NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: Kraken Shoulder’s The Blame, Is There A “Catch” To Mets Off Season Plans?

Neil Miller/NYSportsday Wire

Injuries are not an excuse but in the case of Gary Sanchez, it may have been a factor.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman announced Sanchez will undergo a minor “clean up” procedure on his left (non throwing) shoulder. According to Cashman, Sanchez has been plagued by this issue since the end of the 2017 season and had been getting cortisone shots during the 2018 campaign but he reportedly re-aggravated the injury during workouts in Tampa last week.

Sanchez’ awful 2018 season is well documented but this injury may answer some of the questions that lingered after the season. Was his left shoulder an issue that could’ve prevented him from being able to fully maximize his swing. The injury would also explain why he batted a pathetic .186 last season. I assure you, when healthy, Sanchez is not a .186 hitter. Shoulder injuries, even minor ones, can be problematic. Just ask Michael Conforto.

Eventually, Sanchez will have to move to another position but it won’t happen in 2019.

BTW: The Yankees signed catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The 31-year old began his career with the Red Sox in 2011 but has only had 17 major league at bats since 2015. Like Erik Kratz last season, Lavarnway was added as insurance, especially if Sanchez cannot start the season. (Kratz was eventually traded to Milwaukee last May) The move may also tell you what the Yankees think of Kyle Higashioka.

Should the Yankees really dismiss the idea of signing Bryce Harper? It’s true that Harper would add more strikeouts to a lineup that doesn’t need anymore, but don’t underestimate the impact that his mere presence would have. Harper would give the other sluggers like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton more protection than Aaron Hicks, a healthy Didi Gregorius or a Luke Voit would provide.

Speaking of Voit, the Yankees may be making a miscalculation if they believe he is ensconced as their first baseman. According to their data, the Yankees’ analytical people saw something in Voit and made the recommendation to acquire him. It paid off in the short term but those numbers may not pan out long term. Voit has numerous holes in his swing and the opposing pitchers will have a “book” on how to exploit those weaknesses. Greg Bird is not out of the picture, nor is the possibility that the Yankees would use him as trade bait.

Fancred’s Jon Heyman is reporting the Yankees are one of the teams showing interest in FA Josh Harrison. The former Pirate is versatile but his natural position is second base. That would be a good sign. Yanks could use Harrison at second and play Gleyber Torres at shortstop until Gregorius returns.

If you’re a Met fan, hearing GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s quote about the catching situation is not exactly “music to your ears.” Van Wagenen said, “I think we’re in a fortunate position where we don’t HAVE to do anything in the catcher market.” Whoa! Has he looked at the roster. Van Wegenen was speaking with the media at the GM meetings and said he expects Travis d’Arnaud to be ready to go on Opening Day. d’Arnaud is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow that cost him the 2018 season.

That could be a smoke screen as there have been reports saying d’Arnaud has generated some interest on the trade market. The Mets have been linked to free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal and have reportedly spoken with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto, although the competition for the Miami catcher is stiff.

Despite the recent changes to the coaching staff, the Mets still need a bench coach to sit beside Mickey Callaway. The Mets hired Gary DiSarcina to be the bench coach last season when I wrote that they needed to add a veteran who had National League experience. Hopefully, the Mets will make amends for that poor decision with a better hire for Callaway. DiSarcina will be the third base coach next season.

Van Wagenen did not acquit himself well in how he handled the firing of hitting coach Pat Roessler. BVW had a right to make a change but firing the man when he was on vacation, did not sit well with the coaching fraternity around the major leagues.

Van Wagenen has his work cut out in trying to construct a solid and balanced bullpen. Andrew Miller is an attractive free agent that the Mets have an eye on but they’ll be plenty of competition for him if he’s healthy. The Mets, Phillies and Braves are among the teams reportedly showing interest in Craig Kimbrel but I wouldn’t break the bank to sign a pitcher who showed in the post season that he’s on the downside.

