Scouting the Trade Market: Atlanta Braves

Newcomb. (Presswire)
Newcomb. (Presswire)

After 20 years and zero World Series wins, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of Turner Field and into brand new SunTrust Park next season. I have some fond memories of Turner Field. There’s the 1999 World Series, Derek Jeter being named All-Star Game MVP in 2000, the Frankie Cervelli home run in 2009, the blowout series in 2015 … it was a good place for the Yankees. They’re 14-2 all-time at Turner Field, you know.

Anyway, Turner Field is closing its doors next season and the Braves are moving into their new ballpark. They lost 93 games in 2016, but the goal is to be as competitive as possible in 2017, which is why they’ve already signed R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to bolster the rotation. The Braves are said to be in on Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, and Chris Archer too, among others. And we know they were in on Brian McCann during the summer as well.

The McCann trade rumors have picked up again this offseason. He grew up in nearby Athens and still lives in Atlanta in the offseason, plus he played his first nine seasons with the Braves, so it stands to reason McCann would be willing to wave his no trade clause to go back home. The Braves want his power bat and veteran leadership to guide all their young pitchers through the rebuild. It’s easy to understand why any team would want him, really.

Atlanta has a stacked farm system that is especially loaded with pitchers, something the Yankees crave. They reportedly asked for righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte at the trade deadline, but no dice. Maybe the team’s willingness to eat $17M of the $34M left on McCann’s contract will be enough to change the Braves’ mind. We’ll see. Let’s take a trip through their organization and look at some possible trade targets. All scouting reports come from MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

LHP Kolby Allard

Background: Allard, 19, was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He was arguably the top high school pitching prospect in the draft class, but he fell due to a stress reaction in his back that caused him to miss most of his senior season in high school. Allard had a minor procedure following the 2015 season and has been fine since. He had a 2.62 ERA (2.98 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.0% walks in 99.2 innings split between rookie ball and Low-A in 2016. MLB.com currently ranks Allard as the 60th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “He was throwing his fastball in the 90-94 mph range (in 2015). He’s shown the ability to reach back for more in the past. Allard has a plus curve, with some evaluators seeing it as a 70 eventually. He has a feel for a changeup, especially given his age and experience. Allard hides the ball well, with Cliff Lee-like deception, and his fastball has good late life.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Allard has a ton of potential even if he doesn’t have a true ace ceiling. A polished southpaw with an out-pitch curveball and feel for a changeup, especially at such a young age, has a chance to pitch a very long time in the big leagues. And, as always, quality left-handed starters are always welcome in Yankee Stadium.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many pure baseball reasons. The biggest concern with Allard is his back. He had the stress reaction last spring, which lingered long enough to require some kind of surgery last November. Also, as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in the low minors, there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong.

RHP Aaron Blair

Background: The Diamondbacks made the 24-year-old Blair the 36th overall pick in the 2013 draft, then traded him to the Braves last winter in the ridiculous Shelby Miller deal. Blair made his MLB debut this past season and it was not pretty. He had a 7.59 ERA (6.15 FIP) with 14.2% strikeouts and 10.5% walks in 70 innings. His Triple-A showing was just okay: 4.65 ERA (3.38 FIP) with 22.6% strikeouts and 10.2% walks in 71.2 innings. Blair shuttled up and down all year.

Scouting Report: “The Marshall product has three above-average pitches in his repertoire with a good feel for pitching. His fastball can touch 95 mph and will sit in the low-90s consistently. He throws it with movement and sink, generating a good amount of ground ball outs. He’s always had a very good changeup and his breaking ball has improved to the point where it, too, flashes above average. He works quickly and tends to go right after hitters, typically not hurting himself too much with walks … He has the makings of a workhorse No. 3 type starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Coming into the season Blair was a consensus top 100 prospect — MLB.com ranked him 56th and Baseball America ranked him 60th — so the kid obviously has some talent. He had a tough start to his MLB career, but so what? It happens. Blair has three pitches and pitchability, so there are still reasons to believe he can be a solid long-term starter. The Yankees would be buying low on him right now.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? We can’t completely sweep Blair’s terrible 2016 performance under the rug. It happened and there’s information to be gleaned from it. Was his fastball command not up to snuff? Did hitters lay off his breaking ball? It’s a small sample, sure, but there’s still stuff in there that could be a reason to stay away.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

Background: Foltynewicz, 25, was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Astros. They traded him to Atlanta during the 2014-15 offseason in the Evan Gattis deal. Foltynewicz threw 86.2 ineffective innings for the Braves last year (5.71 ERA and 5.05 FIP), though he was much better in 2016. This season he had a 4.31 ERA (4.24 FIP) with 21.1% strikeouts and 6.7% walks in 123.1 innings around an elbow issue.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “According to Pitchf/x his fastball reached 101 mph in the Major Leagues last season and he routinely throws in the upper-90s as a starter. Like most young flamethrowers, he has had to work on his fastball command and improving the consistency of his offspeed pitches … He has all the tools necessary to start for the Braves if he can harness his powerful fastball. Otherwise, he’ll fit well at the back of the bullpen.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Foltynewicz does throw really hard — he averaged 95.2 mph as a starter in 2016 — and his array of offspeed pitches include a mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. It’s the kind of power stuff the Yankees love. Foltynewicz has also made some real strikes with his secondary stuff and overall command the last two or three years, so he’s improving.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? For starters, Foltynewicz missed time with bone spurs at midseason, though he didn’t need surgery. Secondly, his non-fastballs still aren’t great. The curveball had an average swing-and-miss rate in 2016 and the slider was below-average. Foltynewicz doesn’t have a good ground ball pitch, hence his career 36.9% ground ball rate (and 1.50 HR/9). He’s a classic good fastball/so-so everything else pitcher, and the Yankees haven’t had much luck with those.

OF Ender Inciarte

Background: Once upon a time Inciarte was a Rule 5 Draft pick by the Phillies, but they returned him to the D’Backs and opted to keep Delmon Young on the roster instead. D’oh. Inciarte, now 26, has been a regular for close to three full seasons now, and during that time he’s hit .292/.337/.385 (95 wRC+) with 13 homers and 56 steals in just under 1,600 plate appearances. This past season he hit .291/.351/.381 (97 wRC+) with three homers and 16 steals after coming over in the Shelby Miller heist.

Scouting Report (from me): Inciarte is a left-handed hitting contact machine, with a career 11.3% strikeout rate and an 89.2% contract rate. He’s top ten in contact rate since 2014, alongside guys like Michael Brantley and Joe Panik and Daniel Murphy. Inciarte doesn’t have much power, he doesn’t steal a ton of bases, and he doesn’t draw many walks either, so his offensive value depends heavily on his batting average. In the field, he’s an excellent defender capable of playing all three outfield positions.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees don’t have a hitter like Inciarte, that high-contact lefty who opponents can’t shift against. Jacoby Ellsbury was supposed to be that guy, but it hasn’t worked out. Inciarte is similar to Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as a low power lefty bat, but unlike those two, his best years probably aren’t already behind him. Also, at some point Ellsbury is going to have to move to left field, so the Yankees need a long-term center fielder. Inciarte would fit the bill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? How many of the same player do the Yankees need? Even if they trade Gardner, they’d still be trotting out two defense first, no power outfielders. The Yankees have outfield depth too, including some very highly touted prospects. Add Inciarte to Ellsbury and there’s one less spot for Aaron Judges and Clint Fraziers of the world.

