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The Major Impact of Edwin in Cleveland

Recently, the Cleveland Indians signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion in a bold move to get their formerly middle-of-the-pack offense kick-started.  The deal, which pays $65 million to Encarnacion over three years, can’t be considered a good or bad deal yet — that is still to be determined.  If Edwin, who is, like everybody in the world, constantly getting older, performs like he did for the past two years, then the deal will be a steal for the Indians.  Yet if Edwin begins to show his age at the plate, then the deal will hardly be worthwhile.  Most likely, though, he will accumulate 25-35 (on an overly optimistic side) home runs, while batting for a not noteworthy .280.

Looking over the signing, one can easily come to the assumption that Cleveland will be better with Edwin.  Certainly, any level-headed person wouldn’t consider him to be a minus.  However, nobody has really come out and said that Edwin is the difference between a good team and a great team.  Yet from looking through the depths of Cleveland’s roster, one sees something uncontrollably powerful occurring slowly but surely in Cleveland.  Something that has been in development every since the Indians brought Jason Kipnis to the big leagues in 2011.  And now, with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion, they seem to be done.

What the Indians have done through the past five years is that of a front-office masterpiece.  Last year, they came within a game of winning of the World Series, and this year, they are poised to make a run for the trophy again.  As mentioned before, it all started with the arrival of a noncommittal prospect named Jason Kipnis in 2011.  Kipnis had played well, but definitely not worth a mention in any top-prospect lists.  In the majors, he took a few years to blossom, but he’s been on the rise ever since.  He is now a solid second baseman with speed and power, the second-sacker of every team’s envy.

That same year, Francisco Lindor entered the rookie team of the Indians.  Unlike Kipnis, he became a highly-touted prospect, and his first appearance in the major leagues, in 2015, was widely watched.  And ever since that first game, Lindor has not looked back, joining Kipnis in the ranks of the best middle infielders in the league.

This past year, 2016, was when all the front office’s hard work finally blossomed.  At first, the season did not start out very well.  Stalwart right fielder Michael Brantley got injured early on, and the season’s prospects looked slim.  Yet about a third of the way through the season, something amazing happened.

The Indians were not doing badly, but were definitely not excelling in the season.  So, in a radical move, they decided to see how a prospect would fare in the bigs.  So they summoned Tyler Naquin from the farm system and immediately implanted him in center field.  Thankfully, the lanky Naquin performed above and beyond anyone’s expectations.  He finished the season in the contest for Rookie of the Year, despite missing a good chunk of the season.  Meanwhile, a player who had spent a few years in the bigs yet never really got to play was coming into his own just about the time when Naquin came up.  Jose Ramirez had been drafted by Cleveland after the 2010 season and was called up in 2013.  He didn’t get much playing time, and was sent back down to the minors the next year.  He was called up again in 2015, and played poorly.  However, he wasn’t ready to ruin his big-league career.  At around the time Naquin came up, Ramirez became hot.  He started playing like he hadn’t ever in his career.  Somehow, someway, a switch had been flipped inside him.  Somehow, someway, the Cleveland Indians were in business.

Although the Indians had failed to win the World Series, the season had still been a wild success.  They had built a powerful machine, and with Brantley back in right field for the 2017 season, who knew what could happen?  But still, they seemed to be missing something.  Even with the amazing midseason reinforcements and Cleveland’s powerful lineup (Napoli, Santana, Lindor, Kipnis), the Indians were 18th in the majors in runs scored.  They were getting many runners on base, as their .329 OBP (tied for seventh-best in the MLB) testified.  They just needed one more piece, a guy who could get those many baserunners home.  And although Napoli was big and strong and hit majestic homers, he just wasn’t the guy the Indians needed.  So they signed Encarnacion.  With him on the team and Brantley back, possibilities are boundless.  Their lineup (shown below) will be incredibly potent.

1.  Francisco Lindor;  Shortstop

2.  Jason Kipnis; Second Base

3.  Edwin Encarnacion; DH

4.  Michael Brantley; Right Field

5.  Carlos Santana; First Base

6. Jose Ramirez; Left Field

7.   Lonnie Chisenhall; Third Base

8.  Roberto Perez; Catcher

9.  Tyler Naquin; Center Field

Although the order could be debated on, its potency and presumed consistency are undeniable.  There are only 1.5 holes in the lineup (Roberto Perez=1, Chisenhall=.5), and other than that, the rest of the lineup is stocked with really good players. That’s seven really good players in one lineup.  That is something special.  The lineup is also well-rounded.  There are Lindor, Kipnis, Brantley, and Ramirez providing consistency, while Encarnacion and Santana provide the dingers.  Of course, the four who provide consistency can be relied on to produce at least 15 homers a year.  And although the batting order looks very impressive, the pitching rotation is what really makes the Indians special.  The pitching rotation made it to the World Series minus two of their best pitchers — Salazar and Carrasco — and almost won it!

