Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. None of the local hockey or basketball teams are in action, so if you’re jonesin’ for some sports, you have to settle for college basketball. You folks know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.
The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places.
In baseball, being designated for assignment is essentially a sort of ‘limbo’ a player goes when he’s temporarily not on any roster. The term is sometimes abbreviated as DFA or DFA’ed. When a player is DFA’ed, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster. The team then has ten days to trade him, release him, or convince him to stay with the organization in the minors. Most players will not accept a minor-league spot, so they usually end up moving on.
However, for veteran lefty Chris Capuano such transactions became a part of daily routine this season with the New York Yankees. He was designated for assignment four times in less than a month’s time and returned to the big leagues all four times. Once, he had checked into his Scranton-area hotel for less than an hour before general manager Brian Cashman called to summon him back to the big club.
“I didn’t waste a lot of time,” said Capuano, who is now plenty familiar with the two-hour drive on Interstate 80 between New York and Class AAA Scranton (Pa.). “I know you technically have a couple of days to actually report, but I’m someone who likes to not just sit around, I like to be proactive and get right to work. So when that’s happened I generally reported that next day down to Triple-A and not wasted anytime just try to stay in a routine.”
Pitchers are considered creatures of habit, but this wacky season provided the 37-year old southpaw with little routine. To keep his command sharp and his arm strength up, Capuano took to throwing a good deal of live bullpens with reserve hitters standing in the box.
“Well my arm hasn’t had enough work to really have a tired arm or sore arm, it’s more keeping the feel,” Capuano told me in the Yankees clubhouse. “And obviously, I haven’t done the best job at that, given that I’d have one good outing and one really bad one. It’s been tough, I haven’t been able to kind of master given that kind of inconsistent schedule being as consistent as I’d like on the mound.”
Capuano’s trying 2015 campaign started when he pulled a leg muscle covering first base during a spring training game. He was a good soldier, who tried to use his time in Scranton to iron out any mechanical flaws and get into a rhythm. In six starts for the RailRiders, Capuano posted a 1.27 ERA across 28 1/3 innings.
“Every time I’ve been able to go back down to Triple-A and get in the starting rotation for whether it’s been five or ten days, this last time I went down and made two starts and that’s really helped me I feel like to get that feel back and rhythm back,” said Capuano, who grew up in Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan.
Capuano, a career starter, began last season with his hometown team and pitched in 28 games out of the bullpen to a tune of a 4.55 ERA. But he was designated for assignment in late June. After a quick detour through the Rockies’ organization, Capuano was traded to the Yankees where he went on to make 12 decent starts, going 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. He went at least six innings in eight of those starts and showed enough to earn a one-year, $5 million deal in the winter from the team.
Despite being a free agent, Capuano pitched for the MLB All-Star team in the 2014 MLB Japan All Star Series. Wearing a Yankee uniform, he started two games for the MLB All Stars, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven batters. There were reports that he had interest in possibly signing with a Japanese team. He eventually stood stateside, but Japan could offer more money and a more prominent role sometime in the future.
“I’d never rule it out just because I love the culture, I love the people,” said Capuano, who also pitched for Arizona, Milwaukee, the Mets and Dodgers from 2003 to 2013. “It’s a beautiful country and they’re very passionate about baseball over there. So I would never rule it out. My wife and I don’t have any children. I love to travel so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
While this season was a trying one for the Springfield, Mass., native, Capuano is no stranger to hardships. From 05/13/07 — 06/03/10, the soft-tossing southpaw appeared in 26 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (19 GS) and the Brewers lost all 26. He has also endured despite two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow, the second of which cost him two full seasons in the big leagues, 2008 and 2009.
“After I had the first one it was really eleven months and I was back but the second one I missed two years and that’s a lot of time to miss – kind of similar to the situation Andrew Bailey is in for us now,” said Capuano, who is the only two-time Tommy John patient to make more than 10 major-league starts after his second procedure. “But when you do make it back, I think it gives you a healthier perspective having gone through that. You appreciate the game, you appreciate being around your teammates and the ballpark that much more.”
