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 Zimmerman (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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2016 In Review: Ronald Torreyes

Preseason Expectations

What expectations? Ronald Torreyes was essentially a warm body in camp, joining his fifth organization in the past year after the Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Angels. Oh, and did I mention that the Yankees had lost him on waivers before re-claiming him? He was initially acquired from the Dodgers in a trade, but was eventually designated for assignment. The Yankees clearly liked him enough to bring him back after initially letting him go, but at the same time, didn’t find him so important that they couldn’t risk cutting him the first time.

Despite his journeyman status as a 23 year-old rookie, there was some reason for mild intrigue according to Chris’ KATOH system. In January, KATOH ranked Torreyes the 52nd best prospect in baseball with a 5.2 WAR projection through his first six seasons. This pegging came as a surprise, of course, but Torreyes did (and still does) one thing very well: put the ball in play. He never posted a strikeout rate higher than 8.6% during extended play in the minors. If he could provide average defense, perhaps the Yankees had found a useful reserve infielder that wouldn’t embarrass himself at the plate.

ZiPS foresaw a .268/.302/.351 batting line with an 8.0% strikeout rate and above average defense. Even with the rave reviews from KATOH and the optimistic (in my opinion) ZiPS projection, I can’t say I had any strong feelings about Torreyes entering 2016, and I suspect many others didn’t as well. Continue reading

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What to do with the Yankees’ arbitration-eligible players

This morning, Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors released 2017 salary projections for arbitration eligible players. If you’re unfamiliar, this has been released annually for the past few years and has been rather accurate at pegging who will earn what in the following season.

The Yankees have ten players eligible for arbitration that, if the team wishes to keep them, must be tendered a contract to by the end of November. An arbitration case would be heard on any of the tendered players some time in January or February if both sides fail to reach a agreement beforehand. It’s unlikely that the Yankees will need to go to any hearings, as the organization has a track record of reaching deals before any case is necessary. The last time the franchise went head-to-head with one of its players was in 2008, when the Yankees prevailed over Chien-Ming Wang.

Under no obligation must the Yankees decide to move forward with the ten eligible players. By not tendering a contract to a player, the team rescinds its exclusive rights, thereby allowing the player to become a free agent. This is as much of a financial decision as it is based on a player’s talent and health.

Below are Swartz’ salary projections for the players the front office must determine the futures of. Service time, formatted in Years.Days, is in parentheses. I’ll provide my thoughts on what should happen with each after.

Continue reading

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Assessing trade probabilities in advance of the offseason

Trade, free agency, and other roster construction speculation is entertaining. That’s why writers hypothesize what a general manager’s next move will be, fans have an insatiable lust for rumors, and gamers play fantasy GM in OOTP and MLB: The Show. It’s also why I’m about to give you my estimation of various Yankees’ likelihood to don new uniforms via trade in 2017.

Thanks to Brian Cashman, we were given a head start on some trade guesswork. In his end of season press conference, trade talks were on the forefront of the media’s agenda. Brian McCann was highlighted in particular, along with possibility of the front office using its stocked farm system to acquire a big star. You can see how I subjectively evaluated the odds certain players (in bold) departing below. I only considered players on the 40-man roster at this time, and made up unscientific six categories. Continue reading

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After last night’s Wild Card game, a flashback to 2003

Buck Showalter failed to put his team in the best position to win last night. Saving Zach Britton for a lead that never would come in a win or go home situation is simply inexcusable. There’s no need to go any further than that here, as plenty of others have already highlighted Buck’s mistake. Rather, let’s take a tour down memory lane. It’s not a fond memory for the Yankees, but it’s the one that came to mind while watching last night’s Wild Card game unfold.

Flashback to game four of the 2003 World Series against the then called Florida Marlins. The Yankees were up in the series, two games to one, but Jack McKeon‘s upstart squad was three outs away from evening the series. Heading to the top of the 9th, the Marlins led 3-1, and brought in closer Ugueth Urbina to even the series. Urbina recorded two outs around a Bernie Williams single and Hideki Matsui walk, but couldn’t record the final out to seal the deal. Ruben Sierra, pinch hitting for Karim Garcia, tripled to tie it. Urbina retired Aaron Boone to escape any further trouble. Joe Torre was now in the same place that Showalter, his predecessor with the Yankees, was in last night. Continue reading

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2016 In Review: CC Sabathia

Preseason Expectations

I’m not sure how anyone could have set reasonable expectations for CC Sabathia entering this season. He was coming off one of the poorest showings of his career in 2015 that ended with him in rehab to treat alcoholism. Yet, he finished that 2015 on a high note from a purely on-field perspective. Over his last 9 starts, the big lefty pitched to a 2.86 ERA over 50.1 innings pitched. His 4.19 FIP downplayed that performance, but it was a significant improvement over his 5.54 ERA and 4.89 FIP in his first 20 outings. Much of the credit he received for the late season turnaround was because of his use of a brace on his right knee. Whether or not that was the reason for his success is beyond me, but it’s plausible.

With his end of season surge and successful go in rehab, perhaps there was reason to be optimistic about a full season rebound. Then again, Sabathia was running three consecutive years of well below league average performance. Plus, at 35 years old and nearly 3,000 career innings pitched, it wouldn’t be fair to expect a significant bounce back.

ZiPS’ preseason projection clearly weighed the recent full seasons of performance and age far more than the final 9 starts of 2015, and there’s no faulting the system for that. It forecast a 4.98 ERA and 4.54 FIP in a hair under 125 innings, which would easily have been his worst full campaign performance to date. Continue reading

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2016 In Review: Brett Gardner

In no particular order, I’m going to begin player reviews of the 2016 season. Today, Brett Gardner.

Preseason Expectations

For most of his career, Gardner had been a steady top of the order hitter with good ability to get on base. In the past two years, the left fielder unexpectedly added power to his repertoire, blasting 33 home runs. That quickly surpassed his 23 career long balls amassed from 2008-2013.

The Yankees shouldn’t have expected much different with the bat, penciling in Gardner in the two-hole with some continued moderate power. On the basepaths, perhaps another 20 stolen base season with the previous three campaigns hitting that mark. Last but not least, another season of defensive excellence in left field was essentially a given.

ZiPS’ projection for Gardner illustrated the above. The forecasted batting line was .256/.330/.405 (104 OPS+) with 12 home runs and 17 steals in 547 plate appearances. One  important note is that the Gardner had surpassed 609 plate appearances in each of the previous three seasons, but ZiPS foresaw either some playing time lost to injury or other players. Continue reading

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