Yankees offered Ruben Tejada minor league deal before he signed with Cardinals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

I missed this the other day: According to Brendan Kuty, the Yankees offered former Mets infielder Ruben Tejada a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Mark Feinsand says Tejada rejected the deal because he was holding out for a Major League contract. The Cardinals signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.5M over the weekend.

Tejada, 26, opened last season as a utility infielder before taking over as the Mets starting shortstop in the second half. He hit .261/.338/.350 (95 wRC+) overall and played his usually solid defense. Tejada broke his leg on Chase Utley’s infamous NLDS take-out slide, though he had completed his rehab and was playing in Grapefruit League games before the Mets cut him loose.

The Mets released Tejada to save money — they only had to pay him $500,000 of his $3M salary — and it’s no surprise the Cardinals scooped him up. They recently lost Jhonny Peralta for half the season and didn’t have a steady fill-in. The only way the Yankees were going to get Tejada was by claiming him and his $3M salary off waivers. Once he became a free agent and St. Louis could offer their starting shortstop job, it was over. No other team had a chance.

Here is our Scouting the Market post on Tejada. The Yankees are currently looking for a true backup third baseman — Rob Refsnyder has done a nice job in his limited time there this spring — and bringing in middle infield depth is never a bad idea. Tejada can legitimately play short. Always nice to have a guy like that in reserve should injury strike.

For now the Yankees figure to carry Refsnyder as their backup third baseman and use Starlin Castro as their backup shortstop. Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Ronald Torreyes are among the infield options they’ll have stashed in Triple-A. Hopefully they don’t need any of them. Unfortunately, chances are they will. That’s baseball.

Out of options market doesn’t appear to have much help for the Yankees

Lyons. (Presswire)
Lyons. (Presswire)

Each year at the end of Spring Training, there is always a flurry of minor trades as teams finalize their Opening Day rosters. Most of those deals feature out of options players, the guys who have to go through waivers to be assigned to the minor leagues. Rather than lose them for nothing on waivers, teams trade those guys for whatever they can get. Cash, a middling prospect, whatever.

The Yankees have three out of options players: Dustin Ackley, Ivan Nova, and Austin Romine. Ackley and Nova will be on the Opening Day roster in some capacity. Romine is battling for the backup catcher’s spot and could very well end up out of the organization before the start of the regular season. Over a hundred players are out of options this year and the majority have Opening Day roster spots locked up. Very few are actually available.

The out of options market appears to have less to offer than usual this year. I mean, the out of options market is not a gold mine or anything, but usually there’s one or two useful players without roster spots. Not this year. As a result, there are very few out of options players who make sense for the Yankees. With an assist from MLBTR, here are five out of options players of potential interest.

IF Cristhian Adames, Rockies
2016 ZiPS: .284/.327/.386 (78 wRC+), 7 HR, 10 SB, +1.1 WAR
Why? Utility infielder Daniel Descalso took a pitch to the hand and broke a bone last week, clearing a bench spot for Adames. He’s a 24-year-old switch-hitting infielder who came up as a shortstop and also has experience at second and third bases, making him a candidate for that last bench spot. Adames has no power, but he’s had decent contact rates throughout the minors, and he has a reputation for being a strong glove man. He’s basically a taller, switch-hitting version of Ronald Torreyes. The Descalso injury creates a need for the Rockies though, so Adames figures to stick around in Colorado for a little longer.

LHP Tyler Lyons, Cardinals
2016 ZIPS: 3.98 ERA (3.89 FIP), 20.7 K%, 5.1 BB%, +1.4 WAR
Why? The Yankees drafted Lyons with their tenth round pick in 2009, but he opted to return to Oklahoma State for his senior season, then the Cardinals grabbed him in the ninth round in 2010. Lyons, 28, has starter stuff — four and two-seamers right around 90 mph, low-80s slurve, low-80s changeup — but no rotation spot. He doesn’t have a bullpen spot either since it is “more likely than not” the Cardinals will carry Rule 5 Draft pick Matt Bowman into the season, according to Adam Rubin.

The Yankees don’t have any room in their rotation either, but they definitely have room in the bullpen, and Lyons could be another long man who serves as rotation insurance. He’s handled heavy workloads and shown the ability to bounce back quickly, so his arm is pretty resilient, and that’s a plus. If the Cardinals can’t squeeze Lyons onto their roster, I suspect more than a few teams will come calling.

RHP Neil Ramirez, Cubs
2016 ZiPS: 2.94 ERA (3.34 FIP), 27.4 K%, 9.9 BB%, +0.5 WAR
Why? Right now the Cubs have eight relievers for seven bullpen spots, and it looks like the last spot will go to either Ramirez or veteran lefty Clayton Richard. Ramirez was limited to 14 innings last year by shoulder problems and Richard signed a $2M contract over the winter, so yeah. Safe to say Richard is the favorite for that spot right now.

Ramirez, 26, is an ultra-rare four-pitch reliever. He lives in the 91-95 mph range with his two and four-seam fastballs, and he also throws a mid-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. As a result, Ramirez has had a minimal platoon split in his career, and he misses an awful lot of bats. The shoulder trouble is a concern, as is the elbow inflammation he dealt with in 2014, so he’s risky. If healthy though, Ramirez could be a nice little middle innings weapon.

