Yanks add Gleyber Torres, five others to 40-man roster prior to Rule 5 Draft protection deadline

Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Torres. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Monday night was the deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft, and, as expected, the Yankees added top prospect SS Gleyber Torres to the 40-man. Also added were RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Domingo Acevedo, IF Thairo Estrada, RHP Jonathan Loaisiga, and OF Billy McKinney. The 40-man roster is now completely full. Garrett Cooper, Caleb Smith, Nick Rumbelow, and Ronald Herrera were all traded away in recent days to clear space.

Torres, 21 next month, is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. He came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) in 55 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks Torres as the best prospect in baseball. Protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft was a no-brainer.

The 22-year-old Abreu is the second best prospect added to the 40-man, at least in my opinion. He came over from the Astros in the Brian McCann trade. Abreu had a 3.37 ERA (3.12 FIP) with 27.6% strikeouts and 8.1% walks in 53.1 Single-A innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and threw 27.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA in six starts. Great finish to the season, that was.

McKinney, 23, is a former first round pick who went from the Athletics to the Cubs (Jeff Samardzija trade), then from the Cubs to the Yankees (Chapman trade). He bounced back in a big way this season, hitting .277/.338/.483 (124 wRC+) with career high 16 homers in 124 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. The Yankees had McKinney start learning first base in the Arizona Fall League to increase his versatility. We heard he’d be added to the 40-man a few weeks ago.

The 21-year-old Estrada is a personal favorite, and he had a breakthrough with Double-A Trenton this season, hitting .301/.353/.392 (107 wRC+) with a tiny 10.3% strikeout rate. He’s a good defensive shortstop who also has a lot of experience at second and third bases. Guys with good bat-to-ball skills and strong defensive chops on the middle infield are worth keeping around. The Yankees added a lot of talent to the 40-man today, but don’t sleep on Thairo. Kid can play.

Acevedo, the prospect who goes by Big Sunday, threw 133 innings with a 3.25 ERA (3.25 FIP) with 26.0% strikeouts and 6.0% walks at three levels this season. The 23-year-old is one of the more divisive prospects in the system. On some days Acevedo will look like a future ace and on others he’ll look like a middle reliever with little more than a big fastball. It’s worth keeping him around to see how he develops, for sure.

Loaisiga, 23, is a lottery ticket the Yankees picked up a few years ago, after he had been released by the Giants. Loaisiga had Tommy John surgery last year, returned this year, and threw 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA (2.17 FIP) in the various short season leagues.

Johnny Lasagna has been getting talked up as a breakout prospect in recent weeks, and these days rebuilding teams have no problem popping low minors kids in the Rule 5 Draft and stashing them on the roster all year. That’s what the Padres did with Luis Torrens last year.

Among the notable prospects the Yankees are leaving exposed to the Rule 5 Draft are IF Abi Avelino, LHP Nestor Cortes, OF Rashad Crawford, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, 1B Mike Ford, RHP Anyelo Gomez, RHP Brady Lail, OF Alex Palma, and LHP Stephen Tarpley. I suspect Cortes and Gomez will get selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Feyereisen and Tarpley are candidates to get picked.

As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s 25-man active big league roster all of next season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to the Yankees. Most Rule 5 Draft players do not stick. The Yankees lost four players in the Rule 5 Draft last season (Torrens, Smith, Tyler Jones, Tyler Webb) and all but Torrens were returned.

Yankees trade Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to Marlins

King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)
King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)

The Yankees have made another trade as they continue their 40-man roster purge. Tonight they traded Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to the Marlins for pitching prospect Mike King and an undisclosed sum of 2017-18 international bonus money, the team announced. This trade plus the Nick Rumbelow trade and Ronald Herrera trade give the Yankees six open 40-man roster spots before they have to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

King, 22, was selected by Miami in the 11th round of the 2016 draft out of Boston College. He threw 149 innings this season, all at Low Class-A, where he had a 3.14 ERA (3.97 FIP) with 17.8% strikeouts and 3.5% walks. MLB.com did not rank King among the top 30 prospects in the Marlins system, which is arguably the worst in baseball. Here is a snippet of Baseball America’s pre-2016 draft scouting report (subs. req’):

The 6-foot-3 righthander doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he commands an upper 80s fastball with sink, touching 92 mph. King mixes in a short-breaking slider that is difficult to square up but not an above-average offering. He pitches to contact but is a plus competitor and has above-average command.