LHP Sean Newcomb

Background: Newcomb, 23, was the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Angels. They traded him to the Braves in the Andrelton Simmons deal last offseason. This past summer Newcomb had a 3.86 ERA (3.19 FIP) with 25.6% strikeouts and 11.9% walks in 140 innings, all at Double-A. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 46th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “There were readings of Newcomb’s fastball touching triple digits in 2015 and he’ll sit in the 94-97 mph range. Big and physical, he maintains that velocity and does so without too much effort. Newcomb’s curve has become a plus pitch, one that misses plenty of bats. His changeup gives him a third at least Major League average offering. Newcomb does have to cut down on his walks to reach his ceiling.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Again, quality lefties are always good to have when you call Yankee Stadium home. Newcomb is a physically huge guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 255 lbs. — and he’s never been hurt, so you’re looking at a workhorse southpaw with three quality pitches and above-average velocity. You can be dealt worse cards.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Newcomb has a lot of problems throwing strikes. Has his entire baseball life. Just last season he walked 13.2% of batters faced at Single-A and Double-A. It’s not a mechanical problem either. Newcomb has a very smooth delivery and he repeats it well. It’s a “throwing strikes is hard” problem. Newcomb has really good size and stuff, but it comes with bad control and basically zero command.

3B Rio Ruiz

Background: The Astros took the 22-year-old Ruiz in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and paid him a huge overslot bonus ($1.85M). He went to the Braves in the Gattis trade with Foltynewicz. Ruiz hit .271/.355/.400 (118 wRC+) with ten homers, 21.8% strikeouts, and 11.4% walks in 133 Triple-A games this year. He made his MLB debut in September and went 2-for-7 (.286) with a triple.

Scouting Report: “With a smooth swing from the left side and excellent plate discipline, Ruiz should hit for average. He also has more power than he’s shown thus far. He goes very well to left-center … While there have been concerns about Ruiz’s ability to stay at third, he improved his agility just enough, adding a touch more range that could help him stay at the hot corner.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Ruiz is not one of Atlanta’s very best prospects, but the Yankees have a long-term opening at third base. I like Miguel Andujar too, but you can never really count on one prospect to be the guy. Ruiz is lefty hitter with plate discipline, two traits synonymous with most successful Yankees teams, plus the presence of Chase Headley means they could send the kid to Triple-A for more seasoning if it’s deemed necessary.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are questions about Ruiz’s power potential and ability to stay at third. He’s not an atrocious defender by any means, but he’s not going to save a ton of runs either, which means he’ll draw most of his value with his bat. Yankee Stadium would help Ruiz pop a few more dingers, but he’s seen as more of a 10-15 homer guy than a 20+ homer guy long-term. The downside here is a low power first baseman. The upside is an average offensive third baseman with mediocre defense. Meh.

RHP Mike Soroka

Background: The Braves selected the 19-year-old Soroka with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They jumped him right to Low-A this season, where he had a 3.02 ERA (2.79 FIP) with 21.4% strikeouts and 5.5% walks in 143 innings. That’s quite a performance (and workload) for a kid who was nearly four years younger than the average South Atlantic League player. MLB.com currently ranks Soroka as the 90th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “The 6-foot-4 right-hander brings an exciting mixture of stuff and feel for pitching to the table … His fastball sits in the low-90s and he commands it well. He can really spin his breaking ball and has a good feel for a changeup. He absolutely pounds the strike zone and could have above-average command when all is said and done. Wise beyond his years, he takes things like nutrition and conditioning seriously.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Pretty obvious, no? Soroka already has good stuff and command — he does have to improve the consistency of his breaking ball and changeup, which is typical 19-year-old pitching prospect stuff — plus he’s a very driven player who works hard to get better.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Not many reasons, really. Soroka is inherently risky as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in Single-A because there’s still so much that can go wrong before he reached the big leagues. That’s about it. The tools and pitchability are already there.

RHP Matt Wisler

Background: The 24-year-old Wisler was a seventh round pick by the Padres in 2011, and he developed into one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Baseball America ranked him as the 34th best prospect in baseball prior to last season. Wisler was the headliner in the Craig Kimbrel trade last year, and in 265.2 big league innings, all with Atlanta, he has a 4.88 ERA (4.88 FIP). This season it was a 5.00 ERA (4.85 FIP) with 17.1% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 156.2 innings.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “While Wisler won’t overpower hitters, he does have a pair of plus pitches and throws strikes with four offerings. His main two weapons are a 90-95 mph sinker and a changeup with plenty of deception and fade. Both of his breaking balls are effective, with his low-80s slider featuring some tilt and his mid-70s curveball used more to keep opponents off balance.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? It wasn’t too long ago that Wisler was a top pitching prospect, and since the bloom is off the rose now, his value is down. They’d be buying low. Despite the low strikeout rate, Wisler’s slider has registered an above-average swing-and-miss rate in the big leagues, plus both his four-seamer and sinker sit comfortably in the mid-90s. The Yankees would be acquiring Wisler and hoping to tap into the potential he showed going into last season.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? More than a few reasons. One, that supposedly plus changeup has been a terrible pitch in the big leagues, getting neither whiffs nor ground balls. Also, Wisler has had problems keeping the ball on the ground (career 37.5% grounders) and in the park (1.42 HR/9). At this point we have more than 250 innings of big league hitters telling us Wisler doesn’t fool them.

* * *

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Braves prospects list. Their tank job has led to a very deep and very good farm system. One of the best in the game. I picked only eight guys for this post, but there are plenty others the Yankees should consider in trade talks. Just don’t expect to get Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, or any of the three big arms the Braves drafted in June (Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller).

Unlike Joe Musgrove and the Astros, there’s no one with the Braves who jumps out at me as a must-have in a McCann trade. I like the idea of Newcomb because it could just click one day and he’ll start throwing strikes, but he’s risky. Foltynewicz throws hard and that’s about it. I’ve seen enough Inciartes in my lifetime to know those guys go from WAR All-Stars to barely playable in a hurry. The teenage arms in Single-A are exciting, but they’re teenage arms in Single-A. The Braves could offer New York prospects of all shapes and sizes. It’s just a question of who much risk they’re willing to assume.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: November 2011

Sanchez. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Sanchez. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Now that we’re into November, our series looking back at the MLB Trade Rumors archives is heading into the offseason. That’s the best time of the year for free agent and trade rumors. As a reminder, the purpose of this series is to simply look back at things that were being written five years ago to see how silly or spot on they were with the benefit of hindsight. What good are rumors if you read them once and forget ’em?

We’re in November 2011 now. The Yankees went 97-65 and won the AL East in 2011 despite some season-long pitching problems. They lost out on Cliff Lee during the 2010-11 offseason and had to rely on guys like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees wasted no time handling their most pressing offseason business after getting bounced from the ALDS by the Tigers in five games though. They inked CC Sabathia to an extension before he could use his opt-out on October 31st, 2011. Now let’s see what happened in November 2011.

November 1st, 2011: Yankees, Cashman Agree To Extension

The Yankees have agreed to an extension with GM Brian Cashman, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). The sides agreed to a three-year deal, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter) and they are waiting for the World Series to end before making any announcements.

The other pressing piece of offseason business. For a while it seemed Cashman would not return to the Yankees following the 2011 season. There were rumblings he was unhappy ownership had gone over his head to make some moves, most notably the Rafael Soriano signing, though it’s unclear whether that was actually true. Also, after 14 years on the job, some burnout could have been setting in.

