Rosenthal: Yankees looking for a veteran pitcher to stash in Triple-A

Magic Wandy. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Magic Wandy. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are looking for a veteran starter they can stash in Triple-A as rotation depth. They have Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell as call-up options, though Rosenthal says they don’t want to rush top pitching prospect Luis Severino. Basically they want someone like Scott Baker, who signed with the Dodgers after being released by New York last week.

Rosenthal mentioned veteran southpaw Wandy Rodriguez as a possibility, though he could wind up with a team that offers a greater big league opportunity. Rodriguez, 36, had an excellent Spring Training with the Braves, pitching to a 3.13 ERA with 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 innings against mostly MLB caliber competition. Atlanta released Wandy last week for whatever reason.

The list of available free agent starters right now is really uninspiring. Jhoulys Chacin, Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Kevin Slowey are the best of the available guys, and Chacin (Rockies), Maholm (Reds), and Slowey (Phillies) were recently released by teams with major pitching issues. That, folks, is called a red flag. At least Correia (Mariners) had the dignity of being cut by a team with a deep staff.

Of those four names, Chacin is the most interesting because he’s still reasonably young (27) and was good as recently as 2013, when he had a 3.47 ERA (3.47 FIP!) in 197.1 innings for Colorado. But, as I wrote two weeks ago, Chacin’s stuff clearly isn’t what it was two years ago, probably because his shoulder still isn’t healthy. That said, at this point he’s not going to get a 25-man roster spot from anyone, so a minor league deal makes sense. It’s a no risk roll of the dice.

Both Trevor Cahill and Erasmo Ramirez were traded last week, though those guys aren’t Triple-A depth. They stepped right into the Braves and Rays rotations, respectively. Several Triple-A starters (Matt Buschmann, Bradin Hagins, Rudy Owens, etc.) have been traded for cash in recent days, and hey, Nick Piecoro says Vidal Nuno is available. He wouldn’t be bad Triple-A depth. Who knows what Arizona wants in return though. Either way, that’s the kind of pitcher on the market right now.

The Yankees are looking for pitching depth because they’re always looking for pitching depth. Whitley and Mitchell figure to be joined in the Triple-A Scranton rotation by Kyle Davies and Matt Tracy, with someone like Zach Nuding, Caleb Cotham, Jaron Long, or Joel De La Cruz holding down the fifth spot. Jose DePaula will be another rotation candidate once he returns from his spring shoulder injury. So yeah, it’s easy to see why they’d want to add someone with MLB experience to this group.

Padres have interest in Austin Romine, who hasn’t done enough to claim backup catcher spot


Through the first three weeks of Grapefruit League play, Austin Romine has not forced the Yankees to consider using him as the backup catcher when the regular season begins in two weeks. Romine was going to have to have a huge spring for the team to take him north instead of John Ryan Murphy and it simply hasn’t happened.

Romine, 26, comes into today having gone 4-for-21 (.190) with one double this spring, and the Yankees have given him the opportunity to show what he could do. Romine has basically the same number of plate appearances as Murphy this spring (23 to 24) and he’s caught more innings (48 to 44). Only Brian McCann has seen more playing time among catchers.

All that playing time was both an opportunity and a showcase. Romine had a chance to show the Yankees he was a better option to back up McCann than Murphy as well as show other teams he was worth a spot on their roster. We heard the Phillies have interest in Romine ten days ago and now George King reports the Padres have interest as well.

San Diego’s interest in Romine makes sense — the Padres just lost backup catcher Tim Federowicz for the season with a knee injury that turned out to be more severe than expected. Derek Norris is the only healthy catcher on their 40-man roster, and while they do have ex-Yankee Wil Nieves in camp as a non-roster player (yes, Nieves is still playing), they surely want to add another backstop.

As I said when we learned about Philadelphia’s interest two weeks ago, the Yankees are unlikely to get much in return for Romine at this point. Fringe big leaguers who are out of minor league options don’t have much trade value. None of San Diego’s out of options players figure to be realistically available, so any trade sending Romine to San Diego would probably bring a marginal prospect or cash to the Bronx. Such is life.