The Mets are in need of a right handed bat, preferably in the outfield. They may look to free agency for an Andrew McCutchen who would not cost a draft pick. Not a “sexy” signing of course, but, again he’s not costly. A.J. Pollock would cost a pick but he may be worth it. Steve Pearce is an option as part of a platoon at first base.

The new GM’s ability to “sell” the proclamation of “win now” to prospective free agents will be on full display in his first go-round.

Ridicu-picks: My nysportsday.com colleague Hal Bock wrote about how J.D. Martinez was snubbed and did not finish among the top three finalists for the AL MVP Award. Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez are the three players in line for the award, but it’s ridiculous that Martinez is not among that list.

Martinez hit a league leading 43 home runs and finished second in the American League with a .330 average and 130 RBI’s. Those are strong MVP type numbers for a team that won a franchise record 108 games, but Martinez finished 15th in WAR.

Shame on those who snubbed Martinez because of a stat that measures an individual player’s abilities and not what he contributes to a team’s success. According to the WAR stat, Martinez is penalized because he’s not as good a defender or base runner as Trout and Ramirez. Those two finished second and tied for fourth respectively in WAR among everyday AL players. Trout is a great player and Ramirez had a terrific season but Martinez had a better season than those two and was way more valuable to his team.

Here are my picks (I swept last season) for next week’s Awards:

AL ROY: Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (I don’t agree with that but I’m making a prediction, not my selection, more on that in next week’s column)
NL ROY: Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr.

AL Manager of the Year: Rays’ Kevin Cash
NL Manager of the Year: Braves’ Brian Snitker

AL Cy Young: Rays’ Blake Snell
NL Cy Young: Mets’ Jacob deGrom

AL MVP: Red Sox’ Mookie Betts
NL MVP: Brewers’ Christian Yelich

Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto has made it clear that he intends to “re-imagine” his roster while still trying to remain competitive. Wednesday, DiPoto got the off season going by sending catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa Bay in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith. The deal includes minor leaguers.

The acquisition of Smith means Dee Gordon could be the odd man out. The move of Gordon to center field last season did not work out as he was brutal defensively. Add the fact that Gordon’s .288 OBP was much worse than his career mark of .322 and he was not the disruptive factor on the bases that he was in past seasons. Robinson Cano (whose contract makes it unlikely that he could be traded) has been playing first base but are the M’s ready to commit to him on a full time basis at that position.

Smith had a break out season with a slash line of .296/.367/.406 last season that also featured 40 stolen bases. At 25 years old, Smith could be ready to take his game to the next level. Seattle is hoping that’s the case as Smith will hit lead off and play center field.

Zunino gives the Rays one of the best defensive catchers in the sport but a disappointment at the plate. Tampa stresses defense and Zunino fills the bill behind the plate. The Rays feel the 27-year old is better offensively than he’s shown in the past but he’ll have to cut down on the strikeouts. His career strikeout rate is 34.2, a very telling number.

HK Looking: 34-year old free agent Daniel Murphy will garner some interest on the market but not as much as previously thought. Murphy’s knee issues have lessened his range (which wasn’t great before) at second base, so he could be limited to playing first base or as a DH in the American League. Yankees, Astros and Twins may bite on the former Met…..Miami is looking to move 2B Starlin Castro. The former Yankee has a year remaining on his contract with a team option for 2020. ($16 million or a $1 million dollar buyout) Teams that may be interested include the Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies. Colorado is looking for offense and they are also trying to lock up Nolan Arenado before he hits free agency after the season…..White Sox are shopping 1B Jose Abreu, who will be a free agent after next season. The soon to be 32-year old had a streak of four consecutive seasons with 100 RBI’s or more, snapped last year during an injury plagued campaign that limited him to his lowest career total of 128 games. With the loss of Nelson Cruz to free agency, Seattle may try and swing a deal for the right handed hitter.


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