What can Andrew Miller tell us about a possible Aroldis Chapman trade?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At some point in the next four weeks, the Yankees will hopefully come to their senses and realize the 2016 Yankees aren’t going anywhere. It would take a massive run to become serious postseason contenders. Something like 20-8 in the 28 games before the trade deadline. That kind of run. Does this team seem capable of doing that? Not at all. Never say never, but … never.

I want the Yankees to win this year. I really do. But the team isn’t cooperating. At some point the focus has to shift from winning right now to winning in the future, and that decision has to be made relatively soon with the trade deadline looming. Should the Yankees sell, their two best trade chips are Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, two impact late-inning relievers wanted by basically every other team in the league.

Chapman will be a free agent after the season, so there figures to be more urgency to move him. Miller is signed for another two years and keeping him is a perfectly viable strategy. Estimating trade value is difficult — especially for an elite player since so few get traded — because so many trades come down to one team liking a player more than everyone else and making a bigger than expected offer. That’s what happened with Shelby Miller over the winter.

The Yankees figure to get a good return for Chapman assuming they make him available, but how good, exactly? That’s where Miller comes in. Two years ago he was an elite reliever due to become a free agent who was traded at the deadline. Miller can help give us an idea what Chapman is worth on the trade market, and I don’t mean just the trade itself. The trades for Miller that didn’t happen can tell us something too. Let’s look.

The Comparison

Might as well start here. At the time of the trade Miller was one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. He took his game to another level during that 2014 season, and somehow he’s taken it to yet another level with the Yankees. It’s been pretty awesome. Here is Miller’s pre-2014 trade deadline performance and Chapman’s 2016 performance to date.

ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
Miller in 2014 2.34 1.69 40.6% 7.7% 52.5% 0.43
Chapman in 2016 3.15 1.96 38.8% 5.0% 38.6% 0.90

Miller then was better than Chapman is now. It’s not quite as simple as a half-season worth of numbers in a table though. At the time of his trade, Miller had performed like one of the best relievers in the world for roughly 40 innings. That’s it. He broke out that 2014 season. Chapman has been doing it for years. His track record is far greater than Miller’s was back then, and that means something.

There’s also the salary difference, which isn’t negligible. Miller made only $1.9M during that 2014 season. Chapman is pulling down $11.325M this season. That’s a lot of money to take on at the deadline. Of course, the Yankees could always eat some money to facilitate a trade, and they should be very willing to do so if it means getting a greater return. I don’t think the money will be deal-breaker, but it is something that will factor into talks, no doubt.

I don’t think we can ignore the off-the-field stuff too. Chapman has served his suspension, but the domestic violence case absolutely means there will be a negative PR hit. Maybe not a huge one, many fans don’t seem to care about his incident, but there will be a PR hit. Pick up Chapman and some folks won’t like it. Miller has no such off-the-field issues and is widely seen as pretty much the perfect teammate. The perception of the two is very different and that matters.

Statistically, Miller was having a better season at the time of his trade than Chapman is now, but his track record was not nearly as good. Chapman is more expensive and the domestic violence incident isn’t something that can be ignored. I see 2014 Miller and 2016 Chapman having similar trade value overall despite all the differences. They’re elite rental relievers. Teams are looking at these guys as 20-30 inning pickups, not a long-term addition.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Initial Ask

What happens when a team makes a player available? They ask for the moon in return. Free agents do it too. The initial ask is always super high. Why? For starters, someone just might pay it. You’re never going to get Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano if you don’t ask. Scondly, it gives you some wiggle room to come down in negotiations.

According to Jayson Stark, here’s what the Red Sox sought for Miller at the 2014 trade deadline:

(The) two players on that list they’ve priced the highest are Lester and Miller. Officials of two clubs report the Red Sox have asked for one of their top prospects, plus a lesser prospect, just for Miller.

The BoSox set the price high. They initially asked teams for a top prospect plus a second piece for Miller. That’s a lot to seek for a rental reliever, but again, this was only the initial ask. When the time comes to move Chapman, the Yankees should open negotiations with a similar request. Give me a top prospect and a second player or he’ll go to one of the many other interested teams.