RHP Michael Tonkin, Twins
2016 ZiPS: 3.88 ERA (3.72 FIP), 20.9 K%, 6.5 BB%, +0.4 WAR
Why? Tonkin might throw too hard for the Twins. Okay, fine, that joke is outdated, but it does appear the Twinkies don’t have room in the bullpen for the 26-year-old Tonkin and his mid-90s gas. J.R. Graham, Ryan Pressly, Alex Meyer, and Ryan O’Rourke are his competition for a bullpen spot. Tonkin spent most of last season in Triple-A and he owns a 3.35 ERA (4.07 FIP) in 53.2 big league innings over the last two seasons.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Tonkin makes sense for the Yankees given their shuttle relievers. He’s not much different than, say, Branden Pinder or Nick Goody. They’re all fastball slider guys, except Pinder and Goody have options and Tonkin doesn’t. Adding another arm to the stable is never a bad idea, but Tonkin can’s start like Lyons and he doesn’t offer four pitches with a history of missing bat like Ramirez. He’s just another guy.

RHP Steven Wright, Red Sox
2016 ZiPS: 4.58 ERA (4.50 FIP), 16.3 K%, 7.1 BB%, +0.8 WAR
Why? As with Lyons, the knuckleballing Wright could be another long man/rotation insurance plan. He wasn’t all that good last year, but the good thing about knuckleballers is their resiliency. They can throw three innings today, another two innings tomorrow, then three innings two days after that. That’s a nice trait to have in a long man. Two problems: 1) the Red Sox probably aren’t eager to trade with the Yankees (and vice versa), and 2) the Red Sox aren’t going to move Wright as long as Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee is acting up. Stocking up on rotation depth is always a good idea. It’s just hard to think Wright would ever actually be available to the Yankees.

* * *

The Yankees have some open spots in the bullpen and that last bench spot is up for grabs, but unfortunately the out of options market doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Lyons and Ramirez are the two most interesting out of options players in my opinion, and it’s not impossible they stick with the Cardinals and Cubs come Opening Day. There’s nothing here that is clearly better than what the Yankees already have in house.

Scouting The Waiver Market: Ruben Tejada

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

In a bit of a surprising move, the Mets placed infielder Ruben Tejada on waivers earlier today, reports Adam Rubin. I say surprising because the Amazin’s are cutting loose a big league caliber infielder even though Asdrubal Cabrera is out with a knee injury and David Wright has yet to play in Spring Training as the team manages his spinal stenosis. I get that the Mets like Wilmer Flores, but he can’t play two positions at once.

Anyway, by waiving Tejada now, the Mets will not owe him his full $3M salary for the 2016 season. They’ll only have to pay him one-sixth of that, or $500,000. Middle infielders are always in demand, so Tejada shouldn’t have much trouble landing a new job in the coming days. The Yankees currently have an open bench spot and they lack a true backup third baseman behind Chase Headley, so does Tejada make sense? Let’s look.

The Offense

By no means in Tejada any great shakes at the plate. The 26-year-old (yes, he’s only 26) is a .255/.330/.323 (86 wRC+) hitter in nearly 2,200 big league plate appearances. Last season he had a .261/.338/.350 (95 wRC+) batting line in 407 plate appearances, and in four of the last five seasons he’s managed a wRC+ in the 89-99 range. Keep in mind the average shortstop had an 85 wRC+ in 2015 and the average second baseman had a 93 wRC+.

Tejada is a right-handed hitter who has unsurprisingly done his best work against lefties over the years. He has zero power against all pitchers — he’s hit ten homers with a .068 ISO in those 2,200 or so plate appearances — but he can make contact (15.0 K%) and draw walks (8.6 BB%). Here are Tejada’s career numbers against southpaws:

Ruben Tejada offense

The 2010 season was Tejada’s partial rookie season, so feel free to ignore that year. Even if you do, he’s still been an above-average producer against lefties in every season of his career except one. You don’t want to play Tejada against righties (career 79 wRC+) but he can hold his own against lefties, if not be an asset.

It is important to note Tejada has spent most of his career batting eighth in the NL, right in front of the pitcher, so his walk rate is inflated. He has a career 11.7% walk rate as the No. 8 hitter and a 6.1% walk rate when batting anywhere else in the lineup. Pitchers pitch around the No. 8 hitter in the NL to get to the pitcher whenever they’re in a jam. I don’t mean intentionally walk them either, sometimes they just give them nothing to hit and see if they’ll chase.

Tejada is not a base-stealer (16-for-27 in his career, or 59.3%) and he’s only average at taking the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.), so he doesn’t offer a ton of value on the bases. When it comes to creating runs, Tejada does it by putting the ball in play against lefties and not chasing everything. Move him to the AL and eliminate all those at-bats in front of the pitcher, and you’re likely looking at an 85 wRC+ guy going forward. Not great, but passable.

The Defense

Over the last three or four years it always seemed like the Mets would talk about getting a new shortstop, and yet there Tejada would be at shortstop on Opening Day. He came up through the minors as a shortstop and has played the majority of his big league career there, though he’s also seen some time at second and third bases. His hot corner experience is limited, however (156.1 innings).

The various defensive stats crushed Tejada at shortstop last year, rating him well-below-average, which is not in line with the rest of his career. He’s been scored as average or better at shortstop in previous years. We don’t have a ton of data on his second base and third base work, so there’s no sense in looking at numbers. The scouting reports indicate Tejada is athletic with good range and a strong arm. The defensive tools are there. That’s always been his game. Defense first, offense second.

Injury History

Last fall Tejada rather famously had his lower right fibula broken on a take-out slide by Chase Utley in the NLDS. I’m not sure I would call it a dirty slide, but it was very aggressive and dangerous. Tejada has rehabbed the fracture and had been playing Grapefruit League games before being waived, so he’s good to go. He’s healthy.

