LaVar Ball preferred destination for LaMelo: Knicks or Pistons

New York Knicks, LaMelo Ball

LaVar Ball doubled down on his wish for his son LaMelo to end up with the New York Knicks.

Appearing on The Pascal Show on youtube last week, LaVar mentioned his preferred destination for LaMelo, a projected top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

“I want him either in New York or Detroit,” LaVar said.

“It doesn’t matter where you go,” LaVar added. “The key is to have the right coach behind you.”

LaVar’s latest statement could be viewed as an endorsement of Tom Thibodeau and Dwane Casey as the ‘right coach’ for his youngest son.

 

The Knicks have recently hired Thibodeau as their new head coach for their latest rebuild, while the Pistons currently have Dwane Casey.

Both coaches have a history of coaching All-Star point guards in the league.

Thibodeau has coached Derrick Rose, who became the youngest MVP in the NBA while still in Chicago. On the other hand, Casey had molded Kyle Lowry into an All-Star when he was with the Toronto Raptors.

Both the Knicks and the Pistons are searching for a lead guard, and LaMelo is widely believed to be the best point guard in this draft.

LaMelo has earlier confirmed that he has interviewed with the Knicks before the Draft Lottery.

It’s also worth noting that LaMelo’s manager, Jermaine Jackson, is from Detroit. Jackson played and coached at Detroit Mercy and also had stints with the Pistons (1999-2000) and the Knicks (2005) as an undrafted NBA journeyman. Lamelo has been training in Detroit since March.

Recently, LaMelo has also met with the Minnesota Timberwolves as per Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The Timberwolves hold the No.1 pick in the Draft.

LaMelo is also expected to interview with the rest of the top four teams in the draft — Golden State Warriors (No.2), Charlotte Hornets (No.3), and Chicago Bulls (No.4).

The Knicks currently have the eighth pick while the Pistons are above them at seventh. Both teams have to trade up to have a shot at LaMelo. But there’s also a remote possibility that LaMelo will fall after rumors of his underwhelming team interviews began to float recently.

Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell shared the intel on Sports Radio WFNZ earlier this week.

“Here is what I’m hearing from the league at large: LaMelo Ball is not performing very well at job interviews,” Bonnel said.

“I’ve heard that from multiple sources. He is not improving his perception via job interview. There are people drafting later in the top ten who were not preparing for the possibility of Ball still being around. And I’m not saying that he will not be a top-three pick. I am saying that I know for a fact that there are teams later in the top ten who are doing more research on him because they no longer think it’s a given he will.”

LaMelo’s combination of size, ballhandling, and court vision has made him a projected lottery pick. But on the flip side, questions about his professionalism and shot selection have held him back from becoming the top consensus pick. And his reportedly underwhelming team interviews are not helping him.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brad Hand is now a free agent; could the Yankees or Mets pounce?

A couple of days after the Cleveland Indians placed him on outright waivers, it was revealed that Brad Hand went unclaimed (reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman) and is now in the market, which is something that may catch the attention of both the New York Yankees and Mets.

“Not one team claimed Brad Hand for $10M. He was a top 3 finalist for AL reliever of the year with a 0.77 WHIP. and 16 saves. Time to revise free agent contract projections downward! (Hand is now a free agent after Indians then declined the $10M option and paid $1M buyout,)” Heyman tweeted.

The transaction was made to cut cost, as the Indians didn’t want to pay him the $10 million to return. They were hoping that some team would claim the stellar left-hander and be on the hook for the money, in which case Cleveland wouldn’t have to pay the $1 million buyout. But since nobody claimed Hand, they will need to provide the $1 million payment.

The Indians probably thought someone would claim Hand, given his strong track record of success and the fact that he was one of the top relievers in the American League this season. Sure, some fans may have his collapse against the New York Yankees in the Wild Card series in mind, but the fact remains that he’s an elite reliever.

Should the Yankees and Mets be interested?

For the Yankees, it comes down to the potential cost. I’ve been saying that they need to build their bullpen from within and develop their own pitchers, but part of putting together an excellent relief unit is targeting low-cost free agents.

It’s not likely that he comes in very cheap, but he probably won’t be getting $10 million, since nobody wanted him at that price.

Hand, who is still in his prime at 30, led the American League with 16 saves this year and had a 22/4 K/BB ratio with a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings.

As for the Mets, Hand makes for an excellent target. Steve Cohen is taking over ownership and while he may not be after the big free agents, adding an arm like Hand to the bullpen makes perfect sense for a roster that is just a couple of pieces away from contention.