Opening Day is still two weeks away, so there’s no rush to trade Romine. There’s plenty of time for a catching injury to strike and change the trade market. That includes the Yankees — McCann or Murphy could go down unexpectedly and clear a roster spot for Romine. For now, Romine hasn’t forced the Yankees to seriously consider him for the backup catcher job, making a trade before the start of the season likely.

Supply and demand match up, but Yankees and Mets are imperfect trade partners

Niese. (Presswire)
Niese. (Presswire)

Spring Training has not been so kind to the Mets so far. Earlier this week they lost young right-hander Zack Wheeler to a torn elbow ligament, meaning he will soon have Tommy John surgery. That comes just a few days after the team learned top lefty reliever Josh Edgin also needs his elbow rebuilt. That’s two members of the projected Opening Day pitching staff going down with Tommy John surgery in the span of four or five days. Ouch.

The Mets have an enviable amount of rotation depth — they are probably best equipped to deal with a major pitching injury of any team in MLB right now — and have plenty of options to replace Wheeler. Edgin is a different matter. Their best option to replace him is probably Rule 5 Draft pick Sean Gilmartin, and I imagine a Rule 5 guy is not someone they want to thrust into the primary lefty relief role. GM Sandy Alderson has already said they will explore the market for a lefty reliever.

That’s where the Yankees come in. The Yankees have lefty relievers in spades and are in need of rotation depth, something they needed even before Chris Capuano strained his quad last week. The Mets, as I said, have a ton of rotation options. Enough to fill in for Wheeler, trade someone, and still have enough arms for depth. I mean, seriously. Look at their rotation depth chart without Wheeler:

  1. Matt Harvey — totally awesome
  2. Jacob deGrom — just named NL Rookie of the Year
  3. Jon Niese — boringly effective
  4. Bartolo Colon — Bartday!
  5. Dillon Gee — generic fifth starter who won’t kill his team
  6. Rafael Montero — 3.60 ERA (3.66 FIP) in Triple-A in 2014, named 68th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior last year
  7. Noah Syndergaard — ranked as 11th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring
  8. Steve Matz — ranked as 33rd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring

That’s a lot of pitching! Montero and Syndergaard are basically MLB ready while Matz has yet to reach Triple-A and is more of a second half option this coming season. Either way, the Mets are loaded with high-end rotation help, so much so that they spent all winter trying to unload Gee’s $5.3M salary. Given their depth, I don’t think Wheeler’s injury would stop them from trading Gee either.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a whole lot of left-handed relievers. They made a point of acquiring southpaw relievers this winter similar to how the Mets focused on adding to high-end pitching prospects while trading away veterans in recent years. The Yankees sending a lefty reliever to Flushing for a spare starter makes sense in a vacuum, but in reality it might not be easy to find a match on value. Take a look at Yankees’ lefty bullpen depth chart:

  1. Andrew Miller — not getting traded
  2. Justin Wilson — tradeable
  3. Chasen Shreve — tradeable
  4. Jacob Lindgren — unlikely to be traded, but either way he can only be dealt as a player to be named later until June since he was just drafted last year, meaning he wouldn’t be able to help the Mets come Opening Day
  5. James Pazos — throws hard, zero MLB experience
  6. Tyler Webb — doesn’t throw hard, zero MLB experience

So that’s six lefty relievers but only two are tradeable right now. Maybe the Mets really like Pazos and/or Webb, but if they’re going to go with someone who has no MLB experience, they’d probably stick in house with Gilmartin or Jack Leathersich, who had great minor league numbers (3.16 ERA and 2.46 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A) last year like Pazos and Webb. Wilson and Shreve are the only movable pieces right now.

