Despite spending restrictions, the Yankees have an impressive collection of Latin American pitching prospects

Medina. (@MiLB)
Medina. (@MiLB)

For years the Yankees built their farm system through international free agency. They haven’t had access to top of the draft talent in more than two decades now, but they were able to spend freely internationally, so they made up for the lack of high draft picks that way. That’s how the Yankees landed Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino, among others.

The rules have changed, however. MLB implemented a soft spending cap for international players six years ago and a hard cap this year. The Yankees are no longer free to wield their financial might internationally. This year they were held to a $4.75M hard cap, which is nothing. They gave Sanchez a $3M bonus back in 2009. Three years ago the Yankees blew their soft cap out of the water and spent $30M between taxes and bonuses, and once other teams followed suit, MLB pushed for the hard cap, so here we are.

Anyway, as a result of that $30M spending spree during he 2014-15 signing period, the Yankees could not sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 international signing periods. That took them out of the running for the top talent. When other teams could offer millions and you’re limited to $300,000, it’s a huge disadvantage. It figured to be tough for the Yankees to attract top players, and it was. C’est la vie.

The Yankees, however, have become very adept at finding under-the-radar international talent, and turning smaller bonus players into top prospects. Severino, for example, signed for $225,000 as an amateur. Jorge Mateo signed for $250,000. Top outfield prospect Estevan Florial signed for $200,000. The big seven-figure bonuses like $3M for Sanchez get all the attention, but it’s those small bonus signings that make a big difference in the long run.

The Yankees have Donny Rowland, who returning to the organization in 2007 and has been their director of international scouting since 2014, and his army of scouts in Latin America to thank for that. Despite being limited to $300,000 bonuses during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, the Yankees landed several interesting power arms who make up their next wave of pitching prospects. A partial list:

  • RHP Roansy Contreras: Signed for $300,000 in July 2016.
  • RHP Deivi Garcia: Signed for $100,000 in July 2015.
  • RHP Rony Garcia: Signed for an undisclosed bonus in July 2015. (Had to be $300,000 or less.)
  • RHP Luis Medina: Signed for $280,000 in July 2015.

All four of those pitchers have received quite a bit of attention recently. Contreras was considered the top pitching prospect in the Dominican Republic during the 2016-17 signing period. Jim Callis said Medina has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the system. Both Deivi (“One of the Yankees’ brightest low-level arms“) and Rony (“(He) shouldn’t be anonymous for long“) Garcia received glowing reports from Baseball America recently.

Also, the Yankees have traded for several lower level Latin American arms within the last year, most notably RHP Albert Abreu and RHP Jorge Guzman, both of whom came over in the Brian McCann trade. Also, RHP Juan De Paula was part of the Ben Gamel trade. De Paula and especially Guzman have seen their stock rise considerably this year, and I have no doubt Rowland and his staff were consulted during trade talks. The international scouting department had eyes on these guys long before the Yankees traded for them.

This group doesn’t include RHP Domingo Acevedo ($7,500 bonus in October 2012) or RHP Freicer Perez ($10,000 bonus in December 2014), both of whom received small bonuses, but not while the Yankees were held to the $300,000 bonus maximum. Both are among the better pitching prospects in the system — Acevedo figures to make his MLB debut at some point next season — and both signed for relative peanuts. They’re just two more examples of how well the Yankees identify under-the-radar international talent.

It would be unwise and unfair to expect any of these pitchers to turn into another Severino. Severino has been a top ten pitcher in baseball this season and, as long as he stays healthy, he has the ability to remain a top ten pitcher for several years. It’s hard to expect that from any prospect, no matter how good. The hope is several of these Latin American arms will turn into useful big leaguers or trade chips. These days teams take lower level prospects back as the headliners in trades more than ever before. It might not be long before the Yankees cash these guys in.

The Yankees were limited to $300,000 bonuses internationally from July 2015 through July 2017, and they knew they would be following the 2014-15 spending spree. That was part of the plan. They still managed to land several pitching prospects who are already drawing rave reviews, with Medina and the Garcias in particular becoming hard to ignore. Contreras, who signed just last year, is next in line. The Yankees have graduated a lot of prospects and traded a lot of prospects recently. Now the next wave is in place, despite those international spending limits.

Should the Yankees have used the 10-day DL more often this year?

