we walked in, the admissions person greeted us. He convinced us to sign up for a hall of fame membership. He presented us with a catalog of different options for membership cards. We picked the Mickey Mantle one. We talked to admissions person for a few minutes. He asked each of us who our favorite hall of famer was. My dad tells him “Mickey Mantle is my guy.” My brother sister and mother are all asked as well. One at a time they reply: “Mickey Mantle” “Babe Ruth” “Probably Babe Ruth.” Suddenly the man turns to me. “Who is your favorite hall of famer?” I didn’t even have to think about it. With complete confidence in my answer and in the next few years, I knew the man that I’d say. And then I replied. “Derek Jeter.”
I’ll miss you Derek.
Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Ben Ozur
With the exception of an eventual Robinson Cano signing, this blockbuster trade will most likely end up being the headline of the offseason. But other moves have since been made. Here are the other miscellaneous moves that have been made since the trade (in chronological order):
The Royals sign LHP Jason Vargas. Though many believe this was an overpay (as we will see with other signings later), this was a good move for the Royals. It adds depth to a rotation that already has James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie, and it fills the void of the probably-departing Ervin Santana. He is a solid three-or-four-starter who will give the Royals a veteran who can give innings – something that the Royals find pretty valuable. I think this will set the tone for other KC offseason moves that will allow them to be a real threat for a Wild Card spot this year.
The Mets sign OF Chris Young. See article here.
The Cardinals trade 3B David Freese to the Angels for OF Peter Bourjos. These two guys are both coming off tough years, but these two guys have both showed promise in the past. Also, it fills holes for both teams. The Angels desperately needed a third baseman, after getting the worst third base production in the MLB. However, David Freese was only a league average hitter last year, so it wasn’t a huge improvement. With Peter Bourjos, he brings extra depth to centerfield already occupied by Jon Jay (I assume they will platoon, or maybe Bourjos will get the larger share). They can both afford to part ways with their old players; the Angels have JB Shuck to use in leftfield, and the Cardinals now have room for top prospect Kolten Wong to start at second base (Matt Carpenter will move to third base). This is a close call, but I give the edge to the Cardinals in this trade.
The Yankees sign C Brian McCann. By signing the clear-cut best catcher on the free agent market (and one of the top catchers in the league in general), this was easily the biggest move of the offseason for the Yankees (with no disrespect to the trading of Chris Stewart). He is one of the best offensive catchers in the league, and he has been said to be a good guy to have behind the plate. However, his production, albeit potentially due to injury, has faltered over the past two seasons. Though he is definitely a top catcher in the league, it may be because of the weakness of the position as a whole. He is being paid this much because he is one of the best at what he does, but I don’t think he’s worth that money. Also consider that he will probably be a DH by the end of this deal, which decreases his value even more. Short-term, this deal will probably work out for the Yankees. In two years, I believe it will be a regret.
The Cardinals sign SS Jhonny Peralta. Aside from the controversy due to the PED usage, it’s hard to deny the great deal the Cardinals got. Peralta is a well above average offensive shortstop (he has shown that throughout his career, even before his suspension-filled 2013 season) and arguably the best shortstop on the market (close with Stephen Drew). It also fills a gaping hole for the Cardinals, as thy received the worst production from their shortstops in the MLB in 2013 (primarily Pete Kozma). This was clearly a good signing, but of course, there’s the controversy. Though you may not like the rule of how short the suspension is, you have to deal with it. He was told to sit out for 50 games and he did. He served his punishment, and that should be the end of it. Anyway, why should the Cardinals be criticized for the signing? It’s not like they’re condoning his decision to take PEDs. I get that people are still peeved about this, but in terms of this signing, it shouldn’t be seen as a factor of how good it truly was.
The Dodgers sign RHP Dan Haren. A $10M deal for a pitcher who hasn’t had even a league average season for a pitcher since 2011? I get it; he’ll probably be the fourth starter for the Dodgers, and they have all the money in the world to spend. But that doesn’t mean they should just throw it away. They should’ve been more resourceful with that money. There are better pitchers on the market, and they’re probably going to make less (i.e. Bartolo Colon, Paul Maholm, and others on the trade market). Not too good of a signing in my opinion, but still, there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal.
The Twins sign RHPs Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. This was certainly a forced issue. Ricky Nolasco – okay, solid pitcher, good fit for the Twins in that ballpark, but for over $11M AAV (average annual value)? Phil Hughes – there is no justification in this signing. He has never posted an ERA under 4 in a season as a full-time starter, and he’s making $8M a year? I get it – the Twins are desperate for pitcher, coming off a year where their starting staff collected a cumulative ERA over 5, easily the worth in the MLB. But the last few times they’ve tried to get pitchers (Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey, namely), they’ve been disasters. I understand it’s a huge park in Minnesota, but then why are all of their pitchers doing so poorly? Finally, signing two guys to big contracts when they aren’t anywhere close to competing is far beyond me. These signings make no sense whatsoever.