The addition of Encarnacion will, in my opinion, prove to be great.  The Indians will leap from 18th to fifth in offense in the majors, and they will have a very good regular season.  Again, this is just my opinion, but the Indians do look awfully dangerous come the 2017 season.

Evaluating the Career of Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez first came up with the Red Sox in 2005, had two plate appearances, and then was dished to the Marlins.  He officially started his regular career in 2006, and didn’t look back for the next five years.  He has often been credited for the many tools that he has or had: speed, hitting for average, and hitting for power.  But rarely has he been credited for doing all at the same time.  This article is to show you, the reader, exactly how rare Hanley Ramirez has been, and how to appreciate him correctly.

Since he came up to the major leagues in 2006 with the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez has wowed us with his skill.  In the early stages of his career, he was a young shortstop with amazing speed, good hit skill, and pop in his bat.  In that rookie season, he hit a solid .292 with an unexpected 17 home runs, and, most surprising of all, he notched 51 stolen bases.  He skipped the dreaded sophomore slump in his next big-league campaign, matching his previous total of 51 swiped bags, while improving almost everything in his stats.  He hit an amazing 29 home runs in 2007, while knocking in 81 runs and accumulating an impressive 5.2 WAR.  The most impressive part about that 2007 season, though, was his amazing .332 batting average.  

At this point in his career, many analysts and fans predicted that this would represent his regular prime stats — and what outstanding stats they were.  Yet it was not to be.  If believable, he got even better the next year, upping his homer total to 33, and improving both his walk rate and his ISO.  In addition, he raised his WAR to an astonishing 7.5.  Somehow, he did all this while dropping his BABIP 24 points, to ‘only’ .329, and stealing 16 less bases than in the previous year.  In his fourth year in the major leagues, his homer total along with that of his stolen bases dropped to below the 30 mark, but his average leaped up 40 points to .341!  His WRC+ also climbed 5 points to 149.  A less amazing year followed in 2010, but he was still impressive, hitting at a .300 clip with 21 homers and a 4.2 WAR.  

In 2011, he ended his streak of incredible campaigns, hitting for only a .243 average with a paltry 10 home runs.  In his first year as a veteran in the major leagues, Hanley picked his homer total up to 24, but his average remained below .260.  Overall, it was a pretty dismal two-year span for Hanley.  He rebounded spectacularly the next year, though, hitting .345 with 20 homers for a new team, the Dodgers.  Unfortunately, Hanley’s homer total dropped to 13 in 2014, but he kept his average up to .288.  He also drove in 71 runs that year, making the year not a complete failure.  

He didn’t keep up his good streak for long, though.  In 2015, with the Red Sox, his average dropped back down to .249, while hitting 19 home runs.  Coming into 2016, Hanley must have tweaked something in his approach, because he had his first solid year in a long while.  With everything complete, he had 30 homers and 111 runs batted in with a .286 average.  That is a comeback.  It’s crazy, though, when looking at the journey he’s been through in the big leagues.  He’s hit for power, has stolen bases, and accumulated 7+ WAR — twice!  He did all this at the plate while playing the middle infield, corner outfield, and corner infield.

So now that the whole length and breadth of Hanley’s career has been touched upon, there is now a base on which his career can be evaluated.  Starting, of course, from the year he came up, it’s obvious from the overview above that Hanley was spectacular.  It’s certainly not normal for a player of his youth (he was 23 when he broke into the majors) to be successful upon immediate entry into the premier baseball league in the world.  So when looking at his statistics from that first year, it’s not too surprising to see that his BABIP in that first year was an unrealistically high .343.  That could mean many things.  The first thought that comes to mind when seeing a BABIP that high is “an extreme overdose of luck.” However, a whole season (700 plate appearances) is long enough that luck would wear off after less than half the season went by.  The luck theory seems even more ludicrous when looking at the next four years of his career.  In those four years, he averaged a BABIP of .345.  

There is another well-documented theory that may be applicable to Hanley’s situation.  He could, like Paul Goldschmidt, have been hitting so many line drives that such a high BABIP is easily achieved.  However, this theory is disproved when his average line-drive percentage is seen.  He averaged a line-drive percentage around 19 percent, compared to Goldschmidt’s idealistic 24 percent.  

This is not a case when the easy way out is taken, and it’s just said “that’s just who he is, he just hits for a high BABIP!”  Indeed, it is not who Hanley is: after those five years, his BABIP dropped to just .275 and .290 for two years afterward.  Thankfully, this question is easily solved by a very simple answer, one that might have slipped through the cracks of many a research team.  Such easy an answer suffices, in a day when complicated statistical analysis-based answers are some of the only answers accepted.  This is one of the few cases in which all statistical-analysis answers are proven to be insufficient, so an old tool is called upon in place of them.  

