Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today Ken Rosenthal reported the Red Sox have agreed to sign ex-Yankee Chris Young to a multi-year contract. He’s an extreme pull hitter and Fenway Park will be a good fit for him. Young was awesome as the fourth outfielder this year but the Aaron Hicks trade all but assured he wouldn’t be returning to the Bronx. The Yankees grabbed Young off the scrap heap in 2014 and he gave them a .257/.326/.465 (116 wRC+) batting line with 17 homers and 2.2 fWAR in 435 plate appearances for the low low price of ~$4M. Pretty cool. So long, CY.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Ravens and Browns are meeting on Monday Night Football, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are playing as well. There’s also some college basketball going on too. Talk about those games, Young signing with the BoSox, or anything else here.

Heyman: Yanks have inquired about Shelby Miller, Braves want Luis Severino

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are among the teams to call the Braves about right-hander Shelby Miller. Atlanta asked for Luis Severino in return, which is what I’d do. Heyman says that was merely a request and the Yankees are not seriously considering dealing Severino for Miller.

Miller, 25, had a 3.02 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 205 innings this past season, his first with the Braves after coming over from the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward deal. The Braves got Miller to emphasize his slider and cutter a little more and the result was more ground balls and fewer home runs. Fewer pitches squared up, basically.

MLBTR projects Miller to earn $4.9M next season, his first of three trips through arbitration. He can’t become a free agent until after 2018. The Yankees are looking for young pitching they can control beyond 2017 and Miller fits the bill, albeit slightly. He only has that one extra year of team control.

The Braves have been after Severino for a while. The two teams talked about a potential blockbuster trade last year that would have brought Heyward and Andrelton Simmons to New York, and we know Severino was part of those talks. New GM John Coppolella, a former Yankees intern, recently told Dave O’Brien they made a “strong run” at Severino.

“We made a strong run last year with the Yankees at Luis Severino, and we didn’t get the deal done last year, and now he’s off-limits this year. I mean, if you feel like you have a chance to get special talent, you can’t shy away from it. You’ve got to really jump at it and take that plunge. We were not sure that we could get these sorts of players, (the Simmons trade) was such a good opportunity for us that we wanted to seize it once it was available to us.”

With their new ballpark set to open in 2017, the Braves are in the middle of a massive rebuild and are still going through the tear down process. It’s hard to believe this same team won 96 games in 2013 and had all sorts of young talent on the roster. Heyward, Simmons, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel … all gone now.

The Braves have been emphasizing young pitchers in all of their trades, arguably too much. The attrition rate seems way to high to put all your eggs in that basket, but that’s just me. Beyond Severino, the Yankees have young arms like James Kaprielian, Ian Clarkin, and Bryan Mitchell to offer. My guess is the Braves are looking for something better in return for Miller.

Early free agent prices may mean second and third tier pitchers aren’t fits for Yankees

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Yesterday morning the first significant free agent came off the board when Jordan Zimmermann agreed to a five-year contract with the Tigers. The deal, which is still pending a physical, is reportedly worth $110M. The Winter Meetings are only a week away now, so the markets for other big name free agents will surely heat up soon.

Aside from Zimmermann, several other free agents have already signed this offseason, but they’re mostly second or third or even fourth tier types. All of the half decent catchers (Alex Avila, Chris Iannetta, Geovany Soto) have signed, plus several pitchers have inked new deals as well. Rich Hill went from an independent league in August to a one-year, $6M deal with the Athletics in November. What a world.

The Blue Jays have signed two starting pitchers already. They re-upped Marco Estrada for two years and brought back J.A. Happ for three years. The contracts have similar average annual value: Estrada gets $13M annually while Happ gets $12M per year. Clearly the Blue Jays are hoping their performances in 2015 — Estrada was great the entire year, Happ was great after being traded to the Pirates — are the new normal and not outliers.

“Mediocre pitching is $30M minimum,” said one executive to Ken Rosenthal, and the Estrada and Happ deals back that up. Go back to previous offseasons and you have guys like Jake Peavy ($24M), Bronson Arroyo ($23.5M), and Scott Feldman ($30M) in that salary range. That’s just the market now. The game is flush with cash and the players are getting their piece of the pie. Heck, you can argue they’re getting less than they deserve.

Anyway, the Yankees could use some rotation help this offseason, if nothing to add innings and more certainty. Right now they have a lot of bodies but I’m not sure you can count on anyone to take the ball and pitch well every fifth day 30+ times in 2016. There are too many health concerns, not mention high variance performances. This is the quintessential boom or bust rotation. No doubt about it. It’s not hard to see this group as a dominant strikeout staff or a bottom ten staff.