Instead, Cashman re-signed with the Yankees the day after the Cardinals won the World Series, which took all the mystery out of it. The Yankees didn’t have to start the offseason with no GM. If Cashman was upset about the way the team was being run, it didn’t stand in his way of coming back. He had options that offseason — the Cubs, Orioles, and Astros all hired new GMs that winter — but chose to stay.

November 1st, 2011: Yankees Decline Option On Andrew Brackman

The Yankees declined their 2012 option on righty Andrew Brackman, GM Brian Cashman told reporters on a conference call today.  The 6’10” 25-year-old righty is now a free agent; ESPN’s Keith Law explains that Brackman’s contract called for the Yankees to release him if they didn’t pick up his option. 

The Yankees swung for the fences in the 2007 draft and came up empty. Brackman was one of the top prospects in the draft class but was also one of the riskiest, because he was a huge guy (6-foot-10) who split time between baseball and basketball in college. His mechanics needed a lot of work. The Yankees gambled on his upside with the 30th overall pick.

It didn’t work out. Brackman had Tommy John surgery almost immediately after signing — the Yankees knew he needed the procedure at the time of the draft — and worked his way up the minors. He did reach the big leagues, appearing in three games with the Yankees at the end of 2011. Brackman allowed one hit and three walks in 2.1 big league innings. He struck out zero and allowed no runs.

Back in those days teams could sign draftees to Major League contracts, and the Yankees gave Brackman a four-year deal worth $4.5M guaranteed. Escalators and options could have pushed the total value to $13M across seven years. The Yankees reportedly ended up paying him around $11M before cutting him loose after 2011.

Brackman spent time with the Reds (2012) and White Sox (2013) before giving up baseball and going to play basketball overseas. I have no idea what happened to him after that. He turns 31 next month. Isn’t that nuts? It still feels like the Yankees just drafted the guy. Geez.

November 1st, 2011: Quick Hits: Moyer, Darvish, Yankees, Tigers

The Yankees expect to be heavily involved in trade talks this offseason because they have prospects to trade and are willing to deal pitching, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (on Twitter).

The Yankees did eventually trade prospects for pitching that offseason. That was the Jesus MonteroMichael Pineda offseason. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked New York’s farm system as the 13th best in baseball, and that was after trading Montero. They had some prospects to deal.

Here’s the complete list of starting pitchers traded during the 2011-12 offseason: Jonathan Sanchez, Trevor Cahill, Mat Latos, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Zambrano, Jason Hammel, A.J. Burnett, and Pineda. Not the most exciting group there. Gio has been by far the most effective pitcher since that offseason, though Cahill and Latos were also highly regarded at the time. So was Pineda.

November 2nd, 2011: AL East Notes: Red Sox, Oswalt, Sabathia

The Yankees are “open-minded” about the possibility of moving A.J. Burnett or anyone else without a full no-trade clause, according to Chad Jennings of the Journal News. However, the GM sees value in the innings Burnett has provided.

Burnett was coming off his second straight awful season with the Yankees. He had a solid 2009 season (4.04 ERA and 4.33 FIP) before crashing hard from 2010-11 (5.20 ERA and 4.80 FIP). There were two years and $33M left on his contract too. Needless to say, Burnett’s trade value was nil. As soon as the Yankees brought in some other pitchers that offseason, they dumped Burnett as quickly as possible. He had a bad 2010 season, was given a chance to right ship in 2011, then was let go.

November 4th, 2011: Brian Cashman On Wilson, Pujols, Sabathia

“I think he would be on anybody’s wish list,” said Cashman when asked about Albert Pujols. “In our circumstances, our roster, he doesn’t fit. It’s not an efficient way to try to allocate your resources.”

The Yankees had a pretty good first baseman in Mark Teixeira, who was three years into his eight-year contract. Also, Alex Rodriguez needed more time at DH with each passing season. There was no room for Pujols on the roster, but that didn’t stop people from connecting him to New York. Sign Pujols and trade Teixeira, as if it would be that easy. Thankfully the Yankees did not sign Pujols. What a disaster that would have been.

November 5th, 2011: East Notes: Oswalt, Wilson, Garcia, Madson Cuddyer

The Yankees have contacted the agent for free agent starters Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger. Bombers GM Brian Cashman, however, cautioned that he’s “in the process of talking to everybody.”

Roy Oswalt! He had a good year with the Phillies in 2011 (3.69 ERA and 3.44 FIP), but no one bothered to sign him until May 2012. People were mad the Yankees didn’t sign Oswalt. People are mad about everything these days. Anyway, Oswalt had a 5.80 ERA (4.23 FIP) with the Rangers in 2012 and people stopped being mad. He did find a job for 2013 …

Oswalt Rockies

… and I have zero recollection of Roy Oswalt as a Rockie. None whatsoever. I’m looking at it with my own eyes and I still don’t believe it really happened. Apparently he had a 8.63 ERA (3.08 FIP) in 32.1 innings with Colorado. Hasn’t pitched since.

November 7th, 2011: Yoenis Cespedes To Gain Free Agency

5:49pm: Yankees GM Brian Cashman confirmed that he saw the Cespedes video, but wouldn’t say whether the Yankees are interested, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger (link on Twitter; the video has been removed). 

2:25pm: The Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays, Giants, Marlins, Nationals, Indians, Athletics, and Pirates have had a presence at Cespedes’ workouts, reports Yahoo’s Tim Brown.  Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters today that his team will not be involved on Cespedes, however (via Andrew Baggarly on Twitter).  

Remember the Yoenis Cespedes workout video? No one had heard of the guy, but then he released this over-the-top workout video, and bam, everyone had to have him. The original video has apparently been taken down. Here’s a muted version instead:

Good times. Brings back some memories. I don’t think anyone went from “I’ve never heard of this guy” to “holy crap my favorite team needs to sign him now!” quicker than Cespedes. At least he lived up to the hype. A few too many of these big name Cuban guys are falling short of expectations nowadays.

The Yankees attended Cespedes’ workouts and did their due diligence, but as is the case with every big name Cuban player these days, they didn’t sign him. He went to the A’s of all teams.

November 7th, 2011: Quick Hits: Maddux, Maine, Jackson, Darvish

The Yankees have had preliminary discussions with agent Scott Boras about free agent starter Edwin Jackson, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.

Jackson was a stathead darling for a few years, back before everyone realized a pitcher’s ERA doesn’t have to equal his FIP over the long haul. From 2010-11, he had a 4.14 ERA (3.71 FIP) in 409 innings. After signing a one-year deal with the Nationals — I remember folks being stunned he had to settle for a one-year deal — Jackson had a 4.03 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 189.2 innings. That’s who he was, but because he was young (28) and had the whole ERA > FIP thing going on, people expected more, and it never came. Classic tease pitcher.

November 8th, 2011: Heyman On Posada, Dodgers, Beltran, Morrison

The Yankees were disappointed Jonathan Sanchez went to the Royals, as they believed they had more to offer to the Giants.  The Royals acquired Sanchez and a minor leaguer from the Giants for Melky Cabrera yesterday.

Sanchez, who was 29 during the 2011-12 offseason, had a few good years with the Giants and threw a no-hitter, but he was generally a good stuff/bad command guy. Kinda like Pineda. Someone who left you wanting more. The Yankees were disappointed they didn’t get Sanchez but it’s a good thing they didn’t. He immediately fell apart after the trade. He had an 8.73 ERA (7.15 FIP) in 78.1 innings after the deal and hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2013. As best I can tell, Sanchez was completely out of baseball last year. Still, starters were being moved and the Yankees were missing out. Fans were getting restless.

