The Yankees went to the bargain basement again for another lefty-hitting OF. It really looks like unless they can dump salary in a trade, that this will be the way to go for a LF. Either internally via Hicks, Cabrera or Florial or by trying to get a bargain like McKinney, Calhoun, or this latest signing, Rafael Ortega, to a minor league deal.
Ortega, 31, has played for the Rockies (2012), Dodgers (2016), Marlins (2018), Braves (2019) and Cubs (2021-2022). In 364 MLB games he has hit .250 with an OPS+ of 88. He can play all 3 OF positions and his 162-game average is .250-9-45 with 18 SB. OPS+ 88. Last season in 118 games for the Cubs he hit .241-7-35 with 12 SB.
As I mentioned in a previous posting, the Yankees brought in Brian Sabean as an advisor to Brian Cashman. Great move. Sabean, along with Gene Michael, helped to build the Yankees dynasty (via the core 4 and Bernie) of 1996-2003. After going to SF, where he has been for the last 30 years, Sabean won 3 WS there. Great addition for the Yankees to bring him back.
Finally in this report, a passing to relay. Stefan Wever, who had one MLB game in his career, died at the age of 64. Wever’s only MLB game came in 1982 when he started and lost a game for the Yankees on Sept. 17, getting knocked out in the third inning after giving up 9 runs, 8 earned.
I don’t know how much up against a budget Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is, but he did sign two outfielders yesterday on the cheap. Rumor are that the Yanks are around $290MM in payroll and that they don’t want to go over the next level of $293MM. So, before they’d get someone pricy, salary would have to be shed (Donaldson, Hicks).
With that in mind, and the Yanks still looking for a LF, preferably one that hits lefty, Cashman did some “dumpster diving”.
One was Billy McKinney, signed to a minor league contract and assigned to AAA. You may remember the name. McKinney was a Yankees prospect who began his MLB career with the Yanks but was traded after just two games. McKinney has played for the Yankees (2018), Blue Jays (2018-2020), Brewers (2021), Mets (2021), Dodgers (2021) and A’s (2022). So, he’s been around. In 263 MLB games, he has hit .206 and has an OPS+ of 78 (100 is average). He has played mostly RF in his career but has also put in time in LF and at 1B. McKinney made $700,000 last year. His 162-game average is .206-17-44. He is 28.
The other signing is a non-roster invite. Willie Calhoun, a former top prospect for Texas. Calhoun has played for the Rangers (2017-2022) and Giants (2022). Also 28, Calhoun hit 21 HR in only 83 games for Texas in 2019. Two HBP, one in 2020 and the other in 2021 have slowed down his career. The first broke his jaw, the second, his forearm. He is a .240 hitter for his career, with an OPS+ of 85. His 162-game average is .240-20-66. Calhoun has only played LF.
Both are long shots, and it seems that Calhoun has the better chance to stick. Offensively the edge would be with Calhoun, defensively, McKinney. Calhoun made $1.3MM last year.
Both low-cost, low-risk, signings. Both lefty-hitting OF. Good for a look-see. Hope to catch lightning in a bottle and get high reward (think Matt Carpenter last year).
Lucas Luetge, DFA’d by the Yankees last week to make room on the roster for Tommy Kahnle, was traded to the Braves yesterday for a couple of minor leaguers.
Luetge spent two seasons with the Yankees, going 4-2, 2.74 in 2021 and 4-4, 2.67 in 2022. Luetge turns 36 next spring. He did not appear in any postseason games for the Yanks.
A baseball passing: Fred Valentine, an OF who played for the Orioles (1959, 1963), Senators (1964-1968) and Orioles again (1968) passed away, age 87, on December 26. The switch-hitter’s best season came in 1966, when he hit .276-16-59 and stole 22 bases. OPS+ 131. He finished 21st in MVP voting that season. For his career, in 533 games, he hit .247 with 36 HR. His 162-game average was .247-11-42, 14 SB and an OPS+ of 106.
