Brian Cashman

Cliff Lee is going to the Phillies. What do the Yankees do now?

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It’s not just a Yankees world in which we’re all living, but in this case, the implications for the Bombers losing out on Cliff Lee are the most interesting.  Philly? Heck, print up their NL East championship t-shirts already.  The Rangers? They seem like they felt they were out of it for a week now, complete with reports of going after Adrian Beltre as a second place prize.  And really: Texas is a team that didn’t need to go all-in on a 32-year-old pitcher.

But the Yankees wanted Cliff Lee. The Yankees needed Cliff Lee. The Yankees failed to get Cliff Lee, however, and it was the first time that they failed to get their big-fish free agent target since they lost out on Greg Maddux back in 1992.   They’re a well-prepared team and I assume that the panic in the Yankee Universe is about 98% in the fan base and 2% in the front office right now, even if they are reeling somewhat.  This was the plan. All possible Plan Bs are a big, big step down.  So what do the Yankees do?

  • Don’t panic.  This is a team that won 95 games last year and is going to bring back every single player that was on that team. Yes, they’re older, but many stand to improve over last season. Yes, one of their main competitors got better, but the other is getting worse. Reasonable people should have the Yankees as their wild card team at the moment, and they will add before the winter is over.  They’re not rebuilding from some disaster.  They missed a chance to improve greatly in one fell swoop. They’ll make other moves to make up the difference, or to at least try.
  • Get on the phone to Deer Park, Texas first thing in the morning and make a strong pitch to Andy Pettitte.  He may be the biggest immediate beneficiary out of anyone in this deal. The whole “Andy is leaning retirement” thing has seemed overblown to me.  I think it was a negotiation tactic, frankly. Both by Pettitte, whose claims to be leaning towards retirement seemed calculated to make the Yankees desperate, and the team, whose “we think Andy is probably retiring” stuff seemed calculated to act as if they didn’t care.  Now all pretense is gone. The Yankees need Pettitte, and they will pay to get him. Someone besides CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes has to start.
  • Think hard about trading Jesus Montero.  That could be a panic move. I’m not sure.  But if they want another impact starter — and I think they’ll think that — it’s going to take more than the Joba Chamberlain pupu platter to get it done.  Zack Greinke or someone like him — if there is someone like him — will take top flight talent to acquire. Nothing should be off the table for New York right now.
  • Mostly, though, the Yankees should take a few days to think. And to wait.  Because just like Cliff Lee going to Philly was a shock to all of us, it was a shock to many people in baseball who didn’t see it coming. And who may now have a desire to see if they can’t pry something away from the Yankees.  Some offers will come their way.  Brian Cashman will think up some on their own.  They always do.

Mostly, though, we need to remember: the Yankees are not dead until you see their body on the slab. They are far from there right now. And to count them out an hour after they lost out on Lee would be foolish in the extreme.

Marc Rzepczynski signs two-year, $11 million contract with Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Marc Rzepczynski #23 of the Washington Nationals looks on before pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.

Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.