November 8th, 2011: Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox Interested In Buehrle

1:54pm: The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers are interested in free agent lefty Mark Buehrle, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and the Marlins are meeting with him today.

I didn’t like the idea of signing Buehrle at all. He was 32 at the time, he’d thrown more than 2,500 innings when you include the postseason, and he was already sitting low-to-mid-80s with his heater. It seemed like his margin for error was nil, and really, it was. He still made it work for a few years.

The Marlins duped Buehrle into signing a big contract with a low base salary in year one — it was a four-year deal worth $56M, and his salary in year one was $6M — then traded him to Toronto the following offseason. They did the same thing with Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. Even after moving to the AL East, Buehrle remained effective until things started to fall apart late in 2015. In hindsight, yeah the Yankees probably should have made a stronger push to sign him.

November 9th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sanchez, Catchers, Pitching, Posada

Clubs have already inquired about the Yankees’ young catchers, such as Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Francisco Cervelli. “I’ve had a lot of teams express ‘Hey, if you’re ever going to do something there, mark us down,’ that type of things,” said Cashman.

It’s kinda crazy how much catching talent the Yankees have given away in recent years*. Montero, who was nominally a catcher, was traded during the 2011-12 offseason. Russell Martin was allowed to walk during the 2012-13 offseason. Chris Stewart was traded during the 2013-14 offseason, then Francisco Cervelli was traded during the 2014-15 offseason, then John Ryan Murphy was traded during the 2015-16 offseason.

It sounds like this trend will continue too. Reports indicate Brian McCann is very much available, so much so that the Yankees are supposedly open to eating half his remaining contract to facilitate the trade. Pretty crazy that after moving all those catchers, potentially including McCann, the Yankees will still have Gary Sanchez behind the plate. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable at all by saying Sanchez has the best long-term future among all catchers the Yankees have employed since 2011.

* I don’t mean “given away” as in they didn’t get anything in return. I just mean these are guys the Yankees were willing trade — or Martin’s case, let walk as a free agent — because they were comfortable with their catching depth at the time. The Yankees know catching. Give ’em that.

November 15th, 2011: Eight Teams Interested In Grady Sizemore

MONDAY, 7:38pm: There’s no shortage of interest in Grady Sizemore this offseason. The free agent outfielder has drawn interest from eight teams, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. The Cubs, Rangers, Giants and Yankees are potential suitors for Sizemore, along with the Phillies, Rockies, Red Sox and Indians.

Grady Sizemore! Everyone wanted him back in the day because a) he was still only 28, and b) he was a monster when he was healthy. The problem: he hadn’t been healthy since 2009. Sizemore hit .220/.280/.379 (81 wRC+) with -0.1 fWAR and -0.4 bWAR in 104 games from 2010-11. He ended up re-signing with the Indians about a week after this report, then got hurt in Spring Training. Sizemore did not play in MLB at all in 2012 or 2013. He didn’t play in 2016 either, and was reportedly at the GM Meetings lobbying for a coaching job last week.

November 16th, 2011: Minor Moves: Kimball, Corporan, Rottino, Pascucci

The Yankees signed lefty reliever Mike O’Connor, tweets SI’s Jon Heyman.  The 31-year-old appeared briefly in the Majors for the Mets this year, also posting a 5.22 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 1.0 HR/9 in 60 1/3 Triple-A innings.

O’Connor had some big league time with the Mets and Nationals when the Yankees signed him to be their designated Triple-A innings eater. He had a 3.73 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 108.2 innings spread across 15 starts and 16 relief appearances with Triple-A Scranton in 2012. That was the season Scranton had to play entirely on the road because PNC Field was being renovated. Kinda stinks to go from the big leagues one year to that situation the next like O’Connor did, huh?

November 18th, 2011: Sherman On Yankees’ Search For Pitching

The Yankees have “looked into” Matt Garza, but a Cubs official downplayed the likelihood of any deal involving the right-hander, according to Sherman. The Yankees particularly like Gio Gonzalez and the Athletics are open to anything, but GM Billy Beane is asking for an ace return for Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill.

Theo Epstein had just taken over the 91-loss Cubs and Garza was his biggest trade chip at the time. He was coming off a 3.32 ERA (2.95 FIP) season — easily the best season of his career — and was under control for another two years. Epstein fielded trade offers all winter but decided to hold onto Garza, who in 2012 was hurt and just okay. He was able to salvage things by trading him to the Rangers for, among others, Carl Edwards Jr. at the 2013 trade deadline. Edwards is now Chicago’s closer of the future.

I was all about Garza. I wanted the Yankees to go after him so bad. So, so bad. It didn’t happen. Probably for the best, really. I was never really in on Gio — I liked Cahill more at the time, actually — because his league leading walk rate scared the crap out of me. The Nationals scooped him and his four years of control up for an underwhelming package (Derek Norris and Tommy Milone were the headliners, yawn), and have been rewarded with a solid mid-rotation horse. As with Buehrle, the Yankees probably should have been more aggressive here.

November 18th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Swisher, DePaula, Cashman

A year after signing with the Yankees for a $500K bonus, Dominican right-hander Jose Rafael DePaula still hasn’t made the contract official because he’s been unable to obtain a visa, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America.  DePaula has been working out at the Yankee’s Dominican academy in the interim.

Ah yes, Rafael DePaula. That was an ordeal. Age and identify issues led to a one-year suspension plus a 16-month investigation by MLB before they would approve DePaula’s contract with the Yankees. Eventually they gave the thumbs up, and he spent three and a half years in the system as an occasionally great but mostly good pitching prospect before being traded to the Padres in the Chase Headley deal.

DePaula, now 25, had a really good season as a full-time reliever at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 (2.66 ERA and 2.17 FIP), so we’ll see what happens with him this offseason. He went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft last winter. The Padres might not want to risk it again. Either way, the Yankees waited an awful long time to sign DePaula, and ultimately he wasn’t really worth the trouble. Alas.

November 20th, 2011: Heyman On Rangers, Pujols, Fielder, Nunez

The Braves have long been interested in Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez but the Bombers will have to part with much more to land Jair Jurrjens in a trade, Heyman tweets.

Oy. What a rumor. Jurrjens had two good seasons (2009 and 2011) and one bad season (2010) with the Braves. He was an All-Star in 2011, in fact. Nunez had basically zero good seasons at the time, but he was young and he could play up the middle, so the Yankees put a high price on him.

The two sides never did get close to a Nunez-for-Jurrjens trade as far as we know, and that’s a good thing because Jurrjens broke down the next year. He threw only 48.1 innings of 6.89 ERA (5.64 FIP) ball in 2012. Following that All-Star season in 2011, Jurrjens had a 7.20 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 65 innings the rest of his MLB career. Geez. Between Jurrjens and Jonathan Sanchez, the Yankees really dodged some bullets during the 2012-13 offseason.

November 23rd, 2011: Yankees Sign Jayson Nix

The Yankees have signed Jayson Nix to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Nix, a 29-year-old who bats from the right side, will presumably compete for a utility job next spring.

It begins. The “He’s A Ballplayer” era. Nixy did not make the Opening Day roster in 2012. He spent some time in Triple-A before being called up when Eric Chavez got hurt in May. Nix spent the next two years as the “good gravy why is he playing so much?” utility guy, hitting .239/.307/.340 (78 wRC+) in 505 plate appearances. He was a ballplayer though. He played ball.

