New York Yankees News/Rumors: Brian Cashman may not be done, and Joc Pederson signs with the Cubs

The New York Yankee’s general manager Brian Cashman must be happy with the successes he has had in the last week or so. First, he was able to sign DJ LeMahieu to a six-year contract for far less annually than industry sources said it would take. He followed that up by signing two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to an $11 million one year deal. A few days later, he managed to orchestrate a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates to bring starter Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for a mere four low-level prospects.

It had recently come out that Cashman, before the Kluber deal, was in talks with the Pirates to bring both Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon to the Bronx. For some unknown reason, that didn’t work out, and Musgrove went to the San Diego Padres for four prospects. Those players were Hudson Head, Omar Cruz, David Bednar, and Drake Fellows. It soon came out that it was a three-team trade.

While the Padres sent southpaw Joey Lucchesi to the New York Mets, the Mets would be sending catching prospect Endy Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since taking over as general manager of the Pirates, Ben Cherington’s best trade is so far. When the dust settled, Cashman signed Kluber and continued to negotiate to get Taillon, which he successfully did.

If you believe that Cashman is done improving the team, you are likely wrong. According to who you want to believe the New York Yankees still have between $6.5 and $8.5 million left in the budget without going over owner Hall Steinbrenner’s mandate that Cash stays below the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Add to that, he has a bevy of high A and low A prospects that are log jamming the minor league system. Many forget that there was a re-alignment of the minor league system this offseason causing the closing down of the Staten Island Yankees and the Pulaski Yankees. The Yankees have to mesh all those players into existing minor league teams.

The Yankees have a considerable amount of shortstops and centerfielders in the system that could very well be used as trade bait to get an additional starter, bullpen help, or more outfield depth. So with prospect aplenty and money left to spend, expect more Yankee acquisitions before spring training that is just over two weeks away.

The New York Yankees still have to decide if they will bring centerfielder and fan-favorite Brett Gardner back for a twelve year with the Yankees. With the most recent addition of Darren O’Day, they could still use another arm in the bullpen. They traded Adam Ottavino in a payroll dump and let Tommy Kahnle walk to the Los Angeles Dodgers when he would accept the Scranton team assignment, making him a free agent. Presently they have a strong late-inning staff of Chad Green, Darren O’Day, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. Where they are lacking is early and long relief relievers.

If they don’t sign Brett Gardner, they have to decide with reliever Brad Hand out of the picture after signing with the Washington Nationals and Joc Pederson singing with the Chicago Cubs if they still want an outfielder. Also, the Yankees have to address a situation that has received little press. The Yankees cannot go into the regular season with only two catchers. Last year the Yankees had backup catcher Erik Kratz who has since retired. Should either Gary Sanchez or Kyler Higashioka become injured, there would be no backup catcher. Only time will tell what Cashman will do with his remaining assets, but we are likely to know sooner than later.

 

New York Yankees: Yankee outfielder options; Gardner, Pederson, or Puig?

yasiel puig, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have made tremendous strides in the past week to improve the team for the 2021 season. They were finally able to re-sign batting champ DJ LeMahieu, sign two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and trade for pitcher Jameson Taillon. They may still sign arms to the bullpen. With Yankee veteran outfielder Brett Gardner not signed, there is much talk about adding another outfielder.

Although more is always better than less, this writer feels the Yankees have plenty of backup outfielders while understanding the outfielders’ injury record is not good. Stanton, Hicks, and Judge had missed parts of the last three seasons. However, along with Stanton, Mike Tauchman, and newly acquired Greg Allen, that makes three backups for Judge, Hicks, and Frazier. If they add to that, I feel it will be with Brett Gardner, more out of respect and loyalty than need.

Brett Gardner:

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at these options.  Brett Gardner is the only holdover from the 2009 World Series season. Kyle Higashioka was a Yankee then but was in the minors. Despite a career-low .223 batting average in ’20, Gardner’s excellent 16.5% walk rate (and .354 OB) still gave him a 108 OPS +, making him slightly above average and similar to the 103 OPS+ he put up from ’17-19. Gardner had a $10 million option with a $2.5 buyout feature, the Yankees declined. With Garder’s desire to play another year and the fan’s love of their veteran that plays so hard, the Yankees can come to deal if they truly want him back. He is still an above-average defender in both left and centerfield. Add to that Gardner would like to finish out his career with the Yankees.

