Karpin: Yanks vs. Mets for Players

There’s an interesting competition taking place between the Yankees and Mets. Both teams are seeking infielders, either via a trade or the free agent market, and both are not willing to “break the bank” to fill a hole.

Yankee GM Brian Cashman is already “rolling the dice” by naming a totally inexperienced Aaron Boone as his Manager. Now, the daring exec said he wouldn’t be adverse to having two rookie starters, in Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, man two key infield spots. The plan, going into spring training, is for Torres to be given a good shot to win the second base job while Andujar is projected as a third baseman but may not be as far advanced as Torres and his defense is not exactly his strong suit. I can’t see the Yankees to go that far “outside the box.” Expect a trade or free agent signing before spring camp opens next month.

Todd Frazier is in play for both teams but if he lowers his price, he would more likely sign with the Yankees than the Mets. Neil Walker is an interesting case. He’s still in play for the Mets but would the Yankees consider signing the switch-hitting infielder to a reasonable contract. Walker can play second, third and first base. If they’re willing to gamble with an unproven young player at third, would the Yankees gamble that Walker could start at third and back them up as well at the other two spots.

The Jay Bruce signing doesn’t completely solve the Mets’ outfield problem.

Micheal Conforto’s status is still in question. At Wednesday’s re-introductory presser for Bruce, General Manager Sandy Alderson said Conforto, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, will not be ready until May. With Bruce in right and Yoenis Cespedes in left, Conforto is being penciled in as the starting center fielder. The 24 year old injured his shoulder late last August while swinging the bat in a game against Arizona.

What if Conforto is not ready by May? The Mets have Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo as a potential platoon but will that be sufficient if Conforto is out longer than expected? I have been high on Lagares in the past and felt he could develop into a solid major league player but he’s had trouble staying on the field. The “window” may be closing, that’s why Lagares’ name came up in trade talk. Nimmo gets kudos for his OBP but to rely on him as more than a fourth outfielder is plenty risky going into a season where the Mets expect to contend.

Rumblings have begun among the players, who are trying to figure out what is happening with the lack of activity on the free agent market. Maybe it’s the market itself. I wouldn’t give a seven year contract to J.D. Martinez or a pitcher like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. Here is another theory. The same analytical revolution that has taken place in recent years that has led to players being over-valued, is beginning to de-value players, who, in previous off seasons, would’ve received a contract by now.

Case in point, free agent 1B Eric Hosmer. The statistical data suggests a 28 year old, in his prime, who is a four time gold glove first baseman who already has a World Series ring and comes off a season where he set a career high slash line of .318/.385/.498, is in decline. In previous years, if a player with that resume and that age entered the market he would’ve been signed by now.

According to defensive metrics, Hosmer does not rate as a gold glove fielder, yet he’s won the award four times. An award that is voted on by his peers I might add. The “stats” have Hosmer rated a small notch above Lucas Duda as a major league player because of the stat that is referred to as “WAR” or “Wins Above Replacement.” Do you really think the very soon to be 32 year old Duda has accomplished as much or has ever been rated a better player than Hosmer. Come on now.

Keep an eye out on how this free agent market plays out because it could have an effect on next year’s so called “Star Studded Free Agent Extravaganza.” I don’t think teams are “saving up” to make a big splash in next year’s free agent market. Players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado may not receive what is being perceived, like that $400 million dollar number that’s been tossed around.

According to multiple reports, the Players Association rejected Commissioner Rob Manfred’s “pace of play” rules proposal. The free agent fiasco is already causing concern among the players and this latest development with trying to speed up the game may add a little fuel to the fire. Commissioner Manfred has the power to implement “pace of play” measures like a pitch clock and limiting trips to the mound by the catcher, without the union’s approval. I think the Commissioner comes up with a plan to satisfy all parties in this matter.

Here’s one suggestion. When a reliever enters the game, he should be given five warm up pitches instead of ten. With the way the bullpen is used in today’s game, relievers usually get enough time to warm up before they enter the game. You’d be surprised how much time would get sliced off by cutting the warm up tosses in half.

Blue Jays made a subtle acquisition that may pay big dividends. Toronto acquired outfielder Randall Grichuk from the Cardinals in exchange for right handed pitchers Conner Greene and Dominic Leone. The 26-year old Grichuk is an outstanding defensive outfielder who hits with power (46 home runs the past two seasons) and has not reached his ceiling yet. The Cards already had Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and newly acquired Marcell Ozuna, not to mention 22 year old outfield slugger Tyler O’Neill at AAA, so there was a surplus which made Grichuk expendable. Toronto, who just signed free agent Curtis Granderson, was in need of another outfielder. With a fresh start North of the Border, Grichuk may find a home with the Blue Jays.

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