The Yankees have had a lot of success getting their pitching prospects to add velocity in recent years. If King adds a few ticks to his heater, he could be really interesting given his slider, command, and competitiveness. Also, a move to the bullpen could be in the cards. King could move real quick as a reliever.

The international bonus money is the more notable addition here because it means more money for Shohei Ohtani, should he come over. It had been reported the Yankees already maxed out their bonus pool — teams are allowed to trade for an addition 75% of their original pool ($4.75M for the Yankees) — but apparently not. Maybe they’re maxed out now? Hmmm.

Both Cooper and Smith were up-and-down depth players for the Yankees this summer. Cooper, 27 next month, hit .326/.333/.488 (113 wRC+) in 13 games as a fill-in first baseman. That includes a four-hit game against the Blue Jays. The Yankees acquired Cooper from the Brewers for Tyler Webb at midseason. He didn’t receive a September call-up, which was a pretty good indication his 40-man roster spot would be jeopardy.

Smith, 26, spent most of the season in Triple-A. He had a 7.71 ERA (5.62 FIP) in 18.2 big league inning spread across two starts and seven relief appearances. The Marlins hired farm system head Gary Denbo away from the Yankees a few weeks ago, and he is no doubt very familiar with Smith. I wonder if he’ll get a chance to crack their rotation next year. Either way, both Smith and Cooper figure to get better opportunities with the Marlins than they would’ve with the Yankees, so good luck to them.

Update: Buster Olney says the Yankees received $250,000 in international bonus money from the Marlins, and are now maxed out. It was reported earlier this month they had $3.5M in available international bonus money to offer Ohtani, so now it’s $3.75M.

Update: MLBPA extends deadline to settle Ohtani posting dispute

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

November 20th: The MLBPA has announced a 24-hour extension for talks. The new deadline is 8pm ET Tuesday. I suppose this means the two sides (three sides, really) are making enough progress that the union is willing to extend talks to make sure this gets done. So … good news?

November 16th: According to Jon Heyman, the MLBPA has set a Monday deadline to settle the ongoing dispute regarding Shohei Ohtani and the posting system. If MLB, NPB, and MLBPA can not come to an agreement in four days, Ohtani will not come over this winter, and will instead return to the Nippon Ham Fighters next season.

The posting agreement expired a few weeks ago, and MLB and NPB agreed to grandfather Ohtani in under the old agreement, meaning the (Ham) Fighters will set a $20M release feel. The MLBPA doesn’t like that though. They don’t want so much money going to the (Ham) Fighters and so little money going to Ohtani, hence the dispute. MLBPA’s approval is needed to finalize the posting system.

Because he is only 23, Ohtani is subject to the international hard cap, which will severely limit his earning potential. The Rangers and Yankees are said to have the most hard cap space available at $3.5M or so each. Furthermore, Ohtani can only sign a minor league contract, and will earn the league minimum next year. Ouch.

Of course, the MLBPA agreed to the international hard cap last year as part of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The union has been selling out its future members for years by agreeing to draft and international spending limits, and now there’s a star player who could’ve changed baseball’s salary scale and helped all MLBPA members, but can’t.

The MLBPA had their seat at the table. They could’ve rejected an international hard cap. We all knew about Ohtani last year. He was not a secret. MLB and the MLBPA knew he would come over at some point, yet the union agreed to the hard cap anyway. And if all the parties involved fail to come to an agreement by Monday and Ohtani has to stay in Japan next year, it will be the MLBPA’s fault.

Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today, the BBWAA announced the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Andruw Jones are the notable first time eligible players. And I guess Omar Vizquel too. He’s going to get into Cooperstown despite being a career .272/.336/.352 (82 OPS+) hitter, isn’t he? Anyway, the notable ex-Yankees on the ballot are Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina, and Gary Sheffield. I hope Moose gets in this year.

Here is an open thread for the night. Falcons vs. Seahawks is the Monday Night Football game, plus the Knicks and Devils are playing. And there’s a bunch of college basketball on as well. Religion and politics are off-limits here. Talk about anything else.

Yankees announce 2018 Spring Training schedule

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Late Friday evening the Yankees announced their 2018 Spring Training schedule. Pitchers and catchers are due to report Tuesday, February 13th, and the first Grapefruit League game will be played Friday, February 23rd. Here are the key dates:

  • Pitchers and catchers report: Tuesday, February 13th
  • First workout: Wednesday, February 14th
  • Position players report: Sunday, February 18th
  • First full squad workout: Monday, February 19th
  • First Grapefruit League game: Friday, February 23rd (home vs. Tigers)

The Yankees will make two trips to the other side of Florida next spring, including once to play the Mets in St. Lucie on Wednesday, March 7th. The Mets will visit Tampa three days later. That Yankees close out their spring schedule with an exhibition game against the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday, March 26th.

All told, the Yankees will play 33 exhibition games next spring, including 16 home games at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The various networks will release their spring broadcast schedules in a few weeks. All networks have been scaling back their spring coverage in recent years — those midweek afternoon games don’t get good ratings, apparently — but a good 20-25 of those 33 games should be televised.

Eventually the complete spring schedule will be available right here. Spring Training season tickets are on sale right now. You can buy them here. Individual spring game tickets will go on sale sometime in January. The Yankees open the 2018 regular season on Thursday, March 29th in Toronto. The season begins midweek now to accommodate extra off-days during the season.

Yanks trade Ronald Herrera to Rangers for pitching prospect

Herrera. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Herrera. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

The Yankees have traded right-hander Ronald Herrera to the Rangers for lefty pitching prospect Reiver Sanmartin, the team announced. Similar to the Nick Rumbelow trade, this one is designed to open a 40-man roster spot prior to tonight’s deadline to set the roster for the Rule 5 Draft. The Yankees now have four open 40-man spots.

Herrera, 22, came over from the Padres two years ago in the Jose Pirela trade. He threw 212.1 innings with a 3.22 ERA (3.27 FIP) at mostly Double-A and Triple-A the last two seasons, and did get into two games with the Yankees this year. Herrera allowed two runs in three innings in those two games. MLB.com did not rank him among New York’s top 30 prospects.

The 21-year-old Sanmartin turned pro in 2015 and posted a 2.45 ERA (3.06 FIP) with 19.7% strikeouts and 3.2% walks in 66 innings split between two Single-A levels this summer. MLB.com does not rank him among the top 30 Rangers prospects. Here’s a scouting report from Gerry Fraley last year:

After two years in the Dominican Summer League, Sanmartin has jumped to the Low-A South Atlantic League this season. Sanmartin, 21, has a small frame at 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds. He has a low-90s mph fastball that sinks and complements it with a good changeup. The key to Sanmartin’s success is his ability to repeat a good delivery and throw strikes. For the season, he has 44 strikeouts with only five walks in 50 2/3 innings. Good athlete and high baseball IQ.

Herrera was one of the most obvious candidates to lose his 40-man roster spot this offseason, so rather than designate him for assignment and put him on waivers, the Yankees were able to turn him into a lefty pitching prospect. Not a great lefty pitching prospect, but a lefty pitching prospect. Better than nothing.

Over the weekend it was reported the Yankees have interest in Jurickson Profar, and the Rangers in turn have interest in some of New York’s fringe 40-man roster pitchers (like Herrera). A Profar trade is still possible, of course, but the Rule 5 Draft roster deadline is tonight, and the Yankees can’t afford to wait around to clear roster spots.

Michael Pineda: Flashes of promise before Tommy John surgery [2017 Season Review]

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Going into the 2017 season, Michael Pineda had one year left on his contract and had an opportunity to earn himself a lot of money with a strong year. Even if he maintained his previous performance, his high strikeout and low walk rates likely would have convinced a team to give him a significant multi-year deal.

