East Coast Bias: COVID Catastrophe, All Rise, Yo Goes AWOL

Where can you find the best baseball in the world? Fuhgeddabouddit! What kind of question is that, guy? On the east coast, moe. Deadass. Two beast coast born and raised kids bring you the goings-on from a week of baseball on the Atlantic. Welcome to East Coast Bias. ¡Dale!

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The rich get richer: Why we don’t like the New York Yankees getting Giancarlo Stanton

“The Yankees are talented, well-developed and returning to the form with which we’re all familiar. It’s a great team and, for the first time in a long time, for the outsider, they’re likeable. Give Cashman credit: he’s reinvented himself in real-time and built a next-generation Yankees team that, save for pitching, is reminiscent of those teams that started the last dynasty.”

That would be yours truly, on October 5, previewing the ALDS.

Yes, hell was freezing over. The New York Yankees–the Yankees!–weren’t the team everyone loves to hate. They had retooled the team the right way–no more massive free agent contracts, homegrown talent, had to play their way into the postseason and caught fire against the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game. The 2017 Yankees were the good guys for once.

Fast forward two months, and most of us outside of the five boroughs feel a bit snookered. Cashman swooped in after Giancarlo Stanton rebuffed the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, offered the Miami Marlins an offer that could be easily-enough refused, and the team–whose face is now Yankee legend Derek Jeter–was allowed by their superstar to make the deal. It will be formally announced Monday.

And I hate it.

I’m admittedly being a little melodramatic, but the optics on this deal just don’t *ahem* look good.

***

In 2011, the then-New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a complex deal to send Chris Paul to the Southland. It was so lopsided, commissioner (and Dark Lord of the Sith) David Stern vetoed it.

In fairness, it’s to a significant extent apples and oranges: different sport, different CBA, different economics. Stanton flexed his muscle through a total no-trade clause freely agreed to between himself and Marlins management (then overseen by Jeff Loria) in a mammoth 13-year, $325M contract signed in 2014. In so doing, he nixed reported deals with the San Francisco Giants (which made sense, the Giants are currently a tire fire) and St. Louis Cardinals (which makes no sense, Stanton goes to a hitter-friendly division, a team that needs a single plus-bat to be instantly competitive and he would have been revered as a god in baseball-happy St. Louis and I’m freely conceding these points as a Milwaukee Brewers fan!)

So, no: the Yankees aren’t the culprits here. Doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Further, on paper, of course this makes the Yankees a better team: the team already had solid bats in Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, speed and upside in Aaron Hicks, big upside in Greg Bird and a mutant beast in Aaron Judge. When news started circulating, Yankees Twitter started in on how this would be the new Murderer’s Row, how Jeter should get a ring for his part in the 2018 World Series pennant, etc.

Stanton is an all-world talent and the reigning National League MVP, but he struck out at a 2:1 ratio to taking walks, set a personal low for outs in a season (447, by far his highest to date), grounded into 13 double plays (after totaling 11 in 2015 and ’16 combined) and likely will not see the field in AL play.

The Yankees have also agreed to take on the overwhelming majority of Stanton’s remaining contract, which is straight out of the old spend-spend-spend playbook that turned the Yankees into full-on baseball heels. Further, if there are injuries (not out of the question) or he underperforms (see also: Giambi, Jason, Ellsbury, Jacoby, Johnson, Randy), Stanton has zero incentive to opt-out in 2020. The Yankees have tied a significant part of their future to a star who is showing signs of beginning to trend in the wrong direction and won’t help in the field.

I’m not in any way convinced that Stanton will absolutely make the Yankees better than they would be by staying the course. We’ll never know now; nevertheless, that’s a lot of money for a player who hasn’t played meaningful homestretch baseball, much less in October.

And let’s be real: Giancarlo Stanton is a great ballplayer, but he’s not Bryce Harper and he’s certainly not Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. For the Yankees, this is a clearance rack bargain in the same way that your local Marshalls isn’t a Nordstrom Rack.

We can hate the Yankees, but we all can agree that this was the deal they really couldn’t not make. For that, we can hate Jeff Loria more than we already do: after all, Loria allegedly tanked the Montreal Expos (Hi, Jonah Keri!) and sold them to Major League baseball, only to pull a Bill Veeck and acquire the Florida Marlins, hold Miami and Dade County over a barrel and build an atrocity of a stadium with an eyesore they call artwork in left-center, and then sold the team for a reported $1.2 billion dollars to the current, Jeter-led regime.

No, it’s not the Yankees being the evil empire. But it’s not ideal for those of us genuinely enjoying the Yankees’ success playing the same fiscal game as (most of) the rest of Baseball.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.

