Cleaning up the 40-man roster: Part II

Once the World Series ends, either tonight or tomorrow, the offseason begins the following morning. Within the first five days after the last out, eligible players become free agents and the disabled list is eliminated, meaning significant changes in many teams 40-man roster composition. There are other key deadlines this winter that will force the front office to make further changes to the 40-man roster, as I highlighted last week.

Today, I take a look at some players who are in jeopardy of losing their spot on the roster, starting with the most likely to go and ending with least likely to go (in my amateur opinion). This list includes players that I believe the front office will considering removing from the 40-man roster in order to make way for new talent. Without further ado:

1. Nathan Eovaldi: This isn’t a matter of if, but rather, when Eovaldi will be taken off the 40-man roster. There’s no reason to hold a 40-man spot for Eovaldi in 2017 because (a) he’s going to miss the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, (b) his forecasted $7.5M salary would be money flushed down the drain, and (c) he’s a free agent after next year. Could he be back on an alternate arrangement off the 40-man? Sure. But there isn’t a good reason to use a valuable spot on him right now. Continue reading

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Precedents for a 2016 Cubs comeback: The 1952 and 1958 Yankees

Trailing three games to one in a best of seven series is usually a death knell. The Cubs were in that very situation entering Sunday, but managed to stave off elimination with a 3-2 victory over the Indians. To break the franchise’s more than a century long championship drought, the club will have to win games six and seven on the road in Cleveland. It’s not an impossible task, but certainly still a lot to ask at this juncture.

Two Yankees teams have accomplished the feat of winning games six and seven on the road. The 1952 Bombers did so against the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1958, the Yankees did the same against the Milwaukee Braves. That ’58 club not only won games six and seven on the road, but was also on the brink of elimination in game five, just like the Cubs were last night. Let’s take a more detailed look back at how those two famous Yankee clubs overcame unlikely odds, just like the Cubs hope to by the end of Wednesday’s potential game seven.

1952 World Series

The Yankees and Dodgers alternated victories in the first five affairs, leaving Brooklyn up 3-2 and with an opportunity to finish off their crosstown rivals at home. The Dodgers were poised for their first title in franchise history and to obtain sweet revenge after World Series losses to the Yankees in 1941, 1947, and 1949.

Game Six (Yankees win 3-2, full broadcast on YouTube):

Ebbets Field was the host of a pitchers duel between Yankees hurler Vic Raschi and adversary Billy Loes. Neither side broke through for a run until the bottom of the sixth, when Duke Snider launched a solo home run to right. That left the Dodgers nine outs away from the organization’s elusive first title. Continue reading

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2016 In Review: Jacoby Ellsbury

Preseason expectations

After a poor showing in 2015, expectations were understandably low for Jacoby Ellsbury in 2016. He had just posted the worst batting line of his career (83 wRC+, not counting his injured 2010) and was benched in the Wild Card game. It was difficult not to be down on the Yankees’ $153M center fielder, knowing that 2016 was only the third year of his seven year deal.

In February, I argued that Ellsbury was a much better player than he had shown in 2015. My case was built on Ellsbury’s performance in periods of time when we could assume he was healthy, such as the vast majority of 2014 and the very beginning of 2015. If you recall, Ellsbury started 2015 on a tear, with a 124 wRC+ until he succumbed to an injury in late May. My sentiment was optimistic, sure, but I felt that it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Ellsbury play well in 2016 because of the flashes he had shown in his first two years in pinstripes.

Alas, ZiPS didn’t share my cautious optimism. It projected Ellsbury for +2.2 WAR, 26 stolen bases, and a .269/.324/.383 batting line (97 OPS+) in 121 games.

What Happened

Statistically, nothing about Ellsbury’s 2016 season jumps off the page. He stayed healthy, playing in 148 games, but my theory that a healthy Ellsbury would result in better output didn’t hold water. On a rate basis, the 33 year-old fell short of ZiPS’ expectations. He hit .263/.330/.373 (88 OPS+) and accumulated +2.0 fWAR/+2.8 rWAR, depending on your preference. He stole only 20 bases as well, down from the past two years and six below his ZiPS forecast. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Yankee Stadium’s changes for 2017

“Enhancements” are coming to Yankee Stadium. That’s how the Yankees termed the upcoming changes to the ballpark that will be in place for the 2017 season.

