While Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has always been known for his ability to send balls into the stratosphere, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News writes that his improvement defensively is paying dividends for the World Series-hopeful Yankees. Per Ackert, relievers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino were admittedly skeptical of their new backstop when they first joined the Yankees, but both have been pleasantly surprised with Sanchez’s work not only blocking the ball (after catching his fair share of flak for surrendering passed balls, Sanchez has cut his total from 18 last year to just seven in 2019), but also managing a pitching staff that includes a deadly stable of hard-throwing bullpen arms with different tendencies. That could very well be magnified as the Yankees play in the postseason; with many questioning the team’s rotation, Aaron Boone figures to rely heavily on what might be the deepest bullpen of the remaining contenders.
The Yankees continued their long-running October dominance of the Twins on Friday, earning a 10-4 victory en route to a 1-0 advantage in the teams’ American League Division Series matchup. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion factored into the Yankees’ blowout win, collecting two doubles and a run batted in across five at-bats. The accomplished Encarnacion obviously hopes to pick up his first World Series ring in the next few weeks, but no matter how the team’s season ends, the Yankees will soon face an interesting decision in regards to his future.
Encarnacion, whom the Yankees stunningly acquired from the Mariners back in June, slashed .249/.325/.531 with 13 home runs in 197 plate appearances after donning the pinstripes. Between the two teams, the 36-year-old concluded his regular season with a .244/.344/.531 line and 34 HRs over 456 trips to the plate. It’s all the more laudable that Encarnacion smacked 30-plus homers for the eighth straight year despite missing extended time with injuries (a fractured wrist and a strained oblique).
Youth isn’t on his side, but it’s clear Encarnacion is still a formidable presence at the plate. Nevertheless, he’s far from a lock to remain with the Yankees in 2020. They do control Encarnacion through next season, though retaining him would be costly. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will have to choose whether to exercise Encarnacion’s $20MM club option or buy him out for $5MM. For all we know, Encarnacion will go on a postseason rampage in the next few weeks, but that doesn’t mean it’ll influence Cashman’s thinking. He did, after all, allow aging stars Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon to walk in free agency after the franchise’s most recent World Series title in 2009. Even Matsui’s MVP honors in the Fall Classic weren’t enough for the Yankees to re-sign him.
New York certainly has the financial might to keep Encarnacion around, but it also possesses several in-house options who could fill the DH role in a year. First basemen Luke Voit and Mike Ford figure to stay in the fold at league-minimum sums, while anyone in the Yankees’ outfield surplus could also see a fair amount of time at the spot. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks seem likely to return as the club’s top three outfielders in 2020, but Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman might also figure prominently into its plans. And the Yankees may choose to re-sign pending free agent Brett Gardner, quietly one of the most productive outfielders in franchise history, to remain a member of a crowded alignment in the grass.
Beyond the Yankees’ group of outfielders, let’s not forget about the presence of third baseman Miguel Andujar, who may be best served as a DH. Andujar thrived at the plate as a rookie in 2018 before missing almost all of this season because of a shoulder injury, but he was often maligned for his defense at the hot corner last year. With the emergence of low-cost replacement Gio Urshela at third this season, the Yankees could envision plenty of DH at-bats for Andujar in 2020.
Aside from Judge and Stanton, nobody from the abovementioned collection of names packs the punch Encarnacion does. However, the Yankees wouldn’t be unrealistic in expecting quality offensive production from any of them, and letting Encarnacion go would open up spending room elsewhere (Astros co-ace/potential $200MM free agent Gerrit Cole looks like a fit on paper, for example). As of now, what do you expect to happen with Encarnacion in the offseason?
(Poll link for app users)
The Yankees have finalized their 25-man roster for their ALDS showdown against the AL Central-champion Twins. We learned yesterday that CC Sabathia would not make the roster due to health reasons but Edwin Encarnacion would be ready. Here’s the full breakdown:
- Luis Cessa
- Chad Green
- Tommy Kahnle
- Jonathan Loaisiga
- Adam Ottavino
- Luis Severino (Game 3 starter)
- Masahiro Tanaka (Game 2 starter)
Despite his late struggles in a return from a sports hernia, Voit will get the call over the much hotter-hitting Mike Ford, who batted .274/.333/.619 with 11 home runs in 123 plate appearances between August and September. Voit, of course, has been generally excellent at the plate since debuting with the Yankees following a July 2018 trade with the Cardinals, and they’ll go with that track record over Ford’s hot streak.