The Yankees didn’t have much money come off the books after the season, meaning they’re not going to shop at the very top of the market. I wouldn’t ever rule out a David Price or Zack Greinke signing, but I don’t expect it either. The team has been scouring the trade market, offering up guys like Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller for young arms, but so far nothing has come from it. Getting pitching is hard, even in this low offense era.

Those early Estrada and Happ contracts show that if the Yankees avoid the top of the market and don’t trade some of their good players for controllable arms, they’re going to get stuck paying inflated prices for middling free agent arms. Inflated probably isn’t the right word, the market is the market, but they’ll end up paying a price that doesn’t really fit their payroll. They had $20M come off the books and Happ types are running $13M annually.

There’s also the multi-year aspect of this. Everyone is looking forward to next offseason, when Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran come off the books and the Yankees have some more money to spend in free agency, but going two or three years for a guy like Happ chews up some of that money. Heck, Happ’s salary would have essentially replaced Beltran’s. That’s the cost of meh pitching nowadays.

Without a payroll increase, the Yankees look to be best off trading for cheaper arms than paying a premium for a middling starter. If payroll’s not going up, then veteran depth arms on one-year contracts are probably the best free agent targets outside of Price or Greinke. I’m not quite sure whom that could be — Doug Fister? Mat Latos? Bartolo Colon? — but not many of those guys really move the needle. Hiroki Kuroda was the exception.

Maybe the market will come down a bit later in the offseason. That’s usually how it works. A few players are left unsigned in January and end up signing smaller contracts than expected. It happened to James Shields last year, and to Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez the year before. (Three cautionary tales, eh? Probably wasn’t a coincidence they were unsigned in January.) There are usually some bargains to be found in the weeks leading up to Spring Training. Perhaps a depth arm can be found there.

Either way, the Estrada and Happ signings are a reminder the inefficiency of free agency covers everyone, not just the top tier players. The second and third tier guys — Estrada and Happ are firmly third tier guys, right? — aren’t cheap either. Getting pitching won’t come cheap, but if the Yankees are going to go out and get some, they’re better off paying big for top free agent or giving up valuable pieces in a trade. Giving a lot of cash to a low-end arm sounds so very unappealing.

The Bullpen Shuttle: The Mainstays [2015 Season Review]

Cotham. (Presswire)
Cotham. (Presswire)

Over the last few years the Yankees have gotten pretty good at finding useful arms in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. Some become bonafide studs (17th rounder David Robertson), some become solid contributors (14th rounder David Phelps), some become trade chips (15th rounder Shane Greene), and some provide short-term help (17th rounder Preston Claiborne).

Coming into the 2015 season, the Yankees had a bunch of these mid-to-late round arms either at the Triple-A level or ready for it. They had no shortage of interesting relievers in the upper levels of the minors. That’s for sure. So, to take advantage of those arms, the Yankees employed a bullpen shuttle this year, calling up and sending down fresh arms as necessary. The transactions were almost daily. Here are the five relievers who rode that shuttle more than anyone.

Caleb Cotham

A variety of injuries have hampered Cotham throughout his career, limiting him to 315.2 innings from 2010-14 even though he worked as a starter. The team’s fifth round pick in the 2009 draft started the season with Double-A Trenton because there was simply was no room for him at Triple-A. Cotham’s old for a prospect — he turned 28 earlier this month — so other guys were the priority.

After bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A for much of the summer, Cotham finally earned his first MLB call-up on July 29th, taking the place of Chris Capuano after Capuano allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Rangers. Cotham made his big league debut that night and struck out four of seven batters faced in 1.2 innings.

Cotham spent August going back and forth between Triple-A and MLB as part of the shuttle before getting called up for good once rosters expanded in September. He pitched well enough in the final month of the season, allowing three runs in six innings across ten appearances. At one point it appeared Joe Girardi was using Cotham as his No. 4 reliever behind Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson.

Cotham flashed some good stuff during his brief MLB stint — PitchFX says he featured a low-to-mid-90 heater and upper-80s slider — and finished with a 6.52 ERA (6.55 FIP) in 9.2 MLB innings. Blame a four-run, two-homer, two-inning dud against the Twins on August 17th for most of that. Cotham struck out eleven and walked one in his 9.2 innings in pinstripes.

