I know Friday morning is usually the mailbag slot, but c’mon, yesterday was the trade deadline. It wasn’t just any ol’ trade deadline either, it was the most active and unpredictable trade deadline in a long time. Lots of big names were moved, and, somewhat surprisingly, there were a lot of big leaguer-for-big leaguer trades. Only a handful of prospects changed hands. Seems like teams are finally starting to come around on the idea of prospects being overrated. MLB players are where it’s at. Here’s a recap of all the deadline moves and here are some scattered thoughts.
1. I feel too many people view the trade deadline as binary these days, that teams should either buy or sell with nothing in between. That’s not reality though. There is always a middle ground and that’s the way the Yankees went. They made small upgrades and hugged their prospects at the same time. They acquired four no-doubt upgrades in Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, and Martin Prado, and they did so at amazingly minimal cost (and got cash back!). All they gave up were two fringe big leaguers in Vidal Nuno and Yangervis Solarte, two mid-range prospects in Peter O’Brien and Rafael DePaula, and the replaceable Kelly Johnson. I mean, how do you not love that? I don’t know if those moves will be enough to put them over the hump and into the postseason, in fact I’ll so as far as saying it is unlikely they will be, but those are clear upgrades that do not damage the short or long-term health of the franchise. Those are four quality players acquired for nothing the Yankees will miss. Amazing.
2. Now, that said, it’s pretty obvious they still need some pitching. At the very least an innings eater just to, well, eat innings. Someone who can spare the bullpen that extra inning or two every fifth day. The Yankees in position to take on salary in an August waiver trade and I think they will at some point. Cliff Lee re-injured his elbow last night and that makes him a non-option — not just for the remainder of this year either, if he doesn’t pitch at all the rest of this season I don’t see how they could go after him in the winter with all that money left on his contract — but other August trade candidates are John Danks, Scott Feldman, Kevin Correia, Bartolo Colon, Chris Young, Colby Lewis, A.J. Burnett, and James Shields. (How fantastic would a Shields rental be?) I’m not saying the Yankees should go after those guys specifically, just that there should be some pitching options this month, especially as more and more clubs fall out of the race. Win or lose, postseason or no postseason, they need some arms to avoid running their valuable pitchers into the ground.
3. Here’s the upcoming free agent class. There are very few position players listed there I prefer over Prado at his fair value contract and that’s not something to be overlooked. The Yankees got out ahead of the market by extending Brett Gardner before he hit free agency — how amazing does that deal look right now? — and trading for Prado saves them from bending over to sign some meh free agent to plug a hole over the winter, whether it be an outfielder or an infielder or whatever. Free agency is not what it once was, the solution to every problem is not out there in the form of an above-average player every offseason because teams are signing all of their best players to multi-year extension. Trading for those guys is now the way to acquire talent. Prado isn’t a sexy name and frankly I don’t think he’s anything more than a league average player, but league average is valuable and it’s one less thing to worry about this winter.
4. Drew is obviously auditioning to replace Derek Jeter next season. You realize that, right? I know he’ll be playing second base these next two months, but the Yankees and everyone else knows he can play shortstop without a problem. They get to see how he handles New York, how he fits in the clubhouse, how well he can take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, stuff like that. That’s not nothing. Sometimes a player just isn’t a good fit (see: Carl Crawford and the Red Sox) and usually you don’t find that out until after he’s signed. The same applies to Headley, really. The Yankees will get to know him these next few weeks and see firsthand how well he fits the team. If they like what they see, they could look to sign him during the exclusive negotiating period and avoid a bidding war on the open market.
5. When Spring Training opened, the candidates for the non-shortstop and non-first base infield positions were Johnson, Solarte, Brian Roberts, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, and Dean Anna. Every single one of them is gone. Johnson (trade), Sizemore (release), and Roberts (designated for assignment) were all jettisoned yesterday, Solarte (trade) was moved a few weeks ago, Nunez (trade) was moved back in April, and Anna (waived) was dropped from the roster last month. Pretty amazing that none of them survived the season and Solarte managed to be the best of that bunch. If nothing else, Headley and Drew will be big upgrades defensively — I’m pretty confident Drew will out-defend Roberts on pure athleticism even though he’s never played second as a pro — over that Island of Misfit Infielders. Headley’s already helped with the bat and Drew might. With Roberts gone and Ichiro Suzuki glued to the bench, the Yankees have a bonafide starting caliber Major League player at every position for the first time since 2012. It really is the little things in life that make you happiest.