His ERA this past season sat at an unsightly 7.97, but he definitely helped spike the IQ of the pitching staff. He was valedictorian of his high school class at Cathedral High. He had the academic numbers to get into Dartmouth or Yale, even signing a letter of intent to enroll at Yale. But then he saw the Duke campus during a camp and changed his mind. When he graduated in 2000 with an economics degree, he did so Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.86 G.P.A., an impressive number he would probably prefer as his earned run average.
At age 37, Capuano is fully aware that his big league career may soon be coming to an end. He has been approached by one television network about a career in broadcasting, but he is leaning towards going for his MBA degree full-time. Capuano knows that a baseball career is a fleeting livelihood, and he wanted to complete his economics degree so he could follow his father, Frank, a financial planner, into the business world after his baseball career ended.
“My father is a financial planner and I’ve done a lot of work with him over the years too and I’ve stayed active in our union and our pension committee,” said Capuano, who has also made an All-Star team in 2006 and earned a silver medal while playing on Team USA in the 2001 World Cup of Baseball. “There’s a whole world out there after baseball is done, but while I’m playing I’m going to enjoy it and have fun.”
Last offseason the Yankees remade almost their entire bullpen. In fact, the only reliever who was in both the 2014 and 2015 Opening Day bullpens was Dellin Betances. Everyone else had been replaced. (Adam Warren was another bullpen holdover, but he moved into the rotation.) Bullpen turnover is not uncommon and the Yankees went through a lot of it last winter.
One of the new bullpen additions was right-hander David Carpenter, who came over from the Braves with Chasen Shreve in the Manny Banuelos trade. Carpenter had been one of Craig Kimbrel’s primary setup men in recent years and was expected to fill a similar role in 2015. Fellow righty Andrew Bailey also re-upped with the Yankees last winter as he continued to rehab from shoulder surgery. Neither player contributed much this season.
When Good Relievers Go Bad
From 2013-14, Carpenter pitched to a 2.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 126.2 innings for Atlanta. He missed bats (27.4 K%), he limited walks (7.0 BB%), and he threw hard (95.3 mph). Carpenter was pretty much everything the Yankees look for in a reliever. That he came with three years of team control as an arbitration-eligible player was icing on the cake.
Carpenter never did come close to repeating that success with the Yankees. After starting the year with four mostly low-leverage appearances — because the Yankees lost a lot the first week of the season — Carpenter was asked to protect a one-run lead in the sixth inning against the Orioles on April 15th. He gave up a game-tying home run on his second pitch and was ultimately charged with three runs in one-third of an inning.
Just like that, Carpenter fell out of the Circle of Trust™. Joe Girardi had Andrew Miller and Betances in the late innings, and both Shreve and Justin Wilson were pitching well, so Carpenter was relegated to very low-leverage work. Here are the game situations when he entered his next ten appearances following the meltdown in Baltimore:
eighth inning, Yankees up nine
eighth inning up nine
seventh inning up two
seventh inning tied
eighth inning up three
nine inning up six
sixth inning down four
eighth inning up five
sixth inning up five
sixth inning down three
Not many important innings in there. Even in that third appearance, when he entered with the Yankees up two in the seventh, Carpenter was only asked to get one out. Carpenter allowed eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and three walks in 6.2 innings spanning seven appearances in mid-May, at which point he had really fallen out of favor.
The Yankees didn’t want to cut Carpenter loose so early in the season — after all, he was pretty good from 2013-14 and they controlled him through 2017 — so they stuck with him. Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of work too. He appeared in nine of 17 games at one point in late-May/early-June. The Yankees kept running him out there hoping something would click.
The final straw came on June 2nd, when Carpenter was brought into the sixth inning of a tie game against the Mariners. Seattle had runners at the corners with two outs, and all Carpenter had to do was retire Austin Jackson, who ultimately hit .259/.299/.358 (83 wRC+) against righties in 2015. Carpenter got ahead in the count 1-2 but couldn’t put Jackson away, eventually allowing a go-ahead double.
