New York Yankees: Who will be the Yankees’ major competition in 2021?

After an uncommonly slow offseason, things are really heating up as the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams approach spring training, which is now just over two weeks away. With the 2021 teams shaping up, it’s time to take a look at who will be the Yankees’ major competition to watch.

The Boston Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox has always been the traditional rival of the New York Yankees, up to 2018. Since then, the tables have turned as other teams strengthened in the East. While the other teams got better, the Red Sox got worse. The Red Sox made some bad moves, and beyond their control, they were beset with major injuries, particularly to the pitching staff.

Plain and simple, the Red Sox were a mess last season, and things are not looking that good for this season either. The only major move the Red Sox made is re-hire the shameful Alex Cory as it’s manager again. That in itself does not address the Red Sox problems of starting pitching and the bullpen. Xander Bogaerts and J. D. Martinez are rumored to be traded for pitching help, but with Mookie Betts’ loss last season to the Dodgers, if they move either of the two, they will have no lineup at all.

Last season the Red Sox, the Tigers, and the Rangers fought for the American League’s last place. The Red Sox ended up at the bottom of the barrel in the East. Although the Red Sox probably won’t end up last this season, they will struggle to get out of the hole they have created for themselves.

The Baltimore Orioles:

In recent years the Baltimore Orioles have fought to stay out of the American League’s last place. They have been pretty much in rebuild mode seemingly forever. Going into the 2020 season, there was no reason to be optimistic that the team would be competitive, and they weren’t; they ended up fourth in the league, the first time they were out of the basement since 2016.

Going into the 2021 season, the Orioles still have the problem of first baseman Chris Davis. The Orioles once star player has completely and unexplainable fallen apart. He occupies so much of the Orioles payroll that they have to play him. But last year, he didn’t have a single home run and batted only .115. There is no reason to believe he will improve this year.

The Orioles picked up Kevin Smith from the Mets, and he will likely be the best pitcher in their starting rotation. But the rotation and bullpen will hold them back, but that being said, there is a chance that the Orioles could find themselves advancing from last year’s stats.

The Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays are the big surprise team of the offseason. After reaching the World Series for the first time since 2008, the Rays lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The surprise is that after going to a World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays got rid of two of the reasons they got there in the first place. They let veteran pitcher and postseason winning pitcher Charlie Morton walk. Morton signed a one year deal with the Atlanta Braves. Following that, they traded away their ace Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres.

Also, if you follow the Rays spending traditions, they will not go out and hire any high paid pitchers like Trevor Bauer to replace them. Although a greatly diminished team, it doesn’t mean they won’t contend. The Rays always seem to be able, with no money, to put together a pretty good team. They also still have Yankee killer Tyler Glasnow in the rotation. They have a good lineup and presently a much stronger bullpen than the Yankees.

The Tampa Bay Rays will still contend, but their likelihood of replicating their 2020 season is near zero.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Toronto Blue Jays are the team to watch in 2021. They are young and energetic, and like the San Diego Padres, they are on a mission. A mission to win the East, the ALCS, and go on to a World Series for the first time in 27 years. The last time they won the East Division was in 2015. During the last two years, they have made major improvements in the team, and this year one of the most active in the offseason.

Before the 2020 season, the Jays signed P Tanner Roark, P Shun Yamaguchi, and P Mark Rzepczynski. This offseason, to bolster a team that came in just one game behind the New York Yankees last season, the Jays signed LHP Robbie Ray, SS Richard Urena, RHP A.J. Cole, LHP Kirby Yates, RHP Tyler Chatwood, and the big prize, centerfielder George Springer to a $150 million contract, the biggest contract ever given by the Jays.

With money to spend, the Jays are not done yet improving the team. They have signed 20 new Jays players in the month of January so far. The Toronto Blue Jays mean business and will be the major competition for the New York Yankees this coming season. It’s just my educated opinion; only time will tell; the Yankees may still make more improvements. Many things can change in baseball, where nothing is certain.

The New York Yankees or the Toronto Blue Jays will win the AL East. If it’s the Yankees, it will be close. Then the teams to watch for the Yankees will be the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox. If the Yankees can advance to the World Series, it will be against the Los Angeles Dodgers or, less likely, the San Diego Padres.

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

 

New York Mets: Passing On Springer Helps Team Bolster Their Future

New York Yankees, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets missed out on their top center field target in George Springer but are still in a great spot. They avoided a risky long-term deal and gave themselves flexibility with the future of their young stars for 2022 and beyond.