6. This is a minor point but one worth mentioning: the DePaula and O’Brien trades did help clear up some organizational logjams. I’m pretty sure DePaula will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so that saves the Yankees a 40-man roster spot. He would have been a borderline protect/expose candidate like Jose Campos this winter, and, as they’ve shown the last few years, the Yankees almost always protect those borderline guys and it limits roster flexibility. Trading DePaula helps that situation. Moving O’Brien also ends the daily lineup/position juggling at Double-A Trenton. Gary Sanchez can catch everyday, Tyler Austin can play first base everyday, and the trio of Mason Williams, Jake Cave, and Ben Gamel can play the outfield everyday. Plus the DH spot stays open. Thunder manager Tony Franklin had to wedge O’Brien into the lineup somewhere these last few weeks, but that’s not an issue anymore.
7. I think you can make a very strong argument the three best (healthy) starting pitchers in the AL East were traded yesterday as Jon Lester (Athletics), David Price (Tigers), and John Lackey (Cardinals) were shipped to other divisions. That’s pretty remarkable. Four of New York’s five Opening Day rotation starters are on the disabled list while the Red Sox traded four-fifths of their Opening Day rotation (Lester, Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront) in the last week or so. I don’t really know where I’m going with this, I just thought it was interesting. Two years ago this division housed top notch pitchers in Lester, Price, Shields, CC Sabathia, and Hiroki Kuroda. Now the best healthy pitcher in the division is … Alex Cobb? Chris Archer? Mark Buehrle? Marcus Stroman? Yeesh.
8. I really like Drew Smyly — I even wrote a post about the Yankees potentially trading for him back in the day — but man, that is an underwhelming return for Price. Friend of RAB and Rays fans Tommy Rancel is one of the smartest baseball dudes I know and even he agrees the return was light. Smyly’s good and Franklin should have some sort of MLB career, but that’s it. That Willy Adames kid is an 18-year-old project in Single-A. Where’s the young stud big leaguer or elite prospect? That trade was made to fill needs and not acquire the most talent possible, and acquiring the most talent is what I think you have to do when trading someone of Price’s caliber.
9. The Red Sox did fine in their trades assuming Allen Craig hasn’t permanently forgotten how to hit. I’m interested to see what happens with Yoenis Cespedes next year. They don’t get the standard six years of team control over him — his contract stipulates that he has to be non-tendered after his fourth year, and because he has to be non-tendered, they can’t make him a qualifying offer and recoup a draft pick. Will they really let him walk after next season for nothing? Or will they re-sign him into his 30s, something they’ve been hesitant to do with other players and refused to do with their homegrown ace? If not, will they be looking to trade him at the deadline next summer? That’ll be fascinating.
Following today’s trade deadline activity, Brian Cashman told reporters 2B Rob Refsnyder will remain at second base for the remainder of the season. No more experimenting in right field. Happy to hear it.
Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Gwinnett)
- LF Jose Pirela: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI
- 1B Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
- C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – pleasantly surprised that is still with the team following the trade deadline
- RHP Bruce Billings: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 3/8 GB/FB – 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (63%)
- RHP Matt Daley: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0/3 GB/FB – 11 of 18 pitches were strikes (61%)
Well that was a hell of a day, wasn’t it? The Yankees did more or less exactly what I expected them to — make relatively small upgrades without giving up anything of consequence. I don’t know if these moves will be enough to push the team into the postseason, but I’m not sure any series of moves could have done thatanyway. They’re going for it without sacrificing top prospects, which makes me happy. No complaints from me about this trade deadline, though I’m sure that puts me in the minority.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Yankees are off, thankfully. A game tonight would have been too much from my selfish “I have to blog this stuff” perspective. MLB Network is airing a game tonight, and who you see depends on where you live. Talk about that, the trade deadline zaniness, or anything else right here.
The Yankees will designate Brian Roberts for assignment to clear a roster spot for the recently acquired Martin Prado, Brian Cashman told reporters. Roberts, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter on Monday and did not play Tuesday or Wednesday, was only two plate appearances shy of triggering a $250k bonus in his contract. The team cited general soreness and fatigue as reasons for the mini-benching.