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Last night Masahiro Tanaka returned to the rotation after a quick stint on the 10-day DL to deal with what was essentially a dead arm. The Yankees announced it as shoulder inflammation, though everyone involved called it fatigue. No big deal. Tanaka returned three days after CC Sabathia returned from the 10-day DL. Sabathia had more problems with his troublesome right now. Both guys missed the minimum ten days.

MLB went from a 15-day DL to a 10-day DL this year and, not surprisingly, teams are really taking advantage of it. Pretty much anytime a player is banged up, he gets quick ten-day vacation. Already this year there have been 502 DL stints across baseball. There were 472 all of last year. No team has used the new 10-day DL more than the Dodgers. They’ve had 25 DL stints already, most in baseball.

That is, at least somewhat, by design. The Dodgers have put all their starting pitchers on the 10-day DL at some point just to give them a little rest here and there. The Yankees have had 17 DL stints this year, which is middle of the pack. They’ve had the opportunity to use at times and declined. Aroldis Chapman‘s hamstring injury last week, for example. They went a few days without Chapman being available rather than give him that quick ten-day break.

It’s a little too late to take advantage of the 10-day DL now — rosters expand in nine days and there’s no point in placing someone on the 10-day DL in September — but should the Yankees have used it more often this year? For, say, Chapman’s hamstring. Or to give Luis Severino a quick breather at some point with his innings mounting. Or for Aaron Judge’s achy shoulder. It’s easy to say yes, but three things to consider.

1. Players don’t like going on the DL. Players are competitors. They aren’t robots and this isn’t a video game. You don’t put a player on the DL for ten days when he only needs a day or two without potentially upsetting him. They all want to play. Every single one of them. No one wants to go sit on the DL for a week and a half when it’s not necessary. There are relationships to be maintained — even explaining the situation to the player isn’t guaranteed to smooth things over — and heck, a player could even go to the union to file a grievance.

2. You need to have quality depth to do this. Okay, so you want to put Judge on the DL to knock out his shoulder issue? Who steps into the lineup then? It’ll be Jacoby Ellsbury, who is hitting .238/.315/.367 (83 wRC+) this season. And who gets called up? Probably another reliever with the way the Yankees are going. Chapman going on the DL likely means Gio Gallegos or Bryan Mitchell. Want to skip a Severino start? Prepare for more Mitchell or Luis Cessa. There’s inevitably going to be a drop off from the regular being stashed on the DL to the guy replacing him.

3. The Yankees are in the postseason race. This ties in to the previous point. The Yankees are trying to catch the Red Sox in the AL East and hold off basically the rest of the AL in the wildcard race. They need as many Severino starts and Judge at-bats as possible. They’re not in position to voluntarily give some of those away. I suppose the counterargument here is that a quick 10-day DL stint here and there means more effective players down the stretch. That’s more a theory than a proven fact though, isn’t it? It’s tough to see how sitting your regulars for ten days at a time equals improved odds of winning.

* * *

The Dodgers have manipulated the 10-day DL rule expertly, and they’ve been able to do it because they’re on pace for 116 wins and have a 20-something game lead in the division. If the Yankees had the same lead, I’m certain Severino’s workload would be getting scaled back a bit, and Judge and everyone else would be getting more time off. That’s not the case though. The Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot and they need their best players on the field as much as possible.

Using the 10-day DL to give players a midseason rest is something to keep in mind for the future. The Yankees seem to be building toward something special, toward sustained excellence, and should they achieve it some point, resting their players for ten days at a time would be more doable. It’s too late to do it this year, and besides, the Yankees need all their players to help them reach the postseason. This is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but isn’t quite as easy to put into practice.

Gary Sanchez, passed balls and all, is an absolute star

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Fresh off Monday’s off-day, the Yankees pounded the Tigers in their series opener last night, and that’s exactly what I’m sure we were all hoping they’d do. The Tigers are not good, not by any stretch, and Matt Boyd has had a rough year. After getting shut down by a few too many crummy pitchers in recent weeks, the Yankees hung seven runs on Boyd in three innings and cruised to a 13-4 win. Perfect.

Leading the way offensively was catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been leading the way offensively for a few weeks now. He bookended last night’s attack with two two-run home runs. One pulled to left field in the first inning and the other driven the other way to right field in the ninth inning. The first home run traveled 493 feet. Second longest home run in baseball this season. Only Aaron Judge has hit a ball farther. He had that 495-footer against the Orioles.