On the other hand, the Mets sure as hell won’t trade Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, or Matz. They might be willing to move Montero in the right deal — there was talk of a Montero for Nick Franklin swap last spring but that didn’t happen even though the Mets desperately need a shortstop — but I’m not sure a lefty reliever is that right deal. Even a dirt cheap lefty reliever under control for multiple years. That leaves Colon, who the Mets would probably give away right now, Gee, and Niese as the tradeable starters.

Shreve. (Presswire)
Shreve. (Presswire)

The Yankees wouldn’t trade Wilson or Shreve for Colon or Gee, who barely move the needle at this point. On the other hand, the Mets wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson or Shreve. Heck they wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson and Shreve. Niese is good! And he has a favorable contract too. He’s not someone they’re looking to dump for the sake of shedding salary like Colon or Gee. A straight up spare lefty reliever for spare starter trade isn’t happening between these two clubs, which means the pot would have to be sweetened somehow. (Brendan Ryan doesn’t count.)

The Yankees and Mets haven’t made a trade involving actually big league players (sorry, Gonzalez Germen) since the Mike Stanton-Felix Heredia swap way back in December 2004. I don’t think Alderson or Brian Cashman would hesitate to trade with one another, however. Maybe one (or both) of the ownership groups would be hesitant, but Alderson and Cashman are smart guys looking to improve their teams however they can. If that means trading with a geographical rival, so be it. Finding common ground on a trade like this seems like it would be difficult.

On paper, the Yankees and Mets match up well for a trade. The Yankees need a starter and have a ton of lefty relievers while the Mets need a lefty reliever and have some extra starters. But, when you take a deeper look at who actually is and isn’t available, there isn’t a great match. Maybe the Mets love Webb and the Yankees are willing to take on Colon’s hefty salary, that’s always possible. It just seems unlikely. Perhaps the situation will change in the weeks before Opening Day, but, as of this moment, it’s tough to see how these two clubs can find common ground without substantially expanding the trade.

Phillies have interest in Austin Romine, though Yankees unlikely to get much in return


According to George King, the Phillies are among the teams with interest in catcher Austin Romine. Romine is out of minor league options and can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers — chances are he would be claimed, catchers are hard to find — making a trade likely if he doesn’t manage to beat out John Ryan Murphy for the backup catcher’s job.

The Phillies have a clear cut starter in veteran backstop Carlos Ruiz. The backup situation is much more wide open, with 40-man roster players Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph competing against non-roster invitees John Hester, Koyie Hill, and Rene Garcia this spring. A trade won’t happen anytime soon — the Yankees will keep Romine until the very end of camp in case Murphy or Brian McCann gets hurt — but I’m sure the feeling out process has begun.

Romine, 26, reported to camp in great shape and said he intended to make the backup catcher decision difficult for the Yankees even though Murphy is considered the favorite. Romine is off to a 1-for-8 (.125) start to Grapefruit League play, and while that’s a really small sample, he needs to hit this spring to win the job. Hitting .275 in March won’t force the issue. Romine needs to mash if he wants a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Trades involving out of options players on the margins of the roster are not at all glamorous. The return is usually very small, something along the lines of a player to be named later or cash. The Yankees sent George Kontos, an up-and-down reliever, to the Giants for Chris Stewart when he was out of options at the end of Spring Training 2012. Jose Lobaton netted the Rays the interesting Nate Karns last winter, but Lobaton was coming off a 103 wRC+ in 2013. He had way more trade value that Romine does right now.

An out of options player for an out of options player trade is always possible but those are rare. It’s not often the needs and excess players of two teams match up that well. The Phillies have six out of options players in camp according to Todd Zolecki:

In Phillies camp there are six players without options: right-handers Jerome Williams, Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont; left-hander Andy Oliver; and infielders Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez.

De Fratus is actually good (2.39 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 52.2 innings in 2014) so he’s not available. Galvis is penciled in as Philadelphia’s starting shortstop in the wake of the Jimmy Rollins trade and Williams signed a $2.5M deal this winter to bolster the pitching staff. Those two aren’t available either. Hernandez and Oliver don’t really move the needle for the Yankees given their internal options. That leaves Aumont.