“We have listened to our fans and ticketholders and their top requests were for more family-friendly and socially-oriented spaces at Yankee Stadium,” said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “Yankees fans will now have many more dedicated areas for spending time with Guests who have tickets in other sections of the Stadium, allowing all Guests to be able to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available to them. We are also especially excited to provide an engaging children’s play area for families to utilize prior to and throughout the game. Having these types of spaces in Yankee Stadium is fundamental to the expectations of our fans, and we look forward to making them a huge part of the Yankee Stadium experience in 2017 and beyond.”

Below are my thoughts on the new features added, along with commentary on parts of the stadium that I still lament. Continue reading

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2016 In Review: Starlin Castro

Preseason Expectations

The Yankees acquired Starlin Castro with the idea of the 26 year-old becoming the long-term solution at second base, an opening created because of the departure of Robinson Cano after 2013. Before joining the Yankees, the former Cubs shortstop finished his career in Chicago with his second down season in the past three. Nonetheless, the Yankees undoubtedly felt they were acquiring a talented infielder who had not only showed great promise in years prior, but also in the second half of 2015.

Before the season began, it was difficult to peg precise expectations for Castro’s first year in the Bronx. Would he play as poorly he did in 2013 and most of 2015? Or could be a above average lineup contributor and +3 fWAR player he had been in 2011, 2012, and 2014? The potential was tantalizing despite the volatility of likely outcomes. Continue reading

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Cleaning up the 40-man roster: Offseason Calendar

There are 35 players on the Yankees’ 40-man roster right now, not counting the six players on the 60-day disabled list who will count toward the total tally once the World Series ends. Unless the Yankees plan to sit on their hands this winter (they won’t), there’s going to be quite a bit of maneuvering to do in order to squeeze new players on the roster via trade, free agency, and to protect minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft. Today, I’ve summarized some important dates on the offseason calendar that will result in roster shuffling. In the near future, I’ll take a look at two other topics that relate to today’s post: players whose roster spots are in jeopardy and the Rule 5 draft.

Note: This post was updated on November 3 with solidified dates. Credit to MLB Trade Rumors and River Ave. Blues for the information.

The offseason begins

At 9am on the day after the World Series ends (UPDATE: November 3rd, 9am), the offseason commences. Two major roster implications of this day: eligible players become free agents and the disabled list must be emptied.

Free agents aren’t eligible to talk with the other 29 teams until five days after the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they remain on the 40-man roster until that point. Mark Teixeira and Billy Butler are the only two Yankees who will become Major League free agents the day after the World Series, and thus no longer on the roster. Of course, Teixeira is retiring, but his contract expired after this season. Butler is a traditional free agent.

Five days after the World Series (Monday, November 7th), eligible players become Minor League free agents. Kyle Higashioka, who is eligible, will be added to the 40-man roster on or before this day in order to prevent him from hitting free agency. This is one move we’ve already known to be in the cards. In Brian Cashman’s end of season press conference, he announced that he will add the 26 year-old catcher to the roster.

Monday is also the day when the disabled list must be cleared. Without it available, six players will be returned to the 40-man roster: Nathan Eovaldi, Dustin Ackley, Chad Green, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, and Conor Mullee (UPDATE: Mullee was claimed by the Cubs and is already off the 40-man).

At the end of Moday, the 40-man roster will be one player below capacity, going from 35 to 33 after the departures of Teixeira and Butler, up to 34 with the addition of Higashioka, and finally up to 39 with the return of the injured players. Continue reading

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2016 In Review: Luis Severino

Preseason Expectations

In retrospect, the expectations of Luis Severino entering this past season were lofty. It’s easy to say that after witnessing his frustrating 2016. Yet, it was hard not to salivate about Severino’s future after he touted a 2.89 ERA in his first eleven big league starts. Would he establish himself as the co-ace with Masahiro Tanaka? I don’t think anybody reasonably expected that, but you couldn’t blame anyone for dreaming. For as great as Severino’s results were in his debut, his 4.37 FIP helped keep expectations a bit more honest. The realistic plan was to have Severino establish himself in the back end of the rotation with something akin to a high-3 ERA and FIP. That would have made him an above average pitcher relative to the rest of the league, which for a 22-year old is a lot to ask of, but didn’t seem crazy at the time.

