Encina: Yanks pursued Miguel Gonzalez before he signed with White Sox

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to Eduardo Encina, the Yankees pursued right-hander Miguel Gonzalez before he signed a minor league deal with the White Sox last week. The Orioles released Gonzalez at the end of Spring Training and saved about $4M of his $5.1M salary for the season. They tried to bring him back on a minor league deal, but no luck.

The Yankees, like every other team in baseball, are in perpetual pursuit of rotation depth. Ivan Nova is currently the sixth starter and I guess Luis Cessa is the seventh starter in the wake of Bryan Mitchell‘s toe injury. The Triple-A Scranton rotation is Chad Green, Kyle Haynes, Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Olson, and a Nick Rumbelow/Tyler Webb piggyback, so says Shane Hennigan. Uh, yikes.

Gonzalez, 31, has a reputation for being a Yankees killer, but that was based on 2012 and nothing else. He has a career 3.79 ERA in 80.2 innings against the Yankees, postseason included, but it was a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings in 2012 and a 4.35 ERA in 60 innings thereafter. Besides, signing a guy so you don’t have to face him anymore never made much sense to me.

Jeff Sullivan wrote a really great post looking at why the Orioles may have released Gonzalez despite their rotation issues, and from the looks of things, his stuff hasn’t come back following last year’s elbow and shoulder issues. He was never a huge stuff guy anyway, so his margin of error was small to start with. Gonzalez probably isn’t a big league caliber pitcher if his stuff doesn’t bounce back following the injuries.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and bringing Gonzalez aboard as Triple-A fodder would have been perfectly reasonable. The White Sox probably offer a great path to big league playing time at this point though — or at least Gonzalez thinks they do — so to the ChiSox he went. Chicago is pretty good with reclamation project arms.

If the Yankees do continue to look for rotation depth, free agent options include Tim Lincecum, Kyle Lohse, Roberto Hernandez, and Chad Billingsley. Not much to see there. Generally speaking, when guys still don’t have a job even after the season starts, there’s usually a pretty good reason. The Yankees figure to stick with what they have in-house.

Sherman: Yankees tried to trade for Tyson Ross last July

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees tried to trade for Padres right-hander Tyson Ross prior to the trade deadline last July. The Yanks and Pads were reportedly discussing a deal involving Jorge Mateo and Craig Kimbrel before the deadline, and it’s unclear if Ross was included in those talks as part of a blockbuster deal, or as part of a separate trade entirely.

Ross, 28, has emerged as one of the better pitchers in all of baseball the last few years. He had a 3.26 ERA (2.98 FIP) in 33 starts and 196 innings last season with great strikeout (25.8%) and ground ball (61.5%) numbers, but a poor walk rate (10.2%). Among the 78 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title in 2015, Ross ranked 11th in strikeout rate, third in ground ball rate, and 77th in walk rate. His peripherals are on the extremes.

Here’s some video from last season so you can get a look at Ross’ ridiculous two-seam fastball/slider combination:

The Padres have baseball’s third longest postseason drought — they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006, only the Mariners (2001) and Marlins (2003) have longer droughts — and last year they attempted a quick fix that saw GM A.J. Preller build an imperfect roster full of big names. They were way too right-handed heavy and way short on defense. I’m pretty sure ownership told Preller to go all-in. Either way, it didn’t work.

San Diego didn’t trade anyone away at the deadline last year, but they did move some pieces over the winter, most notably Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Jedd Gyorko, and Yonder Alonso. They’ve reportedly been listening to offers for their entire rotation — they’re supposedly pushing James Shields and Andrew Cashner more than Ross — and have set a high price for Ross. That makes sense. He’s good and under team control through 2017.

The Yankees were looking for controllable pitching all winter and it’s easy to understand why. Luis Severino is the only one of their six big league starters who can not become a free agent within the next two years. Ross does not satisfy the “controllable behind 2017″ requirement but he is very good and would help any team win in the short-term. And who knows, maybe the Yankees would be able to flip Ross for a young controllable arm at some point.