Aumont, 26, was part of the Cliff Lee trade way back when, and he’s struggled in multiple cups of coffee the last three years (6.13 ERA and 4.44 FIP in 39.2 relief innings). His Triple-A numbers the last three years — 4.07 ERA (3.99 FIP) with way too many walks (17.9%) in 135 relief innings — aren’t all that good either. Aumont hits the trifecta for the Yankees though, and that’s important:

  1. Miss bats? Yes. Aumont has a 11.07 K/9 (26.7 K%) in Triple-A the last three years and 8.85 K/9 (20.0 K%) in his MLB time.
  2. Throw Hard? Yes. Aumont has averaged 95 mph with his fastball and topped out at nearly 99 mph at the MLB level according to PitchFX.
  3. Physically Huge? Also yes. Aumont is listed at 6-foot-7 and 240 lbs. The Yankees love big pitchers.

The last bullpen spot is currently up for grabs — it’s still way too early in camp to say if someone has taken over as the front-runner — and it could be two spots if Adam Warren or Esmil Rogers replaces the injured Chris Capuano in the rotation. The Yankees have no shortage of candidates for the bullpen job(s), but, if they’re going to lose Romine anyway, flipping him for Aumont and trying him for a few weeks might make more sense than accepting cash or some Grade-C prospect in Single-A.

Now, would the Phillies trade Aumont for Romine? Who knows. Aumont is in the running for a bullpen spot with Philadelphia, which means he would have to pitch pretty poorly in camp to not make the roster. And if he pitches poorly in camp, why would the Yankees want him? Then again, if Romine plays poorly in camp and doesn’t make the Yankees, why would the Phillies want him? The out of options player market is a weird one.

Sifting through depth charts, the Diamondbacks and Padres stand out as clubs that could use catching help along with the Phillies, meaning they’re potential trade candidates for Romine. There’s still three and a half weeks of Spring Training left, which means there’s three and a half weeks left for catchers to get hurt. (San Diego just lost backup catcher Tim Federowicz to a torn MCL.) Lots of time for the market to change.

Maybe things will break right for the Yankees and Romine will clear waivers and go to Triple-A before Opening Day. That would be pretty great, but the Yankees can’t count on it. History suggests trading Romine away rather than rolling the dice on waivers won’t bring much of a return, and, frankly, considering how the last few years have gone for him, there’s no reason to think he has much trade value anyway. Phillies or otherwise, Romine’s stint in the organization will likely come to an end in about three weeks, and the Yankees don’t figure to be left with much to show for it.

Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and an alternate offseason universe

Heyward and Simmons in pinstripes? The Yankees tried. (Presswire)

We get a fair amount of tips here at RAB. Well, we get a lot of emails that claim to be tips. Let’s put it that way. The vast majority of them turn out to be false — which is why we never post them, even the totally believable ones — but every so often one of ’em is true. When that happens my feeling is more “hey, neat” than “damn we should have posted that!”

A few weeks back we were tipped off that the Yankees had been discussing a massive trade with the Braves that would have brought Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons to New York. (I’m pretty sure we got the tip after Heyward was traded to the Cardinals.) Apparently this was one of those rare true tips. Andy Martino reported on the trade talks earlier this week:

According to two major league sources, the Yankees and Atlanta Braves were talking more than we knew over the winter, in addition to swapping Manny Banuelos and David Carpenter. The Yanks were interested in what would have been a blockbuster acquisition of outfielder Jason Heyward and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

On Monday, Cashman would not confirm his offseason interest — it is rare for a GM to publicly discuss players belonging to other teams — but here is what we were able to gather elsewhere: Before the Yanks acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius, they asked Atlanta about Heyward and Simmons. It is not clear what the Braves would have wanted in return, and it is possible that talks never progressed to the concrete offer phase.

