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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/16/21

Rizzo suspected inconsistent baseball use; Predicting post-lockout free agent signings; Former hitting coach Pilittere hired by Rockies; Remembering Winfield signing

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images | Brendan Kuty: Anthony Rizzo’s been playing this game a long time, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he had a hunch about something being off with the actual baseballs in 2021. He told former Cubs teammate Ian Happ on a podcast that some felt softer or harder than others, and that there were at least a few drives he hit in 2021 that felt like homers that just died at the warning track. As Kuty noted, MLB has acknowledged the report that two different kinds of baseballs were used in 2021, but the league insists that it was the result of production delays at Rawlings rather than anything nefarious.

Sports Illustrated | Will Laws and Nick Selbe: With free agency frozen due to the lockout, why not revisit original free agent predictions? That’s what the folks at SI did, and in their revised forecast of the top 25 remaining players on the market, Laws and Selbe suggested that the Yankees would re-sign the aforementioned Rizzo to man first (as originally suggested) and also add veteran Zack Greinke to the pitching staff. That one seems like a reach at this point, and as John wrote last week in his free agent target post on Greinke, it’s probably not the best fit. The likely Hall of Famer just isn’t the same guy that he was even in 2020. Maybe just sign Carlos Correa instead of letting him join Javy Báez in Detroit. | Thomas Harding: Another departed member of the 2021 Yankees coaching staff has found a new home. Both hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere were let go in an effort to revamp the offense, and after Thames was named hitting coach of the Marlins on November 17th, Pilittere has resurfaced as well. The Rockies announced that the 40-year-old will be an assistant hitting coach alongside Andy González on their 2022 staff, under manager Bud Black and incumbent hitting coach Dave Magadan.

Baseball Hall of Fame | Janey Murray: This is an anniversary post from the Hall of Fame on an anniversary that’s already passed, but I am nothing if not a sucker for a good baseball history post. All-time great Dave Winfield signed with the Yankees 41 years ago yesterday, and the author Murray looked back on the negotiation process and how the Yankees ended up with another Hall of Fame outfielder to pair with Reggie Jackson. Thanks in part to George Steinbrenner, Winfield never really got his due in New York, but the man ended up putting together a plethora of excellent seasons.