Simply put, the answer is speed.  For the first five years of his career, Hanley had unbelievable speed, evidenced by his 196 stolen bases in that span.  Of course, speed has a bigger factor than just the occasional slow roller between first and second that was beaten out through pure speed.  Speed means the opposing team pulling in their third baseman in case of a bunt, or pulling in the whole infield so the speedster doesn’t get that aforementioned infield hit (both of these scenarios would result in an easier opportunity to get a hit, because it’s extremely hard to stop a hard-hit ball when fielders are pulled into within 75 feet of home plate).  Speed means getting hittable pitches, so one is not walked, and therefore given a chance to steal a base.  

This theory of speed makes even more sense when it’s seen that as soon as Hanley’s speed began to diminish, he stopped getting a high BABIP.  His lack of speed in the 2011 and 2012 seasons affected his whole offensive output in that span.  In those two years,  he hit for an average of .250, and stole only (for him) 41 bases during those two seasons.  His rebound the next year (.345 avg., .363 BABIP) was due in large part to an uncharacteristic line-drive percentage of 22 percent, and a hard-hit percentage close to 50.  His horrible season in 2015 was most likely because of many reasons.  During that year, he had almost no remaining speed, a chronic inability to hit the ball hard, and an array of injuries.  However, he rebounded this year, accumulating 30 homers while hitting a solid .286.  

How he did that, it’s hard to know.  He barely improved his line-drive and hard-hit percentages, and certainly did not suddenly gain speed.  It’s now safe to say that somehow, someway, Hanley has completely revamped his approach to hitting.  Now that his speed is gone for good, he still is managing to stay extremely productive while not utilizing his speed to make his stats great.  Of course, he’s not even close to being as productive as he was during that five-year stretch, but he has managed to do what almost no speedster has done in the past: stay productive after the age of 31, when speed starts to diminish.  Many a speedster has fallen prey to this ailment called aging, including (but not limited to) Vince Coleman, Carl Crawford, and Scott Podsednik.  Of course, there are many exceptions, mainly Rickey Henderson and Ichiro Suzuki.  So Hanley has joined an elite club, one that definitely does not fit his style of play.

Over his career, Hanley has proven to be able to hit for power, average, and line drives, while also running well for a while.  Out of the five tools in baseball, three are for hitting.  Hanley could be the image of each, from different points in his career.  

Speed: he had two straight 51-steal seasons.  

Average: he has a .295 career average over his 11 year tenure in the major leagues.

Power: he’s accumulated seven seasons of 20+ home runs.  

He truly is and has been one of the most talented players in the major leagues.  Despite this, Hanley remains to be one of the most underappreciated players in the major leagues.  Not many players have done what he has done in his career, yet he is viewed as a good comeback player, not as the personification of the tools in hitting.

Shifting Against Right-Handers

Since even before the Pirates began using a shift against left-handed hitters regularly in 2013, this tactic has slowly become more and more prevalent.  In fact, it has become so prevalent that it is now a fixture in Major League Baseball.  As the shift has gotten more popular, many variations of it have been invented for different instances.  In some extreme shifts, the second baseman is placed in short right field, while the shortstop is positioned slightly to the right of second base.  Another shift places the second baseman, shortstop, and first baseman in between first and second, creating an almost impenetrable wall of three fielders on one side of the infield.  And, in some cases with certain hitters, all four infielders are placed to the right of second base.

All of these shifts have been proven to be immensely effective.  In fact, when the Pirates first began implementing it regularly when nobody else was using it that much, it gave them a jaw-dropping advantage over other teams.  Since then, every defense in the league has used it routinely — but mostly only against left-handed hitters.  There are many pull-happy right-handed hitters who have benefited immensely from not having shifts implemented against them regularly.  There is no reason why shifts should not be placed against right-handed hitters.  Of course, there are some right-handed hitters who go the other way as or more often than they pull the ball.  But there are some right-handed hitters, some of whom are very good, who could be considerably hampered by a shift.  Let’s take a look at some examples:

Robinson Chirinos:

Although Robinson Chirinos is not an impact player for the Rangers, he is a player who could have a significant amount of hits taken away from him because of the shift.  In fact, Chirinos could be one of the players who is most impacted by a shift.  He pulls the ball a shocking 62.1 percent of the time, and goes to center 24.1 percent of the time.  That means that he only goes the other way 13.8 percent of the time.  That percentage is so minimal that there should be a shift against him 100% of the time.  This shift would take away much of his production.  Actually, I invented a calculation that determines exactly how much of his production the hypothetical shift takes away.  I call this calculation “Fixed Average”, and it is very simple:  Fixed Average (FA) equals hits (H) minus by hits that would have been outs with the shift (SHIFT OUTS) divided by at bats (AB).  Or FA = (H – SHIFT OUTS)/ AB.  In this calculation, “hits that would have been outs with the shift” are grounders in between short and third that got through, or grounders up the middle that got through (the second baseman would have been playing up the middle with the shift).  However, some of the SHIFT OUTS  would still get through even with the shift.  So in that case it can be assumed that 1/4 of those hits (in between short and third and up the middle grounders) would have been hits.  And if the number of hits that would have been taken away is not divisible by four, then the calculation assumes that less than 1/4 of the discussed hits would have been stopped.

