The Runner Sports

Grading The New York Yankees’ Offseason

Finally, Spring Training has arrived for the New York Yankees.  After waiting out the long (and slow) offseason, it is time for baseball to return.  The pitchers and catchers have already reported to Tampa with the rest of the team and non-roster invitees to show up later in the week.  Though Spring Training will kick off the process of evaluating the players and predicting the lineups, I want to take one last moment to look back at the offseason.  It is unlikely that the Yankees will make another significant move at this point, which means that it is time to grade their offseason.

While the Yankees did not have the most exciting offseason, there were transactions that provoked discussion and conversation.  These offseason moves cannot be fully evaluated until the regular season begins, but an initial grade can be given to each move.

I will be giving a grade to every transaction that affected the 25-man roster.  This means that minor league signings, non-roster invitees, and other minor transactions will not be considered for individual grading.  The notable minor transactions (such as signing Ji-Man Choi or Ruben Tejeda) will be considered for the overall grade.  Without further hesitation, how well did the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman set up the team for the 2017 season?

November 17, 2016- Yankees Trade Brian McCann to Astros

Grade: B-

Initially, I was not a fan of this trade.  In my opinion, I thought Brian McCann would be more valuable as a backup catcher/DH than the prospects that the Yankees received in return. The Astros sent over two right-handed pitching prospects, Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. While the Yankees could always use the depth in the pitching department, the prospect of having a veteran catcher to help Gary Sanchez develop this year was something I thought was valuable.

However, the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense to trade McCann and his contract away.  With shipping McCann away, the Yankees are only paying $11 million that is left on his deal.  When considering the other moves that the Yankees made to fill the DH spot, they end up saving $5 million for that one position.

Despite that, there is still value to a veteran presence for a young player.  Sanchez could benefit from a seasoned pro like McCann guiding him through the course of an entire season.  Plus, McCann’s power (he averaged 23 HRs per season with the Yankees) will be more than what Andrew Romine will provide as the Yankees’ backup catcher.
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December 7, 2016- Yankees Sign Matt Holliday

Grade: B

Going into the offseason, the only offensive position that was not already filled by an existing player was DH.  McCann was traded early into the offseason, which led to that spot being left completely void of a player to fill it.  While the Yankees could have put Greg Bird or Tyler Austin in that spot, it made more sense to bring in a veteran player. The DH market was stacked this offseason, headlined by Edwin Encarnacion.  Other prominent names included Kendrys Morales, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Trumbo.

The Yankees opted to sign Matt Holliday to a 1-year/$13 million deal.  Holliday, who is coming off a season where he spent some time on the DL, was an interesting choice, to say the least.  Even at his older age, Holliday still puts up impressive numbers.  Using 2014 as an example, he slashed .272/.370/.441 while hitting 20 HRs and 90 RBIs at age 34.  While that is not old, it is still past his prime.  However, Holliday had a miserable season last year when he did play.  In 110 games, he only mustered a .246 batting average with only 64 RBIs.  On the bright side, he did hit 20 HRs last season.

Overall, I like the signing of Holliday.  He provides veteran leadership as well as another right-handed power bat in the lineup.  The reason why this signing does not get a higher grade is because there might have been better options.  Carlos Beltran, who signed for a year with the Astros, or Mike Napoli, who signed for less than Holliday, could have been better bats to bring into New York.  Both Beltran and Napoli are not coming off injuries heading into 2017.  Also, both had better 2016s than Holliday (Beltran was an All-Star, Napoli hit 39 HRs).

 

December 15, 2016- Yankees Sign Aroldis Chapman

Grade: A

Out of everything the Yankees did this offseason, this was by far their best move.  Bringing back Aroldis Chapman made all the sense in the world.  If not only to cap off the big trade they pulled off during the season where they acquired Gleyber Torres, then for the benefit of the team moving forward.  The 5-year/$86 million contract sets the record for a reliever.  Some argue that the move does not coordinate with the Yankees’ rebuild/reboot by signing a reliever to such money and length.

I would argue that the Yankees foresee themselves in postseason contention as soon as next season (perhaps this season if things fall into place).  Dellin Betances is a top 10 reliever, but the tail end of 2016 demonstrated that he alone cannot carry the bullpen.  At the beginning of September, Betances had a 2.08 ERA.  By season’s end, it had risen to 3.08.

The three-headed monster bullpen idea is something that Brian Cashman clearly likes.  No-Runs DMC with Chapman, Betances, and Andrew Miller was a dominant bullpen for New York.  The Kansas City Royals won a World Series with average starting pitching and the best bullpen.  Cashman is attempting to duplicate this success.  The rotation is average at best (especially after Masahiro Tanaka), but the bullpen could be the best in the AL.  With the addition of Chapman, the Yankees plan is to take stress off the starting rotation and hope that the offense can have a lead heading into the 6th inning.

 

February 7, 2017- Yankees Agree to Sign Chris Carter

Grade: B-

The last move that the Yankees made was signing the NL home run leader (tied for first) in 2016.  Chris Carter, who smacked 41 HRs last season, will most likely be the last major move that the Yankees will do until the season is underway.  The positives of this move are that Carter is signed for only $3.5 million for one season.  He also brings another big power bat that the Yankees can throw into the lineup when a lefty is on the mound.  All of that brings the grade into the B range.