At the press conference yesterday to announce his signing, Aaron Judge was named the Yankees’ captain, their first since the retirement of Derek Jeter after the 2014 season.
A press conference regarding Carlos Rodon’s signing will be today.
In order to make room on the team for the signing of Tommy Kahnle, Lucas Luetge was DFA’d.
Sad news: Another part of my childhood is gone. I am a Steelers fan and growing up in the 1970s the Immaculate Reception kind of sealed the deal as far as me becoming a fan of the Steelers. Just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, and a few days before weekend celebrations about that play, and a few days before the Steelers were to retire his #32 at halftime of the Steelers/Raiders game Saturday evening, Franco Harris died at the age of 72. RIP, Franco.
With Michael Brantley going back to Houston, another LF option is off the board.
Besides the LF options I wrote about before (Reynolds, Kepler, Varsho, McCarthy, even having Cabrera as full time LF (and please, no Hicks!)) I ran across a few other options. Some, like Tommy Pham or Andrew McCutchen, I disregard because the Yankees need a lefty or switch-hitter to balance out the lineup and Pham and McCutchen (who was briefly a Yankee before) don’t fit that qualification.
One name I didn’t mention before is David Peralta. He is a free agent, and a lefty bat that could help. Peralta is 35, a LF and a former Gold Glove winner. At 35, Peralta would not demand a long-term deal. Good. He made $7.5MM last year, so he wouldn’t be as expensive as Benintendi, who got $15MM/yr for five years from the White Sox, would have been.
While Peralta did hit 30 HR in 2018, that is an outlier. He has a 162-game average of .281-18-78 but given his age and what he has done in the past few seasons, .255-.260, 10-15 HR and about 55 to 65 RBI is what you can reasonably expect. If a lefty pitches, maybe that is the time to sit Peralta and play Stanton in LF. You don’t want Stanton in the OF often, but this could keep Stanton fresh.
I don’t know if Peralta could be an answer or if the Yanks have him on their radar. One thing is for sure. The free agent LF are coming off the board. If not Peralta, then a trade may have to be made. Apparently, it would take a lot to pry Reynolds away from Pittsburgh. I am not sold on Kepler from the Twins. What it would take to get say Varsho or McCarthy from Arizona, I don’t know.
But the Yanks should add Peralta to the mix of LF to target if they haven’t already. Think of him as a little older, and slightly less (not by much, the stats are very similar) version of Benintendi.
The Yankees promised Aaron Judge there would be upgrades around him and they delivered, signing Carlos Rodon to a 6 yr/$162MM deal. Outside of bringing back Judge, Rodon is the one free agent I wanted the most. Of course, there is more that needs to be done.
Rodon is younger than DeGrom or Verlander. He just turned 30 five days ago.
Rodon has pitched for the White Sox (2015-2021) and Giants (2022; poor Giants, lose out on Judge and now Rodon to Yanks, too).
For his career, Rodon is 56-46, 3.60, ERA+ 115. A 162-game average of 13-10, 3.60.
But it is the last two years that stand out.
A lefty pitcher, Rodon hopefully adds to the lefty pitcher legacy of the Yankees. Pennock, Gomez, Lopat, Ford, Guidry, Pettitte, Sabathia. The Yankees have won on lefty hitting and pitching.
Are there risks? Of course. You can’t predict health, and Rodon has had shoulder and elbow issues in the past. we can only hope those are behind him and that the last two years show someone coming into his own and peaking.
From 2015-2020, Rodon was 29-33, 4.14, ERA+ 100. Average. He missed over half of 2017, and most of 2019 and 2020. His 2019 and 2020 can best be described as forgettable.
But here are the last two seasons.
2021 with White Sox: 13-5, 2.37. ERA+ 185. All-Star. 5th in CYA voting. 185 K in 132 2/3 IP. Average 12.6 K/9. Threw a no-hitter. 2022 with Giants. 14-8, 2.88. All-Star. 6th in CYA voting. 237 K in 178 IP. Average 12.00K/9 (led MLB). ERA+ 140.