A few days later the Yankees flipped Carpenter to the Nationals for infield prospect Tony Renda. Carpenter allowed one run in six innings across eight appearances for Washington before landing on the DL with a sore shoulder. He didn’t pitch again the rest of the season and the Nats outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few weeks ago. Carpenter elected free agency and recently signed a minor league deal with the Braves. Relievers, man.
The Return of Bailey
Over the last few years the Yankees have rolled the dice on injured relievers, rehabbing them to health while hoping they’d contribute down the line. They did this with Matt Daley and David Aardsma, though neither paid dividends. They tried it again with former All-Star Andrew Bailey.
The Yankees first signed Bailey to a minor league contract last offseason that included a club option for 2015 worth $2M or so. He never did pitch last year as he rehabbed from shoulder capsule surgery — Bailey suffered a few setbacks — so the Yankees declined the option and signed Bailey to a new minor league contract. This one included a $2.5M club option for 2016.
Bailey’s rehab progressed nicely, enough that he was able to pitch in Spring Training. He allowed four runs in 5.2 innings, but while the results stunk, the important thing is Bailey was healthy and actually pitching. It was progress. The Yankees had Bailey stay behind in Tampa to continue working his way back after Grapefruit League play ended. He made six appearances with High-A Tampa in April before suffering another setback.
It wasn’t until late-June that Bailey was healthy enough to pitch again. The Yankees took it very slow with him and let him climb the minor league ladder gradually. After some tune-up appearances in Tampa, Bailey spent a month with Double-A Trenton then another month with Triple-A Scranton. He finished the season with a 1.80 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 35 minor league innings.
The Yankees put Bailey through the grinder immediately before calling him up. They had him work back-to-back days, multiple innings, enter in the middle of an inning … the works. They really tested him with the RailRiders before bringing him up when rosters expanded. Bailey passed every test and joined the team in September. He made his first MLB appearance since 2013 on September 2nd, allowing a run on a hit and two walks in one-third of an inning against the Red Sox.
Bailey threw 12 strikes with his 22 pitches that afternoon and looked pretty amped up. I can’t say I blame him. Girardi continued to pick his spots with Bailey — remember, the Yankees were trying desperately to stay in the AL East race and later clinch a wildcard spot — which is why he entered eight of his ten appearances with the Yankees trailing. The other two where his first game (Yankees up by nine) and his ninth game (11th inning of a tie game).
With the bullpen taxed and the Yankees barely hanging on in the AL East race, Girardi turned to Bailey with the Yankees trailing by one in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on September 23rd. It was a game they basically had to win to stay in the division race. Instead of keeping it close, Bailey served up a three-run home run to Russell Martin that all but crushed New York’s AL East hopes.
As expected, the Yankees declined Bailey’s $2.5M option after the season. They could have held on to him as an arbitration-eligible player, but instead outrighted him off the 40-man roster because space is tight. Bailey elected free agency rather than accept the assignment, and he is currently a free agent. Like Daley and Aardsma, the Yankees didn’t invest much in Bailey, but they didn’t get much of a return either.
According to pretty much every report we’ve seen this offseason, the Yankees are looking for pitching in any trade. They’re said to at least be listening to offers for Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller, if not shopping them. Payroll isn’t going up next season and the Yankees didn’t have much money come off the books, so trades are the only real avenue for significant improvement.
The current rotation is again full of question marks — Masahiro Tanaka just had elbow surgery, Nathan Eovaldi had an elbow injury at the end of the year, CC Sabathia‘s knee is an ongoing issue, etc. — and the future rotation is pretty wide open. Tanaka (opt-out), Eovaldi, Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova can all become free agents within the next two years, leaving Luis Severino and Adam Warren for the 2018 rotation.