Robinson Chirinos’ regular average is .205.  Using the aforementioned Fixed Average, his average is .170.  That difference should be more than enough to convince teams to shift against right-handed hitters.

Maikel Franco:

Right now, Maikel Franco is the premier outlet of production for the Phillies.  He has hit 18 home runs so far this year, by far the most by a Phillies player.  Of course, his home runs wouldn’t be impacted by a shift, but he does have a .257 average, which would be impacted by a shift.  That average is respectable, but he pulls the ball 44.9 percent of the time and hits it to center 35.1 percent of the time.  He only hits it the other way 19.9 percent of the time.  So with a shift hampering his production, how would Franco do?

Using Fixed Average, that .257 average drops to .214.  Watch out Franco.  If a shift comes your way, you suddenly become less productive than your teammate Ryan Howard.

Brian Dozier:

Brian Dozier is a hard-hitting Twins’ second-bagger who has been a mainstay in the rapidly changing Twins organization for four years.  He has put together good power numbers while maintaining a less than desirable, but still respectable, batting average.  He has a very good amount of patience at the plate, keeping his OBP steady with his walks, but that would all change if a shift were implemented on him.  Out of all the players on this list, none pull the ball and hit it to center more than Brian Dozier.  And none hit it the other way less than him.  He pulls the ball 52.9 percent of the time and goes up the middle 34.2 percent of the time.  That means he goes the other way less than 13 percent of the time.

Right now, Brian Dozier’s average is .249.  Using Fixed Average, his average with the shift becomes .214.

Albert Pujols:

It is sad to see what a pull hitter Albert Pujols has become.  Although he was never one to go the other way with consistency, Albert always went the other way enough so that a shift would not be implemented on him.  However, since Albert joined the Angels, he has started to pull the ball with alarming regularity in order to prolong his quickly fading career.  Because of his new approach, Albert has been hitting the ball hard and often despite his climbing age.  That could change, though, if he were faced with a continuous shift.  That’s not to say he hasn’t ever encountered a shift.  He has been sporadically shifted on by opponents for the past few years.  But it’s been too little to significantly diminish his hitting.  In the absence of a continuous shift, Albert has kept on pulling.  He pulls the ball almost half the time he’s up, going to left field at a 49.2 percent clip.  He goes to center 32.2 percent of the time and hits it the other way a paltry 18.6 percent of the time.  That may not sound as significant as the other players on this list, but he still owns one of the most lopsided pull percentages in baseball.

Albert’s regular average is .249.  Utilizing Fixed Average, that average drops to a paltry .208.  Suddenly, the number-four man in the Angels’ batting order becomes an expensive waste.

Evan Longoria:

To have Evan Longoria on this list is perplexing.  He is commonly referred to as the “laser show,” because he sprays line drives all over the field.  However, it seems that the “laser show” only hits lasers to one part of the field.  Indeed, he’s been pulling for a while, although not as much as he is now.  This year, he has started to pull much more than he has in the past.  It’s been working.  His batting average, mired at or below .270 for the past few years, has suddenly jumped to .290.  It’s not as if he’s getting younger, either.  He’s almost 31 years old, just a year removed from his prime.  Therefore, it’s a weird time for him to be getting better.  There is only one dramatic change in his statistics that would explain exactly what caused his production to change.  His other-way percentage has dropped eight percentage points from last year, from 26 percent to 18 percent.

As pointed out before, Longo’s average this year is .290.  His Fixed Average is .255.  Therefore, his production would drop to even lower than it was before this year if a shift were implemented against him.

Edwin Encarnacion:

Feared stalwart of the Blue Jays batting order, Edwin Encarnacion has consistently produced 30-40 home runs a year.  Also, unlike teammate Jose Bautista, he has been known to keep a respectable average while blasting baseballs into the stands.  But there is a reason why his wRC+ hasn’t dipped below 135 since 2012.  Since that year, his other-way percentage has never climbed above 20 percent.  This year, it is at an all-time low, as he struggles to maintain production as his age and career progress.  His production would grind to a halt much quicker, and his value would drop much faster, if teams would put a shift on him.

Encarnacion’s season average is at a respectable .264, but his Fixed Average is .239.  That is a difference between a formidable All-Star and a three-true-outcome type of hitter.

Adam Duvall:

Adam Duvall burst onto the scene this year, giving the depressed Reds fans something to cheer about.  His majestic homers earned him an invite to the Home Run Derby, and his wRC+ has remained steadily above 110.  These stats are especially amazing considering his former stats in the major leagues were not good at all.  This has left people wondering, though, what the cause is for Duvall’s sudden jump.  Why has he suddenly vaulted himself into the upper echelons of baseball players?  What has he changed?  The answer is, of course, because he has started to pull the ball with consistency.  In his first few years in the bigs, Duvall went the other way 27 percent of the time with bad results.  Now, he only goes the other way approximately 18 percent of the time, and he’s experienced very good results.