The Athletics sign LHP Scott Kazmir. Nice comeback story for Kazmir last year with Cleveland, after pitching the previous season with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Independent League. His ERA hovered around 4 last year, which is respectable, and he posted nice strikeout numbers for a starter. But can he do it again? The A’s surely think so, considering the $22M contract they gave him. This was a risky signing, but a good risk in my opinion.
(UPDATE: The Athletics have also traded INF Jemile Weeks and a player to be named to the Orioles in exchange for AL saves leader Jim Johnson)
The Tigers trade RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals. There were rumors that it would be Max Scherzer being traded by Detroit, but they chose Fister instead. Fister was arguably the best fourth starter in the MLB (pitching behind Scherzer, the Cy Young award winner; Justin Verlander, a former Cy Young award winner and MVP, and Anibal Sanchez, the ERA champion in the AL). Since coming over to the Tigers, Fister has shown much consistency, maintaining a very respectable ERA of about 3.50 in each of his years there. This will prove to be a major upgrade to an already great Nationals rotation, clearly. The Tigers will not reap the benefits of this trade immediately, as the three players they got back in return (Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and Robbie Ray) are all fairly young. At least for now, it clears a space for Drew Smyly, and they still have minor league pitching depth; so this wasn’t as big of a loss for the Tigers as it is a gain for the Nats.
Other worth-mentioning notes. The Royals extend GM Dayton Moore for two years. Ted Lilly, the 15-year veteran of 7 MLB teams, has retired. The Mets continue to show interest in Bronson Arroyo and Curtis Granderson. And Finally, the Yankees and Robinson Cano remain $80M apart in contract negotiations.
(UPDATE: The Boston Red Sox have signed catcher AJ Pierzynski to a one year, $8.25 million contract)
Ben Ozur is an absolute baseball guru. He is a huge Mets, Jets, Knicks and Islanders fan whose life revolves around fantasy sports.
By Ryan Gillman
According to multiple reports, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth a total of $16 million, with an $8 million vesting option for a third year (the option vests if Byrd has either 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 550 plate appearances in 2015 and a total of 1100 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015). Byrd had the best season of his career last year, posting a .291 average, 24 homeruns, and 88 RBI with the Mets and the Pirates. This was a huge comeback from Byrd’s miserable 2012 season, in which he was mired by injury, overall poor play, and a 50-game PED suspension. The Phillies are desperately in need of some outfield help, as their outfielders collectively posted a -1.6 WAR last season, dead last in the MLB. While the Phillies do need to improve their outfield, the Byrd signing makes no sense whatsoever.
The time for the Phillies to spend is most certainly not now. At nearly $160 million, the Phillies payroll was the third largest in the MLB, behind only the Yankees and the Dodgers. Yet, the Phillies were still terrible; they finished 73-89, the 8th worst record in the MLB. The year prior, they finished at exactly .500, which was a huge disappointment given their lofty payroll and high-profile players. Clearly, the Phillies are moving in the wrong direction. Signing a 36-year-old outfielder who’s good, but not exactly a superstar isn’t going to change any of that. With already over $120 million committed to their payroll next year (and that’s not even including arbitration and renewable contracts), it just doesn’t make any sense for the Phillies to commit $8 million to an aging outfielder with an inconsistent track record.
Beyond the payroll, the Phillies roster is not set to compete any time soon. Their best player, Chase Utley, will be 35 next season and has had some injury problems of late, with his 131 games played in 2013 being the most he’s played since 2009. Jimmy Rollins will also be 35 and, quite frankly, is not that good anymore. Their best pitcher, Cliff Lee, is still spectacular, but at age 35, it is unknown how much longer he will be able to keep it up. They have no real group of young talent, save for Domonic Brown and Cole Hamels, who at 27 and 30, respectively, can’t be considered “young” for much longer.
It is clear that the Phillies need to rebuild, but apparently general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t get the memo. Instead of decreasing the Phillies’ payroll, Amaro is adding to it in the form of a 36-year-old outfielder who is far from a guarantee to repeat his success from last season.