Heyward was traded to St. Louis on November 17th, so it was very early in the offseason. It was basically the first huge move of the winter. The Yankees were talking to the Braves about the potential Heyward/Simmons deal very early in the offseason, long before they traded for Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi, signed Andrew Miller, re-signed Chase Headley, the whole nine.

On the surface this rumor makes total sense. The Yankees prioritized defense this winter and Heyward and Simmons are the best defensive right fielder and best defensive shortstop in baseball, respectively. They also focused on getting younger, and both Heyward and Simmons are only 25. Heyward also fits their model offensive profile — left-handed and patient will pull power. Simmons isn’t much of a hitter but they wanted his glove.

The Braves made it very clear they were seeking young high-end pitching early this offseason — Heyward (and Jordan Walden) was traded for Shelby Miller and a pitching prospect — and I’m guessing that’s where things fell apart. The Yankees don’t have enough young pitching to trade unless they were willing to part with Michael Pineda, and even his trade value is hurt by his injury problems. Shane Greene? Luis Severino? Bryan Mitchell? Manny Banuelos (who was traded to the Braves in January)? None of those guys have Shelby’s pedigree.

Anyway, as fun as this potential blockbuster is, I don’t want to focus too much on the rumor itself. Instead I want to discuss how the offseason would have changed had the Yankees managed to swing a deal for Heyward and Simmons. It’s hard to do that without knowing who would have gone to the Braves in the trade, so we’re going to have to make assumptions. Our tipster said the deal was built around prospects, so I’m going to say the package included:

  • Greene: Atlanta wanted MLB ready pitching based on the Miller (and later Mike Foltynewicz) pickup and the Yankees traded Greene for Gregorius, so I assume they were willing to trade him for Simmons too.
  • Severino: Again, the Braves wanted young high-end pitching, and Severino is not only New York’s top pitching prospect, he’s one of the best in the game. You don’t get Heyward and Simmons without trading someone like this.
  • Banuelos: He was eventually traded to the Braves, so clearly they had interest and clearly the Yankees were open to moving him. And, again, Atlanta wanted pitching.
  • Multiple Prospects: I’m going to say the rest of the trade package was filled out by prospects who aren’t expected to help the Yankees at the MLB level this year. Guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, Luis Torrens, so on. I’m not saying all those guys would go in the deal. I’m just assuming the rest of the package included prospects like them who wouldn’t change the 2015 roster outlook.

That sound good? If it doesn’t, too bad. It’s my blog and we’re going to roll with this. Had the trade gone down as presented above, the Yankees would have been sitting on this projected 25-man roster in early-November:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
Brian McCann 1B Mark Teixeira LF Brett Gardner Masahiro Tanaka Dellin Betances
2B ? CF Jacoby Ellsbury Michael Pineda Adam Warren
DH SS Simmons RF Heyward CC Sabathia Shawn Kelley
Carlos Beltran 3B Martin Prado David Phelps Justin Wilson
? Esmil Rogers
C John Ryan Murphy OF Chris Young Ivan Nova Preston Claiborne
IF Brendan Ryan DH A-Rod

The Yankees made a couple moves this winter that I think they would have made even with the Heyward/Simmons blockbuster. Re-signing Young, for example. He re-signed two weeks before Heyward was traded to the Cardinals and I think the Yankees would have done that anyway, especially since they would have had an all-left-handed hitting outfield with Heyward. Francisco Cervelli was traded for Wilson five days before the Heyward trade, and again, I think that’s a deal that happens anyway. That move was about bolstering the bullpen and clearing a spot for Murphy more than anything.

Heyward and Simmons are relatively cheap but they do cost real money — Heyward will earn $7.8M in 2015 and Simmons will earn $3M as part of the extension that will pay him $56M through 2020. That’s $10.8M between the two of them and that’s not nothing. That’s more than the Yankees will pay Andrew Miller ($9M) and a little less than they’ll pay Headley ($13M) in 2015. Perhaps Hal Steinbrenner would okay an increased payroll because Heyward and Simmons are so young, but I have no reason to assume that. The money has to be balanced out somewhere.