Both the Yankees and Mets would benefit from having Hand in their bullpen. Will one of them make a move for him?

New York Giants week 7 stock report: Ups and downs

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants fell 22-21 to the Philadelphia Eagles in a heart-crushing defeat on Thursday Night Football.

It was a painful night for Giants fans as the team blew an 11 point fourth-quarter lead to their divisional rivals. The Giants are now 1-6, last in the NFC East. While it is a longshot, the Giants are still in playoff contention as they are only 1.5 games out of first. However, a lot must change if this team wishes to make these aspirations a reality.

Here’s how this defeat affected the stock of various people in the Giants organization.

Stock up

Daniel Jones, QB

The sophomore QB is featured here for the second straight week as his play continues to improve. While he did throw one interception, to the fault of Evan Engram, and fumble once, Jones played one of his better games of the year in primetime. He was extremely accurate with several of his throws, including one where he threw an accurate deep ball to Golden Tate, who had no separation, but Daniel Jones was able to fit the ball in for a score.

Jones likely would have had another touchdown if Evan Engram did not drop his fourth-quarter deep ball. Nevertheless, the Duke alum finished with 187 yards, two touchdowns, and a 91.9 passer rating.

However, passing was not the only thing Jones contributed to the team. He was also an elite runner as he rushed for 92 yards on four carries, including one 80 yard burst.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Shepard’s return helped lessen the huge burden on Daniel Jones as he quickly became his number one receiver once again. Shepard, clearly hobbled, was able to put up 59 yards and a touchdown on six catches despite not being 100-percent. His return should help bolster offensive improvement.

Markus Golden, EDGE

Golden was able to get two QB hits and his first sack of the season against the Eagles. This performance helped his stock so much so that the Giants were able to trade him for a sixth-round pick from Arizona. This was a solid deal on both sides as it was unlikely Golden was going to resign, and Arizona received an extra pass rusher.

Jabrill Peppers, S

The swiss-army knife had arguably his best game of the season in Philly. The former Brown recorded six tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss, and a sack in week seven. The Giants have been expecting this play from Peppers all year, and due to his plethora of injuries, it has been hard for him. However, he seems back and decently healthy now, which should help New York going forward.

Dexter Lawrence, DT

Dexter Lawrence was the highest-graded Giant in week seven with a PFF grade of 86.6. This was mostly due to his elite ability to get after the quarterback on Thursday—pass-rush grade of 90.4—as he recorded five QB pressures and one sack on the night. He, along with the rest of the defensive line, has been the brightest spot of this Giants team so far.

Stock Down

Evan Engram, TE

While football is obviously a team effort and no one player can truly be the sole recipient of the blame for a loss, Evan Engram came quite close. He was an awful blocker and a horrible pass-catcher against the Eagles. He dropped two passes on the night, one for an interception and the other that would have won the game. This was definitely a night he would like to forget.

Andrew Thomas/Cameron Fleming, OT

The pair of tackles for the Giants played abysmally against the Eagles. Individually Andrew Thomas allowed six pressures and two sacks, and Fleming allowed two pressures and one sack. Both featured a pass-blocking grade of below 35, which is almost as low as it can get from PFF.

This is tough signs for Big Blue as the line is something that the team has tried to invest heavily in over the past few years, but it has not worked. Andrew Thomas has been the worst out of all the first-round tackles taken in 2020, and the rest of the front has not been much better.

Dion Lewis, RB

The major reason that Lewis’s stock plummeted on Thursday night is that he fumbled and almost allowed the Eagles to score before the end of the first half. He was already buried in the depth chart, and now his placement may even dig deeper for the former Titan.

Ryan Lewis, CB

Ryan Lewis was the worst-graded Giant in the week seven loss with a PFF grade of 29.0. He was awful in coverage and missed several tackles. This was an unfortunate game for the defensive back as he was just starting to emerge as the second cornerback for New York, but this game proves as a serious setback for the young player.

Why the Yankees could disappoint in 2021 free agency

New York Yankees, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees have a number of players hitting free agency this off-season, including three starting pitchers and star infielder DJ LeMahieu. Replacing the production of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ will be difficult, but it can be done with a more cost-effective strategy.

Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner stated after the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs that his team had lost more money than any organization in baseball this year. They had an MLB-high payroll of $109 million over the 60-game schedule.