But unfortunately, his season is the story of what can go wrong, even with his numbers improving.

Near-perfect opener

The Yankees have had a wide array of pitchers start their home opener in recent years. You have the aces like Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. You have the duds who take the ball due to injuries like Carl Pavano. Somewhere in the middle is Pineda.

He was coming off a weak start in Tampa Bay and was facing the exact same Rays squad. The Yankees had received almost exclusively mediocre starting pitching through their first six games and their 2-4 record reflected the so-so expectations for the team going into the season.

And with all that, Pineda came out and damn near threw a perfect game. He recorded 20 straight outs to start the game before an Evan Longoria double broke things up.

Before October, it may have been the loudest Yankee Stadium got this season. The crowd was into Pineda’s game. Really into it. Martha Stewart got into it, too. Clapping for strike three, applauding him after each inning and then handing him a standing ovation after the first hit.

It goes without saying, but it was the best Pineda has looked in pinstripes. Even better than the 16 strikeout game against the Orioles. He had supreme command of both his fastball and slider and rode them hard for 7.2 innings. He gave up two hits, but the last one, a Logan Morrison solo home run, effectively knocked him out of the game.

The win was the second of seven straight for the Bombers and kicked off a tremendous start to the year for Pineda.

Promising couple months

While Opening Day was his best outing of the season, it wasn’t unique for Pineda’s start to 2017. It’s easy to forget after he missed the second half, but he was one of their best pitchers for the first two months.

Six of his first 10 starts were quality starts. No more than four earned runs in any of the 10 games, three earned or fewer in nine of 10. At the end of May, he had a 3.32 ERA and looked the part of it. He hadn’t allowed more than six hits in an outing since his Apr. 5 game vs. Tampa Bay and had gone six innings or more in eight of his starts.

His home run issues were popping up again. He’d allowed long balls in eight of his first 10 outings and gave up six in five May starts. Perhaps part of his success was fool’s gold as nine of his 11 homers were solo shots and other two came with only one man on base. Still, with an elevated strikeout rate and the home run environment around baseball, there was room for optimism that he’d returned to his 2012/2014 form.

Some duds and an injury

Things took a turn in June. Pineda allowed five or more runs in four of his final seven starts. Nine homers in that span. His strikeout rate dipped and his walk rate rose.

And the hits went way up. Pineda’s first 59.2 IP of the year: 50 hits. Last 36.2: 53. Batters hit .335/.365/.538 off him in that span. Once the calendar had flipped from May, it appeared that hitters were taking the ball off a tee from him.

He still somehow beat the AL Champs in Houston, albeit with plenty of hard contact not falling in, while pitching a superb game against Boston. But the Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays got to him in abundance.

Pineda’s season came to an end when he allowed five runs (three homers) in three innings against the Blue Jays on July 5. Reports came soon after that he would undergo Tommy John surgery, which ended his season. It’s unclear how much his late-season performance was a result of his elbow injury and how much was worse pitching. Guess we’ll never know, but I bet at least some of it was. It’s tough to maintain consistency with your elbow hurting.

Pineda finished his season with a 4.39 ERA, 1.9 home runs per nine and a 4.38 K/BB rate. Basically, a typical Pineda line. But for a second there, it looked like we’d get something different.

2018 Outlook

Hitting free agency right after undergoing Tommy John surgery is never an ideal scenario. Pineda is likely looking for a two-year deal, perhaps with the second year being an option. If he’d continued his first couple months, his always promising peripherals would have led to tens of millions on the free agent market. Some team would have bet on him keeping it up. Instead, he’ll have to settle for a deal worth less than $10 million perhaps.

With the Yankees contending in 2018 and looking to get under the luxury tax, Pineda’s time with the Yankees is almost certainly over. Assuming he doesn’t return (or go back to Seattle), all four players in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal will no longer be in the Yankees or Mariners systems. What a strange ride it’s been since that trade.