Following last night’s performance Sanchez is hitting .304/.375/.739 (183 wRC+) with nine home runs in August, and .274/.348/.536 (131 wRC+) with 25 home runs overall. The franchise record for home runs in a season by a catcher is 30 by Jorge Posada (2003) and Yogi Berra (1952, 1956). Sanchez might get there by the end of August despite missing just about the entire month of April with a biceps strain.

Since arriving in the big leagues for good a little more than one year ago, Sanchez has slugged 45 home runs in 143 games, which is far and away the most by a catcher. Salvador Perez and Willson Contreras are tied for distant second with 27 home runs each. Here’s where Sanchez ranks among the 21 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances this season:

  • AVG: .274 (7th)
  • OBP: .348 (5th)
  • SLG: .536 (1st)
  • wRC+: 131 (3rd)
  • HR: 25 (1st)

There’s a very good chance Sanchez will hit 30 home runs this season — again, he missed almost all of April with that biceps injury — and if he does, he’ll be the sixth catcher in history to swat 30+ homers in a season at age 24 or younger. Johnny Bench did it twice. Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Rudy York, and Matt Nokes did it as well. Sanchez is poised to join that group. Heck, he has a chance to join Bench and Piazza as the only catchers to hit 35+ homers in a season before their 25th birthday.

The knock against Sanchez has never been his bat, of course. He’s always been rough around the edges defensively, and while he has improved quite a bit over the years, he’s not going to get confused for Yadier Molina anytime soon. Sanchez currently leads baseball with 12 passed balls despite missing a month, and that’s a problem. It is. That’s 12 free bases (more, really, if two runners were on base) and some of those led directly to runs.

Blocking balls in the dirt is an ongoing problem and the Yankees continue to work with Sanchez to help him improve. They’re not giving him a first base mitt anytime soon. They’re sticking with him as a catcher because that’s where he’s most valuable to the team. Blocking balls has been a issue. Throwing has never been.

Sanchez has gone 17-for-45 (38%) throwing out runners this year, the fourth best rate among the 23 catchers with at least 600 innings behind the plate this year. Only Yan Gomes (46%), Tucker Barnhart (43%), and Martin Maldonado (41%) have been better. As far as pitch-framing goes, Baseball Prospectus ranks Sanchez the 14th best framer — among 92 total catchers — at +3.7 runs saved.

The only glaring deficiency in Sanchez’s game is his blocking. That’s it. He hits, he throws, and he frames. I guess he’s not much of a runner, but running isn’t all that important when you’re hitting so many glorious dingers. The point is this: Sanchez is a star. Not “he’ll be a star one day” or “he could be a star with some fine tuning” or anything like that. He is a star. Right now. Today. Barely more than one full year in his MLB career.

Is that hyperbole? Premature, maybe? No. It’s not. Sanchez, even with the passed ball issues, is an impact player on both sides of the ball. He’s the best power hitting catcher in baseball and one of the best throwers and pitch-framers. Gary’s blocking is an obvious deficiency he needs to work to improve, and he will. And you know what? Even if he never improves, he still does enough to help the Yankees win. More than enough.

The Yankees are in the middle of this youth movement right now and Sanchez, as the field general behind the plate and the thumper in the middle of the lineup, is the center piece. You build championship teams up the middle, and the Yankees have a bonafide franchise catcher behind the plate in Sanchez. He’s not going to be star one day. He is a star right now. Everything he’s done in the 143 games since being called up last year makes it crystal clear.

Tanaka returns, Sanchez homers twice in 13-4 win over Tigers

Good start to a series against a bad team. The Yankees came out and took control of Tuesday night’s opener against the Tigers in the very first inning, and they never let up. The final score was 13-4 good guys. The Yankees have won six of their last eight games.

The ball hasn't landed yet. (Presswire)
The ball hasn’t landed yet. (Presswire)

Seven Early Runs
The Yankees did exactly what you want them to do against an objectively bad pitcher: they scored early and often. The first batter of the game, Brett Gardner, hit a rope to right-center field that was caught by Mikie Mahtook, but was a sign of things to come. Hard contact up and down the lineup. The Yankees hammered Matt Boyd.