However, the signing does not make the most sense.  Carter should be primarily the DH for 2017, but Holliday is already filling that spot.  Plus, Holliday is a right-handed bat as well.  He most likely will platoon with Greg Bird at first since Bird only hit .238 against left-handed pitching in 2015 in a small sample size.  The downside to that is the Yankees need to see Bird play as the full-time first basemen in order to determine whether he will be a staple of the lineup.  Bringing Carter as an insurance policy would be smart, but there is Tyler Austin (another right-handed bat) who also needs to receive MLB experience in order to determine his value.

My thought is that Carter might push Holliday into playing RF.  That depends on how Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks play this season, but my feeling is that Holliday will wind up in the outfield.  Carter could be a good power threat in the lineup, providing 20-25 home runs as a part-time player.  His all-or-nothing approach (he led the NL with 206 strikeouts in 2016) is ominous with a lineup that might have another player with similar qualities (Judge struck out in half of his at-bats last year).  However, the last major positive is that the Yankees have added another potential trade chip if they are not in contention.

 

Other Transactions

  • Yankees trade Nick Goody to the Cleveland Indians.
  • Yankees sign the following players to minor league deals with invites to Spring Training: Donovan Solano, Ruben Tejada, and Ji-Man Choi.

 

Overall Offseason Grade: B-

Out of the moves that they made, the Yankees had a decent offseason.  Trading McCann and signing Carter are talking points that can be seen from both sides of the spectrum.  Holliday was necessary, but perhaps there were better alternatives.  Chapman, though expensive, was a great move to bolster a bullpen that needs to carry the rotation.  Based on the moves alone, their grade could have been a B or B+.

The reason why I think the Yankees deserve a B- (almost bordering on C+) is what Brian Cashman did not address: starting pitching.  No matter how one looks at the roster, the need for a veteran starter was the biggest hole that the Yankees had.  Though the market was extremely weak for starters, there were still plenty of veteran pitchers available to bring in on one or two-year deals.

Jason Hammels, Bartolo Colon, Scott Feldman, or Derek Holland were all starters who were available this offseason.  They are not frontline starters, but they could fill the fourth slot easily.  Having two unproven starters in the rotation, along with three other pitchers who have injury problems is a recipe for disaster.  At the very least, adding another starter would be insurance in the case where the young pitchers struggle or any starter gets injured.

Overall, the Yankees’ offseason was a moderately successful one.  The additions were good, but the lack of addressing the major hole in the roster brings the grade down.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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  • john

    Your assessment is pretty accurate, nice article. The only caveat I’d add is Cashman is obviously hamstrung by the budget. Bearing that in mind I was happy to see McCann go as he wasn’t going to catch enough to justify his salary and his offensive game is underwhelming as a Dh. McCann is only worth his salary as a starting catcher so he was expendable.

    The Holliday signing is good although they might have been able to wait out the market longer and get him for less or a superior player for the same money. I can’t kill Cash too much on that angle because who knew the market for power hitters would crater so bad?

    I’m good with Chapman and agree with you he will be part of the next great team. It makes the trade all the sweeter to sign him back after that great haul he brought us.

    I’m sorry they didn’t sign a starter but reading between the lines this team is trying to give the allusion of contending. They are not ready for that and are trying to re-set the luxury tax. Bearing all that in mind I expect the team to hang around much like last year, come up short and let some dead money clear the payroll. I think next off-season we will see some more action.

    • Griffin Fuller

      Thanks for the comment John. The budget that Cashman was working with made this offseason different, which I appreciated because I like the direction the Yankees are going. The McCann trade makes a lot of sesne, my only pause is about the veteran leader for Sanchez. But I agree, that contract was too expensive for a DH/back-up catcher with what the Yankees are looking to do with the payroll.

      Individually, the Holliday and Carter signings are good moves. However, they both fill the same role, which made the Carter signing a lower grade. Both can be used effectively though during the season though.

      Cashman is put in a difficult situation wher he wants to rebuild like the Cubs and Astros did, but he is the GM of the Yankees so the team cannot tank. If Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda did not all have health questions, then the lack of adding a starter would not have been as important to me. However, I find it unlikely that all of those three will remain healthy all season. Other than Tanaka, the rotation is a giant question mark. The Yankees will probably be close to leading the league with how many different pitchers get starts, even if they do contend for the Wild Card.

      • john

        I guess in a weird way all of the question marks in the rotation will help long term. I totally agree “we” will see many guys come up and get starts. If the team can find 2 or 3 decent options to move forward with it will make coming years very exciting.

        Fingers crossed for Severino as it would be huge for him to have a decent year. Hopefully we can bring back Tanaka after his inevitable opt out and pair him with 2 or 3 kids and than find only 1 or 2 more pieces to pair with those guys for a nice rotation. It has been discussed before but Sabathia certainly could be brought back ala Pettitte if he has a decent year. Lord willing Severino, Kap, and Tanaka can anchor a future rotation and the team can fill the remaining spots from vets or players from the Adams, Cessa, Green, Montgomery, etc group.

        • Griffin Fuller

          I think Severino could find himself as the next great homegrown bullpen arms. He was outstanding out of the bullpen last year. As a starter, most of his struggles came after his first time through the order.

          Looking ahead to the next offseason, Tanaka (if he opts out) should be the high priority. Pineda will leave via free agency, but Sabathia could return if he has a good season. Depending on how the team fares this year, I think that at the deadline or in the offseason is where the Yankees will trade for a SP. Maybe not someone the caliber of Jose Quintana, but an established SP nonetheless.