So in the last two years, he is 27-13, 2.67 ERA, ERA+ 157. 12.2K/9
It could be an interesting K battle between Rodon and Cole on the Yankees. And Sevy isn’t bad, either.
He replaces the departed (via free agency) Jameson Taillon in the rotation. No offense to Taillon, who is a decent pitcher (went to Cubs, 4 yr/$68MM) but when on, Rodon is just dominating. It is an upgrade.
It gives the Yanks more balance in the rotation. Righties of Cole, Severino and Montas. Lefties Rodon and Cortes.
It makes this rotation one of, if not the best rotation in baseball, and makes the Yankees deeper. If you need a sixth or seventh starter, Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt are still there. They can be used in long relief until needed.
Now to solve the LF situation. Be it with Benintendi, Brantley, Conforto as free agents or a trade for a Bryan Reynolds (Pittsburgh) or maybe Daulton Varsho or Jake McCarthy from Arizona. All are lefty bats or switch-hitters, which the Yanks need for balance in the lineup.
Rodon down. LF to go.
P.S. Apparently the Yanks and Rodon met in the middle. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Rodon at 5/140 and talk was that Rodon and his agent, Scott Boras, wanted 7/200 or thereabouts. With 6/162 they met close to the middle.
He is back! Aaron Judge will be a lifetime Yankee. 9 yrs. $360 MM. No trade clause. Expect him to be named captain as well.
Until a few days ago, the Yanks were still at 8/300 then 8/320 but with the Giants offering a 9th year, Judge and Hal Steinbrenner had a conversation. Judge really wanted to stay a Yankee, Hal really needed him back and so he got the extra year and $$.
The Padres tried to sweep in and offer a bigger deal at the last minute. Some say 10 yrs/and $400-410MM. But Judge wanted to stay a Yankee and needed to see fair market value and then give the Yanks a chance to match which he thought was fair, which they did.
I think of things on a couple of ends. For Judge, it is a chance to cement his legacy. An iconic player like a DiMaggio, Mantle or Jeter who is great for only one team, and that team is the most iconic in baseball. To go into the HOF as a lifetime Yankee. To have #99 forever on the wall in Monument Park. To be mentioned in the same breath as those Yankees whose numbers are retired.
Not only that but think of the endorsements Judge gets in NY. No offense to San Francisco, but Madison Avenue is in NY. Commercials, magazine covers, advertisements. That is just to name a few outside ventures that could bring Judge more money.
For Hal, marketing as well. How do you sell your team without its franchise player? Not only the face of the Yankees, but one of the top 10 if not the #1 face in the game itself? The Yankees had about 3.14 million fans come to Yankee Stadium last year. Without Judge, what would 2023 be? Would they lose 600,000 in attendance? 1 Million? Parking money? What about the YES network’s rating? The price of commercials on the YES network? Souvenirs? EVERYTHING would go down. Far less revenue.
MLB network surmised that in the last few weeks of the season, in which the Yankees had the division wrapped up and were playing Pittsburgh and Baltimore, that the Yanks still got $40MM more than usual because the fans came out and filled the Stadium because of Judge’s HR chase.
They needed each other. The deal had to be done. Imagine if free agency were around in the old days. Imagine the Yankees losing Joe DiMaggio right after WWII or Mickey Mantle after his triple crown season of 1956.
Yes, the last few years could bite the Yankees in the ass. But they couldn’t let Judge go. Judge wanted to stay. The Yankees NEEDED him to.
I am happiest for the little kids who wear Judge’s number. Remember the little boy in Toronto gifted a Judge HR ball and who met Judge? Remember his reaction? Now think how heartbroken he would have been if Judge departed. We are so happy when we get a great free agent. We forget how heartbreaking it can be on the other end, especially for a youngster. I still remember how I felt in 1974 when Bobby Murcer was traded to SF for Bobby Bonds.