Because he has a lengthy injury history and is the oldest of the shuttle relievers, I think Cotham is in danger of losing his 40-man roster at some point this offseason. But, if he manages to stick around into the 2016 season, he’ll again be an up-and-down arm, helping chew up innings whenever necessary.

Nick Goody

The 24-year-old Goody was New York’s sixth round pick in the 2012 draft. He was expected to be a quick-moving reliever, but his career was put on hold due to Tommy John surgery. He threw three innings in 2013, got hurt, then threw 31.1 innings after returning in 2014.

Goody. (Presswire)
Goody. (Presswire)

The Yankees had Goody start the season with Double-A Trenton this year because that was the appropriate level for him given his experience and rehab and whatnot. And he dominated. Goody had a 1.73 ERA (2.21 FIP) with 59 strikeouts and 14 walks in 41.2 innings for the Thunder before getting bumped up to Triple-A Scranton in early-July.

On July 30th, Goody was called up to the big leagues for the first time, replacing Cotham on the roster. (Like I said, these transactions were almost daily.) He made his MLB debut that night, getting one out, then he pitched again the next day, allowing a run in an inning against the White Sox. One day later, Goody was back in the minors. So it goes.

Goody was called up on two other occasions in August — he threw one inning each time then was sent back down — before coming up when rosters expanded in September. He didn’t pitch a whole lot in the season’s final month. Only 2.1 innings across three appearances. Goody allowed three runs in 5.2 big league innings total in 2015.

After throwing 62.1 innings in the minors (1.59 ERA and 2.06 FIP), it seemed like the Yankees wanted to take it easy on Goody in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, so he was a just-in-case arm in September. He’s a low-90s fastball/low-80s slider guy with a history of missing bats (career 35.0 K% in the minors) who figures to get a greater opportunity to help the Yankees in 2016.

Chris Martin

Unlike the other guys in the post, the Yankees did not draft Martin. They acquired him from the Rockies in a cash deal last offseason. He replaced Gonzalez Germen on the roster, who replaced Claiborne. Simply put, the Yankees felt Germen was better than Claiborne, and Martin was better than Germen, so the moves were made. Incremental upgrades are still upgrades.

Martin, 29, is unlike the other guys in this post in another way as well: he was on the Opening Day roster. It became obvious pretty early on the Yankees liked Martin more than we realized. He struggled a bit in Spring Training but still made the team, then was literally the first reliever Girardi used this season. Martin struck out the side in order on Opening Day: Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson.

Girardi continued to use Martin regularly the rest of April, even asking him to pick up a save on a night the main relievers were unavailable. He pitched well for the first few weeks as that first reliever outside the Circle of Trust™. Martin wasn’t in the Circle yet, but you can tell he wasn’t far outside either. Opponents hit .167/.222/.214 with 13 strikeouts and two walks in eleven innings against Martin in April.

The first few days of May were rough and Martin eventually landed on the DL with an elbow issue. He returned three weeks later and was immediately optioned to Triple-A Scranton. After four appearances there, he returned to New York, allowed five runs in 3.1 innings across three appearances, then was sent back to Triple-A. He was officially on the bullpen shuttle.

Another elbow injury caused Martin to miss four weeks in July and August — he developed a staph infection from a big bite on his hand and it spread to his elbow — but he got healthy in time to return to the Yankees in September. He allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks in 4.2 innings and six appearances down the stretch. Martin never was the same after that first elbow injury.

All told, Martin had a 5.66 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 24 appearances and 20.2 innings with the Yankees this past season. (He had a 3.18 ERA and 3.02 FIP in 28.1 Triple-A innings as well.) He worked out an agreement with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan a few weeks ago and asked the Yankees for his release. The (Ham) Fighters sent the Yankees $750,000 for their trouble and Martin signed a two-year, $1.7M contract. Good for him.

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

Branden Pinder

No shuttle reliever threw more big league innings or was called up more times than Pinder this season. Pinder, 26, was added to the 40-man roster last offseason thanks to Rule 5 Draft eligibility, and he was called up six (!) different times in 2015. He was called up once in April, once in May, once in June, once in July, then twice in August, the second time for good through the end of the season. Gosh.

Pinder was the team’s 16th round pick in 2011 and he made his MLB debut on April 15th, throwing a scoreless inning against the Orioles. He pitched mostly low-leverage mop-up innings — this extra innings loss to the Blue Jays is the notable exception — so, weirdly, his signature moment of the season was a double. Pinder batted for himself in a blowout game against the Braves and doubled into the left-center field gap. Check it out:

Hey, the guy’s a 1.000/1.000/2.000 career hitter. That works out to a 747 wRC+. Not too shabby. Pitchers love to brag about their hitting and I’m sure Pinder wore out the other guys in the bullpen after that double. I know I would.