Joc Pederson:

Probably the best left-hand hitter out there that the Yankees can afford is free agent Joc Pederson. The former Los Angeles Dodger destroys right-hand pitching and would be the perfect fit for Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right. He is not the defender that Gardner is, but his bat makes up for that. Against right-hand pitchers in 2020, he hit .382/.432/.559 in 37 plate appearances. If there is a problem, it’s that he can’t hit off lefties. Last year he batted .190 off lefties. That would be less of a problem with the Yankees as their right-heavy lineup seldom faces lefty pitchers. With an incentive-laden contract, the Yankees could probably land Pederson for $6 million on a one year contract. By the way, he is a Luke Voit look alike.

Yasiel Puig:

Puig might cost the New York Yankees more than they want to pay for someone that might be just a bench player.  Aaron Judge would have to have a serious injury and be away from the team for a long period to make Puig a strong need. Puig has a career .277 batting average with 132 home runs in seven years of play. The Cuban has just turned 30 years old. However, adding Puig would not provide a lefty bat to the lineup. Puig’s colorful personality would also be an interesting fit on the Yankees, who are generally regarded as a clean-cut organization for literal and metaphorical reasons. Still, that doesn’t preclude Puig from heading to the Bronx. After all, it’s not as if an interesting character or two haven’t donned pinstripes in the past.

Tommy LaStella:

One interesting possibility is Tommy LaStella, the former Angel and Athletics infielder. He would be backup for the New York Yankees to play any position in the infield should any of the Yankee infielders be injured or need a day off. Coming to the Yankees would be like a homecoming for the northern New Jersey native. Last year with the Angels and Athletics, he hit .281 with 5 home runs while striking out only 12 times in 228 plate appearances. In the postseason, he hit .273 in the wild card and .313 in the ALDS. While there are others available, these are my best four fits for the Yankees.

New York Yankees Analysis: The Yankees really need left-hand hitters

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees have one of the best lineups in baseball. But they lack one thing, left-hand hitters. Currently, they have none on the roster. Aaron Hicks is a switch hitter, but he is the only one that can take advantage of right-hand pitchers. They are also not taking advantage of the Yankee Stadium design, namely that sweet short porch in right field.

The stacking of right-handers doesn’t suit Yankee Stadium. Some of those right-handed batters, namely DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, hit the ball the opposite way enough to take advantage of the cozy confines of River Avenue. The Stadium, though, is designed for left-handed pull hitters.

Other than taking advantage of that short porch, not having lefties in the lineup makes the job of selecting pitchers by opponents’ teams much easier, especially when calling in a reliever that must face three hitters. Although a team can win with an exclusive right-handed lineup, a manager’s ability to mix up the lineup is a definite advantage.

The Yankees do have lefties on the bench, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, and Tyler Wade. But last season, they combined for a .188 batting average, which will not win games. The Yankees need reliable left-hand hitters like Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and Jacoby Ellsbury that were all lefties for the Yankees in previous years. When healthy, these guys could all pull and hit the short porch.

Some of the greatest Yankee hitters of all time were lefties that used that short porch. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Robinson Cano, Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Graig Nettles, Bill Dickey, Earl Combs, and others were all left-hand hitters. Mickey Mantle, Bernie Williams, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, and Roy White could all hit from the left when needed as they were all successful switch hitters.

There are two clear benefits to hitting left-handed. The first one goes back to the scarcity of lefty pitchers. A lefty hitter will get to bat in many more favorable matchups against righties than he’ll have to bat in unfavorable ones against lefties. A batter wants the pitcher he faces to throw the opposite of how he hits, giving him a clearer view of what the pitcher is throwing and more time to see the pitch, giving the hitter an advantage off the pitcher.

So if the New York Yankees want to mix up their lineup with a few left-hand hitters, who should they target. The obvious move would be to re-hire Brett Gardner. Gardner is not only the most veteran of Yankee hitters but if he can have a season as he did in 2019, he could be an impactful hitter anywhere in the lineup.

