Heyman: Lengthy suspension is “unlikely” for Chapman

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Earlier this week, the Yankees acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds even though MLB is still investigating the left-hander for an alleged domestic violence incident that occurred in late-October. Here’s a report on the incident, if you haven’t seen it. There’s no word when the investigation will be complete.

MLB’s domestic violence policy is brand new and so far no suspensions have been handed out, so there’s no precedent. Chapman is one of three players currently under investigation, joining Jose Reyes (for this) and Yasiel Puig (for this). According to Jon Heyman, word is any suspension imposed on Chapman would not be lengthy.

Word is going around that a long suspension is unlikely in the case of Aroldis Chapman’s alleged domestic violence incident. MLB is taking the domestic violence issue very seriously but word is the evidence may be thin in this case. The Yankees aren’t saying anything beyond that they did their “due diligence” in making the trade. But suffice it to say, they wouldn’t have made the deal if they thought he was in for a long suspension

A “long suspension” means different things to different people. A 30-day suspension seems pretty long to me, for example, but it might not in the eyes of commissioner Rob Manfred. Players do not accrue service time when suspended under the domestic violence policy, so a suspension of 46 days or more will push Chapman’s free agency back one year. He’s currently scheduled to become a free agent next offseason.

There are two ways to look at this, I guess. One, the Yankees checked in with MLB before the trade to get an idea of what kind of suspension may be coming, and they decided to pull the trigger because it’ll be short. Two, the Reds checked in with MLB before the trade and decided to get whatever they could for Chapman this offseason rather than wait until deadline because they were uncomfortable with the length of the suspension. Or maybe none of that happened. Who knows.

“Certainly, there is some serious issues here that are in play. That’s why it’s going to play out. And I acknowledge that it’s an area of concern. There’s risk, and I understand that,” said Brian Cashman to reporters following the Chapman trade. It’s possible if not likely the Yankees will lose Chapman for some period of time at the start of next season. Maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks. They have the bullpen pieces to cover a short suspension, but obviously they want to get as much out of Chapman as possible in 2016.

Could Aroldis Chapman’s stint with the Yankees be short-lived?

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Earlier this week, the Yankees sent four non-top prospects to the Reds for super closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman’s off-the-field history is kinda ugly, but he’s an impact player on the mound, and the Yankees are willing to look the other way for the sake of winning. That makes them like every other pro sports team these days.

The plan is to have Chapman join Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in the bullpen according to Brian Cashman, though a trade is always possible. We all know that. Miller’s name has popped up in trade rumors all winter and I expect that to continue in the weeks leading up to Spring Training. No reason to think they’ll end.

But what if the trade doesn’t involve Miller? I have a hard time thinking the Yankees would trade Betances, though I suppose it’s always possible, but I was thinking of Chapman specifically. Could the Yankees have acquired Chapman with the idea of flipping him for the young starter they’ve been trying to get all winter? This caught my eye yesterday:

What would the Marlins want with one year of Chapman? Who in the world knows. That team never really seems to have a plan. The appeal of having a big name Cuban player in Miami is pretty obvious though, plus maybe the Marlins think they can re-sign him after the season. They do spend big on occasion and Chapman lives in Miami. I guess it’s not impossible.

The Marlins have some young starters to offer — Justin Nicolino, Jarred Cosart, Jose Urena, and Adam Conley jump to mind — and perhaps they’ve indicated a willingness to move one for Chapman. Or heck, maybe Chapman can be part of a Jose Fernandez trade. Package Chapman with, say, Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo and a fourth piece, and maybe the Marlins budge with their ace. I’m just spitballin’ here.

This doesn’t have to be limited to the Marlins either. The Nationals reportedly had interest in Chapman after news of his domestic violence incident broke, so they’re a potential suitor. Would the Cubs have interest? They’re said to be looking for a reliever and might not have been able to get Chapman before because of the whole intra-division thing with the Reds. The Rangers? Angels? Mariners? What about the Mets?

A four-player package led by Eric Jagielo and Rookie Davis wasn’t going to net the Yankees any kind of stud young starter. Prospects are suspects until they do something in the big leagues. So instead the Yankees changed the shape of that trade value, so to speak. Both the package of four prospects and Chapman are worth X, but there’s more of a market for an elite reliever than a package of prospects. They’re still trading X, but now have more suitors to work with. Make sense?

I don’t think the Yankees acquired Chapman with the idea of flipping him elsewhere, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Miller has been on the market all winter but there are reasons to keep him, namely his awesomeness and affordable contract. The Yankees were able to get Chapman at a discounted price, and now could be in position to both keep Miller and trade an elite reliever for a starter.

The Yankees, the Cubs, and the potential for a three-team blockbuster

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

For the second straight offseason, the Yankees have focused on improving their team through trades rather than free agency. They’ve made four trades so far this offseason, sending out a total of eight players in exchange for Aroldis Chapman, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green. Chapman and Castro are the headliners, but the depth additions shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller have been the subject of trade rumors all offseason, mostly because they’re the most tradeable veterans on the club. They’re making real money and have positive trade value. Gardner and Miller represent opportunities to cut costs and add young talent. The cutting costs part is sorta dumb for a team with New York’s resources, but adding young talent? That always makes sense.