The leg fracture is not the only injury of Tejada’s career. Heck, it’s not even the first time he broke his right leg. He also fractured his right fibula in September 2013, when he crashed into a teammate while chasing after a pop-up. Here’s the video:

Two right fibula fractures in the span of three years seems … bad. I don’t know if that makes Tejada more prone to similar fractures going forward, but it can’t be good. His only other notable injuries are right quad strains (missed 48 days in 2007 and 37 days in 2013). The leg fractures are bad news. Everything in baseball starts from the ground up — hitting, fielding, throwing, everything — and if Tejada’s lower half is compromised, he won’t be able to perform as expected.

Contract Status

Tejada and the Mets avoided arbitration over the winter by agreeing to a $3M salary for 2016, but again, the team only owes him one-sixth of that because they placed him on waivers. Interestingly enough, the Mets granted Tejada one extra day of service time as part of their contract agreement, allowing him to become a free agent next offseason. He would have fallen one day short. So, simply put, Tejada is a one-year rental at $3M. If he clears waivers and is released — the waiver process ends Thursday — he can sign with any team for any amount.

Waiver Status

It’s not hard to connect the dots and see Tejada winding up with the Cardinals. St. Louis just lost Jhonny Peralta to a thumb injury and he’s not expected back until midseason. They have Aledmys Diaz (remember him?) as a potential fill-in, but he’s barely played above Double-A, and he fell so out of favor last summer that the Cardinals designated him for assignment. They could use middle infield help and Tejada’s now available.

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

Other teams could use infield help, including the Dodgers, who recently lost Corey Seager for two weeks to a knee issue. I do wonder if the Utley-Tejada dynamic will cause Los Angeles to look elsewhere though. That could be an uncomfortable situation. The Giants could use some infield help. So could the Rockies with Jose Reyes set to be out of action for a long time following his domestic violence incident. The Angels, the Mariners … lots of team could use a spare infielder.

The Cardinals are the most obvious suitor here, and the Yankees do have waiver priority over St. Louis. From November through April, the waiver order is the reverse order of last year’s standings, and the Cardinals had the best record in baseball last year. From May through October, the waiver order is the reverse order of the current year’s standings by league. So NL players have to go through the entire NL before being exposed to AL teams. That doesn’t apply right now. The Yankees will have dibs on Tejada before the Cardinals.

Of course, claiming Tejada means assuming that $3M salary, which is relatively small but not insignificant. I mean, $3M is $3M. It’s real money. Creating 40-man roster space is no problem — the Yankees can slide Greg Bird to the 60-day DL — so acquiring Tejada is really a matter of a) him getting to the Yankees on waivers, and b) the Yankees’ willingness to assume his $3M salary. They could always wait to see if he clears waivers and becomes a free agent, but if that happens, I have a hard time thinking St. Louis would be outbid. They can offer a starting shortstop job.

Wrapping Up

The Yankees recently pulled the plug on Starlin Castro at third base, so their fourth and final bench spot has to go to a backup third baseman. Rob Refsnyder has been working out at the hot corner this spring and seems to have the inside trade on that job. Tejada is another candidate for that spot. He might not hit like Refsnyder, but he’s a better defender and can also fill-in at shortstop. That means Castro could focus on second base and second base only.

Acquiring Tejada would push Refsnyder to Triple-A, yes, but I don’t see this as Tejada or Refsnyder. It’s Tejada and Refsnyder. The Yankees would get to keep both. They could keep Tejada at the MLB level — he has enough service time to refuse an assignment to Triple-A anyway — as their sparsely used backup infielder while Refsnyder plays everyday in the minors and continues to work at third base. It’s another layer of depth.

The Yankees don’t have much in the way of Triple-A infielders right now. With Refsnyder slated to be in the big leagues, the Triple-A infield will consist of Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Ronald Torreyes. I don’t think anyone wants to see them this summer. I’d prefer to see the Yankees add Tejada to their bench, push Refsnyder to Triple-A, and push everyone else further down the depth chart.

Tejada is a +1 WAR player, give or take. No backup infielder is great. He has been able to hold his own as a 400-ish at-bat player for the Mets the last few years, and now we’re talking about making him a 180-ish at-bat bench guy for the Yankees. Tejada could struggle to keep his rhythm with less playing time, or he could really take off by being platooned properly. Considering it would only cost $3M and a waiver claim to acquire him, adding Tejada as infield depth is a move worth making in my book.

Heyman: Yankees and Braves talked 10-player blockbuster with Heyward, Simmons, Severino last year

Simmons and Heyward. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Simmons and Heyward. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Last offseason we learned the Yankees and Braves discussed a blockbuster trade that would have brought Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons to New York for a package of prospects. We later found out Luis Severino would have been part of that trade, which makes sense. The Braves were focusing on young pitching in all their trades last winter and Severino was the best young pitcher the Yankees had to offer.

The trade didn’t go through, obviously. Heyward was traded to the Cardinals, Simmons spent another year in Atlanta before being traded to the Angels, and Severino remains a Yankee. Late last night, Jon Heyman reported some more details of the blockbuster proposal, and it was a five-for-five swap. Check out this deal:

To Yankees: Heyward, Simmons, B.J. Melvin Upton, Chris Johnson, David Carpenter
To Braves: Severino, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, Manny Banuelos

Holy moly, that is a lot of players and a lot of talent. And also some dead roster weight. Heyman says Heyward was told the Yankees were close to getting him “many times” last offseason, for what it’s worth. Keep in mind Heyward was traded to the Cardinals on November 17th, so the Yankees and Braves discussed this blockbuster very early in the offseason. Anyway, I have some thoughts on this.