Roberts, 36, hit .236/.300/.360 (81 wRC+) with five homers in 91 games and 348 plate appearances this year, his most since 2009. He hasn’t hit at all this month (69 wRC+) and his defense had become an issue in recent weeks, with lots of errors and bobbles and misplays. Perhaps he was just worn down. Roberts had the unenviable job of replacing Robinson Cano and the guy played hard all the time, but it just didn’t work out. That’s baseball. Something tells me he’ll be wearing a San Francisco Giants uniform very soon. · (241) ·
For the second time this month, the Yankees and Diamondbacks hooked up for a trade on Thursday. New York acquired the versatile sometimes infielder, sometimes outfielder Martin Prado from Arizona in exchange for minor leaguer Peter O’Brien, the club announced. The two teams got together for the Brandon McCarthy/Vidal Nuno swap a few weeks ago.
Prado, 30, is hitting .270/.317/.370 (89 wRC+) with 17 doubles and five homers in 436 plate appearances this year. He put up a .282/.333/.417 (104 wRC+) batting line with the D’Backs last season after being acquiring from the Braves as the centerpiece of the Justin Upton trade. Prado rarely walks (5.3% this year, 6.3% career) but he is a high-contact hitter (13.1% strikeout rate this year, 10.7% career) who has mashed lefties both this year (140 wRC+) and throughout his career (119 wRC+). The Yankees are in desperate need of righty production and he’ll help fix that.
Brian Cashman told reporters Prado will see most of this time in right field, which makes sense. Stephen Drew was acquired to play second base and every other position on the field is accounted for. Prado has only played two career innings in right but he has a ton of experience in left, so the outfield will not be completely foreign to him. With Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury running down everything in a two-mile radius (give or take), not to mention a ground ball pitching staff, they can hide a below-average defender in Yankee Stadium’s small right field in exchange for more offense.
Prado has played primarily third base over the last two seasons, though he has spent considerable time at second as well. He can fake shortstop and even first base if needed. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about Prado in our Scouting The Market post a few weeks ago:
Arizona gave Prado a four-year extension worth $40M last spring. He is owed about $5M through the end of the season plus $11M in both 2015 and 2016, so he and (Aaron) Hill have basically identical contract situations. If he was producing like regular old Martin Prado, it would be more than a fair wage. Since he is having a down year and it’s unclear if there is something more to it than just the general ups and downs of baseball, it’s a bit more scary.
There are no significant red flags in Prado’s batted ball or plate discipline data, which is a good thing. You want him to be the same player he was for most of his career. That makes me more hopeful the poor start to his season — he has hit .282/.326/.411 (103 wRC+) over the last two months, for what it’s worth — is just one of those things and not the first step off the cliff. As they did with the McCarthy and Chase Headley pick ups, the Yankees traded for Prado when his value was down, except he’s under contract for another two years (age 30-32 seasons).
O’Brien, 24, was the Yankees’ second round pick in the 2012 draft out of Miami. He is hitting .267/.312/.593 (147 wRC+) with 33 homers in 413 plate appearances split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. Only two players in the minors have hit more homeruns this season. O’Brien was the team’s top power prospect but there are also significant concerns about whether the holes in his swing and plate discipline issues will allow him to tap into that power at the next level — his 106/20 K/BB tells the story. He also doesn’t have a position, bouncing from catcher to third base to right field to first base since being drafted. With Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at first in Arizona, O’Brien will have to make it work elsewhere. That’s not the Bombers’ problem, obviously.
Acquiring Prado helps the Yankees both in the short and long-term, potentially. He steps into right field this year and going forward they could play him at second or third base, depending on the rest of the roster. Prado won’t block a youngster like Rob Refsnyder if they force their way onto the roster and he gives the team some protection at third given the uncertainty of the whole Alex Rodriguez situation. If Prado hits the way he did just last year, not even during his best years with the Braves, this is solid move to bolster the roster at a more than reasonable cost. Prospects like O’Brien are as tradeable as it gets.
For the first time since the Mike Stanley trade in 1997, the Yankees and Red Sox have hooked up for a trade. The Yankees have acquired Stephen Drew and $500k from their division rivals in exchange for Kelly Johnson, the team announced. Brian Cashman told reporters Drew will take over as the team’s everyday second baseman.
Drew, 31, has hit a weak .176/.255/.328 (56 wRC+) with four homers in 145 plate appearances this year after signing at midseason. He has been much better of late, hitting .237/.341/.474 (126 wRC+) with two homers since the All-Star break. After the long layoff and the lack of a proper Spring Training, it took Drew a little while to get going with the bat. He is a dead pull left-handed hitter who might be able to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch.