Following that Gardner line out, Aaron Hicks found outfield grass with a ground ball back up the middle, then Gary Sanchez launched a bomb over the left field bleachers and off the french fry vendor for a two-run home run. Boyd hung the hell out of an offspeed pitch. The official measurement: 493 feet. Second longest homer in baseball this season and the second longest by a Yankee, behind the 495-foot homer Aaron Judge hit against the Orioles. Boyd’s reaction:

matt-boyd-gary-sanchez

The Yankees scored a third run in that first inning courtesy of a Judge walk, a Didi Gregorius double, and a Tyler Austin sac fly. The Hicks single, Judge walk, and Austin sac fly all came in two-strike counts. Just like that, the Yankees were up 3-0 before Masahiro Tanaka even took the mound. A good start, that was.

Fortunately, the Yankees did not stop at three runs. They ended Boyd’s evening with a four-run third. That started with a Judge walk. Gregorius reached on an infield single that probably should’ve been an error on Boyd — he literally kicked the ball into foul territory when he went to field it — then Austin brought Judge home with a single to shallow right field. It was a little bloop Judge read well, allowing him to score from second.

But wait! There’s more. Following the Austin single, Chase Headley ripped a line drive to center for an out, but it was well-struck. Sounded good off the bat and just so happened to be at someone. It happens. Todd Frazier picked him up by inside-outing a two-run triple down the right field line. He looked surprised to hit it. Definitely did not intend to go that way. Ronald Torreyes plated Frazier with a sac fly and boom, 7-0 lead in the third. Love it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Master Tanaka Returns
Very strong outing for Tanaka in his return from that little shoulder inflammation/dead arm phase. He allowed three runs in seven innings, though it was one run in 6.1 innings before Nick Castellanos found the seats with a garbage time two-run home run. Eh, whatever. The Yankees were up 11-1 at the time. Tanaka held the Tigers to those three runs on six hits and no walks in seven innings. He struck out four.

According to my untrained eye, Tanaka’s slider was very sharp and his splitter was just okay. He left a few up in the zone that got hit hard. Some went for hits and some were caught. Tanaka threw only 90 pitches in his seven innings. Ten swings and misses and only one three-ball count to the 25 batters he faced. He looked like Tanaka, which is exactly what I wanted to see. Good start back from the disabled list. Masahiro is sporting a 3.37 ERA (3.49 FIP) in his last 12 starts and 74.2 innings now. Sign me up.

Leftovers
The Yankees did not stop scoring after hanging seven runs on Boyd. Hicks and Judge drove in runs with a fielder’s choice and a single in the fifth, respectively, and Hicks clobbered a two-run home run in the seventh. Sanchez added his second two-run home run of the game in the ninth. That was an opposite field shot. The Yankees had men on base in every inning but the eighth. They threatened all night.

Every starter had a hit except Headley, who went 0-for-4 with a walk and three line outs. The exit velocities on the line outs: 95.7 mph, 99.1 mph, and 99.6 mph. Tough night for Chase. He hit the ball hard three times, twice to the opposite field, and had nothing to show for it. There always seems to be that one guy who doesn’t get in on the fun in a game like this. That was Headley.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Judge reached base four times within the first five innings. Three walks and a single. He was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, once the score was already out of hand. His strikeout streak officially ends at an MLB record 37 games. Cheap it ended because he was removed as a pinch-hitter? Who cares. Judge had his four plate appearances like any other game.

Three hits for Frazier and Sanchez and two hits for Hicks, Gregorius, and Torreyes. Austin had a single and a walk, so he reached base multiple times as well. The Yankees went 4-for-12 (.333) with runners in scoring position. We all have to hear about RISP numbers when they lose and I feel it is my duty to report them when they win, so there.

And finally, Chasen Shreve was the only reliever used, and he allowed one run in two innings. Castellanos hit an inside-the-park home run. Jacoby Ellsbury, who pinch-hit for Judge, tried to make a sliding catch and the ball got by him. Castellanos was off to the races. Womp womp.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game midweek series with the middle game Wednesday night. Luis Severino and Jordan Zimmermann are the scheduled starting pitchers. Please don’t get shut down by Zimmermann again, guys.

DotF: Ford homers, Mesa dominates in Trenton’s win

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain with one out in the top of the fourth. It’ll be completed tomorrow. Here’s the box score. I’m not quite sure what that means for 2B Starlin Castro‘s and 1B Greg Bird‘s rehab. Castro played the field tonight and Bird was the DH. I imagine they’ll resume those positions in the completion tomorrow, then Castro will DH and Bird will play first base in the second game of the doubleheader. We’ll see.