1. Heyman says the Yankees were the team that declined to pull the trigger, indicating the Braves suggested the five-for-five swap. That makes sense. I have a hard time believing the Yankees would have been willing to put that much young talent on the table — unproven minor league young talent, but young talent nonetheless — and take back what amounted to one long-term piece in Simmons. Heyward was a year away from free agency, Upton and Johnson had albatross contracts, and Carpenter was only a reliever. A good reliever (with the Braves, at least) but still only a reliever. I guess the Yankees could have signed Heyward to an extension, though that doesn’t really change the evaluation of the trade. It’s not like the Braves are giving you the extension. The trade and extension are separate transactions. Based on my 2015 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List, that trade would have sent New York’s four (!) best prospects to the Braves. Sheesh. Too much. Glad they didn’t pull the trigger.

2. I found it pretty interesting Simmons was traded this offseason to the Angels, who are now run by former Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler. I wonder if Eppler was the driving force behind the Yankees’ interest in Simmons. At the very least we know he was on board with trying to acquire Andrelton. That’s understandable. Simmons is the best defensive shortstop in the world and one of the best in history. That said, I am perfectly happy with Didi Gregorius, aren’t you?

Andrelton Simmons Didi Gregorius

Simmons is very good. I would so much rather have Gregorius at the price it took to acquire him than Simmons at the price it would have taken to acquire him, and that was true last offseason. And that’s coming from someone who expected Shane Greene to have a really good year last season. I didn’t foresee him struggling that much at all. Simmons is a very good shortstop with big name value. Didi’s production is comparable, he came at a much lower cost, and he’s cheaper. In the past the Yankees went for the big name, not the smart pickup. Who is this team and what have they done with the Yankees?

3. The Heyward angle is interesting because the Yankees had a full outfield. They had Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran last offseason. What they didn’t have was an idea what they’d get from Alex Rodriguez coming off his suspension. I guess the plan was to put Heyward in right field, move Beltran to DH, and then figure things out with A-Rod later. The Yankees approached last offseason as if Rodriguez was going to be a non-factor. They re-signed Chase Headley to play third base and one of the reasons they acquired Garrett Jones was to ensure they had a backup plan at DH. (Also, Beltran was coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, so he was a question too.) They never needed that backup plan. Rod mashed from Day One. Making the four-man outfield work would have been tricky, but remember, Gardner missed a few games in April after taking a pitch to the wrist, and Ellsbury missed seven weeks after hurting his knee in May. These things have a way of working themselves out.

4. This trade was talked about very early in the offseason, so had it gone through, the Yankees probably would not have re-signed Chris Young and instead let Upton fill that role. What else would they do with him? Bossman Jr. was a total disaster in his two years with the Braves — he hit .198/.279/.314 (66 wRC+) in just over 1,000 plate appearances from 2013-14 — but he did actually have a nice year with the Padres in 2015, putting up a .259/.327/.429 (110 wRC+) batting line with five homers and nine steals in 228 plate appearances around a foot injury. That includes a .254/.369/.423 (124 wRC+) line against southpaws. Nice numbers, but as with Gregorius over Simmons, give me the guy the Yankees actually acquired (Young) over the guy they could have acquired (Upton), especially considering the acquisition cost.

Upton. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Upton. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

5. The Braves would have had to kick in money to make this trade work, right? I can’t imagine they realistically expected the Yankees to give up all that young talent and take on all that salary. Not counting the arbitration-eligible Carpenter, the four guys who would have come to New York in the trade were owed a combined $133.15M across 13 contract seasons. I know a $10.24M average annual value doesn’t sound bad, but it’s not actually spread out across 13 seasons. Most of those seasons overlap. Heyward’s very good and so is Simmons, but how could the Braves not kick in money to facilitate this trade? Substantial money too. They’d have to pay down something like $30M or even $40M of that $113.15M. Giving up all that talent and taking on all that money makes no sense for the Yankees, not when only one of the five players they were set to receive was a significant long-term asset (Simmons).

6. I think both the Yankees and Braves are better off now than they would have been had the trade gone through. The Yankees kept Severino, kept their other prospects, and acquired Gregorius to take over at short. The Braves turned Heyward into Shelby Miller, then Miller into three really good young players (Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair). Simmons fetched a top 20 pitching prospect (Sean Newcomb), another very good pitching prospect (Chris Ellis), and a tradeable veteran (Erick Aybar). Upton’s contract was dumped on the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade with actual prospects going back to Atlanta, and Johnson was sent to the Indians for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn in a trade that rearranged money to make things more favorable for both teams. (The Indians got a lower average annual value and the Braves now have the money coming off the books a year earlier than they would have.) And then Banuelos and Carpenter ended up being traded for each other anyway. I’m sure both the Yankees and Braves were disappointed they weren’t able to work out a trade last year. From the looks of it, both teams are better off with the way things worked out.

7. I’m (very) glad the Yankees walked way from this trade — I don’t mean that in a prospect hugging way, it’s just a lot of talent to give up for two impact players, one of whom was a year away from free agency — and I’m also glad to see they’re at least willing to discuss their top prospects in trades. Too many teams out there seem completely unwilling to even consider making their best prospects available. Young talent is important! It’s also fairly unpredictable and risky. I really like Judge and think he has a chance to be a +4 WAR outfielder down the road, but at the same time, I also recognize he might never get there because he’s so damn big and strikeouts will always be an issue. Banuelos hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery. Clarkin got hurt a few weeks after the blockbuster was discussed. I’m glad the Yankees are emphasizing young talent now. That’s what they need to do at this point. They’d also be smart to not make all their top prospects off-limits. There’s always a point where dealing a highly touted young player makes sense, and teams owe it to themselves to explore those opportunities. They’re often fleeting.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: March 2011

Liriano's reaction to the trade offer you're about to read. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Liriano’s reaction to the trade offer you’re about to read. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Grapefruit League play has begun and the weather is warming up. Baseball is upon us. Also upon us: another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. All we do is go back five years and look through all the Yankees rumors culled together by MLB Trade Rumors, because few things in baseball are as silly as rumors in hindsight.