The Yankees had interest in Drew in each of the last two offseasons, though he declined to sign with them because of questions about how much he’d play as well as his position with Derek Jeter entrenched at short. Drew has never played a position other than shortstop — literally zero innings somewhere other than short (and DH) at both the big league and minor league level — so the second base experiment might be messy. He could always see time at short whenever Jeter needs a day off, of course.
Johnson, 32, is currently on the disabled list with a groin injury. He hit .219/.304/.373 (88 wRC+) with six homers in 227 plate appearances this season while playing mostly first and third bases. The Yankees signed him to be at least a platoon player at the hot corner, but Yangervis Solarte‘s season-opening hot streak and Mark Teixeira‘s injuries forced Johnson to spend a lot of time first base. The signing made perfect sense on paper but it just didn’t work out.
Like Johnson, Drew will be a free agent after the season, so this is a swap of rental players and the rearranging of some furniture. Drew is a very good defender at short but we have no idea how he will fare at second base. Brian Roberts, who was designated for assignment today, was giving the team neither offense nor defense in recent weeks, so it won’t take much for Drew to be an upgrade. As he did with his other trades this month, Cashman grabbed a potential upgrade at minimal cost. Hard to complain about that.
The Yankees have claimed right-hander Esmil Rogers off waivers from the Blue Jays, the team announced. Brian Cashman says he will join the big league team and be available out of the bullpen for tomorrow’s series opener against the Red Sox. Scott Sizemore was released to clear a 40-man spot. No other roster move have been announced yet.
Rogers, 28, has a 6.97 ERA (5.41 FIP) in 20.2 innings for Toronto this season while going back and forth between Triple-A and MLB a few times. He owns a 5.59 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 396 career innings with the Jays, Indians, and Rockies, which is broken down into a 5.59 ERA (4.77 FIP) in 220.2 innings as a starter and a 5.60 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 175.1 innings as a reliever. The 29-year-old Sizemore made two brief cameos with the Yankees but was on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list at the time of his release. · (60) ·
The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this afternoon, and over these next few hours there will be a ton of rumors and speculation. A bunch of actual moves too. The Yankees have already swung trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but Brian Cashman has said he is still seeking another starter and another bat. I can’t imagine they’ll get through the day without doing something.
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we learned the Yankees are “in on everything” but do not want to part with their top minor leaguers. Josh Willingham, John Danks, Jake Arrieta, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Denorfia, Joaquin Benoit, James Russell, Marlon Byrd, Ian Kennedy, and Brett Anderson were among the names connected to the club. They do not have interest in Matt Kemp and were not targeting Justin Masterson before he was traded to the Cardinals, however. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this post, so make sure you check back throughout the day. All the timestamps are ET.
- 3:42pm: Apparently the Yankees are getting Stephen Drew from the Red Sox. Huh. [Gordon Edes]
- 3:36pm: The Yankees are out on Byrd. [Jayson Stark]
- 3:01pm: The Yankees are one of several teams talking to the Rays about Price. I can’t see this happening but I’d love to be wrong. [Bob Nightengale]
- 1:55pm: There is a false rumor going around saying the Yankees have acquired Byrd. They have not. At least not yet, anyway. It’s bonus. No deal. [Sherman]
- 1:48pm: The Rays will trade David Price today. I doubt it will be to the Yankees, but geez. This is fun! [Joel Sherman]
- 1:34pm: The Yankees are going to take things right down to the wire. They’re still discussing Willingham, Denorfia, and Byrd. [Ken Rosenthal]
- 1:25pm: Just in case you’re wondering, Danks is currently pitching for the White Sox, which wouldn’t happen if he was close to being traded. Pretty slow day for the Yankees thus far.
- 11:17am: The Yankees continue to work on small deals. Nothing big is expected to happen today. Lame. [Feinsand]
- 9:48am: The Red Sox have traded Lester (and Jonny Gomes) to the Athletics, according to multiple reports. Yoenis Cespedes is the primary piece going back to Boston. Wow.
- 9:30am: The Yankees are not working on anything huge at the moment. Their focus is on upgrading in right field and adding depth to the bullpen and pitching staff. [Joel Sherman]
- The Yankees and Phillies have discussed Byrd, but nothing is close. Apparently there’s some concern about how he’d fit in the clubhouse. They are not in on Alex Rios and maintain interest in Willingham. [Jon Heyman]
- Despite the connection to Danks, the Yankees have no interest in picking up the $28M or so he is owed from 2015-16. He is scheduled to start at 1pm ET this afternoon. They also did not bother to call the Red Sox about Jon Lester. Seems like that would be a gigantic waste of time. [Mark Feinsand & Nick Cafardo]
So much for taking advantage of a soft spot in the schedule. The Yankees lost Wednesday night’s series finale against the Rangers by the score of 3-2, dropping two of three in Texas to the team with the worst record in baseball.