Double-A Trenton (8-0 win over Portland)

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 2-5, 1 R, 2 K — threw a runner out at second
  • 2B Nick Solak: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB — 16-for-47 (.340) in his last 12 games
  • DH Mike Ford: 2-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HBP — leads the system in homers (20) and walks (84)
  • 1B Ryan McBroom: 0-5, 1 K
  • RHP Jose Mesa Jr.: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 53 of 80 pitches were strikes (66%) … in six starts this year: 0.36 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 4.25 K/BB … in 21 relief appearances: 3.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.11 K/BB
  • RHP Colten Brewer: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 12 of 15 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 124: Tanaka Returns

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

The Yankees are finally starting to get healthy. CC Sabathia returned over the weekend and at some point soon Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, and Matt Holliday figure to return as well. They’re all on minor league rehab assignments. Tonight Masahiro Tanaka returns from what was essentially a quick ten-day vacation to knock out a dead arm phase. Tanaka threw an extended bullpen session over the weekend and feels good to go. Good news.

Tonight the Yankees begin a three-game series with the very bad Tigers in Detroit. The Tigers are 54-69 this season and 3-12 in their last 15 games. The Yankees lost two of three to these Tigers a few weeks ago, and geez, that can’t happen again. The Yankees really need to start beating up on bad teams these final few weeks to reach the postseason. One game at a time though. Win tonight and go from there. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RF Aaron Judge
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. DH Tyler Austin
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather was not good in Detroit today. Rained pretty much all afternoon. It’s supposed to clear out tonight and stay cleared out, so the Yankees and Tigers shouldn’t have a problem getting this game in. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell was sent down to clear a roster spot for Tanaka, the Yankees announced. The Yankees still have eight relievers in the bullpen.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: August 2012

Andruw & Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Jones & Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)

We’re a few weeks into August now, but better late than never, right? It’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series, in which we look back at all the Yankees-related rumors and transactions from five years ago. On the morning of August 1st, 2012, the Yankees were 60-43 and 5.5 games up in the AL East. They had, however, lost nine of their previous 12 games.

The Yankees made two trades at the 2012 trade deadline, adding Ichiro Suzuki and Casey McGehee. They didn’t address their rotation even though CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte had spent time on the disabled list, and others like Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia earned demotions. August transactions are typically small and August rumors are usually retrospective. We usually hear a lot about what could have happened at the deadline rather than what might happen now. Anyway, time to jump back in time to August 2012.

August 1st, 2012: Minor Moves: Jack Cust, Dewayne Wise

The Yankees have also released outfielders Colin Curtis and Ray Kruml according to Collins. The 27-year-old Curtis hit .186/.250/.288 in 64 plate appearances with New York in 2010.

At one point the Yankees had Ray Kruml and Austin Krum in the farm system. Don’t ask me why I remember that. Both have been out of baseball for a while.

Curtis, meanwhile, is best remembered for his mid-at-bat pinch-hit home run a few years back. Brett Gardner was tossed for arguing balls and strikes, Curtis replaced him and inherited an 0-2 count, and socked his only career MLB home run off Scot Shields (!).

The Yankees released Curtis in 2012, he spent the rest of that season in an independent league, and that was that. Out of baseball since. I could have sworn I remember seeing something saying he’s started coaching at the college level, but I can’t seem to find anything now. I could be completely wrong.

August 2nd, 2012: Yankees Designate Ramiro Pena For Assignment

The Yankees have designated Ramiro Pena for assignment according to the transactions page at MLB.com. The move cleared room on the roster for the recently-acquired Casey McGehee.

Rakin’ Ramiro was always a personal fave because he could play the hell out of shortstop, though he couldn’t hit at all. Before getting called up for the first time, his best minor league season was a .266/.330/.357 line with Double-A Trenton in 2008. Pena cleared waivers and went to Triple-A, and has been bouncing around the minors ever since. He actually returned to the big leagues with the Giants last year, hitting .299/.330/.425 in 30 games as bench bat. Who knew? Ramiro is currently hitting .216/.256/.243 in limited time for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan.