Meanwhile, a couple hundred miles west and in the other league, the Cubs have completed their rebuilding process and are now taking steps to improve their status as contenders. They’ve added John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward this offseason, plus Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill as depth pieces. The Cubs are where the Yankees want to be in the near future, albeit without all those messy fifth place finishes along the way.

Even after all those moves, the Cubs still have some roster issues. They’re in great shape, probably the best team in baseball at this very moment, but there are always upgrades to be made. The Cubbies could really use a center fielder to push Heyward back to this natural right field — can you imagine their outfield defense when Heyward is out of the lineup? goodness — and another high-end reliever wouldn’t hurt. In fact, Bruce Levine says the Cubs are “hell bent” on improving the bullpen.

The Yankees, as it just so happens, have both a center fielder (Gardner!) and a high-end reliever (Miller!) to offer. The Cubs asked about Gardner early in the Castro trade talks, so we know they have some level of interest in him. As for Miller, well, every team wants him. He’s great and he’s affordable. If he weren’t a Yankee, we’d be talking about ways the Yankees might be able to get him. Brett Taylor at Bleacher Nation did a great job breaking down the Miller/Cubs stuff.

The potential for a trade is so obvious. The Yankees could send Gardner and/or Miller to the Cubs and the Cubs could send some young players to the Yankees. There’s a slight problem with that though. The Yankees have been focusing on young starting pitching in any Gardner or Miller trade — it’s a clear organizational need — and Chicago doesn’t have any to offer. The closest is Kyle Hendricks, who’s a fine pitcher, but is the kind of upper-80s fastball guy who goes from high-3.00s ERA/low-3.00s FIP in the NL to mid-4.00s ERA/high-3.00s FIP in Yankee Stadium and the AL East.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees match up well with the Cubs but the Cubs don’t necessarily match up well with the Yankees, not unless the Yankees change their plans and stop prioritizing young pitching. When you’re talking about an above-average everyday player like Gardner and an elite player like Miller, I don’t think it would be wrong to focus on getting the most talent regardless of position. That said, the Yankees don’t have to trade Gardner or Miller. Trading them almost certainly makes the 2016 (and 2017?) Yankees worse.

If the Yankees are going to stick to their guns and continue to ask for a young pitcher, then a direct trade with the Cubs probably won’t happen. That said, Brian Cashman and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have both shown they are very willing to get creative, so I do think the potential for a three-team trade exists. Gardner and/or Miller go to the Cubs, the Cubs send young players to the third team, and the third team sends a young pitcher to the Yankees. That seems … doable? I guess so. There are two hurdles to clear.

1. Who is the third team?

The elephant in the room. The third team will need to have a young starter they’re willing to move for a young position player(s) to make this work. (Since the Cubs have no young arms, position players it is.) These are the clubs that jump to mind:

  • Angels: Need a left fielder and a second baseman, the cheaper the better. Could spare Nick Tropeano or even Andrew Heaney if the price is right. The Cashman-Billy Eppler connection doesn’t necessarily mean talks would go smoothly.
  • Athletics: The A’s are in a perpetual rebuild and will take any decent young players they can get their hands on. Sonny Gray ain’t happening. What about Jesse Hahn or Kendall Graveman?
  • Indians: Need outfielders, also the cheaper the better. They have plenty of young pitching, both high-end (Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar) and low-end (Cody Anderson, Josh Tomlin).
  • Nationals: Need an outfielder to replace Denard Span, preferably a center fielder but it’s not imperative. (Bryce Harper can play center.) Joe Ross and A.J. Cole are among their youngins. The Yankees could probably do a direct trade with Washington. No need for three-team fanciness.
  • Rays: They’ll take pretty much anyone who’s young and have been listening to offers for both Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi this offseason. Would they do a deal with the Yankees and vice versa? I think it’s unlikely.

So that’s my list. I came up with five teams that could fit as the third team in a Yankees-Cubs three-team swap, and one of those five teams is the Rays. I would be surprised if the Yankees and Rays are open to dealing with each other. So in reality, it’s four teams: the Angels, A’s, Indians, and Nationals. I didn’t miss anyone obvious, did I?

2. What wouldn’t the Cubs just keep the young starter for themselves?

A good question! The Cubs have been looking for a young starter themselves this offseason. Joel Sherman says they offered Jorge Soler for Shelby Miller and were the runner-up to get him. Marc Topkin says they talked to the Rays about sending Javier Baez to Tampa for Cobb. So the Cubbies are out there trying to get a young starter themselves.