The Padres don’t figure to be any good this season — for what’s it worth, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus project San Diego to win 74 and 76 games in 2016, respectively — which means Ross will be involved in a ton of trade rumors this summer. He could easily be the best player traded this July. If the Yankees had interest last year, I assume they’ll still have interest again this year. As always, the question is whether the price will be right.

Heyman: Yanks may look to add veteran middle relief help

"Joe, we need to talk about your nicknaming style." (Presswire)
“Joe, we need to talk about your nicknaming style.” (Presswire)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees may look to add a veteran reliever or two before Opening Day to improve their middle relief situation. The club has no shortage of bullpen candidates but very few have actually pitched well in Grapefruit League play. This spring was a chance for some of those shuttle relievers to stand out, though none of them really did it.

The out of options market doesn’t have much to offer. The Yankees could wait to see what Article XX(B) free agents become available in the the coming days. Article XX(B) free agents are players with at least six years of service time signed to minor league contracts. They get a $100,000 bonus if they’re sent to Triple-A and an automatic June 1st opt-out. Those who don’t make the team are usually released in the spring though, like Chris Denorfia.

Among this year’s Article XX(B) relievers are Burke Badenhop, Matt Belisle, Craig Breslow, Chris Capuano, Brian Duensing, Casey Janssen, Franklin Morales, Peter Moylan, Edward Mujica, Bobby Parnell, Manny Parra, and Jamey Wright. Quite a group there. Some have already been released (Janssen, Parnell) and some are actually going to make their team’s Opening Day roster (Mujica), so the availability varies.

Do any of those guys seem worth the trouble? Badenhop and Belisle could be serviceable, and Parnell could be interesting now that he’s further away from Tommy John surgery, otherwise I’m not sure I’d give any of those guys a big league roster spot over the shuttle relievers. There’s always something to be said for accumulating depth. I just see these Article XX(B) guys as warm bodies to soak up innings, not have a real impact.

The trade market is always pretty active at the end of Spring Training, though I wonder how many teams legitimately have an extra reliever to spare. Very few, I’m sure. In fact, the Yankees might have the most bullpen depth to offer in trades than any other team in baseball given all the shuttle relievers. I’m guessing Brian Cashman will get some calls about the team’s Triple-A bullpeners, if he hasn’t already.

Right now I don’t expect the Yankees to make a move for bullpen help. It’s not a huge priority. If anything, I could see Cashman & Co. trading a reliever, perhaps for a new utility infielder. The bullpen is certainly a position of depth, and hey, you can’t keep everyone, so trading an extra arm to fill a need elsewhere only makes sense.

Cashman: Yanks continue to look for “potential castoffs” to fill-out roster

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

With Opening Day less than two weeks away and the final few roster spots still unsettled, Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees continue to look for “potential castoffs” from other teams to fill out their roster. They offered Ruben Tejada a minor league deal last week after he was released by the Mets, for example.

“A lot of meetings with the staff, a lot of discussions of ways to go,” said the GM to Meredith Marakovits (video link). “Engaging other clubs about potential castoffs or available players on their end to make sure you measure them against what you already have in camp. (We have) a lot of extra meetings about that 25th spot, moreso than people could ever imagine. You always spend so much time discussing who’s the final piece to a puzzle that’s never finished.”

Right now the Yankees have four open roster spots: the backup catcher, a backup third baseman, and two relievers. Rob Refsnyder seems to have a leg up on that final bench spot, but who knows. Four years ago it seemed Frankie Cervelli had the backup catcher’s job locked down, then bam, he was in Triple-A and Chris Stewart was a Yankee. Things can come together quickly.

I didn’t see many appealing targets on the out of options market, though there are definitely a lot of veteran players around the league on minor league contracts that include an opt-out at the end of Spring Training. That would be an interesting list to see. Here are all the players on minor league deals. I wonder if someone like Grant Green, A.J Griffin, or former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang has an end-of-camp opt-out date.

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have acquired players like Stewart, Vernon Wells, Gregorio Petit, and Lyle Overbay in the week leading up to Opening Day. (They also traded away Eduardo Nunez.) All of those guys except Stewart were brought in to help cover for an injury. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that this season. The Yankees have some depth but don’t want to have to use it.

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.