The Yankees could also target Jay Bruce. Bruce would be a backup for the often injured Aaron Judge. He has hit 300 homers in his career. He, like many players, had a sub-par season in 2020. But in 2019, for two teams, he hit 19, and for the Mets in 2018, he hit 41 long balls. He has a career .245 batting average. He is also nicely fitted to Yankee Stadium. He would be a cheap addition if the Yankees could sign him to a minor league contract and invite him to show his spring training stuff.

Probably the best left-hand hitter out there that the Yankees can afford is free agent Joc Pederson. The former Los Angeles Dodger destroys right-hand pitching and would be the perfect fit for Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right. He is not the defender that Gardner is, but his bat makes up for that. Against right-hand pitchers in 2020, he hit .382/.432/.559 in 37 plate appearances. If there is a problem, it’s that he can’t hit off lefties. Last year he batted .190 off lefties. That would be less of a problem with the Yankees as their right-heavy lineup seldom faces lefty pitchers. With an incentive-laden contract, the Yankees could probably land Pederson for $6 million on a one year contract. By the way, he is a Luke Voit look alike.

One interesting possibility is Tommy LaStella, the former Angel and Athletics infielder. He would be backup for the New York Yankees to play any position in the infield should any of the Yankee infielders be injured or need a day off. Coming to the Yankees would be like a homecoming for the northern New Jersey native. Last year with the Angels and Athletics, he hit .281 with 5 home runs while striking out only 12 times in 228 plate appearances. In the postseason, he hit .273 in the wild card and .313 in the ALDS. While there are others available, these are my best three fits for the Yankees.

The New York Yankees could also reengage Didi Gregorius’s services, which probably won’t happen, as the Yankees have little wiggle room in the 2021 budget if they are to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

 

New York Yankees: Are the Yankees going to be “left” out without Brett Gardner

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees, after having a near-silent offseason, have now accomplished their biggest needs. The Yankees offered the second baseman and baseball batting title winner DJ LeMahieu a $6.9 million raise as a qualifying offer, the only one given by the Yankees. He would have earned $18.9 million for the 2021 season, but he refused and became a free agent. With money being a second consideration, DJ wanted a long contract that the Yankees did not want to give the 32-year-old. In the end, both sides got what they wanted. The Yankees got a low $15 million annual investment, and DJ got a six-year deal.

The other big need was to sign a number two-like starting pitcher to back up ace Gerrit Cole. After the Yankees lost Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ, they were left veteranless. With plenty of arms to choose from, all they had were inexperienced arms that probably wouldn’t carry them into the postseason. As soon as the New York Yankees knew more about their finances after the signing of DJ LeMahieu, they immediately signed two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to an $11 million one year low risk, high reward contract. This signing will give the Yankees another season to evaluate returning Domingo German, Luis Severino, and the developing young arms.

That leaves the Yankees needing additional bullpen help caused by the suspect relief of Adam Ottavino and the loss of Tommy Kahnle, who signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But today, we are going to discuss what some might consider a minor need. Plain and simple, the New York Yankees need at least one if not two left-hand producers in the lineup.

With the loss of Brett Gardner to free agency when the Yankees refused his 2021 option, the Yankees are left with no true left-hand batters that can impact the lineup. Yankee fans might be surprised that last year with Brett Gardner and switch hitter Aaron Hicks in the lineup, the team had fewer lefty plate appearances than any team in baseball.  In fact, only five teams in the history of baseball have had fewer left-hand plate appearances. So why is the lack of left-hand hitters important? For two reasons, It allows the opposing team to set up their pitching with less guesswork and doesn’t allow the Yankees to take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium as much as they should.

It’s not that the Yankees don’t have left-hand hitters on the bench; the problem is, for the most part mixing and matching lefties from the bench doesn’t work when they don’t hit. Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, Tyler Wade, and Estevan Florial are all left-hand hitters, but last season they combined for a slash line of just .188/.291/.296 and a mere .588 OPS. Stats like that are not going to win games. Please make no mistake about it. It should be obvious that the Yankees have done well without left-hand hitters. But wouldn’t it be smart to have some to throw the opponents off a bit?

The obvious answer to solving the problem is to bring back Brett Gardner, then at least they would have one lefty in the lineup. Two would be better, but one is better than nothing. Gardner has been with the Yankees since 2005, the last remaining player from the 2009 World Series-winning team. Gardner would like to end his career with the Yankees and has shown little interest in playing for another team. Like many players, he didn’t have a great year last season, but in 2019 he had a career-high number of home runs. Even if Gardner does get a hit, he does manage to get on base.

Despite a career-low .223 batting average in ’20, Gardner’s excellent 16.5% walk rate (and .354 OB) still gave him a 108 OPS +, making him slightly above average and similar to the 103 OPS+ he put up from ’17-19. Gardner had a $10 million option with a $2.5 buyout feature, the Yankees declined. With Garder’s desire to play another year and the fan’s love of their veteran that plays so hard, the Yankees can come to deal if they truly want him back. He is still an above-average defender in both left and centerfield.

If the New York Yankees don’t want Gardner back in the lineup, they have other options. Probably the best left-hand hitter out there that the Yankees can afford is free agent Joc Pederson. The former Los Angeles Dodger destroys right-hand pitching and would be the perfect fit for Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right. He is not the defender that Gardner is, but his bat makes up for that. Against right-hand pitchers in 2020, he hit .382/.432/.559 in 37 plate appearances. If there is a problem, it’s that he can’t hit off lefties. Last year he batted .190 off lefties. That would be less of a problem with the Yankees as their right-heavy lineup seldom faces lefty pitchers. With an incentive-laden contract, the Yankees could probably land Pederson for $6 million on a one year contract. By the way, he is a Luke Voit look alike.

There are other options out there, a reunion with Didi Gregorius is financially unlikely and also has too many moving parts now that the Yankees have resigned DJ LeMahieu. There are other left-hand hitters available that are also ruled out for the same reason.

One interesting possibility is Tommy LaStella, the former Angel and Athletics infielder. He would be backup for the New York Yankees to play any position in the infield should any of the Yankee infielders be injured or need a day off. Coming to the Yankees would be like a homecoming for the northern New Jersey native. Last year with the Angels and Athletics, he hit .281 with 5 home runs while striking out only 12 times in 228 plate appearances. In the postseason, he hit .273 in the wild card and .313 in the ALDS. While there are others available, these are my best two fits for the Yankees.

The photo below is of the Luke Voit look-alike Joc Pederson.

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

 

 

 

New York Mets Best Outfield Options On The Free Agent Market

New York Yankees, Kevin Pillar

The New York Mets desperately need a center fielder, and George Springer perfectly fits the mold. If the Mets strike out on Springer, what are their other options to fill a huge need in the outfield?

1. George Springer

There is no more convincing for the Mets to sign Springer. He is an improvement defensively and brings a proven postseason bat for a roster that lacks postseason experience. Springer is also a much needed right-handed power bat in the Mets lineup that perfectly balances their offense.

2. Kevin Pillar

Kevin Pillar is a significant downgrade from Springer, but his offensive production has improved over the last two seasons. Pillar has 27 home runs and a .440 slugging over the last two seasons. While Pillar’s defense has declined over the last few seasons, he is still an update from Brandon Nimmo. No disrespect to Pillar, but anyone not named George Springer would be a complete failure for center field.

3. Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is still a good defensive center fielder, but his offense is filled with inconsistency. 2020 was Bradley’s first season with an average over .270. His power numbers have also fluctuated over his career, which does not project him to be a major upgrade in center field. Bradley would be a lower walk rate, better defending version of Nimmo.

4. Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson is always a tremendous power threat but his center field days might be far behind him. Pederson only hit .190 in 2020 but came alive in the postseason with 15 hits. If the Mets choose to move J.D. Davis or the DH is implemented in the NL, Pederson is very much worth a look.

5. Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley is a huge shot in the dark for the Mets. But if you are going to have a horrible defense, why not try to win with overwhelming offense. The Mets offense would become the best in baseball with a .470+ sugging percentage hitter at every position. Signing Brantley would all but end Davis’s tenure in New York. Nimmo would remain in center while Brantley man’s left (if there is a DH). But you have got a better chance of landing a Play Station 5 than the Mets signing Brantley.