So I guess the answer to the question is … the Cubs are in win-now mode and they don’t need a young starter to win in 2016. That make sense? Their rotation is full as it is and they have some depth as well (Travis Wood, Warren, Cahill). They need the center fielder and top notch reliever more than a future rotation piece at the moment. The Yankees are kinda sorta trying to contend in 2016 but are mostly focusing on 2017 and beyond.

* * *

This is where I acknowledge the odds of a Gardner/Miller Yankees/Cubs three-team trade are very small. Three-team deals are complicated, and at this point of the offseason, most teams have handled their major business and aren’t looking to shake up their roster.

The potential for such a trade does exist though. The Yankees have the pieces to address Chicago’s biggest needs, and the Cubs have the kind of young talent that can pry loose a young starter. Given Cashman’s and Epstein’s willingness to get creative and made big deals, don’t be surprised if the two sides explore a three-team blockbuster as a way of getting what they need.

Scouting The Trade Market: Chad Bettis

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Despite their perpetual interest, the Yankees have yet to land a young starting pitcher controllable beyond 2017 this offseason. They have reportedly focused on acquiring such a player in trade talks involving Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. The closest they’ve come to getting a young starter is picking up Luis Cessa and Chad Green in the Justin Wilson trade.

The Rockies seem like a team that should be focused on adding young pitching, not trading it away, but GM Jeff Bridich told Patrick Saunders he is “open to whatever, I mean it” earlier this offseason. Open to whatever as long as it helps improve the team, of course. Right-hander Chad Bettis could be a possible under-the-radar trade target for the Yankees as they look to add that controllable pitcher to their rotation. Is he a fit? Let’s take a look.

The Performance

Might as well start with some background information. Bettis, 26, was Colorado’s second round pick in the 2010 draft out of Texas Tech. Baseball America ranked him as the 86th best prospect in the game prior to the 2012 season — he was one spot behind Mason Williams — and Bettis made his big league debut late in 2013. He spent 2014 going up and down before spending the majority of 2015 in the team’s rotation. Here are his overall MLB stats.

G GS IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
2013 16 8 44.2 5.64 4.93 14.4% 9.6% 46.7% .395 .351
2014 21  0 24.2 9.12 5.52 10.2% 7.9% 45.9% .488 .394
2015 20 20 115.0 4.23 3.85 19.5% 8.4% 49.3% .345 .323
TOTAL 57 28 184.1 5.22 4.33 16.9% 8.6% 48.1% .380 .340

Bettis was called up two seasons ago and came down with a case of Coors Field. He was limited to relief work last year and it was the first time he worked out of the bullpen in his career. Those 2013-14 numbers are ugly. No doubt about it.

I’m choosing to focus on Bettis’ 2015 performance because it’s most recent, and also because it was the first time he was given an opportunity to stay in the rotation for an extended period of time. Going up and down sucks. Once he had a chance to settle in, Bettis posted an average strikeout rate and an above-average ground ball rate, which is a nice starting point.

Coors Field uglified his overall numbers — Bettis had a 4.99 ERA (3.90 FIP) at home and a 3.35 ERA (3.79 FIP) on the road in 2015 — because that’s what it does, though I’m not one of those people who thinks road performance indicates the true talent level of a player who just so happens to be stuck on the Rockies. After all, Dodger Stadium, Petco Park, and AT&T Park are pretty great places to pitch.

Bettis is not a big guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs. on the team’s official site — and the usual concern with pitchers that size is they’re unable to get good downward plane on their fastball and thus become fly ball prone. Bettis has gotten a good amount of grounders in his career to date, so that doesn’t really seem to be a problem. He had a 0.86 HR/9 (11.0 HR/FB%) this past season and 1.03 HR/9 (11.8 HR/FB%) over the last three years, which is average or a tick better. Maybe more than a tick considering his home park.

Also, despite the higher than average walk rates — that was the case all throughout the minors as well — Bettis has a reputation for pitching aggressively. “Bettis is tenacious and attacks hitters with everything he throws,” wrote Baseball America in their 2013 Prospect Handbook. The walk rates are the result of control issues, not an unwillingness to go after hitters. Walks are annoying. Walks because the pitcher nibbles are even more annoying.

I’m not sure anyone has come up with a good way to normalize the Coors Field effect. (There’s evidence simple park factors don’t fully adjust for the thin mountain air.) Given the sample size and his home ballpark, I’m inclined to outright ignore what Bettis has done to date, at least when trying to project what he’ll be going forward. Too many complicated variables at play.

The Stuff

To me, the scouting report is much more important than the stats with Bettis. It’s almost like he’s a prospect at this point. Bettis is a five-pitch pitcher who throws three fastballs (four-seamer, sinker, cutter), a curveball, and a changeup. The cutter is often misclassified as a slider by PitchFX for whatever reason.

Here is some PitchFX data on Bettis’ arsenal. This is 2015 data only because it’s the most recent, and also because he spent time in the bullpen the two previous years. That can screw things up. Pitchers rarely throw all their pitches in relief. (Adam Warren was a notable exception.) The MLB averages are in parentheses.