A feeling of disappointment was the initial reaction to missing out on Springer, but the deal’s specifics soothed the pain. Combining Springer’s and Robinson Cano‘s AAV for the 2022 season and beyond would have made it extremely tough to lock up Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor to long-term deals. It also makes re-signing Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard a harder task.

Full-Time Center Fielder?

There is a good chance that Springer becomes a full-time corner outfielder before he is halfway through the contract. Springer has never played more than 80 games in center field and is slightly above average defensively. He would have been an immediate upgrade to center field defense, but Springer will likely fall off with the glove as the contract goes on. Putting Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field puts a bow on top of a brand new Mets defense.

Sustained success was one of Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson’s biggest points of emphasis. Ensuring Lindor and Conforto remain in Queens for the rest of their career is the starting point of consistent winning seasons. Retaining pitchers like Stroman and Syndergaard are next, along with retaining their other young stars.

New York Mets: George Springer will sign with the Blue Jays, now what?

Late on Tuesday night, several media outlets reported that the Toronto Blue Jays had agreed to terms with free agent center fielder George Springer on a six-year, $150 million contract, filling a huge void in their outfield and giving them the star-power they needed to make noise in the AL East. As you know, the New York Mets were also after the former Houston Astro.

According to what a source told MLB’s Mark Feinsand, the Mets’ top offer to George Springer came in around six years, $120-125 million. “The Blue Jays took it to the next level and get their man at six years, $150 million. Huge acquisition for Toronto,” he said.

The Mets didn’t absolutely need Springer. He became a luxury once the team acquired shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, two significant salary obligations for 2021 and, in the case of Carrasco, beyond. Lindor will be paid $22 million this season, and the Mets will try to extend him before he hits free agency during the fall.

What the New York Mets still need, however, is a bonafide center fielder, preferably one who excels with the glove. Springer certainly was a good fit, but after absorbing the two aforementioned significant contracts via trade, he was an unrealistic add.

The Mets’ top targets

Now, Jackie Bradley jr. becomes the go-to target for the new-look Mets. He is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, and he had a good 2020 with the bat, slashing .283/.364/.450 with a 119 wRC+.

In case the Mets can’t secure the services of the 30-year-old defensive wizard, they could pivot to Albert Almora. He carries even less offensive upside than Bradley, but he is also good with the glove and could be cheaper.

Besides improving their center field situation (Brandon Nimmo was a very good hitter in 2020, but a lousy fielder) the Mets could bring an additional arm for the rotation and some bullpen help. Despite missing out on George Springer, the offseason has been a resounding success.

New York Mets: Springer decision could come this week

For a couple of weeks now, it has been reported that the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays are the two finalists in the pursuit of free agent center fielder George Springer. After all, both teams have money to spend and the specific need of a big two-way contributor in the outfield’s most important position.

However, the New York Mets, after acquiring Francisco Lindor, don’t have a pressing need to add Springer, like Toronto still does. The Mets, therefore, are also looking at glove-first options such as Jackie Bradley jr. and Albert Almora.

In any case, both teams remain in the hunt, as the Mets haven’t entirely dismissed the possibility of adding Springer. In fact, both teams made offers north of $100 million, according to the latest reports.

Will Springer choose the Mets?

According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, Springer could come to a decision on where he wants to play next season this week. In the last few days, a flurry of free agents have signed after months of a slow market: reliever Liam Hendriks went to Chicago, the Yankees secured both DJ LeMahieu and pitcher Corey Kluber, and the Phillies inked bullpen star Archie Bradley.

The Mets have been extremely active ever since new owner Steve Cohen took over, but are not done yet. SNY believes that while several free agents remain unsigned, Springer may very well be the next big fish to put his signature into paper.

Springer, who is 31 years old, is reportedly looking for something in the neighborhood of $175 million. That number seems unlikely in the current market, but the final contract could be very well worth at least $150 million.

Additionally, he is said to prefer playing closer to his home in Connecticut, which would give the Mets the edge.

In the shortened 2020 season, Springer slashed .265/.359/.540 with a 146 wRC+ and a 1.9 fWAR. He hit 14 home runs and played stellar defense in center field for the Houston Astros.

New York Mets Among Final Three Teams in Brad Hand Sweepstakes

Brad Hand is the left-handed piece the New York Mets need to solidify their bullpen, but he is not an easy sign. The Mets are also competing with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros to acquire the three-time All-Star’s talents.

There was a report of the Mets being close to a deal a couple of days ago, but it never came to fruition. This was the same situation when the Mets signed James McCann. Both sides were close to a deal, then it was not true, and in the end, McCann ended up signing with the Mets.