ZiPS thought Severino was destined for a strong 2016 too. In 154 innings across 30 starts, the model estimated Severino’s ERA/FIP to be 3.80/3.87. That was an excellent projection for a starter of his age, and I think generally covers what most of us hoped out of Severino prior to 2016. After all, his track record seemed to merit it. He dominated the minors and fared quite well with the Yankees during the final stretch of 2015. Continue reading

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Seeking a destination for Jacoby Ellsbury: Detroit Tigers

The marriage between Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees has not worked out. It’s not that Ellsbury has been a poor performer, but he hasn’t provided value commensurate to his pay during his three years in pinstripes. That’s not Ellsbury’s fault, of course, but rather the Yankees’ for blowing the rest of the market out of the water. It makes sense for the franchise to move on from Ellsbury, especially with a very similar Brett Gardner already on the roster, but to do so would be a challenge. Ostensibly, the Yankees will see if there are any takers for Ellsbury before shopping Gardner instead. Today, I’m beginning a series of posts analyzing potential fits for Ellsbury. To preface, the ideas I’m proposing are not rumors, but merely speculative. These proposals are incredibly unlikely, but do provide some offseason entertainment during a lull of Yankees news. Take ’em with a grain of salt, please.

The hypothetical trade

Yankees acquire: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4 years, $92M remaining on deal)

Tigers acquire: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (4 years, $89.6M remaining on deal, which includes a $5M 2021 club option buyout. 2021 option calls for $21M salary)

Both players have a no-trade clause, so approvals would be needed to facilitate the deal.

Why would the Tigers be interested?

The practically offsetting salaries and years remaining would probably prevent Tigers’ general manager Al Avila from hanging up immediately, at least. With less than a $3M difference in salaries owed through 2020, the trade seems reasonable from a financial perspective. Throwing a wrench in this idea are the no-trade clauses, which many players require some sort of compensation to waive. More on that forthcoming. Continue reading

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2016 Luxury Tax Estimate

Last season, Major League Baseball levied a $26M competitive balance tax on the Yankees, better known as the luxury tax. The franchise has been the league’s top luxury tax contributor since the tariff was instituted, something team owner Hal Steinbrenner has clearly grown tired of. He’s sick of paying the piper, and doesn’t believe his club needs to maintain a payroll level that triggers the tax in order to win a World Series.

“I’ve said it over and over, I shouldn’t have to have a $200 million payroll to win a world championship,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said [in November 2015]. “It’s been proven over and over again, right?’’

One way or another, Hal is going to get his wish. The wheels are already in motion. In recent years, the organization has refused to sign pricey free agents and has plenty of salary coming off the books over the next two seasons. Plus, with a new collective bargaining agreement expected this winter, the allowable payroll ceiling before tax kicks in could increase. Under the current agreement, the maximum tax-free competitive balance payroll is $189M. Assuming there aren’t any other significant changes to the luxury tax rules, Hal’s come too far to change course now.

For no discernible benefit, I’ve put together an estimate of the Yankees’ 2016 luxury tax dues. This isn’t the first time I’ve put together such a calculation, but I believe that this is the most accurate one yet (so I hope). Below is an embedded Google Sheet for you to scroll through, beginning with the calculation’s summary tab built from supporting tabs. I’m not going to bore you with details of the computation, as most of the explanations are within the footnotes of the spreadsheet’s tabs. If the embedded Google Sheet doesn’t appear, you can view it here instead. After the embedded spreadsheet, I’ll offer some thoughts.

Continue reading

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2016 In Review: Brian McCann

Preseason Expectations

Simply put, Brian McCann was to repeat what he did in 2015: maintain his strong defensive reputation behind the dish, manage the pitching staff, and hit 25 dingers or so. The expectations were basically what McCann had done for his entire career, although he was a more well rounded offensive player earlier on with the Braves.

McCann’s ZiPS projection was in line with his career norms. With a .245/.317/.432 triple-slash forecast and 21 home runs over 122 games, Dan Szymborski’s model foresaw the backstop accumulating 2.8 WAR. From a value standpoint, a repeat of his 2015 3.0 fWAR campaign. It was a ho-hum projection for the 32 year-old, one without any surprises. But hey, the Yankees unquestionably would have signed up for that back in March.

What Happened

Through the first half of the season, it looked like McCann was going to beat expectations. In 274 plate appearances to that point, he socked 14 home runs and posted a .248/.347/.462 batting line, good for a 118 wRC+. Looking back, it’s a bit surprising that he didn’t make the All-Star team. I understand Salvador Perez starting, but he probably deserved it over one of Matt Wieters or Stephen Vogt.

At that stage of the season, nobody believed that McCann would lose his starting job. He was arguably having his best season as a Yankee and was the club’s best offensive player aside from Carlos Beltran. Yet, McCann stumbled after the All-Star break to close out July, posting a .167/.280/.238 triple-slash to round out the month. Continue reading

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