November 23rd, 2011: Yankees, Freddy Garcia Nearing Deal

The Yankees are nearing a one-year deal with Freddy Garcia, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times (on Twitter). The Yankees offered the right-hander arbitration earlier tonight.

Sweaty Freddy had a fine season in 2011, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 146.2 innings. The next year didn’t go as well. He had a 5.20 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 107.1 innings after signing that new one-year contract. Probably should have just let him walk and taken the supplemental first round draft pick (it would have been in the 55th to 60th overall pick range). Can’t have too much pitching though. I understand why the Yankees brought Garcia back. Just didn’t work out.

November 24th, 2011: Olney On Rodriguez, Ibanez, Lee, Yankees

The Yankees are quietly confident that Phil Hughes will start Spring Training in improved physical condition and have a bounce-back season in 2012. They will continue to discuss available starting pitchers, even after agreeing to terms with Freddy Garcia.

Hughes did have a bounceback season in 2012. Shoulder and back trouble limited him to 74.2 crummy innings in 2011 (5.79 ERA and 4.58 FIP). He was healthy in 2012 and gave the team 191.1 innings of 4.19 ERA (4.59 FIP) ball. Not an ace or anything, but a fine back-end starter option. Of course, Hughes was still far below expectations from his prospect days, when he looked like a future front of the rotation guy.

Phil’s tenure with the Yankees wasn’t bad, just disappointing. He gave them +6.3 bWAR and +10.8 fWAR during his team control years, but he never came close to meeting expectations. Expectations that were maybe a little unrealistically high to begin with. Such is life.

November 28th, 2011: Blue Jays Notes: Cooper, Drabek, Rasmus, d’Arnaud

The Yankees are interested in Kyle Drabek, according to Elliott. Drabek started the season in the Blue Jays’ rotation before being demoted to the minor leagues. He had a standout season in 2010, but struggled with command in the Majors (6.3 BB/9) and in the minors (4.9 BB/9) in 2011.

Fun fact: Drabek pitched in the big leagues in 2016. Who knew? He threw two innings with the Diamondbacks. Back during the 2011-12 offseason he was still a Very Big Deal, even after posting a 6.06 ERA (5.52 FIP) in 78.2 innings in 2011. Drabek was a former top prospect and he was the headliner in the Roy Halladay trade, which raised expectations even more.

It’s interesting to hear the Yankees were interested in Drabek considering he played for a division rival. The Blue Jays went 81-81 in 2011, so they weren’t the AL East threat they are now, but an intradivision trade still seemed so very unlikely. I remember reading the Yankees were on Halladay but Toronto was basically unwilling to trade him within the division. I get not wanting to lose a trade to a division rival, but if you’re trading someone as good as Halladay, don’t you have to focus on getting the best possible return no matter what?

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. Years of injuries and control problems prevented Drabek, who is still only 28, from living up to the hype. I can understand why the Yankees wanted him back in November 2011 given his power arm and pedigree, it just wasn’t going to happen. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos wasn’t going to trade his top young pitcher to an AL East rival. No way, no how.

Scouting the Trade Market: Houston Astros

Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)

According to multiple reports, the Astros are prepared to do something big this offseason. They had a breakout 2015 season, winning 86 games and beating the Yankees in the AL Wildcard Game before losing to the Royals in the ALDS. Rather than build on that success in 2016, they slipped to 84 wins and fell five games short of a postseason berth. They want to wipe that disappointing 2016 season from their memories.

So far this winter Houston has been connected to big name players like Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera. More realistically, the Astros are also said to have interest in Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who has been deemed expendable thanks to the emergence of Gary Sanchez. Jason Castro is a free agent and the ‘Stros want a veteran backstop who can lead the staff and also provide some offense. McCann can do exactly that.

The Yankees are reportedly willing to eat up to half the $34M remaining on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade, but if they do that, they want a better package in return. Makes sense. Pitching is said to be the top priority this offseason and I’m guessing that will be the focus in any McCann trade. McCann has a full no-trade clause, so he’s in control here. There are indications he will approve a trade to the Astros because they figure to contend and he’ll be able to DH. We’ll see.

Despite all their tanking over the years, Houston’s farm system is not loaded with talent at the moment. They’ve got plenty of good prospects, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like the Yankees will be sifting through a farm system as deep as, well, their own. Here are some ‘Stros youngsters who could pique New York’s interest as they work through a McCann trade. The players are listed alphabetically and all scouting reports come from MLB.com.

RHP Chris Devenski

Background: Devenski, 26, was a 25th round pick by the White Sox in 2011. The next year he was sent to the Astros as the player to be named later in the Brett Myers trade. Devenski worked as both a starter and reliever in the minors, and after making his MLB debut as a starter this season, he settled into a relief role and had a 2.16 ERA (2.34 FIP) in 108.1 innings. Only Michael Fulmer bested Devenski in fWAR (3.0 vs. 2.8) and bWAR (4.9 vs. 2.8) among AL rookie hurlers.

Scouting Report: “The key to his success is his plus changeup, which allows him to get swings and misses from lefties and righties alike despite having otherwise fringy stuff. Devenski’s fastball operates at 89-91 mph and tops out at 93. He also has a curveball that he can throw for strikes. Devenski can’t overpower hitters, but he keeps them off balance and doesn’t beat himself with walks or homers.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Devenski has the tools to start thanks to his three pitches and good control. His velocity ticked up as a reliever — he averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 97.6 mph in 2016 — but even at 89-91 mph he can have success turning a lineup over multiple times, especially if he maintains his 4.9% walk rate. The upside here is a cheap back-end starter with the fallback option of a pretty good reliever.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are reasons to believe Devenski is not as good as he was this past season. I can’t help but look at his 33.5% ground ball rate and 0.33 HR/9 (3.5 HR/FB%) and think that’s probably not going to last long-term, especially not for a dude with an 89-91 mph fastball as a starter in a small ballpark like Yankee Stadium. That doesn’t mean Devenski can’t still be valuable with, say, a 1.00 HR/9 as a starter, it just means his 2016 performance probably isn’t who he will be going forward.

RHP Michael Feliz

Background: The 23-year-old Feliz originally signed with the Athletics as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic, but his contract was voided after he failed a drug test. The Astros scooped him up, he served his 50-game suspension, and he’s since blossomed into a hard-throwing righty. Feliz received a cup of coffee last year and spent the entire 2016 season in Houston’s bullpen, where he had a 4.43 ERA (3.24 FIP) with a great strikeout rate (35.2%) and an okay walk rate (8.2%) in 65 innings.

Scouting Report: “His fastball sits in the mid 90s and gets up to 98 mph. His slider is his best secondary offering, and his changeup gives him a third quality offering. He mostly works around the zone, but his delivery will need more refinement before he truly commands all of his pitches. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he’ll have all the makings of a frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Feliz has good size — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs. — and tremendous raw stuff, though he didn’t throw his changeup a whole lot in relief this year. The natural ability is there, as is the potential to start long-term. A 23-year-old kid with this kind of arm is always worth pursuing.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Like many young kids with big arms, Feliz lacks overall command and it’ll come down to improving his delivery. That’s not easy to do. Also, some other scouting reports, such as Baseball America‘s (subs. req’d), aren’t as enthusiastic about his slider and changeup as MLB.com. Feliz has talent. He is need of refinement though, and he may not be ready to step into the rotation next season.