A legitimate argument could be made for Hand being a better reliever than Liam Hendriks. Hand will undeservingly receive less money and is a bargain for his elite level of production. If the difference between the Mets signing him is years, not money, they would be foolish to hold out on giving him his requests. The track record for Hand is excellent and stronger than Hendriks since 2016.

Hand is just as important of a signing as George Springer but easier to replace. Justin Wilson is a reliable replacement compared to Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Pillar for center field. The second Hand signs with the Mets, they will have the best bullpen in baseball, and that is something the Mets have not been able to say in the history of their franchise.

New York Mets: DJ LeMahieu makes more sense as a free agent target than George Springer

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

While the New York Mets said, after the Francisco Lindor-Carlos Carrasco trade, that they were “still hungry” and in play for top free agent center fielder George Springer, a case can be made to say that DJ LeMahieu is a much better fit at this point than the former Houston Astro.

Danny Abriano of SNY talks about the subject at lenght, and it makes sense. As of right now, the Mets have a hole at third base (or second, depending on where they play Jeff McNeil) after trading both Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez to Cleveland. JD Davis can play third but is very bad there (-8 DRS in 2020.)

Ideally, the New York Mets could pursue LeMahieu, who is expected to command around $100 million or $110 million, and a cheaper center fielder if they want to replace Brandon Nimmo’s suspect glove there.

The Mets have several options

For instance, the Mets could sign Jackie Bradley Jr., who shouldn’t require more than a two or three-year commitment worth around $10 million per season, and LeMahieu, instead of spending the +$150 million that Springer will likely require.

Bradley Jr. can really solidify the team defense in center, and LeMahieu is not a Gold Glover but is very competent at both second and third.

Make no mistake: Springer is a great player, and Bradley is miles away from him as an offensive performer. But he is younger, significantly cheaper, and better with the glove, so he should be an option for the Mets, too. In fact, he is being considered.

In any case, the Mets appear far from done in the free agent market, as they are fully expected to add at least another outfielder capable of playing center and perhaps a bullpen arm.

Steve Cohen, the new owner, is decided to make a splash in his first season in charge of the team.

New York Mets: Offseason Moves Progressing As Expected

The New York Mets are still in a good spot after Liam Hendriks signed with the Chicago White Sox. Hendriks is the first big name to fall off the extremely slow-moving free-agent market. His signing leaves George Springer, Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and D.J. LeMahieu as the final big names looking for deals.

Hendriks was always on the Mets’ radar but was a “want” not a “need” for their bullpen. Their bullpen already had plenty of dominant hard-throwing righties, making left-hander Brad Hand a perfect fit for them. Once the Mets signed James McCann, they were already out on Realmuto. For the Mets’ sake, they hope Reamulto signs in the American League.

Two Controversial Figures

Trevor Bauer’s free agency went from something exciting to a Bauer-esque annoying, drawn-out episode. Bauer is commanding the highest AAV in baseball history, which has to make Jacob deGrom chuckle. If anyone deserves Bauer’s asking price, it is deGrom or current AAV record holder Gerrit Cole. After trading for Carlos Carrasco, the Mets are out on Bauer until the price becomes reasonable.

The Mets got a dynamic bat when they acquired Francisco Lindor, which brought George Springer’s future into question. Springer is also commanding a large deal, but the Mets also have huge contracts on their books. Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Lindor are some of the names that warrant contract extensions. Robinson Cano’s hefty contract is also a burden thanks to Brodie Van Wagenen and steroids.

The Mets are the only team that can afford to pay Springer his asking price. MLB’s uncertainty with the designated hitter also puts the Mets in a tough roster situation. Despite the questions surrounding the roster, the Mets are still the front runner for Springer.

The Silent Assassin

It takes a lot to frustrate D.J. LeMahieu, but the New York Yankees did it. Whether the anger is real or a hardball tactic, LeMahieu urged his agent to reach out to a handful of teams, including the Mets. LeMahieu is a huge wild card for the Mets because there technically is nowhere for him to play on the infield.

Obviously, LeMahieu is better than J.D. Davis and the Mets would make a trade if he was signed. Davis is too valuable to keep on the bench and becomes the odd man if LeMahieu signs. Opening the wallet for LeMahieu would benefit the offense and defense more than signing Springer. LeMahieu is the better hitter, and the Mets can settle with signing Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Pillar.

Even though all three players have different odds to join the Mets, you can throw those away with Steve Cohen as the owner.

 

New York Mets still in on George Springer and are showing interest in Jackie Bradley

The New York Mets made the statement of the year (so far) on Thursday, trading four players to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Francisco Lindor, an All-Star shortstop, and pitcher Carlos Carrasco.