% Thrown Avg. Velo. Whiff% GB%
Four-Seam 48.9% 92.8 (92.4) 5.6% (6.9%) 48.4% (37.9%)
Sinker 10.8% 91.7 (90.8) 5.9% (5.4%) 57.1% (49.5%)
Cutter 9.6% 87.9 (88.0) 20.7% (9.7%) 65.7% (43.0%)
Curveball 15.0% 74.7 (77.8) 13.9% (11.1%) 25.6% (48.7%)
Changeup 15.8% 85.6 (83.3) 19.6% (14.9%) 73.5% (47.8%)

Bettis’ fastball velocity is more or less average — PitchFX says he topped out at 97.2 mph and 96.5 mph with the four-seamer and sinker this past season, respectively — and he gets an above-average number of ground balls with both his four-seamer and sinker, but not many swings and misses.

The cutter looks like a well-above-average pitch given the rate of whiffs and grounders, but he only threw it 9.6% of the time in 2015, so it could be sample size noise. In fact, Bettis threw only 179 cutters this past season, so yeah. The changeup is interesting. It looks like a great pitch based on whiffs and grounders, yet left-handed batters hit Bettis kind hard this season.

This could be a sample size issue, though I do think the velocity might have something to do with it too. Ideally a pitcher would have a 10 mph or so separation between his fastball and changeup. Bettis approximately had a 7 mph separation in 2015, less if you look at the sinker. The lack of big time separation could indicate the pitch is more hittable than the swing-and-miss and grounder numbers indicate. Here’s some video:

I suppose it’s only fair to point out the extreme separation between Bettis’ fastball and curveball after talking about the lack of separation with the changeup. He got some ugly swings with that slow curve in the video.

Playing at altitude doesn’t only allow the ball travel farther when hit, it also changes a pitcher’s stuff. It’s a physics issue — in the thin air, the ball encounters less resistance as it spins towards the plate. I don’t want to get too nerdy, but the interaction between the spinning seams and the molecules in the air determines how the ball moves. That interaction at sea level is different than it is on top of a mountain.

That’s a big reason why the Rockies have had such a hard time finding pitchers who can have consistent success in their home ballpark — they don’t know how their stuff will behave in the thin air until they get there. Bettis has a track record of missing bats all throughout the minors and the PitchFX data suggests he has options to get whiffs and grounders. Get him out of Coors Field and his stuff may firm up.

Injury History

Bettis has had some arm problems in his career, most notably losing the entire 2012 season to a strained muscle behind his shoulder. Didn’t throw a single pitch that year. Bettis did not have surgery and he hasn’t had any shoulder trouble since, and his velocity has returned to it’s pre-injury levels. (He lost 2-3 mph in 2013 but it has since returned.)

Furthermore, elbow inflammation cost Bettis a little more than a month this past season. He got hurt in late-July, rehabbed for a month after an MRI showed no structural damage, then returned to the mound in late-September and pitched with no issues the rest of the season. Little bit of a scare there. Bettis also missed two months with an oblique strain in 2013, though that’s not a concern. It happens.

The shoulder and elbow injuries are, however, red flags. The only good news is that his shoulder injury only involved a muscle and not his labrum or the tendons in his rotator cuff. Also, the elbow MRI showed his ulnar collateral ligament was intact as recently as this past July. Shoulder and elbow injuries are always bad. Bettis’ appear to have been less bad than they could have been.

Contract Status

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Thanks to all the up-and-down action the last three years, Bettis has accrued one year and 96 days of service time, commonly written as 1.096. He has five years of team control remaining. Two as a pre-arbitration player and three as an arbitration-eligible player. I suppose he could qualify as a Super Two following next season if the cutoff falls low enough, but that seems very unlikely.

Bettis has one minor league option remaining. The Rockies purchased his contract and called him up for the first time in August 2013, and he spent the rest of the year in the big leagues. He burned his first option going up and down in 2014, then burned his second when he was sent to Triple-A to start 2015. That means he has one left, unless he somehow qualifies for a fourth option. Either way, a team that trades for him hopes the options are a moot point. They’ll want to stick him in their rotation and leave him there.

What Would It Take?

Bettis is a former mid-range prospect with five years of team control left, and those guys are usually traded in packages for an established big leaguer, so we have an interesting dynamic here. The Rockies are rebuilding (I think) and presumably want young pieces in return. They have no use for 32-year-old Brett Gardner or 30-year-old Andrew Miller.

Recent trades involving pitchers five years from free agency include …

  • Roenis Elias: Traded as second piece in a deal for Wade Miley.
  • Nate Karns: Traded as headliner in three-player package for Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar.
  • Dan Straily: Traded with Luis Valbuena for one year of Dexter Fowler.
  • Jarred Cosart: Traded with two spare parts for three prospects, most notably Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick.