RHP Francis Martes

Background: Martes went to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, when he was still in rookie ball. He’s since developed into one of the game’s top pitching prospects. Martes, 20, had a 3.30 ERA (2.73 FIP) with a 25.0% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate in 125.1 Double-A innings this summer, where he was more than four years younger than the average Texas League player. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 29th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Martes) now operates at a consistent 93-95 mph with a peak of 98. His breaking ball improved even more significantly last year, becoming a devastating power curveball. His changeup is in its nascent stages but shows some promise. Martes’ control also got a lot better during his first full year with his new organization … (He’s emerged as) a potential frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Martes is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s nearly MLB ready. He figures to start next season at Triple-A and could earn a midseason call-up, regardless of whether he’s with the Yankees or Astros or whoever. The fastball/curveball combination points to a future at the front of a big league rotation.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? As with most 20-year-old pitching prospects, Martes is still rough around the edges. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, and that’s a pretty big deal. His control isn’t all that great either. Martes is very exciting. That fastball/curveball combo is as good as it gets. But until he refines his changeup and strike-throwing ability, it’s hard to think he’ll be an effective MLB rotation option.

RHP Joe Musgrove

Background: The Blue Jays drafted the 23-year-old Musgrove with the 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft, then traded him to the Astros in the ten-player J.A. Happ trade at the 2012 deadline. (Ten-player J.A. Happ trade!) Musgrove was a borderline top 100 prospect coming into 2016. He made his MLB debut in August and had a 4.06 ERA (4.18 FIP) with nice strikeout (21.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates in 62 innings spread across ten starts and one relief appearance.

Scouting Report: “Musgrove takes advantage of his big, physical frame to throw his low-to-mid-90s fastball from a good downhill plane. He mostly attacks hitters with his fastball and pounds the zone with it, creating plenty of ground ball outs. He also has a good curveball and some feel for his changeup, but both of his secondary offerings still need more refinement … He has all the makings of a future workhorse starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The MLB.com scouting report doesn’t mention what Baseball America (subs. req’d) calls “plus command/control,” which allows everything to play up. Musgrove is a no-doubt starter long-term thanks to his ability to locate four pitches — PitchFX has him throwing a slider in addition to the fastball/curveball/changeup in the scouting report, and you can that slider in the video — and that’s exactly what the Yankees are looking for.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons, really. Musgrove is not a budding ace or anything. His ceiling isn’t sky high. He’s more likely to settle in a solid mid-rotation pitcher, which is perfectly fine. Not exciting at all, but fine.

RHP David Paulino

Background: Like Martes and Musgrove, the 22-year-old Paulino was acquired in a trade when he was still in rookie ball. The Astros got him as the player to named later in the Jose Veras trade with the Tigers in 2013. Paulino was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time. This season he had a 1.91 ERA (2.32 FIP) with 28.6% strikeouts and 5.4% walks in 94 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. Paulino made his MLB debut in September and allowed four runs in seven innings. MLB.com currently ranks Paulino as the 70th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Paulino) came back from his elbow reconstruction to operate at 93-95 mph and hit 98. His curveball also has improved significantly, becoming a legitimate power breaking ball and giving him a second pitch that grades as well above-average when at its best. Paulino has made strides with his changeup too, and he had no problem regaining his control after Tommy John surgery … He has frontline-starter ceiling but also little track record.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Paulino’s raw stuff is electric. Mid-90s gas, a bat-missing curveball, and an improving changeup, all with decent control. On top of that, the kid is listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 lbs., so he’s a big intimidating presence on the mound who gets great extension out in front. It’s very easy to dream on Paulino and envision him becoming a top of the rotation starter.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Injuries, for starters. Paulino had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and that along with some other issues limited him to 106.1 total innings from 2011-15. Also, Paulino was suspended for a month this past season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Like Jorge Mateo, but a longer suspension. Even if the suspension doesn’t bother you and you’re willing to overlook the injuries, the bottom line is this kid has thrown 203.1 innings over the last six years. Total. That’s an awful lot of development time missed.

OF Kyle Tucker

Background: The only position player in this post was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Tucker, 19, is the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. Kyle hit .280/.354/.433 (125 wRC+) with ten homers and 33 steals, plus promising strikeout (16.6%) and walk (9.8%) rates, in 122 games between Low-A And High-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 49th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “Tucker makes consistent hard contact thanks to fast hands, a balanced left-handed swing and a mature approach. He also has plenty of raw power and could deliver 20 homers per season once he fills out his lanky 6-foot-4 frame … (Tucker) profiles best in right field. He has solid arm strength and speed, though he figures to lose a half-step once he matures physically.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Because he’s one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors, that’s why. Tucker is not quite Christian Yelich but it’s the same basic skill set. Quick hands and a sweet lefty swing that generate oodles of hard contact. The Yankees have a ton of outfielders in their farm system, but that doesn’t matter. Tucker is better than pretty much all of them. He’s the best prospect in Houston’s system in my opinion and therefore the best non-big leaguer the Yankees would be able to pry loose in a McCann trade.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Aside from the fact Tucker is only 19 and in Single-A, meaning there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, I can’t think of one. I guess also because he doesn’t satisfy the Yankees’ long-term pitching needs?

* * *

The Yankees have had interest in righty Lance McCullers Jr. before, specifically last year during Andrew Miller trade talks, but the Astros shot that down. I assume McCullers is still off limits. The same is probably true of righty Forrest Whitley, Houston’s first round pick in this past summer’s amateur draft. Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Astros prospects list, if you want to sift through that some more.

I’d love to see the Yankees get Tucker in a McCann trade, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, even if they eat $17M of the $34M left on his contract. Out of everyone else in this post, Musgrove is the guy I hope the Yankees target. He has four pitches and good command, plus he got his feet wet at the MLB level this year, so he’s ready to step right into the rotation. It would be nice to have a young pitcher who is more than a good stuff/bad command guy one of these years, you know?

Hot Stove Notes: Jansen, Melancon, Cespedes, Bautista

Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the GM Meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale and everyone headed home to really get down to offseason business. This week we learned the Yankees have already been in touch with Aroldis Chapman’s people, have some interest in Kendrys Morales, and have identified a possible trade partner for Brian McCann. Here are some more bits of news and notes from the GM Meetings.

Yankees willing to eat money to move McCann

According to Jeff Passan, the Yankees have expressed a willingness to eat up to half the $34M left on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade. The catch: they want better young players in return. That’s usually how this works. I said yesterday I hope the Yankees are open to eating some money in exchange for a better return, and it appears they are willing to do just that. Hooray.

Yankees reached out to Jansen, Melancon

In addition to Chapman, the Yankees reached out to the representatives for both Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon this week, reports Brendan Kuty. The Yankees are said to be targeting a top free agent reliever this winter, and those two along with Chapman are by far the best available. Jansen received a qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick. Chapman and Melancon will not. They were ineligible for the qualifying offer after being traded at midseason.

There’s been some talk we could see the first $100M reliever this offseason — Jonathan Papelbon’s $50M deal with the Phillies is still the largest contract ever given to a reliever, so we’re talking about doubling that — but I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think teams are ready to commit that much to a 65-inning pitcher, even if they are 65 high-leverage innings. Andrew Miller‘s postseason usage is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Once we get further away from that and people remember relievers don’t get used like that all the time, contract expectations will change.