Anyway, Pinder made 25 appearances and threw 27.2 innings during those six call-ups this summer. He had a 2.93 ERA (4.72 FIP) with 25 strikeouts and 14 walks. PitchFX measured his fastball in the mid-90s and his slider in the mid-80s. The swing-and-miss rate on his slider was a healthy 17.4%.

It’s tough to evaluate Pinder’s performance because he went up and down so many times, but, based on how often he got the call, he appears to be at the front of the shuttle line. He’s still on the 40-man roster, and he is older than most others on the shuttle, though I think his spot is safe this offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot more of Pinder next year.

Nick Rumbelow

Rumbelow’s climb up the minor league ladder was much quicker than the other guys in this post. The 24-year-old was the team’s seventh round pick in the 2013 draft, he dominated four levels of the minors in 2014, then started the 2015 season with Triple-A Scranton before getting called up to the show in late-June. Rumbelow allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning against the Phillies in his MLB debut on June 23rd.

Even with that relatively late first promotion, the Yankees managed to call Rumbelow up four different times this past season. Once in June, twice in August, then once again when rosters expanded in September. His most notable inning of the season came on September 15th, when he inherited runners on the corners with one out in a one-run game, then struck out Steven Souza and Evan Longoria to escape the jam.

Unfortunately, Rumbelow served up a two-run home run to Nick Franklin to blow the lead and eventually take his first career loss in the next inning. The Yankees and Girardi were hoping one of the shuttle relievers would emerge as a reliable option in September but it never did happen. Rumbelow got chances — he threw six innings across seven appearances in the final month — but didn’t force the issue.

Rumbelow pitched to a 4.02 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 15.2 big league innings and 17 appearances with the Yankees this summer, striking out 15 and walking five. He also had a 4.27 ERA (2.72 FIP) in 52.2 Triple-A innings. Rumbelow uses a mid-90s fastball to set up his low-80s slurvy breaking ball and surprisingly effective mid-80s changeup. Opponents swung and missed at the change 19.5% of the time. That’s really good.

Like Goody, Rumbelow is quite young and he has a history of missing bats (career 28.9 K% in the minors), so his place on the 40-man roster is pretty safe. I think he has the best chance among the guys in this post to develop into a late-inning reliever who works high-leverage innings. That doesn’t mean he’ll be that guy in 2016, but I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of Rumbelow next year.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 30th, 2015

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

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Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Thanksgiving Weekend Open Thread

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. This is definitely one of my favorite holidays of the year. Love the food. Cooking it, eating it, the leftovers … I love pretty much everything other than cleaning it all up. I hope you and everyone you’re with has a great Thanksgiving. It’s a pretty cool day.

Barring any breaking news, I don’t plan to post much the rest of this week, so this is your open thread for the next few days. Enjoy the holiday and go forget about baseball for a little while. That’s my plan. Talk about whatever you like here. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sherman: Yankees have let teams know Nova is available

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

The Yankees have let teams know Ivan Nova is available this offseason, according to Joel Sherman. They brought his name up during talks with the Reds about Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline, but that didn’t work out. Sherman says the Yankees are now looking to include Nova in a package for young pitching with several years of team control remaining.

Nova, who turns 29 in January, will be a free agent next offseason, and I suppose it’s not impossible for him to pitch his way into a qualifying offer. That seems unlikely though. One or two starters would have to get hurt for Nova to get a rotation spot. There’s a good chance the Yankees will lose Nova for nothing next winter if they don’t trade him at some point.

Sherman says the Yankees are trying to sell Nova as a healthy and motivated pitcher, which isn’t a bad idea. He’s getting further away from Tommy John surgery and pitching well next season means a handsome free agent contract, and I’m sure that will be on his mind. Those are also reasons to keep Nova, right? There’s no such thing as too much pitching.

Nova was terrible this year, pitching to a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 94 innings. He’s had a really rocky career, mixing awful first halves with excellent second halves in both 2011 and 2013. He was also abysmal in 2012. Legitimately one of the worst pitchers in baseball. The overall result is a 4.33 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 631.2 career innings, good for a 96 ERA+.

There’s value in league average, especially since Nova is what, New York’s sixth starter at best right now? I can’t imagine anyone is opposed to the idea of trading Nova. If the Yankees can use him as part of a package to get a younger starter, great. If not, I don’t think holding onto him heading into 2016 would be the worst thing in the world.