Duvall’s average so far this season is just hanging onto “not horrible” at .246.  With Fixed Average, it is well into the “bad” bracket at .213.

Kris Bryant:

I saved the best (and the most surprising) for last.  Ever since he arrived at the major leagues, Kris Bryant has been pulling more and more.  His pull percentage has risen to 47.5 percent, and his other-way percentage has dropped to 18 percent.  Although he joins a list which includes the likes of Evan Longoria and Albert Pujols, Bryant would by far be the most affected by the shift.  He would be most affected because of how good he’s become.  Presently, he has a WAR above 5 and a wRC+ of approximately 150.  Many people have predicted him to win the MVP, and if he continues producing at this rate, he has a fair shot at this prestigious award.

Bryant’s average is .284, and his power is off the charts.  However, his Fixed Average for the year is .245.  Nobody with an average of .245 or below (except for pitchers) has ever won an MVP award.  Of course, his stats would still be considered respectable with a .245 average, because of his 25 home runs.  He’d also probably begin to go other way if faced with a shift regularly, so that we could assume his average wouldn’t drop to .245.  But overall, his stats would most likely not be as good as they are now.

I may have left out some right-handed hitters known for pulling, but these were the players with the most drastic pull stats.  There are many right-handed hitters who go the other way just as much as they pull, but overall the evidence is pointing towards implementing a shift against select right-handed hitters.  It would drastically change their production and the way the MLB works.  It all depends, though, on if teams are willing to use it.  It would help them immensely, but as with the shift against left-handed hitters, it will take time for teams to adopt the strategy.  But soon, as they begin to see results, it will slowly become more and more prevalent to the point where it is used almost as often as the shift against left-handed hitters.  The Fixed Average calculation is based on some assumptions utilizing each player’s play-by-play data; it is my best attempt at forecasting what would happen to each player’s production if they were to face regular shifts.  All the statistical information in this article was acquired from the games prior to July 24th.

The Yankees’ Bad Decisions and How They Can Reverse Them

Before this season, everybody knew that the Yankees wouldn’t exactly be in contention this year.  But nobody could have predicted the extent to which their performance would dip — especially in hitting.  They have gotten an amazing performance from Carlos Beltran (wRC+ of 132), but that’s about it.  Oh, and Beltran has been a complete flop at fielding, managing to accumulate a -10 DRS only halfway into the season.  To offset his defensive issues, the Yankees can’t move him to first base, because he’s blocked there by Mark Teixeira, who’s earning $22.5 million a year.  And it’s not as if Mark Teixeira is earning his fat paycheck, either.  As of of the All-Star break, he has a -1.1 WAR.  So with Teixeira’s $22.5 million paycheck this year and less-than-desirable performance, trading him to make room for Beltran at first base is not an option.

So what about moving Beltran to DH?  Or moving Teixeira to DH and having Beltran play first?  A bit of a problem there.  See, Alex Rodriguez is right now occupying the DH spot.  And he’s earning $20 million this year while hitting .220 with a -0.7 WAR.  And while, theoretically, the Yanks could move Alex over to the hot corner to make room for Beltran, there’s the small problem of Chase Headley, who’s earning $13 million a year.  And while, yes, the Yankees could trade Chase Headley, who holds enough value to be desired by some clubs, nobody in the Yankees front office wants to even think, much less see, this scenario:  Almost 41-year-old Alex Rodriguez bumbling around the hot corner, feebly trying (and failing) to convert routine ground balls into outs.

So Beltran will be staying in right field until the inevitable happens:  one of the many 30-year-olds on the Yankees gets injured.  Some of those those 30-year-olds — Beltran, Texeira, and Rodriguez — combine to have a -0.3 WAR.  That is well below league-average.  Their earnings on the other hand…$57.5 million combined for 2016 alone.  Paying $57.5 million for -0.3 WAR.  However way you look at it, that’s a bad deal.  A really bad deal.  And that’s only three of the 25 people on the Yankees roster.  And you can be sure that the other 23 aren’t a general manager’s dream.  Quite the contrary.  Let’s go position by position and see exactly how horrible the Yankees’ hitters are when compared to their salaries.


Position: Players: Combined Salary: Combined WAR:
Catcher Brian McCann, Austin Romine 17.5 million 1.5
First Base Chris Parmelee, Rob Refsnyder, Ike Davis, Dustin Ackley, Mark Teixeira 27.9 million -1.1
Second Base Starlin Castro 7 million -0.4
Third Base Chase Headley, Ronald Torreyes 13.5 million 1.1
Shortstop Didi Gregorious 2.4 million 1.5
Right Field Carlos Beltran, Benjamin Gamel, Aaron Hicks 16.1 million 0.6
Left Field Brett Gardner 13 million 1.0
Center Field Jacoby Ellsbury 21.1 million 1.4
DH Gary Sanchez, Alex Rodriguez 20.5 million -0.8

So the Yankees’ payroll for hitters alone is $139 million for 2016.  Although that is a big sum — a gigantic sum — it wouldn’t have been noteworthy if the big names had performed and driven the Yanks to a playoff run.  Instead, though, those big names have performed terribly (except for Beltran) and the Yankees have almost no chance of making the postseason.