August 4th, 2012: West Notes: Giants, Chavez, Dodgers, A’s

Before the trade deadline, the Giants offered Nate Schierholtz to the Yankees in an effort to land veteran Eric Chavez, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  The Giants presumably pursued Chavez prior to acquiring Marco Scutaro, who has been plugged in at third base.  Chavez, 34, is hitting .269/.332/.486 with ten homers on the year.

Interesting! I do not remember this. Chavez was in the middle of a ridiculous season — he hit .281/.348/.496 with 16 home runs in 2012 — and the Yankees couldn’t really afford to trade him because Alex Rodriguez was banged up and they needed the help at third base. The Yankees were a first place team in 2012, remember.

Schierholtz was a personal favorite, so much so that I once wrote a post saying the Yankees should trade for him so he could take over right field once Nick Swisher left as a free agent. Schierholtz hit .257/.321/.407 with 21 home runs for San Francisco in 2012, including .287/.360/.466 against righties. Seemed like a potentially dangerous lefty platoon bat.

The Yankees never did acquire Schierholtz, obviously. The Giants traded him to the Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal at the 2012 trade deadline, then Philadelphia non-tendered him after the season. He bounced from the Cubs to Nationals to the Rangers to the Tigers after that. Detroit released Schierholtz from their Triple-A roster last year and he’s been out of baseball since.

August 13th, 2012: Yankees Sign Derek Lowe

MONDAY: The Yankees have officially announced the signing in a press release and say they will use Lowe out of the bullpen. Their 40-man roster is now full.

Few signings have felt more inevitable over the years. Lowe was terrible for the Indians in 2012, throwing 119 innings with a 5.52 ERA (4.49 FIP), so they released him at midseason. The Yankees needed a long reliever and they’re a sucker for ex-Red Sox players, so they picked him up as soon as Cleveland cut him loose. In his first game as a Yankee, Lowe recorded a four-inning save. You can watch it here. (For whatever reason YouTube embedding is disabled.)

Lowe wound up throwing 23.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA (3.77 FIP) for the Yankees that year. He was on the postseason roster too, though that didn’t go very well (three runs in two innings). Lowe signed with the Rangers after the season, allowed 13 runs in 13 innings in 2013, then got released. He announced his retirement a few weeks later.

August 13th, 2012: Yankees Sign Two Nicaraguan Lefties

The Yankees have signed Nicaraguan left-handers Corby McCoy and Luis Garcia, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America.

Neither McCoy nor Garcia ever made it out of the Dominican Summer League. McCoy threw 91.1 innings with a 4.43 ERA from 2013-16 while Garcia had a 6.27 ERA in 51.2 innings from 2013-14. Nicaragua is not exactly a baseball hotbed — Dennis Martinez is far and away the best of the 14 big leaguers to come from Nicaragua — but teams continue to try to make inroads in the country. It’s a long process. For every Dennis Martinez there are hundreds of Corby McCoys and Luis Garcias.

August 19th, 2012: AL East Notes: Yankees, Red Sox, Hughes

Yankees GM Brian Cashman will soon have to decide where they stand on Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, who are both set to hit free agency after next season, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  When asked about how he views the two long-term, Cashman responded, “That is stuff I can’t answer at this stage. It is a two-way street. It is a negotiation for two sides. So it is all for another day.”

We’re all guilty of this, myself included. We look ahead and try to figure out where a guy fits long-term far earlier than necessary. In 2012, Hughes had a 4.19 ERA (4.56 FIP) in 191.1 innings and looked like a potential keeper. Then he threw 145.2 innings with a 5.19 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 2013 and that was that. There was talk about re-signing Mark Teixeira last year, and look how that turned out. General rule of thumb: unless you’re talking about an elite performer in his prime, don’t worry about re-signing someone until the decision has to be made.

August 21st, 2012: AL East Notes: Pettitte, Torrealba, McClure

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte hasn’t ruled out the possibility of pitching again in 2013, writes Chad Jennings of the Journal News. “I definitely can’t tell you right now that I would say there’s no way I’m going to play,” Pettitte said. The 40-year-old left-hander, who signed a one-year, $2.5MM minor league contract in March, is currently rehabbing a broken ankle he suffered in late June and hopes to return before the season’s over.