Looking up and down the roster, the toll that the injury bug has taken on the Yankees is readily apparent. Absent are Dellin Betances (Achilles tear), CC Sabathia (shoulder), Aaron Hicks (flexor strain), Miguel Andujar (shoulder surgery) and Greg Bird (plantar fasciitis). Even Mike Tauchman, an out-of-the-blue breakout who only got an opportunity due to other injuries, went down with a season-ending calf strain of his own. The injury to Betances is particularly costly with the heightened importance of bullpen usage in the postseason, although the Yankees’ relief corps is still unquestionably impressive even without one of its best arms.
With four left-handed relievers at his disposal, including Happ (who could potentially work the bulk of innings in a Game 4 setting, if needed), manager Aaron Boone will have plenty of options when looking to play matchups in high-leverage settings. The Yankees opted for a fourth bench player, the versatile Wade, rather than carry a 13th pitcher, but several of their arms are capable of going multiple innings.
That Encarnacion was able to make it back to the roster will be no small detail in this series. The veteran slugger has been out since Sept. 12 due to an oblique strain and was a question mark as recently as Wednesday of this week. He’ll join Sanchez and Torres as 30-homer bats on a team that also includes Gardner (28 home runs), Judge (27 in an injury-shortened season) and LeMahieu (26) in what should be an explosive ALDS between baseball’s two most powerful offenses.
The Yankees have yet to formally announce their full roster for their upcoming Division Series matchup with the Twins, but manager Aaron Boone announced today that veteran left-hander CC Sabathia will not be a part of the mix (Twitter links via Meredith Marakovits and Jack Curry of the YES Network).
Sabathia has been dealing with a shoulder issue and underwent a cortisone injection, but he hasn’t bounced back to the point where the team considers him an option to this pont. He could potentially factor into the ALCS roster if the Yankees advance beyond the ALDS. With Sabathia off the roster, the Yankees will go to a rotation featuring James Paxton in Game 1, Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2 and Luis Severino in Game 3. They’ll rely on that trio and an exceptionally deep bullpen, which Boone says he’ll be “aggressive” in deploying.
A full roster won’t be released until the Yankees need to formally release it (tomorrow morning), though Boone also indicated that Edwin Encarnacion is “expected” to be on the roster. The slugger hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 12 thanks to an oblique injury, but he’s apparently made sufficient progress that he’ll be an option in the best-of-five series that’ll kick off at Yankee Stadium tomorrow evening.
Depending on how the postseason plays out, then, it’s possible that Sabathia’s scoreless outing of relief against the Rays on Sept. 24 — the lone relief appearance of his illustrious 19-year career — could mark the final time he ever sets foot on a Major League mound. Even if the Yankees do advance to the ALCS, there’s no guarantee that Sabathia would be a part of the team’s pitching staff for that best-of-seven series. And, obviously, if the Yankees’ season comes to an end within the next week, Sabathia will head into retirement and take his first official steps toward Cooperstown a bit sooner than he or the organization had hoped.
Veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin went through a difficult few months leading up to the 2019 campaign. After Maybin didn’t produce enough with the Marlins or Mariners last year to merit a major league contract, he languished on the free-agent market until the Giants brought him in on a minors pact in late February. A month later, the Giants released Maybin in the wake of a DUI arrest, though he did catch on with the Indians on another non-guaranteed deal in the coming days.
Despite the fact that the Indians’ outfield was an obvious question mark coming into the season, Maybin wasn’t able to get past the Triple-A level as a member of the organization. As a result, the Indians traded Maybin to the Yankees for cash on April 25 in what appeared would go down as an inconsequential swap.
However, since joining the Yankees, the 32-year-old Maybin has capitalized on a surprisingly large amount of playing time in a Yankees outfield that has dealt with a slew of injuries. The resurgent Maybin’s scheduled to head back to free agency after his 2019 stint with the World Series-contending Yankees concludes, but he prefers to stay where he is, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
Asked if he’d like to re-sign with the Yankees, Maybin said, “I think that goes without saying.” The well-traveled Maybin added that the Yankees are “by far the best organization” he has played for since he began his pro career as a first-round pick of the Tigers in 2005.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are surely thankful for the way Maybin has stepped up this year. While Maybin didn’t look like much of an offensive threat when he joined the club, the speedster has teed off on opposing pitchers for a .285/.364/.494 line with 11 home runs and nine steals in 269 plate appearances this year. He has been a versatile defender at the same time, having seen at least some action at each outfield position (primarily the corners).