Obviously that is a long way away — the 2013 Yankees got 103 starts from Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, for example, so things change in a hurry — but that doesn’t mean the Yankees are wrong to worry about it now. If they’re going to deal Gardner and/or Miller, getting young controllable pitching in return makes all the sense in the world.
Over the last few years the Yankees have made it clear they have a “type,” when it comes to pitching. They love hard-throwers with very low walk rates, and the taller they are, the better. They didn’t just pick Pineda and Eovaldi out of a hat, you know. Both came to New York with huge fastballs and a low walk rate. Eovaldi (6-foot-2) isn’t as big as Pineda (6-foot-7), but he also throws 100, so yeah.
So, using all of this information, we can dig up some potential pitching trade targets for the Yankees. This isn’t to say the Yankees are (or should) pursuing these guys — or that they’re even available — but they fit what has been established as their preferred type of pitcher. Obviously some of these guys are more attainable than others, though it is interesting several are on teams who appear to match up with the Yankees for a potential trade. To the alphabetically ordered list.
RHP Cody Anderson, Indians
2015 Average Fastball Velocity: 92.1 mph (96.9 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.6%
Years of Control: Six (three pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)
RHP Carlos Carrasco, Indians
2015 Average Velocity: 94.5 mph (98.8 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.9%
Years of Control: Three (owed $19M through 2018 plus club options for 2019 and 2020)
LHP Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks
2015 Average Velocity: 92.1 mph (96.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 4.8%
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)
RHP Jose Fernandez, Marlins
2015 Average Velocity: 95.9 mph (99.5 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.3%
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)
RHP Kevin Gausman, Orioles
2015 Average Velocity: 95.9 mph (100.3 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.2%
Years of Control: Five (one pre-arbitration and four arbitration years as a Super Two)
RHP Jonathan Gray, Rockies
2015 Average Velocity: 94.3 mph (98.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.6%
Years of Control: Six (three pre-arbitration plus three arbitration years)
The Rockies haven’t been able to develop pitching in forever, and while trading someone like Gray seems silly, GM Jeff Bridich recently told Patrick Saunders he is “open to anything, I mean it” to improve the team, including trading young pitching. Gardner and Miller don’t appear to be matches for the Rockies — why would they want a 32-year-old outfielder or an expensive closer? — but maybe other pieces like Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo could entice Colorado.
LHP Andrew Heaney, Angels
2015 Average Velocity: 91.5 mph (94.9 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.4%
Years of Control: Six (two pre-arbitration plus four arbitration years as a Super Two)
RHP Wily Peralta, Brewers
2015 Average Velocity: 94.1 mph (97.6 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.7%
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)
RHP Danny Salazar, Indians
2015 Average Velocity: 94.9 mph (98.7 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.0%
Years of Control: Five (two pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)
RHP Taijuan Walker, Mariners
2015 Average Velocity: 94.1 mph (98.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.7%
Years of Control: Five (two pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)
* * *
By no means is this list intended to be comprehensive. Plenty of starters either throw hard or limit walks, but surprisingly few do both, and even fewer might actually be available this offseason. (Something tells me others like Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are staying put, you guys.) Guys like Robbie Ray and Jimmy Nelson throw hard but walk too many hitters. Others like Josh Tomlin and Chase Anderson limit walks but work with average velocity or less.
Through their various pickups the last few years the Yankees have made it clear they like hard-throwers with low walk rates. Even small additions like Chris Martin fit the bill. The Yankees are said to be looking for starters this offseason for obvious reasons, and unless they unexpectedly shift gears, they figure to again target high-velocity, low-walk pitchers. It’s an exclusive club and those guys tend to cost quite a bit to acquire, but they aren’t off-limits either.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Bills and Patriots are the Monday Night Football game, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Fightin’ Porzingises (Porzingi?) are playing, and there’s a bunch of college hoops on as well. Talk about those games or anything else here.
As expected, Brian Cashman confirmed Adam Warren will come to camp next season as a starting pitcher, reports Erik Boland. “(He is) going to come in as a starter. That would be the plan,” said the GM. There is no reason not to bring Warren or Bryan Mitchell or whoever to Spring Training stretched out as a starter next year. No-brainer.
