In the wake of the DJ LeMahieu signing by the Yankees, most analysts seem to believe they are out on Manny Machado. This renders my prediction on why Machado was starting to make sense for NY, likely wrong.
With 2019 quickly passing and Spring Training just a few short weeks away, both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain on the market. Its safe to say that the new CBA has saved a lot of the big money deals for January or February in the past couple years. Teams seem to be building their team and then feeling out the right big piece to put them over the top, versus the old philosophy of getting your guy and building the team around him. Too many teams have been stuck in long rebuilds or stretches of mediocrity going with the old approach and teams are starting to make sure the whole foundation is in place before going all-in on the big market guy.
This was the Yankees 2019 approach. They felt out Machado, felt out the rest of the market, looked at guys like Nolan Arenado who would be viable options next season and move by move, phased out Machado’s fit in New York. They signed Tulowitzki to leave the door cracked open, just in case no one was going to give Machado the money he wants. As the market has developed, its clear that the Phillies are indeed inclined to give Machado or Harper a huge deal, and there’s still some hope that the Nationals will go all-in to bring back their hero Harper. There’s always the backdoor chance Theo Epstein will get Cubs’ ownership to let him take a stab at a once in a lifetime opportunity in Harper as well.
New York knew that the shorter term deal that they were comfortable with for Machado or Harper wasn’t going to draw the guy they want. Instead of just bowing out, they signed guys one-by-one that ultimately sent the message to Machado’s camp. The Yankees are out.
A look at the 2019 Yankees lineup
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? So here’s an early look at what the 2019 Yankees lineup & rotation will look like. Outside of a few bench pieces, this is likely the lineup that will face the Red Sox on April 16th at Yankees Stadium, with the batting order perhaps looking a bit different depending who is on the mound and how Boone decides to balance all these RH bats.
CF Aaron Hicks
2B Gleyber Torres
RF Aaron Judge
DH/LF Giancarlo Stanton
DH/C Gary Sanchez
3B Miguel Andujar
1B/2B/3B DJ LeMahieu
1B/DH Luke Voit
SS Troy Tulowitzki
There are not too many holes in that lineup and this lineup was absolutely constructed with a focus on the Boston Red Sox’s lefty heavy rotation. Here are some stats that might surprise you:
- Aaron Judge doesn’t hit LHP quite as well as RHP. In fact, his batting average is 51 points lower against lefties. However, he walks a ton against lefties as his .421 career OBP vs lefties shows (74 walks to 101 strikeouts). In 316 PA’s against lefties, Judge has 16 of his 83 home runs. Balance these stats how you will.
- Gary Sanchez will continue to be a Red Sox killer while the Red Sox rotation is lefty heavy. His OPS difference in 2018 was mostly due to a complete inability to hit right-handed pitching. His .636 OPS against righties was 236 points lower then his .872 against lefties. Sanchez has always favored lefty pitchers in his career.
- Giancarlo Stanton’s OPS says it all. His 1.036 OPS against lefties last season was actually a down year statistically for him. In 2017 he crushed them to the tune of a .325/.452/.770 line foe for a 1.221 OPS. He has numerous years well over a 1.000 and 1.100 OPS against lefties. Expect this to continue.
- Torres, Andujar, Voit and the rest of the Baby Yanks all have over .800 OPS against lefties. Some, like Voit are way over (1.069).
These games in 2019 are going to be high scoring affairs, despite the great pitching. Speaking of great pitching:
- Luis Severino
- James Paxton
- JA Happ
- Masahiro Tanaka
- CC Sabathia
While Tanaka never quite became the elite pitcher the Yankees wanted and Sabathia is well past his prime, they do have some reinforcements in the minors who can and already have some experience stepping in if they suffer from a lack of performance or injury. They also have a few blue chip prospects left they could move for a mid-season deal if one of these deals doesn’t work out. They have space under the luxury cap and are in a quite envious position in that regard.
But lets not forget, the Red Sox have Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, David Price, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and the rest of the crew back for another World Series run in 2019. The Yanks lost the division by 8 games and the season series to the Red Sox 13-10. This version of the Yankees has an improved pitching staff, but the Red Sox also stand to see some improvement from their young players and have numerous big name players on contract years. Some developments like a more consistent offensive approach from JBJ, the rise of Andrew Benintendi, or Rafael Devers figuring some more things out on both sides of the ball, would quickly sway this conversation strongly back into the Red Sox’s favor. But as things stand on paper, the 2019 season will be a battle to game 162.
This is why bringing back Craig Kimbrel is critical. That dominant RH arm to close out the game is going to be a game-changer.
Bold Prediction: Division will be decided by game 163 in 2019.
Update 2:25 pm: It appears the Phillies have emerged as clear favorites for Bryce Harper. It appears another suitor may fall out of the Machado sweepstakes. Does this bring New York back to the table with a shorter-term, high AAV deal? We’ll have something posted as soon as its clarified.