… and none of that really helps us. The Cosart trade is probably most applicable, which, at the time, boiled down to Cosart for Moran and Marisnick with other stuff thrown in. Baseball America ranked Moran and Marisnick as the Nos. 61 and 79 prospects prior to 2014, the year of the trade. At the same time, Cosart was more highly regarded than Bettis. He was twice ranked as a top 100 prospect by Baseball America, topping out at No. 50 in 2012.

The Yankees traded six years of Shane Greene for five years of Didi Gregorius, and that might be the framework for a Bettis trade. My promising young player for your promising young player. The Rockies need basically everything at this point. Gary Sanchez for Bettis may seem like an overpay but that could be what it takes. Perhaps they can talk them down to, say, Rob Refsnyder, something like that. My trade proposal sucks, I know.

Point is, this isn’t a Gardner or Miller for Bettis plus stuff trade. The Rockies don’t need those guys. If they do trade Bettis, they’re going to trade him for young players. Also, here’s a weird factor to consider: Bettis has not fallen out of favor with the Rockies. The Yankees have targeted guys who have fallen out of favor with their previous teams during their on-the-fly rebuild (Gregorius, Dustin Ackley, Starlin Castro, etc.) so they don’t have to pay full freight. Bettis doesn’t fit that mold.

Wrapping Up

I know there’s nothing sexy about Bettis as a trade target, and you can always come with a reason to not trade for anyone, but look at what he offers. He’s only 26, he has five years of control, he throws five pitches, he gets grounders, he has a history of missing bats, and he has experience pitching in an extreme hitter’s environment. Those are all pluses in my book.

The injury history is a red flag, no doubt about it, as is the history of average at best control. There’s risk. That’s true of every pitcher. The Rockies have indicated a willingness to move just about anyone in an effort to improve, and Bettis is a potential long-term rotation piece with solid stuff who seems like someone pitching coach Larry Rothschild could help take to the next level.

Yanks should explore extending Pineda and Eovaldi given price of pitching, upcoming free agent classes

(Getty)
(Getty)

All throughout the offseason, we’ve heard the Yankees are looking for controllable young pitching because aside from Luis Severino, all of their current starters can become free agents within two years. Ivan Nova will qualify for free agency after 2016 while CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, and Masahiro Tanaka will do the same after 2017. (Tanaka can opt-out of his deal following 2017.)

While the Yankees do have some starting pitching prospects who figure to contribute at the MLB level come 2018 — James Kaprielian and Rookie Davis, most notably — they’ll need more arms. No doubt about it. Looking for young pitching now makes sense. The problem? It’s crazy expensive. Just look at what it took to get Shelby Miller. That package may be something of an outlier, but the point stands. Pitching is expensive.

The upcoming free agent classes don’t offer much help either. Stephen Strasburg will be the best free agent starter next offseason, and the second best is probably Brett Anderson. Francisco Liriano, Alex Cobb, and Clay Buchholz headline the 2017-18 free agent pitching class. Like I’ve been saying, this offseason’s free agent class was the best in years, and that means going forward too.

Given the cost of pitching and the lack of high-end starters in upcoming free agent classes, the Yankees’ best option for controllable pitching behind 2017 might be the guys already on the roster, specifically Eovaldi and Pineda. They’re still in their mid-20s — Pineda turns 27 in January and Eovaldi turns 26 in February — and both have had flashes of success in New York.

At the same time, both Pineda and Eovaldi have been pretty inconsistent in recent years, and both guys have a major arm injury in their history. Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery eight years ago and Pineda had surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2012. Both guys missed time with injuries this past season too — Eovaldi’s season ended in mid-September due to elbow inflammation and Pineda missed a month with a forearm strain.

The injury history and inconsistency are obvious red flags, though they also potentially help keep contract extension prices down. It’s a classic risk vs. reward situation. Eovaldi and Pineda are reasonably young and have the tools to be very successful, but there are enough red flags to justify going year-to-year contractually. I can understand both sides of the argument, extending them or going year-to-year.

Not many pitchers have signed extensions with four years of service time in recent years. Jordan Zimmermann took a two-year deal during the 2013-14 offseason that didn’t delay free agency — it only gave the Nationals cost certainty over his remaining two arbitration years. The last multi-year deal that bought out free agent years for a pitcher at this service time level was Matt Harrison’s five-year, $55M deal in January 2013.

Ideally, I think an extension for Pineda and/or Eovaldi would cover four years, so their final two arbitration years plus two free agent years. An option or two would be cool as well. The Yankees would get control of both through 2019 and the two pitchers would hit free agency at 29-30, an age where they could still land a big free agent deal. MLBTR projects Eovaldi for $5.7M through arbitration next year and Pineda for $4.6M. Using that as a starting point, how’s this for potential framework?

Eovaldi Pineda
2016 (Arb. Year) $5.5M $4.5M
2017 (Arb. Year) $7.5M $7M
2018 (FA Year) $13M $13M
2019 (FA Year) $15M $15M
2020 (Option) $17M ($1M buyout) $17M ($1M buyout)
Total Guarantee $42M + option $40.5M + option

I just spitballed some numbers and looking them over, they seem too low. Wouldn’t you give Pineda and Eovaldi four years and $40M or so guaranteed right now given the current market? Mike Leake got five years and $75M. Jeff Samardzija got five years and $90M. Eovaldi’s currently scheduled to hit free agency at age 27 and Pineda will be 28. The market generally rewards youth, as long as they stay reasonably healthy and effective.

