Yankees open to trading veterans to clear payroll space

The Yankees have tried and failed to trade veteran position players Brett Gardner, Starlin Castro, and Chase Headley this winter, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The goal there was to clear a bit of payroll space to make a bullpen addition, but with no takers so far they’ve had to hold tight. It’s not particularly surprising that no other clubs have expressed interest in any of the trio—each has $25 million or more remaining on his contract and each is coming off a season that was lackluster at best.

While their need for bullpen help isn’t especially dire—a foundation of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman is a pretty good starting point, to say the least—they’ve reportedly been interested in names like Joe Blanton and Travis Wood, and the team was briefly in talks for Sergio Romo before he signed with the Dodgers. Without freeing up a little payroll room, however, the Yankees apparently won’t be able to do so. Per Sherman’s reporting, general manager Brian Cashman has said that the budget leaves no room for maneuvering given the current sum of payroll and the luxury tax payments on top of it.

Intentional walk and strike zone changes under discussion

Two changes to baseball’s on-field rules could potentially be coming this season. The commissioner’s office has made formal proposals to the players’ union both to eliminate the pitches required for an intentional walk and to raise the strike zone, per Jayson Stark of ESPN. Any change requires the approval of the union, and it would require quick action for either to take effect this year—the players would need to agree to the proposals before spring training games begin in two weeks.

Both changes here are ostensibly aimed at the singular goal of making baseball more exciting, though they’d achieve that in opposite ways. Making intentional walks automatic would improve the pace of play by making games shorter, though only by the slimmest of margins and at the cost of the always-entertaining IBB gone wrong. Raising the strike zone to the top of the hitter’s knee, meanwhile, would increase offense—which, in turn, would make games longer. That change would come after baseball posted a record strikeout rate of 21 percent last year.

Nationals remain interested in Robertson

After watching last year’s closer Mark Melancon sign with the Giants and losing out on the bidding wars for Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, the Nationals are still in search of a closer. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the team has continued to discuss a potential deal with the White Sox for David Robertson. But it doesn’t sound like they’re particularly interested in giving up too much—they’re hesitant to take on the full $25 million that Robertson is owed and they don’t want to part with more prospects after already giving up some of their best in exchange for Adam Eaton, per Rosenthal’s reporting.

Of course, the Nationals’ hesitations there make the likelihood of a deal seem slim, even with the White Sox’s current interest in selling off their core. Seeing as how the Nats’ current closer is Shawn Kelley, however, they have fair reason to reconsider.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
I'd love doing away with the ceremony of throwing 4 meaningless pitches for an intentional walk. I'd also like to see pick-off attempts redone. I can't remember where I'd first seen it suggested but I liked the idea of making any unsuccessful pick-off attempt after the second on the same baserunner an automatic ball.
Words cannot describe how awful that would be. The unintended consequences are monstrous. Once a runner has drawn that second throw, if the count reaches 3-0 or 3-1, he can wander halfway to second with relative impunity. If the next pitch is a strike, he's pretty much stolen 2nd without a throw. If it's in play, well, you could see Billy Hamilton go 1st to 3rd on an *infield* single (or maybe even a groundout!) and maybe score on anything to the outfield.

This wouldn't really affect the first throw any, but the second becomes much more strategic, with considerations of who the batter is, and can we risk giving him an extra ball (because once we use the second throw, we might be forced by the runner to make a third), and what's the rest of the game situation (inning/score). We'd probably see a lot more stepping off the rubber, and pausing and staring at the runner, etc., none of which truly helps the situation.

I know repeated pickoffs seem like such a drag, but how often do they really happen? Is this a pound of prevention for an ounce of cure?
I'm not seeing how "Billy Hamilton going 1st to 3rd on an infield hit" does not make baseball more interesting. On 3-0 if you want to take a huge lead go ahead. It's only a ball if it's unsuccessful. Being out at second by 6 feet on a 1-3-6 doesn't put the batter on first.

I remembered where I saw it first suggested, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.