Since the bullpen was such a focal point, my hunch is the Heyward/Simmons money means no Headley, not no Miller. No Headley means Prado plays third base — Alex Rodriguez playing third ain’t happening — and Prado playing third base means no Eovaldi for the rotation and no Domingo German to replenish the minor league prospect pipeline. Prado was traded to the Marlins but the Yankees didn’t dump his $11M salary — the money in the trade was structured so that it was a wash. That’s why the Yankees are sending Miami $3M this year and $3M next. It’s not like trading Prado clears money for Headley and boom, they still have Headley and Eovaldi. Had the Yankees swung the Prado trade even after Heyward/Simmons, they’d have Eovaldi, no third baseman, and basically the same payroll situation.

Without the Prado/Eovaldi trade, the Yankees would still have Phelps, who essentially takes Eovaldi’s rotation spot. The club would still need a fifth starter and re-signing Chris Capuano strikes me as a move the Yankees would still make even after the Heyward/Simmons deal. Maybe it’s not Capuano himself, but someone like him on a one-year, $5M-ish contract. Aaron Harang or Kyle Kendrick. Whoever. A veteran fifth starter type on a one-year contract to fill out the rotation. Perhaps they would have made a more aggressive play for Brett Anderson — or Justin Masterson, though he has Red Sox roots — but topping the $10M he got from the Dodgers seems really unlikely. I’m not sure any other team would have offered him that. The Yankees still would have needed a veteran back-end guy like Capuano.

The second base situation is somewhat interesting because the Yankees would be in the same spot as they were in real life after Prado was traded for Eovaldi, meaning they wouldn’t have had a true big league second baseman, just some prospects in Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. (Assuming they weren’t traded for Heyward/Simmons!) Because the Yankees went out and re-signed Stephen Drew on the cheap even with Refsnyder and Pirela around, I think they would have done it again with Heyward/Simmons. It’s a boring answer but I honestly think that’s what happens. They’ve been after Drew for a few years now.

Huff was non-tendered and Claiborne was lost on waivers, but those are minor moves. (Remember, Claiborne was cut to make room for Gonzalez Germen, who was then cut for Chris Martin.) The Yankees were looking to upgrade those spots anyway, and ultimately they did with David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. And that’s where it gets complicated, because those two came over from the Braves for Banuelos in January. Would they have been part of the Heyward/Simmons blockbuster? Maybe! I don’t think we can assume that though. The hypothetical Heyward/Simmons trade happened in early-November and the actual Banuelos trade happened in early-January. Lots can change in two months.

Instead, I think the Yankees would have looked to bolster their bullpen with smaller moves. Waivers claims and the like. Maybe they would have found a way to keep Claiborne and Germen and Martin, for example. (Who knows what the 40-man roster would have looked like after Heyward/Simmons.) And, also, no Carpenter likely means either Kelley isn’t traded or the Yankees find a similarly priced pitcher in free agency, say John Axford or Burke Badenhop or (gasp!) Joba Chamberlain. Miller and Wilson were the big reliever moves this winter. I think no Carpenter/Shreve means more scrap-heaping, not another trade for bonafide big leaguers.

The bench is pretty straight forward thanks to Young, Murphy, and Ryan. The A-Rod/Beltran dynamic at DH looks problematic but would probably take care of itself via injury — neither Beltran nor A-Rod is especially durable at this point of their careers — before long. Until then, there would probably be a DH rotation, a rotation that includes guys like McCann, Teixeira, and Prado too. The Yankees and Joe Girardi have made it clear they prefer a DH rotation to have one set DH. Basically all non-Red Sox AL teams are like they now.

