The winter meetings are upon us and when Brian Cashman and Brodie Van Wagenen hit Vegas, they will each have plenty of work to do – in some cases, such as the relief pitcher market, likely working against each other.
But with the Yankee and Met GMs now both espousing World Series or bust philosophies, when it comes to their principal needs they should, at least initially, aim high. In the Yankees’ case, that would be Trevor Bauer; in the Mets’ case, J.T. Realmuto. It may be a pipe dream for both but as long as the Indians and Marlins are entertaining offers for, respectively, the front line right-handed starter in Bauer and the premier catcher in Realmuto, our locals need to keep pounding those doors until they slam shut.
The Indians have been shopping both Bauer and two-time Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber in an effort to re-stock prospects for their farm system and shed payroll. Before turning to their fallback option, 36-year-old J.A. Happ, to fill out their rotation, the Yankees are presumably checking out the reports that the Indians are inclined to accept a lesser return package for either of them if the acquiring club would agree to take on one of their high-priced contracts of Edwin Encarnacion or Jason Kipnis. If that’s true, and the Yankees can get the 27-year-old Bauer, coming off a career 12-6, 2.21 ERA, 227 K season, for prospects with the condition also of taking on the $17 million Kipnis is owed for next year and his ’20 option buyout, they should not allow the money to be an impediment.
For one thing, Bauer would go right to the head of their rotation while Kipnis could plug in at second to start the season, with Gleyber Torres sliding over to short until Didi Gregorius returns in mid-season. It isn’t often young, power pitchers become available and when they do, a team like the Yankees that has both the prospects and financial resources needs to take advantage of them and pounce.
As for the Mets, they continue to be heavy into the mix of clubs seeking the 27-year-old Realmuto, who has asked for a trade from the Marlins. No matter what, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is going to get a haul for his All-Star catcher, who was formerly one of Van Wagenen’s clients. Reportedly, Jeter wants at least two longterm-controllable major league players. The Mets are said to be willing to part with Brandon Nimmo, but not Amed Rosario. Here’s why that’s shortsighted: With the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade, Van Wagenen has already signaled he’s going for it all next year, but his No. 1 need is a quality catcher and Realmuto is potentially a franchise catcher. Yes, Rosario would be tough to give up, but shortstops are a whole lot easier to find than catchers. He could easily replace Rosario with, say, Adeiny Hecchavarria, a standout defensive shortstop, or go even younger with No. 1 prospect Andres Gimenez, whom scouts say is at least ready now with the glove.
Once they’re done addressing their primary needs, Cashman and Van Wagenen can be expected to dive into the set-up relief pitching market, conceivably vying for the same guys – Adam Ottavino, the 33-year-old New York-bred righty coming off by far his best season in the majors with the Rockies (2.43 ERA, 112K/36 walks in 77.2 innings); David Robertson and Andrew Miller.
Cashman also has the business of dealing Sonny Gray and appears to be zeroing in on the Padres, who have a bunch of interesting prospects, particularly right-hander Chris Paddack and lefty MacKenzie Gore.
And then there is the matter of Manny Machado. Having wisely declined to overpay for Patrick Corbin, Cashman comes into the winter meetings with some rare financial flexibility. Some of that could be spent on Daniel Murphy, a put-the-ball-in-play hitter they could really use, but they are also closely monitoring what goes on with the Phillies and Machado. So far the Phillies are the only team that has outwardly indicated they would be willing to give Machado the 10-years/$300 million he’s supposedly seeking. The Yankees aren’t prepared to go anywhere near that, but if the Phillies bow out and Machado’s market shrinks, the Yankees are interested – despite all his baggage.
IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD
Lou Piniella is up for the Hall of Fame Sunday night, as one of the leading candidates on the Veterans Committee Today’s Era ballot, along with Lee Smith, Charlie Manuel, Davey Johnson, Will Clark and Orel Hershiser. If the mark of a great manager is what his players have to say about him, here’s what “Sweet Lou’s” Hall-of-Famers are saying about him: Barry Larkin: “Lou was an incredible leader and motivator. He had a great understanding of the game and his ability to communicate was profound. I certainly feel Lou greatly impacted the game as a manager for many years and is worthy of being a Hall-of-Fame manager”…Randy Johnson: “Lou changed the culture of the Mariners and the franchise. His leadership was outstanding. His record speaks for itself. He was special. He should have a plaque in Cooperstown.”…Junior Griffey: “I never had a manager who had the fire that Lou had for winning and the caring he had for every one of his players and our family members. He was one of the best managers of his time, right up there with LaRussa, Torre and Cox.”…
With their re-signing of Nathan Eovaldi for four years, $67.5 million, the Red Sox made it clear they have no intention of getting under the $206 million luxury tax threshold in 2009. As a second-time offender, the Red Sox will be taxed 30% on every dollar from $206 million to $226 million, but they’re not done spending. They need a closer and they’re trying to decide if it’s going to be Craig Kimbrel, who was shaky at best in the postseason for them (5.90 ERA) last year and is said to be seeking a four-year deal around $70 million, or Zach Britton, who is projected to get a three-year deal around $33 million…
The analytical Tampa Bay Rays, who last year gave us the “openers,” have come up with another novel new world baseball experiment for 2009: Last week they announced the appointment of Jonathan Erlichman as the first ever “process and analytics” coach. The 28-year-old Harvard grad, who had previously been the Rays’ director of analytics, will come down to the dugout from the front office and be in uniform, right next to manager Kevin Cash, “adding a different perspective on everything the Rays are doing” — from game-day routine, in-game strategy, pre-game drills and postgame analysis. Oh, how I wish Billy Martin were alive today to see what they’re doing to managers.