Compared to a team like the Tampa Bay Rays, who paid SP Charlie Morton $15 million, as their highest player on the payroll, the Yankees are coughing up $36 million to Gerrit Cole alone. To put that into perspective, Cole is earning more per season than the entire Tampa squad.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they have to be more careful with their money and can’t be as flexible as in years past. They are the biggest market baseball team and haven’t reached the World Series in over 10 years, despite dumping boatloads of cash, literally, into high profile players in the league.

Losing significant revenue also comes with consequences, meaning GM Brian Cashman will not have the green light in free agency to pursue that “white whale” player. I expect this free agency to be more about signing value players that can serve a one-year purpose while the Yankees recoup their lost revenue during the 2021 season.

They already retained relief pitcher Zack Britton, picking up his club-option for 2022, which will pay him $14 million in 2021 on a great value deal. Britton finished the 2019 season with a 1.89 ERA striking out 16 batters over nine innings. He also racked up eight saves in the process.

However, fans are waiting for the big DJ LeMahieu news, and it might not be as sweet as some expected. His value has skyrocketed so much that some are predicting he will make upwards of $23 million per season. The Yankees surely don’t want to unload that type of cash right now after such a tumultuous year, but letting him go would be catastrophic to the infield and the top of their batting order.

The Yankees are saving $52 million with the departure of Paxton, Tanaka, and Happ, and I expect they will use some of that money to sign a number two pitcher behind Cole and retain LeMahieu. That would allow them to break even this off-season, as they are preparing to gain back Luis Severino and Domingo German in 2021.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: New York Yankees keep Zack Britton in pinstripes, why that’s important

The New York Yankees have many decisions to be made regarding free agents, options, and filling defeciences in a team that has not made the World Series since 2009. One decision made will keep Yankee reliever/closer, Zack Britton, in pinstripes through the 2022 season.

Britton has been one of the most reliable Yankees relievers since he left the Baltimore Orioles. This past season he was just as reliable and also closed eight consecutive games for the Yankees while closer Aroldis Chapman was out with the coronavirus. His contract has an option for the Yankees for the 2021 season.

The orginal deal guaranteed three years, including a club option for a fourth season that can be exercised after Year 2 and, if not exercised, Britton could opt out after that second year. Britton chooses to stay with the Yankees, and the Yankees exercised his option through 2022. Britton will make $13 million this upcoming season and $14 million in the final year of the contract before becoming a free agent again.

Zack Brittons road to success

After ten years in the Baltimore Orioles organization, in 2017 he became just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to convert at least 50 consecutive save opportunities. Unfortunately, 2018 didn’t start well for Zack, he signed his biggest deal with the Orioles, but he was placed on the 60-day disabled list to begin the season, as he recuperated from the ruptured Achilles tendon injury.  He recorded his first save of the season on June 23rd.

Zack Britton becomes a New York Yankee

On July 24, 2018, the Orioles traded Britton to the New York Yankees in exchange for Dillion Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers. Britton went on to post a 2.88 ERA in 25 appearances for the Yankees in the 2018 season. His 1.86 ERA from 2016 to 2018 was the lowest in major league baseball of all pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched. Britton thrived in his new role as a late-game reliever. Britton signed a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year with the Yankees on January 11, 2019

Britton would appear in 66 games for 61 innings, often the lefty was used to get just one important out.  He finished the season recording three saves and had an excellent ERA of 1.91 and a 3-1 record. In the 2018 and 2019 postseasons for the New York Yankees, he pitched in 12 innings while allowing just four runs. He also fields his position well with a .965 fielding percentage.

In the shortened 2020 season, at least at the start of the season, Zack Britton will return to his old role and will become the Yankees closer. Just two days ago Yankee Closer Aroldis Chapman tested positive for the coronavirus.  Before he can return to the team, he will have to self-quarantine for two weeks and then test negative twice, 2 days apart.  Many people after recovering from the virus remain weak for weeks, which is most likely why manager Aaron Boone used the phrase: “He will be out for the foreseeable future.”

During the summer of 2019, Zack Britton bought himself an Edgertronic camera. Here is why this should excite you.

“The Yankees have high-speed cameras at the Stadium. I’ve noticed differences with both my breaking ball and my sinker. I can see where my hand position is when I throw a good pitch. Rather than just feeling my way through an adjustment, I can get instant feedback on the adjustments I need to make.”