At the same time, I’m not sure how much higher the Yankees should go given their injury issues. Neither Pineda nor Eovaldi received large signing bonuses as amateurs — Pineda signed for $35,000 out of the Dominican Republic and Eovaldi got $250,000 as an 11th round pick — but they made $2.1M and $3.3M through arbitration in 2015, respectively. They have some financial security and may not jump at an extension.

Either way, the point isn’t the Yankees absolutely should sign Pineda or Eovaldi to a contract extension. It’s that they should at least explore the possibility and see what the other side has in mind. Perhaps both players ask for too much and that’s that, no deal can be worked out. It might have already happened for all we know. On the other hand, if the Yankees haven’t checked in, one or both might be more open to an extension than they realize.

The Yankees aren’t stupid. They know more about Pineda and Eovaldi than we ever will and it’s possible they have concerns about their health and effectiveness, and aren’t willing to assume the long-term risk. Extending both players is just one idea to give the Yankees some controllable starters beyond 2017. The trade market seems crazy and free agency doesn’t offer much help. Paying Pineda and/or Eovaldi might be the best way for the Yankees to get the pitching they need.

King: Yankees looking to add free agent starter on minor league contract

Beachy. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
Beachy. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

In addition to targeting young pitchers in trades, the Yankees are also looking to add a free agent starter on a minor league contract this offseason, reports George King. They don’t want to commit significant dollars to a free agent. “They are looking for a starter,” said an executive to King.

As of right now, the Triple-A Scranton rotation figures to include Brady Lail, Jaron Long, and recent pickups Luis Cessa and Chad Green. Bryan Mitchell could be in that mix too, though I’m sure he’ll be given an opportunity to win a big league bullpen job in Spring Training. Matt Tracy, Kyle Haynes, Caleb Smith, and Eric Ruth are other possibilities.

Looking over the list of unsigned free agent starters, pitchers like Brandon Beachy, Chad Billingsley, Josh Johnson, and Shaun Marcum stand out as minor league contract candidates. All four were hurt and/or ineffective this past season, which is why we’re talking about them as non-roster players. I suppose we could include Cliff Lee in this group too.

It’s worth noting the current Collective Bargaining Agreement introduced Article XX(B) free agents. Those are players with 6+ years of service time who sign minor league deals. The CBA entitles them to a $100,000 retention bonus if they don’t make the Opening Day roster, and their deal automatically includes a June 1st opt-out if they’re not called up. Beachy does not qualify as an Article XX(B) but the other guys I mentioned all do.

The Yankees tend to pay minor league free agents well, so the retention bonus is no big deal, but the opt-out date can throw a wrench into roster construction. There’s been a flurry of minor deals leading up to June 1st in recent years as teams traded their Article XX(B) free agents to clubs willing to add them to the 40-man roster rather than lose them for nothing when they opt out.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I write this post every offseason. The Yankees always seem to be on the lookout for a veteran starter who is willing to go to Triple-A, though they haven’t had much luck finding any. Among the veteran starters they’ve signed to minor league deals in recent seasons are Kyle Davies, Scott Baker, Chris Bootcheck, and Chien-Ming Wang. Not the most exciting group.

If nothing else, I expect the Yankees to sign someone to serve as the designated Triple-A innings guy. They grab one of those each offseason just to soak up innings in the minors to protect the actual prospects. It’s a thankless but necessary job. Whether the Yankees can nab someone who might actually contribute at the MLB level remains to be seen. When it comes to non-roster invites, the answer is usually no.

Assessing possible trade partners for Brett Gardner

(Elsa/Getty
(Elsa/Getty

Things have slowed down of late, but Brett Gardner has been a popular name on the trade rumor circuit this offseason. He’s one of the few Yankee veterans with positive trade value, so it’s not a surprise the team is at least listening to offers as they aim to get younger. The Mariners and Cubs both checked in, possibly the Indians as well.

“I think it’d be more likely that we keep them than move them,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch at the Winter Meetings, referring to Gardner and Andrew Miller. “I say that recognizing that if somebody wants to ring a bell that I’ve put out there, then that could happen as early as tomorrow. But if I’m predicting anything, I’d predict that they would be here, not somewhere else.”

It’s easy to say clubs looking for outfield help can simply turn to the free agent market, where quality players like Adam Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton remain unsigned, but not every team can afford them. Gardner is owed $37.5M over the next three years. That might buy you a year and a half of Cespedes or Upton. Gardner also has the advantage of being a legitimate center fielder.