Interested Teams

As you’d expect, a whole bunch of teams wanted Miller in 2014. Contenders were the most aggressive. Ken Rosenthal says 10-12 team inquired about Miller, and according to Rosenthal and Nick Cafardo, the four finalists were the Orioles (duh), Tigers, Dodgers, and Brewers. Here are their records on the morning of the 2014 trade deadline.

  • Brewers: 60-49, 2.0 games up in NL Central (67.1% postseason odds per Baseball Prospectus)
  • Dodgers: 61-47, 2.5 games up in NL West (97.2% postseason odds)
  • Orioles: 60-46, 2.5 games up in AL East (77.0% postseason odds)
  • Tigers: 58-46, 5.0 games up in AL Central (90.4% postseason odds)

Four first place teams made the most serious pushes for Miller. The Brewers collapsed spectacularly in the second half of the 2014 season, but the three other teams went to the postseason. They weren’t looking at Miller as a “get me over the hump and into the playoffs” pickup. He was viewed as a “help me win the World Series” pickup. There’s a difference.

As of this morning, only six teams have postseason odds of 67% of better according to Baseball Prospectus: Cubs (99.8%), Indians (96.5%), Rangers (96.1%), Nationals (94.7%), Giants (90.3%), and Dodgers (80.8%). The Red Sox and Orioles are at 64.0% and 62.8%, respectively, so they’re not too far behind. That’s pretty much the market for Chapman right there. The best of the best. Not bubble teams.

The Actual Trade

When it was all said and done, the Red Sox traded Miller to the Orioles for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. It was a straight one-for-one trade. Two things stand out about this.

1. They traded him within the division. The Red Sox took what they felt was the best package and sent Miller to a division rival. Some teams aren’t willing to make intradivision deals like that. Obviously it helped that the BoSox were out of it and Miller was only a rental, not someone under control for a few years. It wasn’t going to matter if he helped beat them that season, and he probably wasn’t going to stick around long enough to keep beating them in future years. Trading Chapman, the rental, to the Red Sox would be one thing. Trading Miller and two years of control to the Red Sox would be another.

2. They took the single best player over a package of multiple players. The initial ask was a top prospect and a secondary piece. Boston settled for only the top prospect. Rodriguez was in Double-A at the time of the trade and he really wasn’t pitching all that well: 4.79 ERA (3.52 FIP) with a 19.0% strikeout rate and an 8.0% walk rate in 82.2 innings. Orioles pitching prospects, yo.

Rodriguez went into the 2014 season as a consensus top 100 prospect. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 43rd best prospect in the game while Baseball Prospectus (61st), Baseball America (65th), and MLB.com (68th) all had him a little lower. Neither Law (top 25) nor Baseball America (top 50) ranked Rodriguez in their midseason prospect list a few weeks prior to the trade deadline.

Based on that, the possible return for Chapman could be a top 100 caliber prospect who is reasonably close to the big leagues, but is not a truly elite prospect. Someone in the middle of the top 100. The precedent has been set. Using Baseball America’s 2016 top 100 list as guide, here are some possible targets from the teams mentioned in the previous section:

  • Cubs: SS Gleybar Torres (No. 41), C Willson Contreras (No. 61)
  • Indians: OF Clint Frazier (No. 44)
  • Rangers: RHP Luis Ortiz (No. 64), RHP Dillon Tate (No. 69)
  • Nationals: none
  • Giants: IF Christian Arroyo (No. 62)
  • Dodgers: 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (No. 54)

It goes without saying some of those guys are more attainable than others. There’s basically no chance the small market Indians will trade Frazier for a rental reliever. Contreras is in the big leagues now and making an impact for the Cubs, so forget him too. Also, I would be surprised if the Rangers were willing to discuss their 2015 first round pick (Tate) in a trade so soon. Torres, Ortiz, and Bellinger seem to be the most realistic trade targets.

Keep in mind this is just a “these guys are similar to the guy the Red Sox got for Miller two years ago” list, not a “this is who the Yankees can definitely get for Chapman now” list. The error bars here are pretty large. We’re just trying to get a ballpark idea here.

Bellinger, who is indeed Clay's kid. (Presswire)
Bellinger, who is indeed Clay’s kid. (Presswire)

The Failed Trade

Here’s where it gets interesting. Before completing the deal with the Orioles, the Red Sox actually agreed to trade Miller to the Tigers, but they backed out once the O’s put Rodriguez on the table. Detroit got 2010 Cliff Lee/Justin Smoak’d, basically.