The New York Yankees organization and Yankee fans expected and got even more improvements in Britton’s pitching in this shortened season.  Upon the news of Chapman’s positive virus test manager Aaron Boone had to choose between Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton; both have similar numbers. Still, Boone chose Britton as he has the closing experience. Boone had this to say:

“Britton has been an elite closer in this game for a long time, and he’s still a great pitcher, so he naturally could fill that role,” the Yankees skipper observed. “It’s easy to put him in that, but with our team and with our bullpen and our pitchers, we feel confident in a lot of guys. Britt would be a natural guy if Chappy wasn’t back at that point.”

Britton finished this season with a 1-2 record with a crazy low 1.89 ERA in 20 games in the regular season. He had a total of eight saves. In the postseason, he pitched in four games against the Tampa Bay Rays, not allowing a run and only allowing one hit for an ERA of 0.00. The New York Yankees will now have Britton in pinstripes for the next two seasons.

New York Giants: 3 keys to beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants, Wayne Gallman

The New York Giants are gearing up to face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, and it will be one of the biggest tests of the 2020 season. Despite sitting at 1–6 on the year and struggling to get through even the easiest of games, the Giants have no choice but to compete until the final whistle against one of the best teams in the NFL.

Tampa Bay ranks atop the league in multiple categories, including points per game and defensive efficiency. They have two of the best linebackers in football, Levante David and Devon White. They also have two stellar cornerbacks and one of the best pass-rushing units.

The Giants are simply outmatched across-the-board and will need to execute their game plan to perfection if they wish to stay competitive late into the contest.

Three keys to beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the New York Giants:

1.) Control time of possession

One of the top goals for the Giants should be to control time of possession. They’ve only controlled this factor one time this season against the Dallas Cowboys.

Last week in Philly, the Giants had about five minutes less time with the ball than the Eagles, who also enjoyed 10 additional first downs. The Giants also turned the ball over three times, which was the major differential in the 22-21 loss.

Running the football is essential for the Giants, as wasting out the clock and keeping their defense fresh is the only way they can physically overcome Tampa. If their defense is on the field for a majority of the first half, the Buccaneers will adjust and attack them aggressively, tiring them out and likely forcing a blowout.

If they can get Wayne Gallman churning yards and opening up some running lanes, they will have a bit more success than other teams. However, considering Tampa held Raiders’ Josh Jacobs to 17 yards on 10 carries last week, things aren’t looking optimistic.

2.) Put Tom Brady on the ground

This factor dates back to both Super Bowl wins in Giants’ past, as putting Tom Brady on the ground is essential to throwing him off his rhythm and disrupting their game plan. Brady has only been sacked eight times this season, while Daniel Jones has gone down 20 times.

The differential regarding both team’s offensive lines is significant, and the Giants are going to have to get creative on defense if they wish to put pressure on Brady and disrupt their game plan.

3.) Creativity on both sides of the ball

Creativity and imagination will play a big role for the Giants in week eight as they attempt to dislodge a disciplined Tampa team. Being creative on defense is essential, as finding ways to get past a strong OL will be difficult. I expect to see plenty of unique blitzes, notably from Logan Ryan and the cornerback position.

Linebacker Blake Martinez will also have an active afternoon, tracking down running back Ronald Jones and attempting to factor out the Tampa running game.

Offensively, the Giants need to get the ball into tight end Evan Engram’s hands. If they are still committed to throwing the ball downfield to their most “explosive playmaker,” they cannot be afraid to do so against Tampa, who will try to squeeze the field and suffocate the offense at the line of scrimmage.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: How important are the New York Yankees to Major League Baseball?

The question was, how important are the New York Yankees to Major League Baseball. Let’s start off with the answer, very important. The New York Yankees are the only Global sports giant that is known and followed worldwide. Interest falls off significantly when you mention any other baseball team. The Yankee franchise generates a huge amount of money for New York and its family, the Steinbrenners.

But it goes far beyond that. Everywhere the Yankees travel to, the dollars follow. When the New York Yankees play at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida, the crowd’s size under the dome nearly doubles. The Tampa Bay Rays have an average home crowd of 14K; when the New York Yankees come to town, that increases to 20K or more for as many days as the series lasts. This is big for the Tampa economy, the Rays, and their concessions. This also applies to anywhere the Yankees play, although to a lesser degree.

As far as New York City is concerned, game day is big for the New York economy, particularly the Bronx neighborhood restaurants, bars, and shops. The average Yankee Stadium attendance in 2019 was 42K on average for every game. Many of those thousands stay at local hotels, visit bars and eat in restaurants along with buying loads of team memorabilia. In 2018 the Yankees generated $11.9 million for the city of New York for just the opening day game.