We’re now into March 2011, so the offseason is over and Spring Training has begun. The Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee, re-signed both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, panic signed Rafael Soriano, watched Andy Pettitte retire, and brought in a bunch of scrap heap veterans to fill out their rotation. Fans weren’t feeling all that great about the club, especially since the Red Sox had a huge offseason (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, etc.) and never make mistakes. To the archives.

March 1st, 2011: Twins Notes: Liriano, Yankees, Cuddyer

The Twins turned down a Yankee offer of Ivan Nova and Ramiro Pena for Francisco Liriano earlier this winter, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.  The Twins, however, are interested in left-handed pitching prospect Manuel Banuelos and want him included in any package from New York.  Rosenthal thinks the two teams will revisit negotiations before Opening Day, but notes the two sides haven’t talked “in at least a month.”  Minnesota assistant GM Rob Antony said last week that the Liriano trade speculation was nothing but rumors.  

Nova and Rakin’ Ramiro for Liriano. What an offer. Keep in mind Liriano was 26 at the time and three years away from free agency. He was coming off a season with a 3.62 ERA (2.66 FIP) in 191.2 innings. Nova, 24 at the time, had all six years of team control left and pitched to a 4.50 ERA (4.36 FIP) during his 42-inning cameo in 2010. Pena was Pena.

This was not a serious offer. This was a “hey maybe the Twins really like Nova and/or hate Liriano” offer. Minnesota had every right to push for Banuelos. It was fair to consider Liriano a top 15 pitcher at the time. Of course, he then had a 5.09 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 134.1 innings in 2011, so yeah. Still though, Nova and Pena for Liriano? Hey, you’re never going to get Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano if you don’t ask.

March 1st, 2011: East Notes: Joba, Wieters, O’s, Damon, Durbin

Johnny Damon tells Ken Davidoff of Newsday that his free agent discussions with the Yankees this past winter involved a scenario that would have seen Damon make three starts per week for New York.  Damon turned the deal down since the lack of playing time would have hurt his quest for 3000 hits.  

The outfield at the time was Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher, with Andruw Jones as the fourth outfielder. Jorge Posada was set to take over as the full-time DH. Even without Andruw, where would Damon have fit? This was a rumor that didn’t make sense. It would have been a nostalgia based signing, not a “he fills a need and fits the roster” signing. The Yankees didn’t need a lefty bat.

March 2nd, 2011: Mark Teixeira Drops Scott Boras

Mark Teixeira dropped agent Scott Boras, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. The first baseman, who is under contract through 2016, says he wants to focus on helping the Yankees win, not signing his next mega-deal.

I forgot about this. It was five years ago and at the time it felt like Teixeira’s contract was never going to end, so this seemed inconsequential. Well, Teixeira is now coming up on free agency, so his agent is kinda important. The internet tells me he is currently represented by Casey Close, so Teixeira’s in good hands. Hard to believe we’re already talking about his impending free agency. Time flies, man.

March 2nd, 2011: Quick Hits: Hall, Young, Feliz, Burnett, Buck

Earlier today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told versatile Astros veteran Bill Hall that the club was “this close” to signing him, tweets Jack Curry of the YES Network.

Ah yes, Bill Hall, one of those guys who was overrated because he was versatile. Hall was 31 at the time and he had just hit .246/.316/.456 (104 wRC+) in 382 plate appearances with the Red Sox. That was, by far, his best season since his out of nowhere 35 homer campaign with the 2006 Brewers. The Astros gave Hall a one-year deal worth $3.25M, people complained the Yankees missed out, then he hit .211/.261/.314 (57 wRC+) in 199 plate appearances in 2011. Hall played his final MLB game in June 2012.

March 3rd, 2011: Red Sox Notes: Ortiz, Gonzalez, Papelbon

Ortiz told Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com that that he would at least consider playing for the Yankees. “Well, if I don’t get signed here, I would play somewhere,” Ortiz said. “You know what I’m saying? I’m not saying I would play for the Yankees, but I if I don’t have a job, I gotta go somewhere else. As long as I play, right?”

Oh, how very nice of David Ortiz to say he would be willing to consider gracing the Yankees with his presence. Of course, Ortiz was entering his contract year in 2011, so he was angling for a new deal. It only made sense to use the Yankees as leverage, especially they were legit World Series contenders and the Red Sox missed the postseason in 2010.

March 4th, 2011: Quick Hits: Richard, Crawford, Feliz, Castro

Vernon Wells would have accepted a trade to the Yankees, not just to the Rangers or Angels, according to Heyman (on Twitter).

Phew, bullet dodged. Wait … dammit!

March 4th, 2011: New York Notes: Izzy, Crawford, Perez, Montero

Jesus Montero appears to have an excellent chance of winning the Yankees’ backup catcher job, since Francisco Cervelli will miss at least four weeks with a broken foot. Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he has no interest in delaying Montero’s arbitration clock by holding him back for the first few months of the season (Twitter link).

Montero in 2010: .289/.353/.517 (133 wRC+) with 21 homers in 504 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Triple-A. Baseball America considered him a super-elite prospect …

montero

… and Cervelli’s foot injury opened the door for Montero to make the roster. It was exciting! Then Montero hit .250/.286/.300 with no homers in 42 Grapefruit League plate appearances and looked rough behind the plate. The Yankees sent him to Triple-A Scranton and went with Gustavo Molina as their backup catcher. Gus went 1-for-6 in three games while Cervelli was out. Montero hit .288/.348/.467 (121 wRC+) with 18 homers in his second go-round at Triple-A, mashed during his September cameo, then was traded for Michael Pineda in the offseason.