Right now the MLB is averaging six million dollars per 1 WAR.  That may sound like a lot, but compared to the Yankees it is nothing.  Since it is halfway through the season, their 4.8 combined WAR is 9.6 on a full-season scale.  139 million divided by 9.6 is 14.5.  That means that the Yankees are paying $14.5 million per 1 WAR.  That is more than two times league average.  Although they are overpaying for many players, the big blows come from five players only:  Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Jacoby Ellsbury.  All these players signed their mega deals after one of, if not the best season in their careers.  Except for Beltran, who got a three-year deal, all these players signed deals for five or more seasons.  Here is the rundown on their salaries.

Alex Rodriguez:  Alex’s deal is probably the stupidest of all other Yankees deals in history.  He was signed to a 10-year deal with the Rangers in 2001, and was traded to the Yankees in 2004.  His contract would then expire after the 2010 season, when he would be 35 years old.  But the Yankees, for some reason, decided to renew his contract two years before it expired, in 2008.  If the Yankees had signed him to a new five-year deal, that would not have been too bad.  But instead, the Yankees signed him to another 10-year deal worth 275 million dollars, $25 million more than his former deal.  So now he is signed through the 2017 season, when he will be 43 years old.  If the Yankees would have only agreed to let A-Rod go after the 2010 season, they would have avoided all the bad/OK years of his career, which, incidentally, started in 2011.

Mark Teixeira:  In 2009, the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, who was coming off of a 6.9 WAR season, to an eight-year, 180-million-dollar deal.  To be fair, it was not a bad signing for the Yanks.  Teixeira was 29 in his first year as a Yankee, and got a 142 WRC+ while accumulating a 5.1 WAR.  Then the next year he dipped to a still-respectable 3.4 WAR.  But he was on a downwards path.  After one final good year in 2011, he slowly declined into what he is now: an expensive waste of a perfectly good roster spot.  But don’t condemn the Yankees for that.  Yes, they probably slightly overpaid for a .250 average/30 HR first baseman, but it wasn’t a horrible signing.  What was bad about it was the deal itself.  Not the money involved or the years.  The reason.  Why did the Yankees need a first baseman?  The year before the deal, 2008, Jason Giambi hit 32 homers and had a 131 wRC+ at first.  Yes, his deal was up after the season, but the Yankees could have easily re-signed Giambi without having to pay him $180 million.  So the Yankees didn’t need Teixeira.  They just wanted him.  And that is the same trap they’ve fallen into ever since the dawn of free agency.

Carlos Beltran:  The Yankees signed Beltran to a three-year deal worth $45 million in 2014.  At the time, he was 36 and coming off a good season with the Cardinals.  In fact, it was a great season — hitting-wise.  At defense, there is no way around it.  He was simply terrible.  He made almost all of the plays he got to, but he didn’t get to many.  He couldn’t run fast if you pointed a gun at him.  And somehow, for some reason, the Yankees expected him to play outfield for three more seasons — until he was 39.  And guess what?  It hasn’t worked out too well.  His hitting has been very good, but that hitting value has been stripped from him by his terrible fielding.

Brian McCann:  In 2014, the Yankees signed Brian McCann to a five-year deal worth $85 million.  At the time, it seemed like a good deal; a catcher who could hit well, signed for only $17 million a year.  In any other circumstance, that would be considered a good deal.  A great deal even.  But there was one problem.  It was a 30-year-old catcher they signed for five years.  A 30-year-old catcher who most likely wouldn’t survive two more years crouching behind the plate every inning for 140 games a year.  So for two years, they Yankees got a good deal.  But this year is the third year of the deal.  And surprise, surprise, your 32 1/2-year-old catcher is not performing too well behind the plate.  -6 DRS there.  And, frankly, his hitting is just not good enough to compensate the bad fielding behind the plate.

Jacoby Ellsbury:  In 2014 the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a 153-million-dollar, seven-year deal.  Ellsbury, who was 30 years old in 2014 and had a history of getting injured, was coming off of a 5.0 WAR season.  But that was mostly due to his well above-average speed.  He used it to his advantage on the basepaths and in the outfield.  All that is fine and good, but there is one problem:  Speed is the first tool to disappear from a player’s repertoire because of age.  And the Yankees’ deal with Ellsbury started when he was 30.  And after a 39-steal year for the first year of the deal, Ellsbury unsurprisingly swiped only 20 bags in the second year.  He used to consistently have 10 DRS every season; now, with the loss of his speed, that 10 has turned into zero.  And aside from steals and defense, Ellsbury doesn’t hold much value.  He hits about five homers a season, and is good for a .280 average.  And five homers, a .280 average and 20 steals is not worth 21 million dollars a year.