Warren, 28, has come to Spring Training as a starter for a few years now, so this is nothing new. The difference now is Warren actually received an opportunity to start this past season — he was in the Opening Day rotation thanks to Chris Capuano‘s quad injury — and showed he can do it.
In 17 starts this summer, Warren had a 3.66 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 96 innings. That includes his rough April, when he struggled to complete five innings and walked almost as many batters as he struck out. Warren really settled in after that first month and went on a nice run for a few weeks before moving back into the bullpen.
“I want to be a starter,” said Warren to Jack Curry recently. “I really wasn’t sure going into last season whether I wanted to be a starter or a reliever, and obviously I got the opportunity to start and I really fell in love with it. Fell in love with getting to see hitters three or four times and thinking through at-bats and what pitches you want to throw.”
At the moment, I’d say the 2016 rotation will include Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia in whatever order. That’s assuming everyone is healthy and there’s no big offseason trade, stuff like that. Warren and Ivan Nova are the depth starters.
When it comes to the sixth starter, Warren might be at a disadvantage because he’s shown he can excel in a short relief role. Nova hasn’t pitched in relief a whole lot in his career and has never worked as a true one-inning guy. That might put him ahead of Warren on the rotation depth chart. We’ll see.
“I feel like (starting) suits my game better. I really enjoy doing that,” added Warren. “Getting the opportunity to at least compete as a starter is really something I’m really working hard for this offseason and really focusing on to come in to Spring Training to really impress.”
Due to limited payroll space and a reluctance to trade top prospects, the Yankees are said to be “shopping everyone” on their big league roster, including Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. They’re pretty much the only two veterans on the team making decent money with actual trade value. Trading Gardner and/or Miller is the best way to clear salary (WTF?!) and add talent.
Several teams, including the Diamondbacks and Tigers, have already checked in on Miller. We can add the Astros to that list. Jayson Stark reports Houston is “hell-bent” on adding a top closer and have asked about Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Ken Giles, Brad Boxberger, and various free agents. Luke Gregerson did a fine job closing for the Astros last year but I guess they want an upgrade.
Last offseason the Astros aggressively pursued Miller and actually made him the best offer — Ken Rosenthal says they offered him four years and $44M. Miller ultimately took $2M less per year from the Yankees. “Money wasn’t everything. The teams that negotiated with us were fully aware of that as well. In the total package, the Yankees had the best offer for me personally,” he said at the time.
The Craig Kimbrel trade gives us an idea of what an elite reliever with three years of control is worth in a trade, though getting four prospects — well, three prospects and a utility guy — for Miller is probably the best case scenario. The Yankees reportedly want controllable pitching in any trade and are said to be seeking three young players for Miller, which is a perfectly reasonable first ask to me.
The Astros have a deep farm system though it is no longer the best in the game due to recent graduations and trades. Here are their top 30 prospects per MLB.com. It’s hard to not see righty Mark Appel as a possible centerpiece. Appel was the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he is more pedigree than results (4.87 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 294 career minor league innings!) at this point. After all, he was expected to be in the big leagues by now.
While asking for a former first overall pick in return for a reliever sounds silly, Appel’s stock is down and he’s not an elite prospect. MLB.com has him as the 43rd best prospect in baseball. The Padres received the No. 25 and 76 prospects for Kimbrel. Who knows. Maybe Appel plus some secondary stuff for Miller works for both sides. Just thinking out loud here. That’s the sort of package the Yankees should be seeking.
Anyway, the Yankees have a lot of leverage in Miller trade talks because the only other available reliever who matches his effectiveness and favorable contract situation is Giles. Chapman and Mark Melancon will be free agents next winter and the best reliever in free agency is Darren O’Day, who is three years older than Miller. If the Yankees can get multiple young players they really like, great. If not, they’ll keep one of the game’s best relievers and his affordable contract.