Spring Training 2011 was peak Montero hype. His stock was at an all-time high and everyone was convinced he was ready to rake at the MLB level. Yes, his defense was not good, but no one seemed to care. Alas, it was not meant to be. Peak Montero sure was an exciting prospect though.

March 5th, 2011: New York Notes: Mets, Piazza, Yankees, Aceves

Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe that he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to acquire a starter before the Opening Day, and perhaps not until June. “Normally anything of quality doesn’t become available until after the June draft,” said Cashman. “That’s why you try and get as much as you can get accomplished in the winter. I know New York doesn’t handle patience very well. But I’m from Kentucky, so it’s a little easier for me to deal with.”

The 2011 season was a slow year for starter trades. The only starters traded that season were Rodrigo Lopez, Edwin Jackson, Tommy Hunter, and Erik Bedard. The entire 2010-11 offseason and 2011 season was a really down time for starting pitcher transactions. Lee was by far the best free agent starter and no one of consequence was traded during the season. It’s pretty amazing the Yankees were able to cobble together a division winning rotation in 2011. Things looked mighty shaky behind CC Sabathia.

March 9th, 2011: Cashman: Never Made Offer To Chapman

WEDNESDAY, 9:45am: The Yankees “never made an offer” to Chapman, GM Brian Cashman tells ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 10:01pm: The Yankees really liked Aroldis Chapman. A Florida lawsuit against the left-hander’s representatives claims that the Yankees made an “offer to Chapman valued at more than $54MM,” according to Melissa Segura of SI.com (on Twitter, hat tip to River Ave. Blues).

Chapman signed with the Reds in January 2010 and the Yankees reportedly wined and dined him during the 2009-10 offseason. They supposedly brought him to Yankee Stadium for a 2009 World Series game to show him what it was all about. “Never made an offer” is all semantics though. It doesn’t mean they didn’t talk money or terms. It just means they didn’t put a piece of paper in front of him to sign. Five years later, the Yankees finally got their man.

March 9th, 2011: AL East Links: Yankees, Anderson, Slowey

Mariano Rivera told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork that Manny Banuelos is the greatest pitching prospect he has ever seen. “I like everything about him,” Rivera said. Cashman says the left-hander, who turns 20 this weekend, will not start the year higher than Double-A.

I’m glad we’ve moved on from the “best pitching prospect I’ve ever seen” and “he’s the next Roger Clemens” stuff. Nowadays all we hear about pitching prospects is that they’re composed or have impressive command. Normal compliments. Not crazy stuff that sets unfair expectations. Banuelos was pretty awesome back then, but the best pitching prospect he’d ever seen? Sheesh.

March 10th, 2011: A’s, Yanks Agree To Terms With International FAs

The Yankees have agreed to terms with Dominican right-handed pitcher Juan Carlos Paniagua, 20, for $1.1MM, according to Badler. Paniagua, who had previously been suspended by Major League Baseball for one year for age and identity fraud, is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Badler writes. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98 mph, while scouts are mixed on his secondary pitches. The signing of a previously suspended player for fraud is not unprecedented in MLB nor for the Yankees, for the matter, as Badler notes. Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals and Jose Rafael DePaula of the Bombers are two such examples.

Paniagua has an eventful backstory. He played in the Diamondbacks’ system from 2009-10 before his deal was voided because of identity fraud. The Yankees signed him in 2011, though his deal with New York never became official. MLB found he presented the Yankees with falsified documents, so the contract was voided. The Cubs gave Paniagua a $1.5M bonus in 2012 and he’s been pretty terrible since. He has a 4.41 ERA with 109 walks in 208 minor league relief innings. Lot of hassle for a middling prospect.

March 12th, 2011: Yankees, Nationals Scouting Carlos Silva

The Cubs have been watching Carlos Silva‘s spring starts closely as they decide whether he deserves a spot in their starting rotation, but Chicago hasn’t been the only team following Silva’s progress. According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago, the Yankees and Nationals are among the clubs scouting the right-hander.

Silva had a 4.22 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 113 innings for the Cubs in 2010 and never pitched in the big leagues again. Chicago released him at the end of camp and the Yankees quickly signed him to a minor league contract in April. He had a 3.00 ERA in seven minor league starts before coming down with shoulder problems. The team released Silva shortly thereafter and he never pitched again. He was only 32 that season too. Silva went from effective in 2010 to being done by the middle of 2011. Baseball is cruel.

March 13th, 2011: Royals Acquire Robert Fish

The Royals have claimed lefty Robert Fish from the Yankees on outright waivers, according to a team press release. In order to make room for Fish on their 40-man roster, Kansas City has moved right-hander Henry Barrera to the 60-day disabled list.

March 13th, 2011: Quick Hits: Looper, Turpen, Moyer, CBA, Nationals

One of the Yankees‘ Sunday roster moves involved returning Rule 5 pick Daniel Turpen to the Red Sox, as Chad Jennings of the Journal News notes.

March 14th, 2011: Padres Return George Kontos To Yankees

The Padres announced that they returned Rule 5 draft pick George Kontos to the Yankees. 

Might as well lump all the Rule 5 Draft guys together. The Yankees selected Fish and Turpen in the Rule 5 Draft that offseason and neither made it through Spring Training. They combined to allow nine runs in 8.1 innings in camp. Neither reached the big leagues and they’re both out of baseball now. Turpen at least spent a few years in Triple-A.