I don’t necessarily want the Yankees to move Gardner, but there are reasons to do so. There are still plenty of teams that need outfield help at this point of the offseason. Some teams are more realistic candidates than others — for example, no rebuilding club wants Gardner, so it’s contenders only — especially if the Yankees stick to their demand of a young starter under control beyond 2017. Let’s run down the possible suitors.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Outfielders? A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas.
Young Starters? Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson. I assume Archie Bradley is off-limits.
Cash? Lots, apparently. Their massive new television deal just kicked in, as Zack Greinke found out.

The D’Backs had enough outfield depth to include Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller trade, and it stands to reason they’re committed to Tomas after giving him $68.5M last offseason. If so, they’re not a fit for Gardner. Pollock and Peralta aren’t going anywhere. They’re way too good. Arizona may have a young starter to spare and chances are they can afford Gardner, but the outfield is currently too crowded. A Fit? No.

Baltimore Orioles
Outfielders? Adam Jones, Hyun-Soo Kim, and, uh, Nolan Reimold? Egads.
Young Starters? Outside of Kevin Gausman, no one worthwhile.
Cash? Yeah. They just offered Chris Davis $150M or so.

Man, is Gardner not a perfect fit for the O’s? He gives them a solid left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to put Manny Machado in the middle of the lineup. Gardner’s also affordable, he knows the ballpark, knows the division, and his lefty bat would help balance their righty heavy lineup. It’s such a great fit.

Of course, Orioles owner Peter Angelos would sooner play with a 24-man roster than make a significant trade with the Yankees. He had a contentious relationship with George Steinbrenner and he still holds the grudge to this day. Never say never, but it’s hard to see Angelos signing off on a significant trade with New York. That they lack a suitable non-Gausman young starter to send back also complicates things. A Fit? No.

Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)
Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)

Chicago Cubs
Outfielders? Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler. Kyle Schwarber plays an outfielder on TV.
Young Starters? Adam Warren! But seriously folks, no.
Cash? Oh indeed.

The Cubbies are no longer up-and-coming. They’re all-in. That much is clear. Right now the plan is to play Heyward in center field with Soler and Schwarber in the corners, though there’s talk they may move Soler for a young starter, which would push Heyward to right and free up center. Gardner would fill that center field hole perfectly. The problem? The Cubbies don’t have a young starter to send back to New York. That’s why they signed John Lackey and are open to flipping Soler for an arm. I mean, I guess Kyle Hendricks counts, but I’m not a fan. A Fit? Maybe.

Cleveland Indians
Outfielders?
Michael Brantley will be out until May following shoulder surgery, leaving only Rajai Davis, Abe Almonte, Collin Cowgill, and Lonnie Chisenhall. (Chisenhall’s an outfielder now.)
Young Starters? Plenty. Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar would be ideal, Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin are more likely.
Cash? Unlikely. Payroll has hovered around $85M for a few years now, and they have $64.5M on the books plus another $15.1M in projected arbitration salaries.

The payroll situation is a significant obstacle. The Yankees could always eat salary to facilitate a trade, but I can’t imagine they’d pay Gardner to play for another team, especially another AL contender. The Indians just went on a mini-spending spree (Davis, Mike Napoli) and the front office indicated they won’t be spending any more money. The Yankees have an outfielder to spare and the Indians appear to have a starter to spare. The finances are messing things up. A Fit? Maybe.

Detroit Tigers
Outfielders? Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin, J.D. Martinez.
Young Starters? I assume Daniel Norris is off-limits, leaving Shane Greene and Matt Boyd.
Cash? For shizzle.

The Tigers are going for it next season. They’ve added Maybin, Justin Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Rodriguez so far this offseason. There’s an obvious opening in left field — Gose and Maybin would platoon in center, ideally — and Gardner would fill that spot well. He plays strong defense for spacious Comerica Park and gives them a nice leadoff option.

As for the young starters Detroit has to offer … eh. Boyd is an extreme fly ball guy who is as generic as generic lefties get. Greene? I know more than a few people out there would be cool with the idea of bringing him back, except I’m sure no one would think that if he wasn’t an ex-Yankee. If Greene came up and debuted with any team other than the Yankees, no one would love the idea of acquiring him after the season he just had. A Fit? Maybe.

Kansas City Royals
Outfielders? Lorenzo Cain is currently flanked by Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando. Yeah.
Young Starters? Yordano Ventura is presumably off-limits. Danny Duffy might not be. That’s it.
Cash? Seems likely. They had a $113M payroll last year and are currently at $108M for 2016, including arbitration projections. They just won the World Series and I assume payroll will increase. Payroll increased $10M following their 2014 postseason run, after all.

The Royals have a clear need for outfield help. They wisely let the unproductive Alex Rios walk as a free agent and will likely lose Alex Gordon to a club with a larger payroll. GM Dayton Moore has said they’re willing to give Dyson a chance as a starting outfielder, but Orlando? He was a nice story as a 29-year-old rookie in 2015, but he didn’t hit at all. Starting him should be a non-option.