So where do the Yankees go from here?  Beltran, Teixeira, and Rodriguez’s contracts will all end this year or the next.  Then they are stuck with only Ellsbury’s and McCann’s.  McCann’s expires in 2018, and, realistically, the Yankees can deal with $17 million a year for two more years.  And with the way Ellsbury’s been playing this year, the Yankees can easily trade him for a small prospect and pay half of his remaining contract.  So if they trade Ellsbury the Yankees will be left with an (almost) clean slate at the end of this year.  How do they fill it?  Here are some suggestions on what and what not to do.

1.  Stay away from pricey free agents ages 31+.

2. Make sure not to sign any player who will be 37+ at any point during the deal.

3. Pay attention to the draft.  For the next few years, the Yankees won’t be very good, so they should make use of their high draft picks and start developing prospects, rather than just buying overpriced free agents.

4.  Only buy value-high, salary-low free agents, i.e. Ben Zobrist.

5.  Stay away from deals spanning eight years or longer.

Let’s get more in-depth with these five bullet points.  Oh, yeah, there’s a sixth:

6.  Get a new G.M.

So let’s get more in-depth with these six bullet points.  1. Stay away from pricey free agents ages 31+:  This rule should be one the Yankees know well by now.  After breaking this rule many times with no good results, this rule should be a relatively easy one for the Yanks to swallow.  Remember, the rule states “pricey free agents,” so that doesn’t include older players (35-36; as you will see in the next bullet, signing Jamie Moyer is forbidden) who still retain some value and can be signed for cheap.

2.  Make sure not to sign any player who will be 37+ at any point during the deal:  It doesn’t matter if this deal is for three years or for 11.  The message is clear:  older players are at higher risk of either sharply declining or getting injured.

3.  Pay attention to the draft:  For most of their history, the Yankees lived in an era of no free agents, so they were able to rip the poor teams of their great prospects with the promise of good money.  Now, when almost every team has enough money, and those who don’t (Rays, Astros, Marlins, Pirates) are smart enough so that they won’t give away their prospects, this strategy is much harder.  So the Yankees switched their focus to high-priced free agents.  This new “strategy” has had its ups and downs.  Most of the ups came earlier, when teams didn’t try to retain their stars after the six years of cost-control.  Now, with many stars (Stanton, Strasburg) being offered luxurious extensions by their teams, most of the talent never hits the free-agent market until much later, when it is not worth much.  So, with extreme reluctance, the Yankees must turn their attention to the draft, an event they have somewhat ignored over the past years.  Although they do make an effort to sign players and do draft players with good potential, they have not made a real effort to dig deep and find hidden gems.  Remember, Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round.  And furthermore, they must not be tempted to trade away these hidden gems they worked so hard to get in return for a major-league player with not half the talent as the prospect.

4.  Only buy high-value, low-salary free-agents:  In years past, this strategy would have worked wonders for the worst team in the league who has a small budget.  Imagine:  who would sign a .272 hitter with 10 homers to a 56-million-dollar contract 10 years ago?  Almost nobody.  But just this year, Ben Zobrist received that contract.  And according to WAR, he should have received more.  Here is a list of smart free agents for after the 2016 season:

Catcher:  There are three good catchers eligible for free agency after the 2016 season:  Jonathan Lucroy, Wilson Ramos, and Matt Wieters.  Out of the three, Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Wieters will most likely be the most wanted.  So that leaves Wilson Ramos.  He is 29 and a solid backstop with hitting potential.  Smart buy:  Wilson Ramos

First Base:  There are actually no standout smart buys at first base.  Justin Smoak, Carlos Santana, and Sean Rodriguez are all options.  The one who has the most value when compared the the estimated price, though, is Sean Rodriguez.  He is also one of the youngest first baseman of all free agents.  Smart buy:  Sean Rodriguez.

Second Base:  Most of the second base free agents next year are way above our target age.  The few that are in our age range are Gordon Beckham, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Descalso, and Neil Walker.  We can safely say that Gordon Beckham and Daniel Descalso are off the list, simply because they don’t provide the value to be a smart buy.  Neil Walker’s price will have shot way up after the amazing campaign he is having this year, so that leaves us with Chris Coghlan.  Chris, who is 32, holds loads of value as he can play second base as well as corner outfield positions.  He is also having one of the worst seasons of his career as of now, so he will be really cheap come the season’s end.  Smart buy:  Chris Coghlan.

