When the Rays started using an “opener” in lieu of a conventional starting pitcher two seasons ago, there was a thought that the strategy would be widely adopted and the value of a solid, starting rotation would be replaced by “bull-penning.” Some teams tried it but the Nationals’ stunning run to a championship “threw a wrench” into those plans and reinforced the value of starting pitching.
Bullpens were being overworked during the regular season and it was hurting the post-season teams that were relying on it in October. The Yankees were one of those teams so they went back to a tried and true formula to land a big fish in the free agent pond.
The Yankees used their financial might and their historic resume’ to lure Gerrit Cole to the Bronx. Of course, the record setting contract was what probably sealed the deal but having a former player like Andy Pettitte in the meeting had to be a huge help. We all know the history of how Cole grew up a Yankee fan so meeting Pettitte could not have hurt. Hearing the five time World Champion rave about how great it is to win in New York and how the Yankees are able to consistently field a contending team, had to have somewhat of an influence on his decision.
I feel like the Yankees have underestimated Austin Romine’s value and could be making a mistake letting him walk. Romine signed with Detroit where he will be the starting catcher. The Yankees could not have promised him a starting role, but I feel he would’ve stayed for the deal (1 year, $4.1 million) he got from Detroit.
The Yankees like to cite their analytical data when it comes to defense behind the plate. According to their info, Kyle Higashioka profiles to be a better than average defensive catcher with a particular emphasis on his framing skills. Gary Sanchez gets the same plaudits even though it appeared that he went backwards a bit defensively last season. If Sanchez was making such an improvement, why did the Yankees hire Tanner Swanson to replace catching coach Jason Brown, who was working with the Yankee back stop.
I’m not sold on Higashioka, even as a back up and if Sanchez continues to regress defensively, the Yankees will be missing Romine even more. The Yankees may not really be sold as they have been linked to free agent catcher Martin Maldonado, who caught Cole in Houston last season.
The Yankees brought back Brett Gardner but they’ll need much more from the left side. Yanks have reportedly shown some interest in left hand hitting 1B/DH Mitch Moreland. Mike Ford is not the answer and Luke Voit may not have as much upside as is being portrayed. The former Gold Glove winner would immediately be the best defensive first-baseman on the roster if he was signed.
Yanks may take a flier with free agent OF Kole Calhoun. Even with Gardner, Mike Tauchman, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton, there is a need for another outfielder until Aaron Hicks does come back.
The Winter Meetings highlighted the renewed desire for starting pitching as evidenced by the Cole signing and Stephen Strasburg going back to the Nationals. Washington made it clear that they could not sign both Strasburg and Anthony Rendon so they preferred to give the World Series MVP a 7-year, $245 million dollar deal. That just so happened to be the same exact deal that Rendon got from the Angels.
Nats are reportedly “actively engaged in trying to sign,” free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson.
The Mets’ strength was their starting pitching but they added to it with an eye on maybe using some of that surplus to fill other needs, like bullpen, a versatile infielder and a back up catcher.
With Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello added to the rotation, the speculation is that Seth Lugo will remain in the bullpen. Some felt Lugo was the Mets’ best reliever last season, but, frankly speaking, he was the best of a poor lot. Lugo’s inability to throw on back-to-back days is a major hindrance in pitching him out of the pen, because you would really have to pick your spots where to use him. For example, new Manager Carlos Beltran may not be able to use Lugo to keep a game close at the risk of losing him for the next game where they may have a better chance to win.
Pirates CF Starling Marte’s name continues to be bandied about in trade talk and I expect him to be dealt by the time spring training starts.
It appears the Mets have decided not to continue pursuing Marte, although that may be a “smoke screen.” A platoon of Jake Marisnick and Brandon Nimmo in centerfield may not be that appealing. The Mets may want to bring in an inexpensive alternative to provide depth in the outfield. Cameron Maybin fills that bill, although the Yankees may be interested in a reunion.
I’m a little surprised that the Mets have not shown interest in Dellin Betances, who would be worth the gamble. Betances is willing to sign a one year deal and re-establish his value.
The Padres are pushing to acquire Marte as they revamp their outfield. San Diego would like to unload Wil Myers who has not played up to his potential, but is still only 29-years old and has three years, and $67.5 million dollars left on his current contract with a team option for 2023.
The Angels need pitching but they went out and signed Rendon and now have an enviable left side of the infield with 4-time Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. Rendon will help protect Trout in the lineup and they’re hoping Shohei Ohtani has a bounce back season.
You have to think Angels GM Billy Eppler still has something “up his sleeve” to bring in some quality pitching. Dallas Keuchel could be intriguing because of the Angels’ strength defensively on the left side of the infield but Madison Bumgarner is also on their radar. San Diego has a terrific left side of the infield (Fernando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado) and they are reportedly in on one of the two free agent southpaws.
If Ohtani is such a good pitcher (I’m not one of those media types who seem to be starry eyed by this player) and with the Angels having such a need for pitching, why will they continue to let him be a two-way player. Remember, in his rookie season, the Angels had to rearrange their rotation to suit Ohtani, who got a day off before and day off after he pitched.
The Angels still need to fill a number of other needs including catcher, first base (someone to take the load off of a 39-year old Albert Pujols) and second base. Tommy LaStella is coming off a broken right leg so his status is uncertain. LaStella may take some reps at first.
Miami reportedly met with free agent OF Yasiel Puig which tells me two things. One is that it appears the Marlins want to be a little more competitive next season. They have already brought in Jonathan Villar (trade with the Orioles) and Jesus Aguilar (waiver claim) and are in need of a corner outfielder. The other is that Marlins Manager Don Mattingly apparently has no problem reuniting with someone who was a problem when both were with the Dodgers.
By the way, the Marlins are bringing in the fences at Marlins Park. Center field and right center field will be moved in by 12 feet. CF will now be 400 ft. instead of 412’ft. and RCF will be 387 ft. as opposed to 399 ft.
Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com