The New York Yankees have a huge payroll, and because of that, they pay an MLB luxury tax, that contributes a share of their revenue to an MLB pot that then distributes that evenly to every major league team nationwide. That pot paid out $118 million to teams across baseball.

Another good example of how important the New York Yankees is to baseball is in generating television revenue. The Yankees have their own broadcasting ability, with the YES Network the most successful regional sports broadcasting company in all of the sports. But it goes beyond that. For instance, the latest World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles was the least-watched World Series in history, generating fewer broadcasting dollars.

The most-watched World Series in the past fifteen years was the 2009 World Series. Why, because the New York Yankees faced the Philadelphia Phillies. In that series, nearly 20 million viewers watch the games. This year the average viewership was just over 9.5 million per game. The previous low was 12 million for 2012 in the Detroit San Francisco World Series.

So what is the record for viewership in a World Series? It was again a New York Yankee series, this one the 1978 series with the Dodgers. An average of 44 million viewed those games, and a deciding game six generated the largest television audience for any baseball game, 51 million.

The bottom line is that when the New York Yankees are involved in anything, including the World Series, everybody wins! The New York Yankees are the most important team in Major League Baseball.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

New York Mets: Nick Tropeano and Jacob Barnes Claimed Off Waivers

The first move the New York Mets made under Steve Cohen’s ownership came on the waiver wire. Stony Brook product Nick Tropeano was claimed from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jacob Barnes from the Los Angeles Angels. Both are low risk, high reward options for the 40-man roster in 2021.

Tropeano converted to a full-time reliever with the Pirates and showed a major improvement in his career. Despite never pitching in a game that finished within four runs, he was very effective with a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched. Tropeano also had reverse splits, holding left-handed hitters to a .067 average while righties batted .289.

One of the keys to success was the increased usage of his slider. Tropeano threw the slider 31% of the time, a seven percent increase from the prior season. His slider’s runs above average were 2.3 compared to -4.3 back in 2018. One thing to look out for was a BABIP of .317 with his 28.8% strikeouts rate as hitters would find success when they put the ball in play against him.

Barnes Upside

Barnes is another right-handed reliever but has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 50.2 innings since 2019. He lacks a secondary pitch after his cutter and four-sean fastball and has only thrown four pitches that were not tracked his main two since 2019. What Barnes lacks in pitch quantity, he makes up in the velocity and strikeout department.

Barnes fastball averages 95 mph, and batters only hit .174 against it during the 2020 season. His cutter is slightly under 90 but has excellent movement. It is a pitch that seems to be very hit or miss for Barnes as it has a 41.5% whiff rate, but batters hit .311 against it in 2020. It will be interesting to see how the Mets make his cutter a better weapon because the correct improvements could bring him back to the 3.54 ERA reliever he was during the first three seasons of his career.

Overall, these are good moves because of where they are slotted to fit in on the roster. If they were signed to confirmed 25-man roster spots, it would be questionable because of their lack of consistent success. As players who deepen the 40-man roster and have high upside, they become solid pickups before free agency opens up next week.

The New York Giants could be completely embarrassed at two positions against Tampa Bay

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

If you are a New York Giants fan, you might want to close your eyes for this one. Looking at the Giants’ offensive line through seven weeks, both of their tackles, Andrew Thomas and Cameron Fleming, rank at the bottom of the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency.

In fact, among offensive tackles with a minimum of 100 snaps, Thomas and Fleming rank worst and second-worst. That should give you a good idea of just how inefficient they have been in the category.

Now, they head into a difficult matchup against two of the best pass rushers in the league, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants rarely run the ball effectively, but that is actually their best chance at winning against Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Of course, the odds are stacked against them, but both Fleming and Thomas are more refined in run blocking then holding up in the passing game. Gaining as much time of possession as possible is how the Giants must operate, which evidently would slow down the game when they might want to activate a fast-paced offense.

Theoretically, utilizing up-tempo offensive techniques should keep opposing defenses on their toes and cause miscommunications and errors. However, the Giants simply don’t have the luxury of increasing their pace with their evident lack of playmakers and inability to move the ball efficiently against quality teams, let alone bad ones. They simply turn the ball over and find themselves departing from the field just as quickly as they made their way onto it.

Dooming their defense to a game of constant battling without much rest is how the first seven weeks of the season has played out. The Giants have been vastly outmatched in time of possession and failed to establish a running game unless it is quarterback Daniel Jones scampering for 80 yards. Without star running back Saquon Barkley, Big Blue is simply castrated.