“We thought we had him,” said then Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to Joel Sherman at the time. “We were disappointed because we offered what (the Red Sox) asked for. Normally when you do that, you get the player. They felt they could do better. That is their prerogative.”

It’s unclear who the Tigers would have traded to the Red Sox for Miller, but reports indicate it was a multi-player package, not a one-for-one deal. Jon Morosi says pitching prospect Austin Kubitza was a name discussed in the deal, though I don’t think he was the center piece. He was a 22-year-old in Low Class-A who was Detroit’s fourth round pick the year prior. Kubitza was likely the second piece.

Miller was traded on deadline day, and a few days earlier the Tigers sent pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria. Perhaps that was their Plan B? They offered Thompson and/or Knebel and/or Kubitza for Miller, then moved on to Soria once it was clear the Red Sox were going in another direction? Knebel was just a reliever, but Thompson was in the middle of a breakout season and has since landed on multiple top 100 lists.

Given their willingness to trade Thompson — and the fact their farm system was otherwise short on high-end prospects — it seems like he could have been the center piece in Miller trade talks. He was a 20-year-old kid in High Class-A at the time, so he wasn’t a Rodriguez level prospect, but he was in the process of becoming a top prospect. It wasn’t a secret. Everyone knew it at the time. Kubitza and/or Knebel would have then been the sweeteners.

There’s more than one way to build a trade package. The Red Sox went for the big one-for-one deal, though it seems they also considered a package of lesser prospects as well. The Yankees figure to entertain all offers, and really, it’s going to come down to their preference. One big prospect sounds more attractive, but getting two pieces for Chapman instead could be the best move. I don’t think there’s one right answer here. Both are reasonable.

* * *

The O’s were widely panned for trading Rodriguez for Miller, which means nothing as far as Chapman is concerned. It doesn’t mean clubs will be less willing to trade a top prospect for a rental reliever. Remember, it only takes one team — and one desperate GM or owner — to go out and make that big offer. The Yankees picked up Chapman for peanuts, and now that the uncertainty surrounding his suspension no longer exists, they have a chance to flip him for something really good. The 2014 Miller trade suggests as much.

Yankees sign first round pick Blake Rutherford to overslot $3.282M bonus

(Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
(Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

The Yankees have taken care of their most important piece of 2016 draft business. The team has signed first round pick Blake Rutherford, they announced this morning. He is heading to one of their two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates. Here’s a photo of the contract signing.

Jim Callis says Rutherford received a $3,282,000 bonus. That’s the absolute maximum the Yankees could give him without forfeiting a future first round pick. Here’s our Draft Pool Tracker. The Yankees have less than $200 of bonus pool space remaining, so they won’t be signing any late round picks to overslot bonuses. This seems like it was a “here’s the most we can offer, take it or leave it” negotiation.

Rutherford was widely considered a potential top ten pick heading into the draft. Keith Law (6th), MLB.com (8th), and Baseball America (9th) all ranked him among the ten best players in the draft. Here’s a quick little study I did looking at similar prospects, and here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

The left-handed-hitting outfielder from the Southern California high school ranks can do just about everything on a baseball field. Rutherford has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power. He’ll record average to plus run times, and his speed helps him on the basepaths and in the outfield. Rutherford is a solid defender in the outfield, though most feel he’ll move to right field in the future. The good news is his bat should profile just fine if that move does happen.

The Yankees have a pretty lousy track record with first round picks. Only two of their first rounders since 2007 have even reached the big leagues. Andrew Brackman (2007) threw 2.1 innings in pinstripes and Slade Heathcott (2009) appeared in 17 games last year. That’s it. Obviously some of the recent picks are still in the minors, but still, that’s almost ten years with zero impact from first rounders.

Now that he is officially signed, the 19-year-old Rutherford slots in neatly as one of the Yankees’ five best prospects, joining Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and James Kaprielian. We could argue the exact order all day. Point is those guys are clearly the five best prospects in the organization, even after Kaprielian’s elbow injury.

The Yankees have signed all of their picks in the top ten rounds, the picks tied directly to the bonus pool. They exceeded their bonus pool by $290,800 this year and will pay $218,100 in tax. The team has spent the maximum 5% overage and paid the penalties in each of the last few drafts now.