Third Base:  At third there are only a few free agents in the Yankees’ age range.  They are Luis Valbuena, Justin Turner, and Martin Prado.  Luis Valbuena is eliminated, because he is too big and awkward to stick at third base.  Somewhere in his near future he will be transitioned to first base.  So that leaves us with Justin Turner and Martin Prado.  These are both good value picks, but Justin Turner must be eliminated.  He will be way too expensive, two years removed from the best season of his life (so far) and part of a playoff contending team.  Martin Prado is our smart buy for third base.  He has been amazingly consistent his whole career, and coming from the Marlins, his price tag will be relatively low.  Smart buy:  Martin Prado.

Shortstop:  There are only four shortstops available after the season ends, and three of them fit the basic criteria:  Alcides Escobar, Erick Aybar, and Ruben Tejada.  Ruben Tejada is the first elimination, as he does not have enough experience in the big leagues to validate his performance.  Alcides Escobar also must go, because he is most likely going to be re-signed by KC.  And even if he is not, his price will be driven up by their bids.  That leaves Erick Aybar.  He is consistent, and hardly ever injured.  He is also mired in a huge slump right now, which will significantly drive down his price.  Smart buy:  Erick Aybar.

Right Field:  There is simply no other competition for smart buy.  Josh Reddick has amazing defense in right, can hit very well, and is only 30 years old.  He is also playing for the obscure Athletics right now, which will drive down his price.  Smart buy:  Josh Reddick.

Left Field:  There are so many standout left fielders going into the 2016-2017 free agency that they will all drive down the price of each other.  That will allow the smart buy to be a big player.  The big left field names are Michael Saunders, Matt Holliday, Ian Desmond, and Yoenis Cespedes.  Matt Holliday is too old, so he’s out.  Yoenis Cespedes is too fluky, and can be injury-prone, so he’s also out.  That leaves us with Ian Desmond and Michael Saunders.  Both of these players are having breakout seasons so far.  Ian Desmond offers more flexibility in the field, as he can play shortstop, second base, and all the outfield positions, including center.  Michael Saunders might be a little cheaper, but it is hard to tell.  It was close but Ian Desmond is our smart buy for left field.  Smart buy:  Ian Desmond.

Center Field:  There are three very good possibilities:  Carlos Gomez, Dexter Fowler, and Austin Jackson.  Dexter Fowler would be a very good pick almost any other season, but he is having a breakout year so far for the Cubs, so he’s out.  Austin Jackson, on the other hand, is having one of his worst seasons ever.  The problem with him is that he doesn’t seem capable of ever making a return to the player he used to be.  He is coming off three straight seasons in which he failed to hit higher than .270.  So Carlos Gomez it is.  He has struggled mightily with the Astros, but that is probably just the effect of playing in a huge ballpark rather than in hitter-friendly Milwaukee.  Smart buy:  Carlos Gomez.

DH:  With many players to choose from, the only player that really catches the smart buyer’s eye is Pedro Alvarez.  He hasn’t found much playing time with power-packed Baltimore, so that will bring down his value significantly.  Smart buy:  Pedro Alvarez.

Starting Pitchers:  With so many choose from, there will be five smart buys for starting pitchers.  There are many soon-to-be free agent starting pitchers ages 28-31.  Smart buy #1 (note:  smart buy number does not imply any greater value for pitcher):  Brett Anderson.  Coming off an injury but with many years of experience with him, Brett Anderson is a great pick for any team.  Smart buy #2:  Jaime Garcia.  So far he has been OK this season, but very consistent.  A very good pick for any team looking for a cheap starting pitcher with a high ceiling.  Smart buy #3:  Jeremy Hellickson.  Hellickson has never had a horrible year in his career.  Although he did have one 5.00 E.R.A. year, he still had a positive WAR.  And aside from that season, he has been pretty good, but not good enough to warrant a big contract.  Smart buy #4:  Matt Moore.  Moore is a dependable, extremely young left-hander.  In fact, he is one of the youngest starting pitchers on the market for next year.  Smart Buy #5:  Ivan Nova.  Although he’s had a rough year so far, you have to love the potential!  He is only 30 years old, and best of all, he’s on the Yankees right now, so they have easy access to him.

Those are all the smart buys.  I am not suggesting that the Yankees sign every single one of those players, but three of four of them wouldn’t hurt.  In fact, they would most likely help the Yankees turn their club around quickly — much quicker than anyone projected them to.

5.  Stay away from deals spanning eight years or longer:  This rule will help prevent the Mark Teixeira deals, the Alex Rodriguez deals, and the Jacoby Ellsbury deals.  This way, if a player is signed for five years, and only performs well for three years of the deal, the Yankees only have to deal with two bad years.

6.  Get a new G.M:  Brian Cashman simply hasn’t gotten it done.  He was given a good team with an unlimited budget and has turned it into one of the worst clubs in baseball.

Hopefully, the Yankees will use their bad experiences to their advantage and become one of the smarter teams in baseball, a la the Astros, Rays, and Pirates.  With the help of these rules and suggestions, they can become the most dangerous team in the MLB, with money and smarts.