Alright, so after all those hypothetical moves, the 25-man roster coming into Spring Training would look something like this in the wake of the Heyward/Simmons blockbuster:

Catcher Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
McCann 1B Teixeira LF Gardner Tanaka Betances
2B Drew CF Ellsbury Pineda Miller
DH SS Simmons RF Heyward Sabathia Warren
A-Rod/Beltran 3B Prado Phelps Kelley
Capuano Wilson
C Murphy OF Young Nova Claiborne, Etc.
IF Ryan A-Rod/Beltran

Now for the twist ending: I’d rather have the current Yankees than the Heyward/Simmons Yankees, especially since the Heyward/Simmons Yankees would have a gutted farm system. Heyward is a terrific player, but he’s going to be a free agent after the season. The Yankees would only be acquiring one year of him. Any extension will cost free agent dollars too, otherwise there’s no reason for him to sign it. Simmons is better than Gregorius, but yeah, give me Headley and Eovaldi over Prado and Phelps all day, every day.

The farm system angle is very important. The Yankees wouldn’t just be trading Severino, they’d be trading several other prospects as well. Good ones too. Maybe Judge, maybe Bird, maybe Jacob Lindgren. Maybe all three. Guys like Heyward and Simmons don’t come cheap. The Yankees would be better in right field (for a year) and better at shortstop with potentially weaker options at third base (Headley vs. Prado), in the rotation (Eovaldi vs. Phelps), in the bullpen (Carpenter/Shreve vs. Claiborne, etc.), and have fewer top prospects to trade to fill other needs.

I assume that because the Yankees were looking to trade for Heyward, they were also willing to extend him at a handsome price. They could still have him at that handsome price after the season in real life though. That’s the thing. Again, he fits what they look for these days — young, great defense, lefty power and patience — and he’ll be a free agent in a few months. Maybe the Cardinals extend him first. That’s possible. More possible than Heyward saying “I’m so damn close to free agency, I owe it to myself to wait until after the season to see what the market has to offer me at age 26?” Nah.

The Heyward/Simmons trade sure would have qualified as a blockbuster — it would have been the biggest Yankees trade since what, A-Rod? — and man it would have been fun to analyze and dissect from every angle. I’m just not convinced the trade and a potential chain of events afterward would have automatically resulted in a better Yankees team going forward.

Yankees have “come the closest” to landing Cole Hamels according to obvious Phillies’ smokescreen

Hole Camels. (Presswire)
Hole Camels. (Presswire)

The regular season begins four weeks from today, which means we have potentially four more weeks of Cole Hamels trade rumors until he gets the ball for the Phillies on Opening Day. Back in January we heard the Yankees had inquired but were not seriously pursuing Philadelphia’s lefty ace, who does not have New York on his 21-team no-trade list.

Over the weekend, Nick Cafardo reported the Yankees have “come the closest” to landing Hamels among all of the clubs trying to get him. Here’s the full blurb from Cafardo just so there’s nothing lost in translation:

According to one Phillies source, the Yankees have come the closest to landing Hamels, offering a package of prospects that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.

Yesterday afternoon, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. followed Cafardo’s report by telling Jake Kaplan one team has “stepped up and has shown more particular interest” in Hamels in recent days. Cafardo says his info came from the Phillies and Kaplan spoke to Amaro directly, so there’s no confusion here. This is all coming from the Phillies.

It’s pretty obvious Philadelphia is negotiating through the media now and are trying to put the pressure on … someone. The Red Sox have been linked to Hamels the most in recent weeks and months, reportedly balking at an asking price that includes catcher prospect Blake Swihart, so hey, pulling Boston’s archrival into the mix is a smart move by the Phillies. This is an obvious smokescreen.

I think the Phillies are trying to drive up the price in general, not specifically for the Red Sox. They don’t really care where they trade Hamels — they shouldn’t anyway, the trade is too important to the future of the franchise to handicap things by refusing to trade with certain teams — they want the best possible return. If that’s from the Red Sox, great. If it’s from the Yankees or Rangers or Padres, fine. Whatever. The Phillies simply want the best package of players.