The New York Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton: An Offer Cashman Couldn’t Refuse

When the New York Yankees were eliminated in Game 7 of the American League Championship series, it was quite clear the team didn’t necessarily need any major changes.

There was youth up and down the roster — whether that be in the lineup, starting rotation, bullpen or stashed away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Trenton, Tampa, Charleston or Staten Island. The logical addition was Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani: not only is he considered the Babe Ruth of his homeland but the 23-year-old pitcher and outfielder figured to upgrade an already strong starting rotation while also serving as the Yankees’ primary designated hitter.

So when Ohtani surprisingly spurned the Bronx — and the entire East Coast, for that matter — many questioned where the front office would look next.

Despite the Yankees becoming a feel-good baseball story throughout the 2017 season due to properly rebuilding their farm system while also shedding a majority of their big contracts, Brian Cashman made a move that would have made the late George Steinbrenner proud.

He traded for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player: Giancarlo Stanton.

While this move screams mid-2000s pinstripes — similar to when they added reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez before the 2004 season — it’s not the “Evil Empire” of bygone days. It was just last week when it seemed as though Stanton was either St. Louis or San Francisco-bound,but when the outfielder exercised his blanket no-trade clause, refused a deal to neither the Cardinals nor the Giants, and selected the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros as his preferred destinations, it was only right that Cashman made the call to former Yankee great and current Miami Marlins principal owner Derek Jeter.

But when the deal was struck in the early hours of December 9, it wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk.

Would you rather pay Stanton 10 years and nearly $300 million at age 28? Especially when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will be available next winter? Sure, Stanton’s current contract will be a bargain compared to what that talented young duo would sign. But Harper’s swagger and violent left-handed swing would’ve played perfectly in the comfy confines of Yankee Stadium while Machado’s terrific defensive ability and balanced offensive skills would’ve been worth the payday. It could be compellingly argued that both would’ve been better fits in pinstripes.

At a time when the Yankees have generally avoided long-term deals that hardly work, possibly paying Stanton $25 million when he’s 39 could give fans PTSD about the days of Jason Giambi and Jacoby Ellsbury more than dreams of him crushing home runs over the Green Monster.

And that’s not all. Whether it’s due to freak accidents or not, Stanton falls into the injury prone category. He’s dealt with issues involving his face, knee, hamstring and wrist, amongst others, and has missed 310 games in his eight-year career. Over that same span, he’s hit above .265 just three times and has averaged 142 strikeouts per year.

There are obvious negatives about this deal. Stanton is far from the perfect fit.

But all things considered, there is no way Cashman and the rest of the front office could pass up on this opportunity.

When new ownership of the Marlins decided moving Stanton’s contract was their number one priority, a prospect package worthy of being relinquished for an MVP was out of the question. But even though names like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial and Albert Abreu were off the table, cult favorites in Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams were expected to have their talents shipped to South Beach.

When it was announced that the Yankees only had to relinquish All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, the transaction was even more of a positive.

Castro was a nice player for the Yankees in his two years in pinstripes but the 27-year-old never had a future in New York. Second base is now open for top prospect Gleyber Torres to become the latest Baby Bomber to shine under the bright lights in the Bronx. Guzman is the most valuable player joining the Marlins — he was the Yankees’ ninth-rated prospect overall according to MLB Pipeline — but he was widely considered the sixth-best pitching prospect in the system.

The Yankees aren’t hurting for marketing ideas but this story also writes itself in terms of promotion. Stanton and Aaron Judge were compared to one another all season long. Their body types, size and skillset mirror one another. Whether they go with Bash Bros Part Two, M&M Boys 2.0 or, most likely, something a lot more creative, it’ll be popular amongst younger fans, an audience all of Major League Baseball is trying to target.

But lost in this entire saga is simply what Stanton brings on the field. His .281 batting average, 1.007 OPS, 59 home runs and 132 RBI will be added to a lineup that is already considered one of the deepest and most powerful in all of baseball. While the duo of Stanton and Judge will steal most of the headlines, players like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks will largely fly under the radar — something that can be of their advantage.

In an ideal world, Stanton walks away in three years when his opt out clause kicks in: the Yankees won’t have to worry about a long-term commitment, and if Stanton helps them win one or multiple pennant(s), the return on investment will have been worth it.

Either way, expectations for the Yankees were already high heading into 2018. Many believe they’ll be one of the favorites to win number 28 next season — in the second year of a rebuild, no less. The addition of Stanton will only add fuel to that fire.

This trade clearly wasn’t one the Yankees had to make.

It became one they just couldn’t pass up.

Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.