Ryan Gillman is a native Long Islander. He is a long-suffering Mets, Jets, Islanders, and Knicks fan. You can follow him on twitter at @ryangillman
By: Sam Breiter
Baseball in 2013 was a season to remember to say the least. Whether you are talking about the unbelievable breakout season from Chris Davis, who led major league baseball with 53 homeruns, or if you are discussing the legacy of a man named Mariano, you can clearly see how extraordinary this year in baseball was. Just three days ago, the Boston Red Sox organization gained the title of World Series Champions. For now, they will be noted as the best team in baseball, but April is just around the corner and now every team will have fair game to work on improving their team to become potential champions for 2014. Some teams may look at their 40-man roster today and feel a sense of comfort and confidence for next year, knowing that they may be one small signing or trade away from being contenders. Other teams may look and find that there are many holes that need to be covered, and they have a lot of work cut out for them this winter. Noting, there are some organizations that have more available money for the elite free agents than others. For example, the Houston Astros may need an outfielder, but do not expect them to spend $20 million on a five tool superstar, but rather a player with mediocre talent since they are many years away from being competitive. What I am about to review is the top five teams who need to make moves this offseason in order to have a fighting chance in 2014. I took into consideration the available funds the team has, what they need, and their desire to improve to stand a chance next year.
#5 Kansas City Royals- After being regarded as one of the worst teams in baseball after their great run in the 70’s and 80’s, the Kansas City Royals in 2013 really found themselves as a team. Prior to the 2013 season, the Royals had not been over .500 since 2003, and before that 1993. After spending the last couple of years trading away talent to improve their farm system, the Royals have reached that essential milestone where they have developed a group of young prospects into MLB superstars. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer, to name off a few, had a key role in allowing the Royals to win their 86 games this year. The Royals were just seven games back of the division-winning Tigers, and missed a wild card spot by five and a half games. So what’s it going to take to get over that hump? What do the Royals need to do to go back to the glory days of when they were one of the most feared teams in baseball? I have one answer to that question and that is pitching. If we look at the pitching rotation for 2014, for the team right now you see the names James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, and two question marks. Ervin Santana, who had an above average year, is now a free agent, and the Royals never really had a true number five guy. Shields and Guthrie provide a great one two punch, yet it is fair to note that Chen has always time after time proven himself to be unreliable with injuries and inconsistent success. With this said, the Royals, in order to get over that hump, need to sign two starting pitchers that will work long innings and keep the rotation intact. The best fit for the Royals would include pitchers who have shown their talent such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Haren, A.J Burnett, Matt Garza, or Hiroki Kuroda. Additionally, they might want to try to get back Santana, and maybe go for some of the lower demand pitchers including Scott Baker, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco, or even Jason Vargas. With this added pitching help, the Royals can easily run away with a wild card spot, or perhaps even be the American League Central Division champs.
#4 Texas Rangers- Ever since 2010, the Texas Rangers have always been looked upon as, if not the best, one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. Their dominance in hitting the long ball, getting on base, and sustaining an above average pitching rotation and bullpen has allowed their success to last. In 2010, the Rangers made the World Series and fell flat on their face against the San Francisco Giants. The following year, after one of the most dramatic World Series ever, the Rangers fell just short losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven game series. The following year, they won the wild card and missed their shot of going anywhere in the playoffs, and this year they did not even get a wild card spot. Clearly it may look as if this team is declining, but do you really expect the Oakland Athletics to come up with another 96 win season considering their best player is not even considered a superstar. If the Rangers brought back the same team they had this year, next year it looks pretty likely they would be the favorite to win the division, but down in Texas these fans expect more than a division title. Matt Garza, Nelson Cruz, A.J Pierzynski, and David Murphy, to name a few, are players who will be free agents this year and may just not be a part of the team next year. With this said, pitching (both starting and relief), a left fielder, and a catcher need to be acquired if the Rangers do not want to fall short yet again. In terms of pitching, look for the Rangers to attempt to sign one big name pitcher. I believe Garza will return and they will look to bring Alexi Ogando into their rotation and maybe even sign Roy Holladay if the Phillies part ways with the old ace. In terms of the bullpen, whatever happened to Neftali Feliz? From 2010-2011 Feliz combined for 72 saves, but from injuries the past few years people tend to forget about him. Expect Feliz to be their number one closer in 2014, but do not be surprised if Chris Perez comes in to become either the setup man or closer assuming Feliz does not work to his expectations. Behind the plate, the Rangers have always had power, if we go back a few years to Mike Napoli, or the more current days of Pierzynski. Do not be surprised if either of these players are brought back to the organization, yet I predict Brian McCann will be wearing a Texas Rangers uniform in 2014 because he will get paid the money he deserves, and the Rangers have a better resume of getting deep in the playoffs compared to the Braves. The Rangers have always had big time sluggers in the outfield. The Josh Hamilton/Nelson Cruz combo was one of the best power hitting outfields ever seen on one team. With Hamilton enjoying his money in L.A, and Cruz doubtful to return, do not be surprised to see the Rangers spending huge on a new outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Mike Morse are the best fits for the Rangers if they are willing to spend big on a new outfielder.