Some items from around the AL East…
- Negotiations between Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees about the closer’s contract extension apparently came down to the final moments before the deadline for Chapman to decide whether or not to exercise his opt-out clause, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. Chapman was hoping to have two extra years added onto the remaining two years on his pre-existing contract, but ultimately settled for just one extra season ($18MM for the 2022 season).
- The impact of Chapman’s new contract on the Yankees’ luxury tax situation is examined by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who observes that the extension won’t lead to any savings due to the “true-up charge” associated with the specific breakdown of how Chapman’s salaries were paid out over the first three years of his deal, largely due to a signing bonus payout. As a result, Chapman’s new tax number is $17.5MM over the next three years, which doesn’t help alleviate the crunch for a Yankees team that Sherman figures is already approaching the $208MM threshold for 2020 just with pre-existing roster talent. The Yankees will face tax penalties for surpassing the second level ($226MM) of the tax threshold in 2019, and it remains to be seen how far over the $208MM threshold ownership will allow the front office to go in 2020. As Sherman notes, ownership would presumably balk at surpassing the top penalty level of $248MM, which would impact the Yankees’ chances of adding a mega-salary (i.e. for a Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg) and retaining free agents like Didi Gregorius or Dellin Betances.
- A brief scouting report on newly-signed Red Sox right-hander Chih-Jung Liu is provided by former big leaguer Chien-Ming Wang to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe, as Wang has worked with the 20-year-old prospect. Liu “needs to improve his slider and splitter to have a good out pitch” and “needs to build up his arm strength and pitch count,” Wang said. These aren’t unusual criticisms for any young pitcher, especially for a case like Liu, who mostly played shortstop in high school and only recently got back into pitching. Liu is also “bright” and “seems to be able to adapt to [a] new environment quickly,” Wang said, and he also noted that Liu asked him how to throw a sinkerball, Wang’s signature pitch. Abraham reports that the Phillies and Diamondbacks were among the other teams who had interest in Liu before the Red Sox signed him for $750K.
- Now that Edwin Encarnacion is officially a free agent, could the slugger potentially return to the Blue Jays? There is room on paper, as Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that the Jays have a vacancy at first base/DH since Justin Smoak is also headed for free agency, and Encarnacion could likely be had on a fairly inexpensive one-year deal. However, with the Blue Jays still in rebuild mode, Nicholson-Smith figures it probably makes more sense for the club to “find the next Encarnacion instead,” i.e. a player who can be an important contributor for several years. Toronto GM Ross Atkins has also spoken of wanting a first baseman who can play multiple positions, while Encarnacion is limited to first base (and could best be suited for a DH role altogether).