Thoughts following Carlos Beltran’s hamstring injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees received a bit of a scare when Carlos Beltran pulled up slow running out a would-be double. He grabbed at his right hamstring before walking off the field with trainer Steve Donohue. An MRI showed nothing major — it was deemed nothing more than a cramp — and Beltran is day-to-day. The injury scare led to some thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. I firmly am on #TeamSell at this point and I really hope the injury scares the Yankees into selling at the trade deadline, if not sooner. (Let’s call it “buying for the future.” That sounds better.) I don’t think there’s a realistic chance the Yankees will do anything more than hang around the fringes of the wildcard race and win maybe 82 or 83 games tops. That’s a waste of a season. It’s time to make some moves geared towards the future. Beltran is one the club’s top trade chips, and that’s now two injury scares this month. He had the hamstring last night and had to have his knee drained in Colorado a few weeks back. The baseball gods are telling the Yankees to sell now before he breaks down any more. Same with Aroldis Chapman and whoever else they are considering dealing. Waiting the four and a half weeks until the deadline to make moves is awfully risky. Last night was a reminder.

2. Isn’t it incredible how much the Yankees rely on Beltran to create offense? Exactly two Yankees had a 100 OPS+ or better going into last night’s game: Beltran (136) and Chris Parmelee (376). That’s it. Out of everyone. Even the guys with one or two plate appearances. Beltran and Parmelee. Everyone else has been below-average — not even average, below-average — in terms of OPS+. The Yankees have a few guys in the 95-99 OPS+ range and that’s pretty much it. Beltran is the offense. I really have no idea how they would score runs without him. It’s amazing anyone has pitched to him the last few weeks. I know the offense will be even more painful if the Yankees trade Beltran, but man, it’s for the greater good. Besides, it’s not like winning games will be a priority at that point anyway.

3. As much as I love him, I don’t want the Yankees to put Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup full-time while Beltran is out, even if it’s only for a day or two. It would be the easiest move, but I say to stick to the plan of sitting Alex against righties — the Yankees will face a righty starter tonight and tomorrow — and use the DH spot for someone else. Mark Teixeira‘s a good candidate given his recent knee trouble. That allows the Yankees to play both Rob Refsnyder (at first) and Aaron Hicks (in right), and I’d like to see those two get more at-bats. Just keep playing them and see what happens. If A-Rod does return to the regular lineup with Beltran out, then play Refsnyder in right over Hicks. Either way, Beltran’s injury is an opportunity to give a young player at-bats. Someone who might actually have a future with the team. That’s the silver lining.

(Free Adams/Times Leader)
(Free Adams/Times Leader)

4. As soon as the injury happened, I couldn’t help but think about the possibility of an Aaron Judge call-up. Would it be exciting? Hell yes. But I stand by what I said yesterday. Give him some more time in the minors as he continues to make all these adjustments at the plate — he’s added a bigger leg kick and lowered his hands and who knows what else this year — and go with someone else in right. Hicks, Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, whoever. A prospect’s timetable should not change because someone else gets hurt. Judge didn’t suddenly become MLB ready because Beltran felt something in the hamstring, you know? This guy is not just the right fielder of the future. He’s the right fielder of the future and possibly the No. 3 or 4 hitter of the future. Calling Judge up now would feel like a panic move to me, and those are the worst possible moves you can make.

5. One non-Beltran thought: man does the James Kaprielian injury suck. He had all the look of a quick moving college starter who could maybe help the Yankees late this season, but instead he’s looking at a lost year of development. Even if his upcoming trip to see Dr. ElAttrache brings good news, a strained flexor tendon typically requires several weeks of rehab, and you know the Yankees are going to play it safe. Kaprielian’s season may very well be over and that totally bites. Even if he didn’t reach the show this season, he figured to put himself in position to be an early call-up next year, and that was exciting. Now, who knows? Maybe the Yankees should just forfeit all their first round picks to sign free agents going forward. It seems they’re all cursed. Sigh. I guess no good velocity spike goes unpunished.