Yankees planning to talk to Hill

Amazingly, the best free agent starter on the market this year is journeyman southpaw Rich Hill, who reinvented himself two years ago by raising his arm angle and moving to the extreme third base side of the rubber. Brian Cashman told Kuty he intends to reach out to Hill, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Yankees in September 2014, at some point soon.

“I can’t remember if I have (reached out to him) or not. Let’s put it this way. I will be reaching out to Rich’s agent if I haven’t yet. I have a to-do list I’m working through,” said the GM. Hill will be 37 in March and he hasn’t thrown more than 120 innings since 2007, but the market is so light on starting pitching that he’s going to end up with a three-year contract. When healthy this year, Hill pitched like an ace (2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP). The Yankees need pitching too, so checking in on the best available starter only makes sense.

Yankees have checked in on Cespedes, Bautista

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees have reached out to free agent sluggers Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista, reports Jon Heyman. Both guys would give the team some much-needed middle of the order thump, but Cashman downplayed their interest and chalked it up to due diligence. “I’m open to anything. But as of right now, we’re going to let the kids take a shot. Our current focus is to let the kids try to take the job,” he said.

Bautista and especially Cespedes are true impact bats who change the entire complexion of the lineup. The Yankees could use a hitter like that! Right now, given the team’s current situation, spending big on a corner outfield bat over 30 doesn’t seem like the best idea. If they were ready to win right now, then yes, sign one of those guys. But the Yankees aren’t. They’re right to prioritize the kids, especially with Aaron Judge arriving this past season and Clint Frazier not far behind.

Yankees in on Logan

Blast from the past: The Yankees are among the teams interested in lefty Boone Logan, according to Joel Sherman. Right now Tommy Layne is New York’s top lefty reliever, and he’s followed on the depth chart by guys like Richard Bleier and Chasen Shreve. Eh. I don’t blame the Yankees at all for looking at the bullpen lefty market. Here’s 2016 Logan vs. 2016 Layne:

IP ERA FIP AVG/OBP/SLG vs. LHB K% vs. LHB BB% vs. LHB GB% vs. LHB
Logan 46.1 3.69 3.23 .139/.222/.255 33.6% 7.6% 60.6%
Layne 44.2 3.63 3.93 .214/.310/.261 20.8% 9.9% 51.6%

The question really isn’t whether Logan is better than Layne. It’s whether Logan is better than Bleier and Shreve and James Pazos. Those guys. I don’t love the idea of carrying two lefty specialists in the bullpen, especially with a rotation that doesn’t pitch deep into games, but it is doable. My guess is Logan gets more money elsewhere and the Yankees are just kicking the tires out of due diligence.

Teams calling on Andujar

The Yankees are getting phone calls and receiving trade interest in third base prospect Miguel Andujar, reports Kuty. “I get a lot of compliments on him from other clubs, a lot of teams asking me about him. He’s going to be a big leaguer,” said Cashman. I’m guessing Andujar is not the team’s only prospect generating trade interest. The Yankees have many quality players in their system at the moment.

Andujar, 22 in March, is currently hitting .309/.400/.392 (122 wRC+) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven) through 16 Arizona Fall League games. He broke out with a .270/.327/.407 (108 wRC+) batting line and 12 home runs in 137 games split between High-A and Double-A during the regular season. Andujar is the closest thing the Yankees have to a third baseman of the future, and while I certainly wouldn’t make him off-limits in trade talks, I am excited to see him take another step forward in 2017.

Sanchez: Blue Jays sign Lourdes Gurriel to seven-year deal

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

Not surprisingly, a team other than the Yankees has signed free agent Cuban infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. That team is the Blue Jays, according to Jesse Sanchez. Joel Sherman hears it’s a seven-year contract worth $22M. Because of his age, the deal does not count against Toronto’s international spending pool.

Lourdes and his older brother Yulieski defected last year. They were two of the very best players left in Cuba. Yulieski, 32, signed a five-year deal worth $47.5M with the Astros in July. Following a brief stint in the minors, he was called up to Houston and hit .262/.292/.385 (82 wRC+) with three homers in 36 games.

The 23-year-old Lourdes is considered a lesser player than his brother and a very good but not great prospect. He’s not another Yoan Moncada. The consensus is Lourdes will need some time in the minors before helping out at the big league level, like his brother. Both Gurriels are infielders.

The Yankees reportedly worked out both Gurriel brothers over the last few months, though, as has been the case with big name Cuban players for a while now, they didn’t sign either one. The last high-profile Cuban player signed by the Yankees was Jose Contreras.

Reports: Yankees have identified trade partner for Brian McCann; Astros interested

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

As expected, the Brian McCann trade rumor mill has started to heat up early in the offseason. The Yankees weighed offers for their erstwhile catcher at the trade deadline, most notably from the Braves, and are expected to do the same this winter. They’re trying to get younger and under the luxury tax threshold in the near future. Moving McCann would help accomplish both.

“The catching market is very thin, so it’s not surprising to anybody (teams are interested in McCann),” said Brian Cashman to Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman at the GM Meetings this week. “A lot of teams have expressed interest and offers that I’ve said no to. If I ever get to a point where something makes enough sense, then Mac will have the final say, as he’s earned the right to have that final say.”

According to Mark Feinsand, Cashman has already identified one realistic trade partner for McCann. Jon Morosi says the Astros are interested — it’s unclear whether Houston is the team identified as a realistic trade partner — which makes sense. They need a catcher now that Jason Castro is a free agent — they played Evan Gattis behind the plate 55 times last year, yikes — and also a lefty bat to balance their lineup. Some notes and thoughts on all this:

1. Remember, McCann is in control here. McCann has a full no-trade clause, so he is in total control of the situation. He doesn’t have to go anywhere he doesn’t want to go. In fact, Sherman says Cashman “has deals he can make for Brian McCann right now,” but has waved them off because McCann is unlikely to accept a trade to those teams. McCann hasn’t given the Yankees a list of approved clubs. He’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis.

“I haven’t said, ‘Hey he has to be here or it’s not going to happen.’ Nor has Mac given me permission to do that,” said B.B. Abbott, McCann’s agent, to Sherman. “Mac basically wants them to come to him. If Cash says there is a deal in place, then I’ll go to Mac and he will say nay or yay … I don’t think this is a slam dunk that it happens, I really don’t. He made a choice to be in New York because that is where he wants to be and he got a full no-trade clause because of that.”

Ken Rosenthal says McCann prefers the American League because he doesn’t want to catch 120+ games a year anymore, and wants to be able to DH. Apparently he told the Yankees he felt better physically in September than he had in years after handing the catching reins over to Gary Sanchez. That said, Rosenthal added McCann would also approve a trade to the Braves, his hometown team.

2. Okay, so what could the Yankees get from the Astros? Supposedly the Yankees want young pitching in a McCann trade. That’s the long-term need, anyway. The Yankees pushed for Lance McCullers Jr. (and Vince Velasquez) during Andrew Miller trade talks with Houston last offseason, but it’s pretty clear that’s not going to happen for McCann. (Velasquez is with the Phillies now anyway.)