Kontos was coming off Tommy John surgery in 2010 so it was no surprise he didn’t stick with the Padres in camp. He had a 2.62 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 89.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton in 2011, made his MLB debut in September, then was traded for Chris Stewart at the end of Spring Training 2012. Moral of the story: most Rule 5 Draft picks are duds, especially pitchers.

March 15th, 2011: Release Candidate: Sergio Mitre

Some scouts are “convinced the Yankees are going to release Sergio Mitre,” reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  The club has two open rotation spots and one long relief job, which could go to Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova in some combination.

Mitre in 2010: 3.33 ERA (4.69 FIP) in 54 innings across three starts and 24 relief appearances. That’s … not terrible by swingman standards? The Yankees were thin on starting pitching and releasing a possible starter, even if he was only No. 7 or 8 on the depth chart, seemed a little weird. Then again, it was Mitre. No one expected him to be good.

March 15th, 2011: AL East Notes: Martinez, Crawford, Sanchez

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Yankees right-hander Romulo Sanchez has been impressing scouts (Twitter link). The out-of-options 26-year-old could fit on a team looking for relief help, according to Rosenthal.

Romulo! I totally forgot about him. The Yankees got him a minor trade in May 2009 — they sent current Korea Baseball Organization stud Eric Hacker to the Pirates — and Sanchez had a 4.31 ERA in 64.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton in 2009, then a 4.31 ERA in 104.1 innings for the RailRiders in 2010. Romulo came up in September and allowed one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings. The Yankees cut him loose at the very end of Spring Training in 2011 so he could sign with a team in Japan. Romulo was still active last season; he allowed two runs in nine innings with a team in Mexico.

March 16th, 2011: Felix Hernandez’s No-Trade Clause

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez can block trades to ten teams, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports learned eight of them: the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, and Phillies.  Morosi adds:

Felix had just signed a five-year extension prior to the 2010 season, so there was no logical reason for the Mariners to consider trading him. He was only 24 (!) at the time and the return would have had to have been massive. Unrealistically massive. Anyway, notice Hernandez had nothing but big market clubs on his no-trade list. That’s because those are the teams that would be most willing and able to compensate him for waiving his no trade clause. Felix could have demanded a big extension in exchange for approving a trade to New York. It’s all about leverage. He didn’t necessarily not want to go to those teams.

March 16th, 2011: Yankees Watched Millwood Pitch

7:53pm: The Yankees were the only team to watch Millwood today, according to Sherman (Twitter links). The Yankees clocked his fastball at 85 mph and say they’ll only offer a minor league deal. However, Millwood still wants a Major League contract.

PitchFX says Millwood’s average fastball was 88.9 mph in 2011. The Yankees did get him to take a minor league deal later in March, and Millwood eventually exercised an opt-out clause in May. Inconsequential move.

March 21st, 2011: Yankees Have Some Interest In Oliver Perez

Here’s one for the back pages and talk show hosts. The Yankees have discussed Oliver Perez as a potential cheap addition, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). However, GM Brian Cashman doesn’t seem enthused about the 29-year-old left-hander.

Oh lordy. Perez was entering the final season of his three-year, $27M contract, but he was so bad (6.81 ERA and 6.64 FIP from 2009-10) the Mets released him in Spring Training. They released him that day, actually. March 21st. The Yankees could have signed him for the league minimum and carried him as a depth arm given the state of their rotation. They never did. Perez hooked on with the Nationals, spent 2011 in Double-A (4.04 ERA in 75.2 innings), then resurfaced with the Mariners as a reliever in 2012. He’s been quite effective since. But back then? Yeah, no one wanted him. The Yankees needed arms but they weren’t that desperate.

March 23rd, 2011: New York Notes: Posada, Cano, Mets

Jorge Posada told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he hopes to re-sign with the Yankees after the season, when he hits free agency. If the Yankees don’t want him back, he would consider playing elsewhere, even though he doesn’t want to sign with another team. “I would [leave], if it’s the right situation,” he said. “It’s got to be the right situation.”

The David Ortiz situation applies here: Posada’s contract was up after the season and he was angling for a new deal. Unlike Ortiz, Posada did not produce in 2011, so finding a new job was tough. He announced his retirement following the season. I miss Jorge. He’s on my very short list of all-time favorite Yankees. Switch-hitting catchers with power and patience are my jam.

March 23rd, 2011: Minor Deals: Raynor, Ortegano, McCulloch

The Braves lost a second player on waivers today, when the Yankees claimed left-hander Jose Ortegano. The Yankees optioned the 23-year-old to Triple-A, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger (on Twitter). In 131 minor league innings spent mostly at Triple-A last year, Ortegano posted a 5.98 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 as a starter.

Ortegano was kinda sorta a prospect even though he had a 5.98 ERA in 131 innings at Double-A and Triple-A with the Braves in 2010. The Yankees claimed him off waivers in March and he almost immediately got hurt. Ortegano never pitched again. That 2010 season was his last in any league around the world. Rough. He’s still only 28 too.

March 24th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Colon, Garcia, Molina, Pitching

Brian Cashman tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud blog that he’s received a few calls from other general managers in regards to the extra pitchers in New York’s camp.  “It’s been very quiet for the most part….Everybody’s just picking the phone up and checking in with each other, myself included,” Cashman said.

It was funny to hear the Yankees had “extra” pitchers in Spring Training that year because the exact opposite felt true. How were they going to get 162 starts out of those guys? Bartolo Colon was throwing well but Freddy Garcia got hammered in camp (4.91 ERA) and inspired zero confidence. The Yankees also had Mitre, Sanchez, and Steve Garrison in camp as extra arms, and they later added Silva and Millwood. Somehow it all worked.