DotF: A wild night of walk-offs in the farm system

Let’s start with some notes:

  • In case you missed it earlier, RHP James Kaprielian has been diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain. Also, C Gary Sanchez and SS Jorge Mateo will represent the Yankees at the Futures Game.
  • Vince Lara-Cinisomo put together a list of nine pitching prospects who are in the middle of breakout seasons, and RHP Chance Adams is one of the nine. Adams has a 3.01 ERA (2.52 FIP) with a 30.9% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate in 68.2 inning this year. He’s transitioning from reliever to starter.
  • And finally, earlier today Matt Eddy pointed out the Yankees have the highest minor league winning percentage in baseball this year at .601. The Phillies are a distant second (.576). I’ve been around long enough to know winning in minors means nothing, but it’s still cool to see. So with that in mind, let’s update the standings tonight.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Syracuse) they are 47-30 and have a one-game lead in the North Division

  • DH Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 , 1 BB — no homer? lame
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — 11-for-37 (.297) with two doubles and a homer in his last nine games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — man he is on some kind of tear, pretty amazing that he’s in the conversation for a call-up right now given the last few years
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 8/5 GB/FB — 55 of 96 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/4 GB/FB — 19 of 33 pitches were strikes (58%)

[Read more…]

Update: Carlos Beltran day-to-day after hamstring MRI comes back clean

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

9:55pm: The MRI came back clean, Joe Girardi told reporters following tonight’s game. Beltran had a cramp and is day-to-day. Exhale.

8:18pm: Beltran left the team with a tight right hamstring, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for an MRI tonight. Here’s video of the play:

7:32pm: Carlos Beltran left tonight’s game in the first inning after running out a would-be double into the left field corner. He busted it out of the box then slowed down near first base. Carlos never attempted to run to second. Rob Refsnyder replaced him on the bases and then in right field.

Trainer Steve Donohue came out to check on Beltran, who grabbed at his hamstring — I think it was his right hamstring, but I could be wrong — before leaving the game. I guess the good news is he walked off under his own power and didn’t seem to be in any real pain. So maybe just a cramp? We’ll see.

It goes without saying that losing Beltran for any length of time would be devastating. Not only has he been the team’s best hitter this season (by a mile), he’s also a pretty darn good trade chip should the Yankees decide to sell at the deadline. Either way, contend or sell, losing Beltran ain’t good.

James Kaprielian diagnosed with flexor tendon strain

(Staten Island Advance)
(Staten Island Advance)

Top pitching prospect James Kaprielian has been diagnosed with a right flexor tendon strain, the Yankees announced. He went for an MRI today because his elbow is still not feeling better. Kaprielian will see Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles to get a second opinion in the coming days.

A flexor tendon strain is not the worst case scenario but it is pretty bad. It’s not uncommon for flexor strains to turn into Tommy John surgery and other nasty things. Hopefully Kaprielian can avoid anything more serious, though either way, his season is probably over. This usually isn’t a quick rehab process.

Kaprielian, 22, has not pitched since April due to what the Yankees have been calling elbow inflammation. He was supposed to begin a throwing program at some point this month, and I guess that’s when the elbow started giving him more problems. Hopefully ElAttrache brings good news. Fingers crossed.

Curry: Yankees making progress in talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford

According to Jack Curry, the Yankees are making progress in contract talks with first round pick Blake Rutherford. “Stay tuned,” said Curry’s source. Jack is the single most plugged in reporter covering the Yankees, so not only is there no reason to doubt his report, I’m going to assume a deal is pretty close to done at this point.

Slot money for the 18th overall pick is $2.44M, and as our Draft Pool Tracker shows, the Yankees currently have $3.28M or so in bonus pool space remaining. I should probably note I had an error on the Tracker page. I previously said the team only had $3.14M in bonus pool space, but one of the calculations was wrong, so it’s actually $3.28M. My bad, yo.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 15th this year. That’s two weeks from Friday. It’s not uncommon for first rounders to wait until the deadline to sign — James Kaprielian did it last year — but hopefully Rutherford signs before that. The Yankees may not be offering the full $3.28M at the moment, so Rutherford he try to wait them out.

Pretty much everything you need to know about Rutherford is right here. I also looked at similar players drafted in recent years. He’s in pretty excellent company. Rutherford was a projected top ten pick heading into the draft, though he fell to the Yankees due to signability concerns.