Pettitte did indeed return late in 2012 and he did indeed pitch in 2013. That ankle injury, which was suffered when he was hit by a comebacker, was one of the reasons Pettitte decided to return in 2013. He felt he hadn’t gotten it all out of his system. Pettitte threw 185.1 innings with a 3.74 ERA (107 ERA+) in 2013. Here’s the full list of 35-and-older pitchers who threw 185+ innings with a 107 ERA+ or better in their final seasons within the last half-century:

  • Andy Pettitte: 107 ERA + in 185.1 innings in 2013
  • Mike Mussina: 131 ERA+ in 200.1 innings in 2008

That’s all. The Yankees have had some really impressive farewell seasons recently, huh?

August 27th, 2012: Yankees Acquire Steve Pearce

The Yankees have acquired Steve Pearce from the Astros for cash considerations, the teams announced. Pearce, who played for the Yankees’ Triple-A team earlier this year, will provide New York with a right-handed bat for the final month of the season.

Good ol’ Steve Pearce. I know I’ve written about his 2012 travels several times in previous MLBTR Archives posts, but it’s worth dropping it in here again:

  • March 27th: Released by the Twins.
  • March 29th: Signed minor league deal with the Yankees.
  • June 2nd: Traded to the Orioles for cash.
  • July 28: Claimed off waivers by the Astros.
  • August 27: Traded to the Yankees for cash.
  • September 29: Claimed off waivers by the Orioles.

Pearce played 12 games with the Yankees that season, went 4-for-25 (.160) with a homer, then went to the Orioles. Did he really play 12 games with the Yankees? Seems like ten too many. Pearce has managed to carve out a nice little career for himself since that wild 2012 season. He’s hitting .271/.345/.470 with 12 homers in 77 games for the Blue Jays this year. I was hoping the Yankees would sign him for the Chris Carter role, but alas.

August 27th, 2012: Yankees Designate Brandon Laird For Assignment

The Yankees have designated corner infielder Brandon Laird for assignment, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The move creates roster space for Steve Pearce, who was acquired from the Astros today.

Back when the Yankees didn’t have much of a farm system, Laird was one of their better prospects even though he had questionable plate discipline and wasn’t much of a third base defender. His big year was 2010, when he hit .281/.336/.482 with 25 home runs in 138 games for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. Laird played eleven games for the Yankees in 2011 and went 4-for-21 (.190) with four singles.

The Yankees dropped Laird from the 40-man roster in 2012, the Astros grabbed him on waivers, and he hit .198/.248/.406 with six homers in 46 games for Houston during their 2012-13 tank seasons. Laird is still active, you know. He’s in his third year as Shohei Otani’s teammate with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He’s hitting .234/.316/.495 with 29 homers this season, and has 102 home runs in three years with the (Ham) Fighters. Hit 39 last year. Huh.

August 28th, 2012: Dodgers Inquired On Sabathia, Teixeira

The Dodgers called the Yankees to inquire about the possibility of trading for CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Yankees told the Dodgers they had no interest in moving either player despite their substantial contracts (four years and $99MM remain on Sabathia’s deal; four years and $90MM remain on Teixeira’s deal).

Now this I remember. This came out three days after the big Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett (and Nick Punto!) to Los Angeles for salary relief and two pitching prospects that didn’t amount to much (Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa). Apparently the Dodgers asked about Sabathia and Teixeira first, and were told no.

The Yankees and Red Sox were in very different places at the time. The Red Sox were in the middle of a disastrous last place season and looking to unload Gonzalez and Crawford, both of whom had worn out there welcome. The Yankees, meanwhile, were a first place team and both Teixeira (.251/.332/.475 with 24 homers) and especially Sabathia (3.38 ERA and 3.34 FIP) were key contributors.

The Yankees could have freed up a lot of payroll with that trade, assuming Teixeira and Sabathia would’ve agreed to waive their no-trade clauses, which was far from a given. What would they have done with that free cash? I’m not sure. The notable free agents during the 2012-13 offseason: Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Nick Swisher, and B.J. Upton. Only Greinke’s deal worked out.

Given what we know now, yeah, the Yankees should’ve unloaded Teixeira and Sabathia. It was not nearly as clear cut back then. Sabathia was still an ace, Teixeira was still productive, and the Yankees were a bonafide contender. And even if they had unloaded them, I’m not sure 2013-16 would’ve been much better anyway. They could have turned around and spent the money on Hamilton and Jackson, and no thanks.