March 25th, 2011: Brewers Acquire Sergio Mitre

The Brewers have acquired Sergio Mitre from the Yankees for Chris Dickerson. The move provides the Brewers with the pitching depth they coveted and opens up a spot in the Yankees bullpen, possibly for Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon.

I was a Dickerson fan and I wish the Yankees would have given him an opportunity over some of the fifth outfield dreck they cycled through from 2011-12. Guys like Greg Golson, Dewayne Wise, and Melky Mesa. Dickerson could hit righties a bit, he could run, and he could play defense. Alas, it never worked out. He landed with the Orioles in 2013 and has been bouncing around from team to team since.

March 26th, 2011: Quick Hits: Rangers, Astros, Reyes, Burrell, Belt

As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reminds us, chances are that back-of-the-rotation won’t be the one the Yankees finish the season with.

The rotation to open the 2011 season was, in order, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees used off-days to push Garcia’s first start back as much as possible. (He didn’t start until Game 13.) By the end of the season, the rotation was Sabathia, Burnett, Nova, Garcia, and Colon. Hughes had a back issues and wound up in the bullpen down the stretch. So technically, yeah, the back-of-the-rotation the Yankees started the season with was not the one they finished with, but it was close enough. Somehow Sabathia, Burnett, Nova, Garcia, Colon, and Hughes accounted for 157 of 162 starts. What a time to be alive. (Hector Noesi and Brian Gordon made two spot starts each and Dellin Betances started the meaningless Game 162.)

March 27th, 2011: Astros Return Lance Pendleton To Yankees

The Astros have returned Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton to the Yankees, tweets Astros’ director of social media Alyson Footer. Pendleton cleared waivers and will be assigned to New York’s minor league camp (Twitter link).

Pants Lendleton! He actually ended up pitching for the Yankees a little bit in 2011 — he allowed 14 runs in 18.2 mop-up innings at midseason — before they dropped him from the 40-man roster in September. The Astros claimed him, he allowed nine runs in 4.2 innings, and he never pitched in the big leagues again. Pendleton had a 5.02 ERA in 129 Triple-A innings with the Rays in 2012, his final season as a player. These MLBTR posts bring back the ghosts of DotF past, eh?

Sherman: Yankees offered Juan Uribe a minor league deal

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

I missed this the other day: Joel Sherman reports the Yankees offered infielder Juan Uribe a minor league contract before he took a one-year deal worth $4M or so with the Indians. He’s expected to take over as Cleveland’s starting third baseman, pushing young Giovanny Urshela either to the bench or back to Triple-A.

The Yankees did not sign a Major League free agent all offseason — they did agree to a deal with Tommy Hunter before backing out over medical concerns — so I’m not surprised they didn’t want to guarantee a roster spot to a player who will turn 37 next month. It could have been an attempt at 40-man roster manipulation — the Yankees wanted Uribe but also wanted to wait until they could slide Greg Bird to the 60-day DL so they didn’t have to cut anyone — but that seems unlikely.

I thought Uribe would have been a very good bench addition for the Yankees. He would have been a legitimate backup to Chase Headley at third base, plus a potential fill-in at second base, and maybe even first base well. I don’t blame Uribe for taking a guaranteed deal and a starting third base job with the Indians over a minor league deal and a bench job with the Yankees. I’d have done the same. Not much of a surprise that he turned down New York.

The Yankees will try Rob Refsnyder and Starlin Castro at third base in camp, and if that doesn’t work, they have Donovan Solano and Pete Kozma as backup infielder options. David Freese remains unsigned and as with Uribe, I think it’s only a matter of time until some team offers a small contract to start. Maybe the Angels or Pirates. The Yankees could always comb the out of options market come the end of Spring Training.

Last season Uribe hit .253/.320/.407 (104 wRC+) with 14 homers in 119 games with the Dodgers, Braves, and Mets. He’s a very good hot corner defender and has a reputation for being a Grade-A clubhouse dude too. Uribe would have been a real nice bench pickup. Alas.

Cashman “doesn’t anticipate” making any moves prior to Opening Day

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees have a recent history of making roster upgrades — minor upgrades, but upgrades nonetheless — in Spring Training, most notably landing Chris Stewart in 2012 and Shawn Kelley in 2013. There are still some decent free agents available and reportedly plenty of teams are still looking to swing trades. The opportunity to upgrade is there.

As Brian Cashman tells it, the Yankees are unlikely to make any moves prior to Opening Day. The GM told Brendan Kuty he “doesn’t anticipate anything in the short term,” though of course that could change in an instant. “I think I spent all winter trying to explore all options and every opportunity that was available. This is the result of those efforts,” he added. “That doesn’t stop. It never should stop.”

Before he signed with the White Sox today, I half expected Jimmy Rollins to stroll into camp when position players report Wednesday. Generally speaking though, I don’t think there are any available free agents who are worth guaranteeing a big league roster spot right now. Juan Uribe was the last one who made sense for the Yankees, and I don’t blame him for taking a starting job with the Indians over a bench job in New York. Tim Lincecum? Cliff Lee? Eh.

Trades? Who knows. Those things come out of nowhere. (Reminder: Brett Gardner to the Angels still makes sense.) I’m interested to see MLBTR’s annual list of out of options players next month. There could be a fit for the Yankees there, maybe a utility player for the last bench sport or even an arm worth a flier in middle relief. That’s how the Yankees ended up with Kelley.

The Yankees are committed to using their farm system now and they’re going young wherever possible. They seem more likely to plug any roster hole from within than go outside the organization. You can never rule anything out, these are the Yankees, but I would be surprised if they made any of kind of move that changed the Opening Day roster outlook this spring.