The most difficult matchup for the New York Giants and week eight:

The two tackle spots for the Giants should be their primary concern, as it has been every single week. Barrett, who has had an underwhelming season compared to his 2019 performance, has two sacks on the year and 32 quarterback hurries. He has played below expectations, but he is still a dangerous pass rusher that can dominate at any given moment.

Last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, he was one of the best-graded run defenders and managed to get after the quarterback several times, recording four hurries. Facing off against Andrew Thomas should provide a much easier experience, especially with the breakdown of fundamentals from the 4th overall pick this year.

On the opposite side, the Bucs have Pierre-Paul, who has been a stud this season, recording six sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. He has had a better time reaching the quarterback than his counterpart Barrett but is a bit worse in run defense.

If the Giants notice their weaknesses, they should be running the ball toward the strong side of Tampa‘s line and trying to force their tackles behind the pocket and Daniel Jones. As long as Fleming and Thomas don’t get beat inside, the Giants can withstand their dominant pass rush, but their secondary is equally as strong if not better, posing a significant threat.

At every level, the Giants are outmatched in this contest, so I completely expect a blow-out by Tampa. Again, the only way the Giants can possibly stay in this game is if they run on the ball and burn clock as much as possible, keeping the score low.

The Giants’ defense also has to get off the field on third downs and get after quarterback Tom Brady. Tampa will be without one of their star receivers in Chris Godwin, so we can expect James Bradberry to man-mark Mike Evans all evening.

Hopefully, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can dial up some creative blitzes to rattle Brady early on. Expect to see a healthy dosage of safety Logan Ryan being utilized in different facets.

Yankees could target Rays’ Charlie Morton after club-option declined

New York Yankees, Charlie Morton

The New York Yankees are paying star pitcher Gerrit Cole $36 million per season until 2029, which is more than the Tampa Bay Rays’ entire team salary. That should give you an idea of how far analytics has come and the success Tampa Bay had this year with a lesser squad.

The Yankees use their fair share of analytics, but theoretically, if they can buy the best players in the league and put them together, you should unequivocally be the best team. However, that has been far from the case, as the Yankees haven’t reached the World Series in over a decade and continue to get knocked out in the mid-round of the playoffs.

This off-season, the Yankees will watch multiple players hit free agency, including start infielder DJ LeMahieu and three starting pitchers.

HOT ARTICLE: Yankees decline player-options for 2 players

Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ are all headed to free agency, and the Yankees declined Happ’s besting option for 2021 on Thursday, which would have paid him $17 million. Saving that money, the Yankees can go out and add a younger and more consistent starter.

One solid option is Rays’ Charlie Morton, who had his club option denied by the team. He was the highest earner at $15 million and would have stuck around at the same price, but Tampa elected to take a more cost-effective route and let him walk.

Morton understood that Tampa could move on from him at the end of the campaign, but enjoying one of the more heroic postseasons runs with an unexpected team was on his mind.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” Morton said before Game 6 of the World Series. “It just goes back to the situation, what it’s looking like this offseason and into next year. I’ve just been trying to enjoy baseball and being around the guys and having this opportunity.”

Morton finished the campaign with a 4.74 ERA. His numbers were a bit bloated due to the abbreviated season, but he has been an All-Star the past two years and ranked third in Cy Young voting in 2019. Last year, he earned a 3.05 ERA over 194 innings, striking out 240 batters and allowing 15 homers. He was lights out for Tampa, and the Yankees could be intrigued by the 36-year-old pitcher.

The New York Yankees should 100% target Morton:

The Bombers might even be able to save a bit of cash by signing Morton for two years, as they were previously paying Tanaka $23 million and Happ $17 million. James Paxton was the least paid of the group at $12 million. If they could lock him in on a two-year, $24-26 million deal, he could be the perfect number two behind Cole and fit in well next to Luis Severino, who will be on his comeback trail.

Theoretically, this seems like an efficient move that wouldn’t cost the Yankees a fortune like Trevor Bauer would on a solo-year deal. Morton is a consistent pitcher who throws his fastball 35.6% of the time and curveball 32.7%. He also tends to sprinkle in his sinker and slider during games, but he doesn’t match up well with the Yankees’ strong-armed approach.

The Bombers tend to appeal to hard-throwing pitchers, and Morton’s fastball hovers in the 93.3 mph range. I don’t think that should be a deterrent, as he is an accurate pitcher that holds plenty of value.