For the first time since June 2012, Colby Lewis completed seven full innings of work. He retired the final 13 (!) batters he faced and held the Yankees to two runs — solo homers by noted power threats Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury — on four hits and two walks in those seven innings, striking out four. The Yankees actually loaded the bases in the first inning, but of course they couldn’t capitalize. I swear, they must lead the league in first inning runners left on base. It would be nice if they blew a game open early once in a while.
Anyway, Carlos Beltran‘s two-out single to left in the third inning was the Yankees’ finally base-runner of the night. Chase Headley followed that with a hard-hit fly ball right to the wall in right field — I thought it was gone off the bat — but Alex Rios was able to run it down for the third out of the inning. Headley went hitless for the first time in pinstripes but he did draw a walk. After Beltran’s single, exactly six Yankees hit the ball out of the infield. The final 19 men they sent to the plate made outs. The only good thing about this offense is that the games are usually over in under three hours.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched just well enough to lose. I feel like that is a bit of a running theme this year thanks to the offense. Kuroda left far too many pitches up in the zone in the three-run first inning, which featured four singles and a double, but followed with six more scoreless frames to spare the bullpen. Three runs in seven innings on nine hits and a walk isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, especially since he never really seemed to be in control of his stuff, but it isn’t a disaster. It’s the type of start a good team would win.
Kuroda spared the bullpen after that dreadfully long game on Tuesday night, which was appreciated even with the off-day coming on Thursday. Getting those guys two straight days of rest this time of year is a big deal. David Huff issued two walks in an otherwise uneventful eighth inning and was the only reliever used. I’m not sure what else the pitching staff is supposed to do. These guys are giving the team a chance to win almost every night despite all the injuries. Something has to give at some point.
Mark Teixeira contributed to the first inning damage with a boneheaded play. He simply let a Leonys Martin ground ball roll foul rather than pick it up and tag Martin as he ran by for the final out of the inning. That would have limited the damage to two runs. Instead, the at-bat was extended and Martin eventually blooped a single to left to plate his team’s third run.
The Yankees’ four hits came from Gardner (homer), Ellsbury (homer!), and Beltran (two singles). Teixeira and Headley drew the only walks. The bottom three hitters in the lineup (Frankie Cervelli, Zoilo Almonte, Brendan Ryan) went a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts. Cervelli’s ground out with the bases loaded to end the first was their only at-bat with runners in scoring position on the night. Pitchers like Lewis, a guy with a 6+ ERA, used to be like bugs hitting a windshield whenever they faced the Yankees. Now they throw up quality starts.
Gardner’s homer was another leadoff job, his fourth of the season. It was also his fourth homer in the span of ten plate appearances and seventh (!) in July, or the same number of homers Robinson Cano has hit all season. The Yankees have now hit multiple homers in each of their last six games. I didn’t think they had that in them. It is their longest such streak since a nine-gamer in May 2009. They topped out at four games last year.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and video highlights can be found at MLB.com. FanGraphs has some more game stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Blue Jays and Orioles both won, so the Yankees are now 5.5 games back of the top spot in the AL East and three games back of the second wildcard spot, tied with the Mariners. They’ve lost four of five after winning seven of their first eight games out of the All-Star break. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 13.5%.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and they’ll head up to Boston to open a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday night. Pretty good chance both teams will look a little different by then, especially the Sawx. Chris Capuano vs. John Lackey is the scheduled pitching matchup at the moment, but the Yankees are looking for a rotation upgrade and Lackey’s name has been in all sorts of trade rumors the last 24 hours or so. The trade deadline is 4pm ET on Thursday and I suspect both clubs will do something.
LHP Justin Kamplain, this year’s 18th rounder, has been promoted from Short Season Staten Island to Low-A Charleston, the team announced. His numbers so far are kinda silly: 21 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 25 K.
Triple-A Scranton (3-1 loss to Gwinnett)
- RF Jose Pirela: 0-5, 1 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-2, 1 BB
- DH Kyle Roller: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- C Austin Romine: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI – 24-for-65 (.369) in his last 18 games
- LHP Matt Tracy: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 67 of 101 pitches were strikes … 223/79 GB/FB in 120.2 innings this year
- LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes