Sunday, December 14, 2014

Everyone Waits for The Plan

           Tis' the season for baseball GMs and agents to scamper around the hotel lobbies in San Diego for the official MLB Winter Meetings. While several teams have been making headline-worthy additions, Yankees GM Brian Cashman let home grown closer David Robertson walk out the door and has been pressing the mute button when it comes to any improvements.

           Refusing to go a fourth year on a new deal for Robertson, Cashman sat by and allowed the Chicago WhiteSox to steal "Houdini" with a 4-year contract at $12 million per. Meanwhile, only a few days earlier Cashman felt comfortable with giving four years to an "outsider" like Andrew Miller at $8 million per. It's true, the Yankees will receive a draft pick from Chicago due to the free agency rules, but that individual is more like to be working at Walmart five years from now than being the same quality player as Robertson was for the Yanks. Miller has come into his own the past two seasons and the tall/hard-throwing lefty is an intimidating presence on the mound, but he hasn't shown nearly the consistency that Robetson has displayed in pinstripes. Not only is Robertson one of the best closers in baseball, but he's a rare talent that able to succeed in New York versus Miller who is yet to be tested. Had Cashman inked both of them, with Bentances, that would've given the Yanks the best bullpen in baseball. Instead Robertson flip-flops for Miller, the Yanks save a whole $12 million over four years and will get a draft that could turn out to be anything but a legit MLB talent.

          The decision wreaks of last offseason when the Yankee front office drew an early line in the sand with Cano and refused to budget any further. Like Cano, Robertson was a proven home-grown talent in his prime who the Yanks let walk away, yet brought in expensive talent such as Tanaka, Beltran, and McCann who were either hurt or disappointments in 2014. There was speculation that the Yanks were being thrifty with Robertson because they were making a play for one of the top starting pitcher free agents on the market (Jon Lester and Max Scherzer), but Lester ended up with the Cubs for $155 million and Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, has made indications his client's asking price is even higher than that. With all the money the Yanks are still due to pay out to CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, its unlikely Cashman is going to go to bat for Scherzer. Sure Scherzer throws 97 mph and is an exceptional talent, but it would be a disaster beyond epic proportions if the Yanks give him $180 million and he turns out to find the same injury bug that has bitten CC and Tanaka.

          Other candidates the Yankees had in mind for the 2015 rotation have also fallen off the board. Brandon McCarthy, who came over from Arizona last season and was marvelous for the Yankees, found himself a 4-year deal for $48 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers. As good as McCarthy was in 2014, certainly Cashman can't be blamed for staying away from that type of deal for a player - who is injured frequently and has been mediocre across his career. Shane Greene was brought up from the minors as Yankee starters kept dropping like flies last year and he showed promise with his 97 mph fastball, but now he's out of the picture as Cashman shipped him to Detroit in a 3-way trade that brings in shortstop Didi (aka Sir Mariekson Julis) Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Didi will be the new "Derek" so to speak, but overall he's not even close to the player that The Captain was. Although he's a solid defender at short, which is what a GM traditionally is only concerned about, at-best he's a .240 slap hitter. It's a good pick-up in terms of the expectations in which the fans and the media won't be pressuring the Dutchman Didi to fill Jeter's shoes versus if the Yanks found a way to bring in Troy Tulowitzki, for example. The downside is giving up Greene who is in his early 20's, throws hard, and pitched okay in his first major league go-around. Cashman's reasoning was that the free-agency shortstop pool was very thin, but at the cost of Shane Greene the Yanks would've been better off leaving in Brendan Ryan for now and addressing the position at a later date when more opportunities would present themselves. Chase Headley is still an option to return at third-base and play some first, but the rumor currently is that the San Francisco Giants are also showing interest. As it stands, the Yankee infield doesn't look to be much better than it was a year ago......and young pitcher Shane Green is gone!

           Other nick-nack moves the Yanks pulled off which didn't grab much attention was resigning Chris Young, who was a bust for the Mets but a blast for the Yankees, and trading away backup catcher (and character) Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates for bullpen lefty Justin Wilson who had a weak 4.20 ERA last season. It's assumed either Bentances will be the new closer, or perhaps it will be on a case-by-case basis with Andrew Miller, depending on the match-ups Girardi likes. Other than that the Winter Meetings haven't yielded much merry feelings from Yankee fans who might have to endure a torturous third season in a row without a playoff berth. Boston has vastly strengthened their left side of the infield by snagging clutch post-season performer Pablo Sandoval from free agency as well as the highly-talented, but frequently lazy, Hanley Ramirez. Baltimore took a step back as they lost Miller (to the Yanks), plus power hitters Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to the free agency market. Joe Maddon bolted from the dump stadium in Tampa Bay to manage the Cubs and Toronto is always going to be Toronto, mediocre if they're lucky. Boston's starting rotation is still iffy, but as it stands they're probably the Yanks biggest challenger for the AL East crown and if somehow Max Scherzer ends up in beantown, they then become the sure favorite. If the RedSox weren't willing to go near $155 million to bring back fan-favorite Lester, then it wouldn't make sense for them to chase Scherzer for more money.

Image result for joe maddon

          The Yankees have become more cost-conscious in recent years compared to the ol' George days and blowing away other teams for overpriced and past-primed talent, but the Yanks are still willing to spend as the contracts of Tanaka-Beltran-McCann-Sabathia show and there's usually a plan in Cashman's head.

      Yankee fans would just like to see these plans take action sooner rather than March 31st.....