Maybin may be able to parlay this season’s production into a major league deal before next year, but whether the Yankees will be the team to give him his next contract is in question. They’ll likely go into 2020 with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (whose injury-wrecked regular season helped open the door for Maybin) and Aaron Hicks as their starting outfield. They’ll also continue to have control over Mike Tauchman (who will be out of options), Clint Frazier and the injury-riddled, costly Jacoby Ellsbury. Plus, despite the presences of those six, no one will be surprised if New York re-ups its longest-tenured player, pending free-agent outfielder Brett Gardner. Should that happen, it would only make a Maybin re-signing look less likely than it already does.
It would have been difficult to fathom for most of the year, but thanks to a late-season slump, first baseman/designated hitter Luke Voit might not make the Yankees’ ALDS roster, per George A. King III and Dan Martin of the New York Post.
Whether Voit participates in the Yankees’ first-round series will depend in part on the status of fellow first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion. An oblique strain has kept Encarnacion out for more than two weeks, but general manager Brian Cashman said (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com) that the Yankees “expect him to be available Friday” when the series begins.
Voit and Encarnacion were similarly productive during the regular season, but the former’s numbers dipped amid a rocky finish. A sports hernia led to multiple stints on the injured list in the season’s second half for Voit, who missed almost all of August. While Voit boasted an .886 OPS upon his return a month ago, he ended the year a .263/.378/.464 hitter after an ice-cold September in which he batted .194/.326/.347 in 86 trips to the plate. Voit inflicted a particularly large amount of damage on his numbers from Sept. 15 onward, as he closed the season on a 1-for-32 skid with 13 strikeouts.
Now, with an October matchup against the similarly home run-happy Twins looming, the Yankees may opt to shelve Voit in favor of Encarnacion and rookie Mike Ford. Unlike Voit, Ford was an offensive machine during the last several weeks of the season. One of the many unsung Yankees to step up during an injury-riddled 2019 for the club, the 27-year-old Ford slashed a power-packed .259/.350/.559 with 12 home runs, a lofty .301 ISO and a low 17.2 percent strikeout rate in his 163-PA major league debut.
- Yankees fans shook their heads in disbelief as starter James Paxton left yesterday’s game after just one inning. However, it seems that the team managed to avoid yet another significant injury; Paxton underwent an MRI this morning that revealed nothing but nerve irritation, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. His removal from the game was merely a precaution and is not expected to affect his availability in the approaching ALDS. The club has faced questions all year about postseason pitching, and an injury to Paxton—the team’s most reliable starter in the second half—would have sent the New York faithful spiraling.
Yankees ace James Paxton exited his final start of the season on Friday after just one inning because of left glute tightness, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Paxton’s removal was a precautionary measure, and were it not for the looming postseason matchup with the Twins, Paxton likely could have pitched through what he described as “dull soreness.” The rotation is New York’s biggest question mark going into the playoffs, and Paxton is clearly a key piece. He’s 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA/3.87 FIP across 150 2/3 innings for the season, landing fairly close to career marks both in terms of efficiency and durability. Paxton’s status as the likely ALDS game one starter is not at present affected by his early departure on Friday, though he will certainly be monitored closely, and one would think it might affect the amount of leash given him in the ALDS opener. In other injury news heading into Saturday’s action…
- The Yankees PR department announced David Hale’s reinstatement from the 60-day injured list. Hale, 32, had a strong start to the season going 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA/3.30 FIP across 19 innings. He last pitched on July 26 against the Red Sox, finishing a strong month of July when he posted a 2.63 ERA. Hale has a part in two major storylines of the Yankees season, both as a resident of the overfull trainer’s room, and as one of the many unsung contributors to their 2019 success. Aaron Hicks, meanwhile, was moved to the 60-day injured list. It’s been mostly a lost season for Hicks, who nonetheless contributed 1.2 bWAR in 59 games when healthy via a .235/.325/.443 line with 12 home runs.
- Yankees slugger Edwin Encarnacion still hasn’t returned from the left oblique strain he incurred Sept. 12, and it doesn’t look like a sure bet he’ll play in either of the team’s last two regular-season games. Encarnacion said Friday that he’s not “mentally over” the injury, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News relays. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to overcome the issue by the time the Yankees’ ALDS matchup against the Twins starts Oct. 4.
- Although he hasn’t played since Aug. 3, injured Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks continues to hold out hope that he’ll be able to return during the postseason, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Hicks, who’s dealing with a right flexor tendon issue, has begun to throw from 120 feet. He hasn’t progressed to throwing to bases, though, and there won’t be any chance of a comeback until that happens.