Musgrove. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Musgrove. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Even after removing McCullers from consideration, the Astros still have a handful of young arms worth targeting in a McCann trade. None of them are future aces — the Yankees aren’t getting anyone with that kind of upside for McCann anyway — though a few of them are potential long-term rotation pieces. Let’s run them down quickly (2016 ERA/FIP):

  • RHP Chris Devenski (2.16/2.34 in 108.1 IP): Devenski, 26 on Sunday, spent most of the season in the bullpen. He has four pitches though, so there’s at least a chance he can start. Devenski’s minor league track record isn’t great, and given his success as a reliever in 2016, my guess is he’s a bullpener for life now. Once a fringe guy has that much success in relief, he usually stays there.
  • RHP Michael Feliz (4.43/3.24 FIP in 65 IP): The 23-year-old Feliz has the Michael Pineda starter kit: mid-90s gas and a wipeout slider, but his changeup lags. Like Devenski, he spent most of the season in the bullpen, but I think he’ll get another chance to start given his age.
  • RHP Joe Musgrove (4.06/4.81 FIP in 62 IP): Musgrove was a top 100 prospect last year but he doesn’t look like a typical top pitching prospect. He’s a command and control guy with a low-90s gas and three secondary pitches (slider, curve, change). Musgrove turns 24 next month.
  • RHP David Paulino (5.14/4.29 in 7 IP): Paulino is a flamethrower. He sits mid-90s and touches 99 mph, even as a starter, and his curveball is an out-pitch. He’s still working on his changeup though. Paulino turns 23 in February. He missed all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery.
  • RHP Brady Rodgers (15.12/5.31 in 8.1 IP): Rodgers, 26, is the least heralded pitcher in this post, but the guy legitimately throws six pitches (four-seamer, sinker, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup) and he locates. Nothing sexy about him, but he’ll be a big leaguer for a while, even with a fastball that sits 90 mph.

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Astros prospects list, if you’re interested in looking that over. My top three targets are Musgrove, Feliz, and Devenski, in that order, and I want the Yankees to get another piece too. You can’t trade a top ten catcher, even one on the wrong side of 30 like McCann, straight up for a pitching prospect. That’s asking for trouble. The second piece doesn’t have to be great, but there has to be something else.

3. The Yankees should be open to eating money. Money is the single biggest advantage the Yankees have over the rest of the league. Hal Steinbrenner is content with marginalizing that advantage by focusing on getting under the luxury tax, but it’s still an advantage. The Yankees should absolutely be willing to eat some of the $34M left owed to McCann the next two years in order to get a larger return. They ate money to facilitate the Carlos Beltran trade at the deadline, so I assume they’re willing to do the same with McCann. It just needed to be said. Essentially trading money for prospects is exactly the kind of move the Yankees should make.

4. Again: The Yankees don’t have to trade McCann! I’ve said this a bunch of times already and I get the feeling I’m going to repeat it another hundred times before the end of the offseason. The Yankees don’t have to trade McCann. Keeping him is a viable option. Having the best catching tandem in baseball sure would be cool, right? Especially since the two guys hit from opposite sides of the plate.

“Based on his success the past season, Sanchez is the everyday catcher. (McCann) can DH and catch a minimum of two games a week. We have two power-hitting catchers, one right and one left who hit 20 homers,” said Cashman to George King. By all means, take offers for McCann and negotiate like hell. If someone steps up with a strong offer, great, take it. If not, just keep him. No need to make a move for the sake of making a move.

The Yanks have shown interest in Kendrys Morales, who’d be a pretty good fit, actually

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are among the teams to show interest in designated hitter Kendrys Morales early this offseason. He became a free agent a few days ago when he declined his half of the $11M mutual option in his contract. That’s not surprising. He’ll get more as a free agent. The Royals did not make Morales the qualifying offer, so he won’t cost a draft pick to sign.

Morales, 33, hit .263/.327/.468 (110 wRC+) with 30 home runs in 618 plate appearances last season. He put up a .290/.362/.485 (130 wRC+) batting line with 22 homers in 639 plate appearances the year before, when the Royals won the World Series. Morales is a switch-hitter, and throughout his career he’s had a tiny platoon split and been consistently excellent with runners in scoring position, if that’s your thing. I have some thoughts on this.

1. Something would have to happen with McCann first, right? As it stands right now, Brian McCann will be the primary DH for the Yankees next season. Gary Sanchez is entrenched behind the plate, so the only way to get McCann and his 20+ homer power into the lineup is at DH. Either that or they’d have to stick him at first base, and … no. Just, no.

McCann’s name has popped up in trade rumors for a few weeks now and reports indicate the Yankees will continue to entertain offers for their erstwhile catcher. The thing is, even if they find a trade to their liking, McCann is in total control here. He has a full no-trade clause and can shoot down any deal. I doubt McCann would approve a trade to rebuilding team, or a team he perceives as a non-contender, but who knows.

Also, Morales is not going to come to the Yankees if he feels he has to compete with McCann for DH at-bats. He’s also not much of a first base option either. He’s a bat-only player. The Yankees would have to move McCann first to clear way for Morales, or at least be far enough down the line with a McCann trade — that means knowing whether he’ll sign off on a deal — for Morales to be comfortable coming to New York.

2. Morales would add some nice lineup balance. The Yankees are in a weird place. Their lineup has been very left-handed heavy the last few years, but right now, most of their up-and-coming young bats are right-handed. Greg Bird is the only notable lefty. Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Clint Frazier are all righties. Should the Yankees trade McCann this winter, their best lefty power threat will be Didi Gregorius. I like Didi! But yikes.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As a switch-hitter, Morales would help balance out the lineup and create matchup headaches for opposing managers. He could slot right in as the cleanup hitter behind Sanchez and ahead of … Starlin Castro, I guess. The Yankees only have one switch-hitter at the moment, Chase Headley, and he’s not exactly a big offensive threat. Morales would replace Mark Teixeira as the team’s middle of the order switch-hitter with power, and it’s hard to think he’d be anything but a huge upgrade over 2016 Teixeira at the plate.

3. Morales offers no defensive value or versatility. This is the biggest drawback. Morales is a DH. You could make him go stand at first base a few times a year during interleague play, but he’ll cost you runs. He’s a DH, plain and simple. That hinders roster flexibility. Sanchez couldn’t stay in the lineup on days he doesn’t catch, for example. We saw how much of a roster headache Alex Rodriguez created the last two years. Morales would be more of the same.

Also, it’s worth noting Morales is a negative on the bases too. He was never fast to begin with, but since shattering his ankle celebrating that walk-off home run a few years ago (remember that? ouch), you’ve been able to measure his home-to-first time with a sundial. It takes three singles to score the guy from first. You live with it if he mashes. Otherwise Morales will really clog the bases in a not good way.

4. He should come on a short-term contract. Two years ago Victor Martinez signed a four-year deal worth $68M, and Edwin Encarnacion is going to get something insane this offseason, so there is some precedent for a DH in his mid-30s getting a huge contract. Martinez and Encarnacion had established themselves as truly elite hitters at the time, however. Morales is pretty good. He’s definitely a notch or two below those guys though.

MLBTR projects a two-year deal worth $26M for Morales. Sounds about right to me, but what do I know. Point is, it’s really unlikely you’ll have to offer him a three or four-year contract to get a deal done this winter. A two-year contract should be enough. Maybe even a really rich one-year contract. Say one year at $15M with a vesting option based on plate appearances. Something like that.

The price is right with Morales. The Yankees could bring him in as short-term offensive help, build the lineup around him as the kids get comfortable, then cast him aside when those young players are ready to do the heavy lifting themselves. Sounds great! Chances are it won’t work out that way, but that’s life. Morales would create some roster flexibility issues, but he’s also add a middle of the order presence, and he’d be that on a relatively short-term contract. That’s a pretty good fit for the Yankees.