Karpin’s Korner: Yanks Don’t Take the Bait

Photo by Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportswire

In the past, if there was a free agent pitcher out there, who happened to be a reigning Cy Young award winner, the Yankees (just like last season when they recruited Gerrit Cole with a record contract) would’ve used their financial might to secure the services of Trevor Bauer. Like every other major league team, the Yankees lost money last season so they’re employing a different game plan as they look to fill holes in the starting rotation.

The Yankees appeared as if they would be going into next season with Cole and Jordan Montgomery (Yanks are hoping Montgomery builds on his gutty performance from an elimination game 4 of last season’s ALDS vs. the Rays) as their #1 and #2 starters plus a number of question marks. The Yankees have some talented young arms, but they’re unproven and, at this point, untrustworthy in a big spot. Doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

Once D.J. LeMahieu was in the fold, the Yankees moved quickly to sign former two time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber to a one year contract. Kluber has made 8 starts in the past two seasons due to injury, but one of those setbacks was when he was hit in the arm by a line drive. A risky signing for a team that is already thin in their starting rotation but one that could reap a nice reward.

Sunday, the Yankees completed a deal for right hander Jameson Taillon. The 29-year old is coming off a second Tommy John surgery in 2019 and did not pitch last season, but he is expected to be healthy for this upcoming season. This is not the kind of move that is a game changer, but one that could reap some real benefits. Cole is friendly with Taillon and he had some input into this move.

Taillon has a smooth, fluid motion that allows him to be “sneaky fast.” He has four pitches in his arsenal, a four-seam fastball, sinker, curve ball and a change up that he has not used often in the past, but a pitch you may see him employ a little more in 2021. From the times I’ve seen him pitch, Taillon’s pitches have shown movement within the strike zone. That’s something you cannot teach.

Taillon’s ability to stay on the field has been in question. He has overcome testicular cancer and a pair of Tommy John surgeries and he comes to the Yankees with something to prove. The Yankees are rolling the dice with their rotation, but like Kluber, the risk could reap a nice reward.

The Yankees are intent on remaining under the $210 million dollar competitive balance tax threshold. With that in mind, they even incorporated their hated rival to make a trade that is a “salary dump.” Yesterday, the Yankees traded reliever Adam Ottavino and a minor league prospect to the Red Sox. Boston is picking up a portion of Ottavino’s $9 million dollar salary for this season.

Ottavino works with a “drop dead” slider that was murder on right handed hitters while he was in Colorado. He signed a two year deal to play with the Yankees and was solid in 2019 but he started to regress in the 2019 ALCS vs. Houston. Last season was an absolute disaster as the Yankees could not trust Ottavino, so he appeared in only one game throughout the entire post season.

As far as that threshold is concerned, the question for the Yankees will not be if they will be “buyers” or “sellers,” at the trade deadline. The question is, will they spend at this year’s trade deadline?

They will not be spending on Masahiro Tanaka. A report in Sankei Sports of Japan is saying Tanaka will “enter into major negotiations for a formal contract” with the Rakuten Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball.

I have to admit, I was not sold on Tanaka when he first joined the Yankees, but he won me over with his pitching intellect and gutty performances in the post season. That intellect helped him complete the length of his seven year contract, even with a slightly torn ACL in his right elbow.

I scored the game that began the comeback against Cleveland in the 2017 ALDS. Tanaka tossed seven, brilliant shutout innings when he beat the Indians, 1-0, in game 3. I also scored game 5 of the 2017 ALCS when Tanaka tossed seven shutout innings to beat Houston and, at the time, gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the series.

The Mets missed out on Brad Hand, and the perception is that they are still the team that was poorly run by the Wilpons for so many years.

Hand is not Mariano Rivera. Have you checked out his post season numbers? It’s a short sample but it’s an awful short sample. In two post-seasons, Hand has appeared in three games and has given up four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched. He’s faced a total of 15 batters and has gotten 7 outs in post season play.

I don’t know Hand personally but maybe he didn’t want to deal with the NY market and NY media. Hand’s career has taken him to such big markets as Miami, San Diego and Cleveland. Washington, DC is not exactly known as a “rabid baseball town.”

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the players rejected a plan to implement the Universal DH this season in exchange for an expanded playoff system. MLB is working hard to get a new system in place because there is already a financial deal in place for an extra round. Back in December, NY Post Media Columnist Andrew Marchand wrote, “ESPN and Major League Baseball are closing in on a TV deal that would provide the network exclusive rights to the first round of the playoffs.”

An expanded system would increase the playoff field from 10 to 14 teams. Seven teams from each league would qualify with the top team in each league getting a bye in the first round. ESPN would have the exclusivity of the six, first round match ups. Whether the first round will be a best-of-three or a one game playoff, or even a scenario where the higher seed would only have to win one game, while the lower seed would have to win two to advance. Similar to what the NBA did in “the bubble” last season.

Later today, the Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2021, if there is one. There is a possibility that the writers have not elected anyone this time around, but according to some reports, Curt Schilling is very close, if not over the required 75% of the votes needed for induction.

If I had a vote, I would not vote for Schilling and that has absolutely nothing to do with his political views. I am from the crowd that believes the Hall of Fame is for the “crème de la crème” of the sport, not the “very good.” I’m also big on what impact a player has on the era that he played in. To me, Schilling is in the Bert Blyleven category. He gets credit for durability but to me, Schilling was a very good player but not Hall worthy.

Schilling gets a lot of support because he was a pivotal part of two teams that beat the Yankees twice in post-season play during the “Core Four” era. In my opinion, post season play is an important measurement of a player’s career, but it’s not the “be-all-end all.” I think Don Mattingly’s candidacy is hurt by the fact he did not play in the post season until the final year of his career, while Kirby Puckett (who was a great player) got a little boost from the fact he was a pivotal part of two World Series winning teams. Look up their stats. Eerily similar.

I was not impressed with this year’s ballot and if I had a vote, I probably would have sent it back, blank. That is just one man’s opinion. There are some very good, really good players on the ballot, that had fine careers that they can be proud of, but, to me, the Hall of Fame is a special honor and should be treated as such.

Karpin’s Korner is on internet radio. Sundays at 8 pm, eastern time on 365sportscast.com, a brand new and exciting internet radio station. 365sportscast.com has a great menu of outstanding sports talk shows. Check it out. As Senator John Blutarsky once said, “Don’t cost nothin’.”

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