But there is still a lot of work to be done and I am eagerly awaiting the Yankees next move. They are heavily involved in trying to get Carlos Rodon. I have advocated getting Rodon (27 wins and ERAs of 2.37 and 2.88 in the last two years) to make the rotation top notch. Cole/Rodon/Severino/Cortes/Montas. And you still have Schmidt and German in long relief if not traded to fill another need.
Speaking of that other need, the Yanks still need a LF. If you sign Rodon (looking for six years at $30mm per) and are then able to trade Schmidt or German, then they could be included in a deal with Pittsburgh for Bryan Reynolds. Benintendi, Conforto and Nimmo are still out there.
One guy that could have filled LF is Masataka Yoshida. He was posted this morning by Japan but went quickly even though there was a window for him up to January 20. Boston got him for $90MM over 5 years with a $15.4MM posting fee.
Well, I am still alive after the almost heart attack Jon Heyman gave me after an erroneous report on Aaron Judge that he retracted minutes after tweeting it. Still in all, he gave Yankees fans a heart attack for a few moments. Still no word on Judge.
UPDATE: JUDGE IS STAYING IN THE BRONX! 9/360. MORE LATER!
Meanwhile, Jameson Taillon, who led the Yanks in wins this past season (14) signed a 4-yr., $68MM deal with the Cubs.
Besides wanting to bring back Judge, the Yanks also need a LF. They would like to bring back Andrew Benintendi, but if they don’t, there is Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo out there. There also, as of today, and for a short while, is Masataka Yoshida, who was posted by his Japanese club today. Teams have until January 20 to sign him.
Yoshida will be 30 next summer. A lefty hitter, he has a .327 career batting average in the NPB. This past season, hie hit .336-21-89 in 121 games, and he consistently walks more than he strikes out. This past year was 82 walks and 42 strikeouts. Besides Conforto, Benintendi and Nimmo, Yoshida very well could be a Yankees target.
Cody Bellinger signed a 1 yr, $20MM deal with the Cubs to try to get back to what he used to be and to re-establish his value.
I should have written this yesterday, but I’ve been on pins and needles as we all are, waiting for the big news regarding Aaron Judge. (Not only fingers crossed, but prayers too. I keep thinking of the kids like that one in Toronto that have their Judge shirts. What they want for Christmas is their favorite player, Judge, back in the Bronx!)
But in other news, Brian Cashman was re-upped as Yankees GM for four more years, through 2026. He’s been GM since 1998.
With Miguel Castro having left as a free agent to go to Arizona, the Yanks have replaced him with an old face… Tommy Kahnle. The deal is for two years at $5.75MM per year.
Kahnle has pitched for Colorado (2014-2015), The White Sox (2016-2017), the YANKEES (2017–2020) and the Dodgers (2022). He only pitched in one game for the Yanks in 2020 before needing TJ surgery.
His previous stint with the Yanks was mixed. Throw out 2020, when he only pitched in that one game. In 2017, after coming over from the White Sox, he had a record of 1-1, 2.70. His 2018 was awful, as he went 2-0, 6.56 but he rebounded in 2019 to a record of 3-2, 3.67. So, he was 6-3, 4.01 in his previous Yankee years, ERA+ 111.
The signing of Kahnle isn’t only because of Castro leaving. Chad Green is a free agent, and he is expected to miss most or all of 2023 anyway because of TJ surgery. Scott Effross will miss the whole year with TJ surgery. The Yanks’ bullpen was short in the playoffs with missing guys.
Kahnle’s total numbers are 9-9, 3.78, ERA+ 116. He was 0-0, 2.84 for the Dodgers last year after he came back from TJ surgery. 13 games, 12 2/3 IP.
Kahnle has gone 1-0, 3.38 in the postseason in 18 games, all but three with the Yankees.