For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman reported yesterday the Yankees have never been particularly close to acquiring Hamels, though he did add some names to the trade rumor mix. From Heyman:

While Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that they’ve never received a “definite request,” and another person familiar with the talks suggested “it was a feel out … nothing solid,” it is known the Phillies like Yankees righthanded pitching prospect Luis Severino and power prospect Aaron Judge … It is believed the Phillies might be interested in a package along the lines of Severino, Judge and perhaps infielder Rob Refsnyder for Hamels.

The Yankees could use a pitcher like Hamels because every team could use a pitcher like Hamels. He’s excellent. Legitimately a top ten pitcher in baseball. Plus he’s signed to a favorable contract — Hamels is owed $94M through 2018 with a vesting option for 2019, which is about two-thirds of what he would get as a free agent. Now that Cliff Lee’s elbow is acting up again, there’s no realistically available alternative to Hamels if you want a top starter.

The injury concerns in New York’s rotation mean they would benefit more from acquiring Hamels than some other teams. They shied away from spending this winter in years more than dollars — they didn’t want to hand out any massive six or seven-year contracts. I think they would be willing to pay the right player $20M+ annually for the right number of years, which may or may not mean Hamels. But would they take on the money and trade top prospects too? They Yankees have been hesitant to do that in the recent past.

My opinion: If the Yankees can get Hamels without giving up Judge, they should jump all over it. That isn’t to say Judge should be untouchable, just that I’m hugging him the most out of the club’s prospects. Ideally, on an ideal situation, something like Severino, Refsnyder, and Gary Sanchez would get it done, but I doubt that happens. Hamels is elite and you’re not going to find any other pitchers of this caliber with that favorable a contract. He helps the Yankees not only in 2015, but 2016-18 as well.

Jimmy Rollins contradicts himself about willingness to join Yankees


Heading into the offseason, the Yankees had the daunting task of finding a new starting shortstop, something they hadn’t had to do in two decades. The free agent market had some possible solutions — none of them great — and the same was true of the trade market. Eventually Brian Cashman parted with Shane Greene to get Didi Gregorius.

But, weeks before the Gregorius trade, the Yankees placed a call into the rebuilding Phillies about veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. That made sense. Even at age 36, Rollins had a good year in 2013, hitting .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers, 28 steals, and his typically solid defense. Plus he only has one year and $11M left on his contract, so Rollins was a perfect one-year stopgap candidate in my opinion.

The Yankees reportedly moved on from Rollins because the asking price was simply too high, which isn’t surprising giving GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s track record. He always seems to ask for the moon and other clubs have complained about his negotiating style. That pushed New York towards Gregorius. Who knows who else they tried to acquire between Rollins and Didi.

Rollins was eventually traded to the Dodgers for two good but not great pitching prospects (righty Zach Eflin and lefty Tom Windle), and during his first conference call with reporters after the trade, he told Mark Saxon he would have only waived his ten-and-five no-trade protection to go to the Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets. But, earlier this week, Rollins told Jon Heyman was not willing to come to the Bronx. From Heyman:

As for the Yankees, the timing wasn’t right as far as Rollins was concerned.

“I wasn’t going to go after (Derek) Jeter,” Rollins, who made his debut in a Dodgers uniform Wednesday here against the White Sox, said. “If I was 26, Ok. But I’m 36. There was not enough time.”

People are allowed to change their mind. Rollins could have been open to coming to the Yankees at the outset of the offseason before deciding against it when he had more time to think things out. But then again, he made both comments after everything played out and he was traded to the Dodgers. Something doesn’t add up!

Anyway, none of this really matters because the Yankees got their shortstop in Gregorius and I greatly prefer trading for the younger, potential long-term shortstop than plugging the hole for a year with Rollins. If the Yankees couldn’t come up with a young shortstop though, Rollins was at the very top of my stopgap list. I’d have taken him over Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, whoever. Too bad he didn’t want to come to the Yankees. Or maybe he did. Who knows?