Assuming the money works out, the only really issue is finding a suitable return. Duffy is interesting, though the Yankees are looking for guys they can control beyond 2017, and he doesn’t fit. He’ll be a free agent after 2017. That’s pretty much all the young pitching the Royals have to offer. They’re been scouring the market for an extra arm this offseason just like New York. A Fit? Maybe.

Los Angeles Angels
Outfielders? Woo Mike Trout! Kole Calhoun’s good too. Then there’s Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry.
Young Starters? Andrew Heaney ain’t happening. Nick Tropeano and the not-so-young Matt Shoemaker might.
Cash? Indubitably.

GM Billy Eppler told reporters he’s ready to roll with the Nava/Gentry platoon in left field, which sounds so unappealing. That would have been a good idea from, like, 2012-13. In 2015? Nah. The Angels also could use a left-handed bat to balance their lineup. Gardner would slot right in as the leadoff hitter and allow them to use Calhoun in a run-producing spot.

Furthermore, the Angels have some young pitching to offer, specifically Tropeano. I wrote about him in last week’s mailbag. Heaney would be ideal but it’s just not going to happen. It’s not realistic. The Gardner for Tropeano framework could make sense for both clubs. Eppler and Cashman certainly have a good relationship, which could help expedite things. A Fit? Yes.

St. Louis Cardinals
Outfielders? Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham.
Young Starters? Yes. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha ain’t happening. Think Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney, or maybe personal fave Marco Gonzales instead.
Cash? Yeah. They offered Heyward $200M and David Price $180M, reportedly.

Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

This has been a tough offseason for the Cardinals. By bWAR, they lost their best pitcher (John Lackey) and position player (Heyward) to the rival Cubs. They made runs at Price and Heyward but fell short. Yesterday they added Mike Leake, who will probably end up throwing 230 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA in 2015 because of Cardinals Devil Magic™.

Even with all those outfield bodies, the Cardinals lack a true center fielder. Grichuk is the center fielder by default and he’s no better than average out there. Gardner would give them a real center fielder and allow Matt Carpenter to move into a run-producing lineup spot — did you know Carpenter hit 28 homers in 2015 after hitting 25 total from 2011-14? Like I said, Cardinals Devil Magic™ — plus they have some young arms to spare. Gardner for Cooney or Gonzales could be a thing. A Fit? Yes.

San Francisco Giants
Outfielders? Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco.
Young Starters? No. That’s why they had to sign Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
Cash? Yes. They had a $173.2M payroll in 2015 and are currently at $160M right now, counting arbitration projections.

The Giants do have some young outfielders they could try in left field, specifically Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, but I can’t imagine they’d commit $220M to Cueto and Samardzija only to cheap out on the outfield. Pagan is declining and has missed a lot of time to injuries in recent years. They can’t count on him to contribute much.

Gardner fits their roster perfectly as the everyday left fielder, part-time center fielder, and leadoff hitter. They can also afford his salary, it appears. (They’re shedding Pagan’s contract next offseason too.) They just don’t have any young pitching to offer, and no, Chris Heston doesn’t count. I explained why in last week’s mailbag. The Giants didn’t sign Cueto and Samardzija because they had nothing better to do. They needed pitching in a big way. A Fit? Maybe.

Washington Nationals
Outfielders? Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor.
Young Starters? A few. Joe Ross and A.J. Cole are the most notable.
Cash? Yep. They reportedly offered Heyward $200M.

The Nationals are in a weird place. They had a very disappointing 2015 season, then lost several key players to free agency, yet they’re still in position to contend in 2016. Harper, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Max Scherzer is a pretty strong core. They do need help though, especially with Werth and Ryan Zimmerman showing their age.

Gardner would step in to replace Denard Span as the center fielder and leadoff hitter, two obvious needs for Washington. The Nationals also have some young pitching to offer — Ross and Cole are the most notable (here’s my Scouting The Market post on Ross), but I guess Tanner Roark counts too — money to spend and incentive to win. Last year’s performance was embarrassing and they want to turn things around in a hurry. These two teams seem to match up awfully well for a trade. Whether they can agree to the particulars is another matter, but the puzzle pieces fit. A Fit? Yes.

* * *

So after all of that, I count three yeses (Angels, Cardinals, Nationals), two nos (D’Backs, Orioles), and five maybes (Cubs, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Giants). In the case of the Cubs, I think it’s worth noting Cashman and Theo Epstein are both pretty smart dudes with a willingness to be creative, so I wouldn’t rule out a three-team trade that sends Gardner to the Cubs and a young pitcher from the third team to the Yankees.

For now, it appears there are several possible suitors for Gardner, though I’m not really sure whether time is on the Yankees’ side. On one hand, if they hang onto him until after the top free agent outfielders sign, teams won’t have anywhere else to turn for outfield help. On the other hand, once the top free agents are off the board, there might not be any teams looking for outfield help. Quite the pickle, that is. The Yankees say they’re not shopping Gardner, but my guess is they would move him quickly if the right offer comes along. These ten teams stood out as the best possible suitors.