Despite the considerable additions to the payroll that both players represent, the New York Mets still aren’t done building their roster towards the 2021 season. So far, they have filled their starting catcher position with James McCann, brought a top reliever in Trevor May, and traded for Lindor and Carrasco. But they still could use a center fielder.

Thankfully for Mets’ fans, the Lindor and Carrasco blockbuster doesn’t mean anything regarding the pursuit of George Springer. The 31-year-old center fielder is still a target according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

Springer is perhaps the top offensive player available, along with catcher JT Realmuto. The former Houston Astro hit .265/.359/.540 (140 OPS+) with 13 homers in 222 plate appearances last season, with good defense. He was also spectacular in 2019, setting career highs in average, OBP, slugging, OPS+, WAR, home runs and RBI according to CBS Sports.

Another good center field option for the Mets: JBJ

Additionally, the Mets have been in contact recently with free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. according to MetsMerized online’s Michael Mayer.

JBJ, who has played his whole career with the Boston Red Sox to this point, is the second best center fielder on the free agent market. He is seen as a defensive wizard in center field, even moreso than Springer. He had a 118 OPS+ and 5 defensive runs saved in 2020.

With Springer said to be looking for at least $175 million this offseason, it is possible the Mets pivot to Bradley jr. He is not nearly as good with the bat as Springer, but wouldn’t cost as much and is a superior defensive player. Either way, the offseason is far from over for the hungry New York Mets.

New York Mets: Who Deserves Their Contract Price, Springer or Bauer?

New York Yankees, Trevor Bauer

The New York Mets seem to be on different wavelengths with Trevor Bauer and George Springer in their negotiations. Both players want large contracts, but only one of them actually deserves any amount close to their asking price.

The Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal was a treasonous act to Major League Baseball. They never got the correct punishment, but nothing else can be done to fix the past. Springer proved before and after the scandal that he is still an All-Star caliber player. His pedigree of averaging .270/.361/.491 with 35 home runs and 28 doubles is terrific production.

On the other hand, Bauer has an inconsistent career. Bauer is still an outstanding pitcher, but he is not worth Gerrit Cole money. Bauer’s first four full seasons resulted in ERAs over four but then followed it with two out of three seasons with ERAs under 2.50. The money that Bauer wants is better off allocated to multiple players who could benefit the team more. We also cannot forget the, for lack of a better term, “crap” that comes with Trevor Bauer off the field.

Open the Wallet

Neither player will get their asking prices, but at least Springer is realistic. Not a single person looked at Bauer’s price as a reasonable request. $40M would easily net the Mets Jake Odorizzi and Masahiro Tanaka and might even leave them with money to spare.

In the current free-agent market, there is a dramatic dropoff in center field talent. This is what makes Springer the Mets top priority and more deserving of his contract request. $30M per year over five seasons would still be an overpay, but the Mets would have an idea of what Springer will bring. Other pitchers on the market are capable of matching or bettering Bauer’s numbers for a better price. If the Mets need to overpay for a player, Springer is the way to go.

Mets’ target George Springer is expected to delay his free agency ‘well into’ January and wants $150 million

To the contrary of what was reported by some unreliable sources around Christmas, George Springer isn’t close to signing a multi-year contract with the New York Mets or any other team. Free agency has been going slower than anticipated, as teams are moving with caution after a very bad year revenue-wise.

The real scenario, according to Andy Martino of SNY (citing league sources), is the following. “The Mets and Blue Jays remain seriously interested in Springer and engaged with his representatives. As you almost certainly know.

“What you might not know yet is that the Mets and Springer are still a good distance apart on value. All parties involved with Springer are bracing for the possibility that his free agency could stretch well into next month,” Martino said.

If his sources are true, we are looking at a late-January resolution for the George Springer’s sweepstakes. “The rumored deal between Springer and the Mets that popped up in several places over the holiday was five years, $125 million. In reality, Springer is expected to sign for much more than that. Two league sources said that he was still asking for well over $150 million,” he said.

Springer’s representatives at Excel Sports Management did not respond to SNY messages seeking comment.

Will the Mets stretch to $150 million?

While the Mets certainly have the financial power to approach the $150 million threshold for a talent like Springer, there is still a rather sizable gap between the two parties, so a deal is not close at this stage.

At this point, Springer is believed to be a priority for the New York Mets, moreso than starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.

The former Houston Astros’ center fielder is a career .270/.361/.491 with a 134 wRC+ and solid defense in the outfield (69th percentile in Outs Above Average, 62nd percentile in Outfield Jump.)