Mailbag: Free Agents, Austin, McCann, Sanchez, Gregorius

I’ve got ten questions for you in this week’s second half opening mailbag. Ten questions qualifies as a small mailbag these days. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything.

Coghlan. (Norm Hall/Getty)
Coghlan. (Norm Hall/Getty)

Phil asks: Looking at next year’s FA class, who do you see as B-list guys we could sign to 1-2 year deals that could help as stop-gaps or maybe break out to re-up their value?

Here’s the upcoming free agent class. Oddly enough, the best one-year contract reclamation project starter may be … Ivan Nova. Rich Hill seems to have pitched his way into a two-year deal at this point. Besides, pitchers don’t come to the Yankees to rebuild value. The AL East and Yankee Stadium is not a good place to try to improve your stock if you do your work on the mound.

As for hitters, Chris Coghlan is someone who could be interesting as a super utility guy. The former Rookie of the Year is hitting only .155/.244/.278 (40 wRC+) this season, but he put up a .265/.346/.447 (119 wRC+) line in almost 1,000 plate appearances from 2014-15 while playing first, second, third, left, and right. A lefty hitter who can do that is worth a shot as a bench piece. Here are some other one-year deal candidates that stand out to me:

  • 1B Mitch Moreland: Moreland has some outfield experience and is a lefty pull hitter who can take aim for the short porch. He’d be an okay stopgap if Greg Bird‘s shoulder isn’t ready to go come Opening Day.
  • UTIL Steve Pearce: Pearce is never going to put up a 161 wRC+ like he did in 2014 again, but he can hit lefties while playing first base and the corner outfield. He can also be an emergency option at second and third. Pearce would be a really great righty hitting complement to Bird.
  • OF Jon Jay: Jay would only make sense if the Yankees let Carlos Beltran walk and trade Brett Gardner, and even then they have all those lefty hitting Triple-A outfielders. He hits for average, gets on base, makes contact, and plays solid defense. You can do worse for a stopgap outfielder.

The upcoming free agent class is really light on impact players. There’s Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes if he opts out, and, uh, Ian Desmond? That’s the list. The Yankees are trying like hell to get under the luxury tax threshold, and let’s just say fighting off the temptation to spend big in free agency won’t be tough this winter.

George asks: Girardi said he couldn’t work with a 6 man rotation. If it meant Hicks would get more playing time, it would work. Two thoughts – 6 starters, whoever is supposed to have a “throw day” could be a 1-2 inning reliever that day, start warming up in the 5th-6th since starters need more time. Second – 2 starters + 1-2 relievers at AAA, 6th starter pitches, goes down, reliever comes up. Other starter comes up for next 6th start. Days off make this easier. It doesn’t seem that difficult.

This is not nearly as easy as you make it sound. First and foremost, you need seven starters to make it work, because the ten-day rule prevents you from sending down your sixth starter and calling him back up five days later. Do the Yankees have seven MLB caliber starters? I’m not even sure they have four right now. I guess it doesn’t matter if Chad Green and Luis Cessa are getting blasted every sixth day if you sell at the deadline though.

Also, having pitchers throw one or two innings on their throw day is not something you can do all year. Teams do it once in a while when they’re very light on available relievers. Between-start throwing sessions are usually far less intense than game action. Using a pitcher on his throw day all the time like that means he’s going to run out of gas not only earlier in the season, but earlier in starts as well.

The Yankees only have to get through the rest of July and August — they have four off-days between now and September 1st — before rosters expand and they can go with a six-man rotation. Counting the days on the schedule, Masahiro Tanaka would make nine starts between now and September 1st: five on normal rest and four on extra rest. Use a spot sixth starter once or twice and it’s only three or four starts on normal rest. He’ll live.

Howie: Through Wednesday, Tyler Austin is hitting .294/.376/.633 with 15 walks and 31 strikeouts in 29 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Now that he’s healthy again, is he back as a prospect? Could he have a chance at reaching that ceiling he once had?

He’s definitely rebuilt some prospect stock, though he’s not all the way back to where he was a few years ago simply because he’s older now and has lost development time. Austin’s biggest problem over the years has been injuries, specifically wrist problems. It’s not like he lacked hitting ability. Before Austin projected as a potential 20-homer corner outfield bat. Now he might be more like a 15-homer part-time corner outfielder/part-time first baseman. That’s still a useful player, but he’s not someone who’s going to be a real difference maker. It’s great to see him raking in Triple-A. The lost development time is not insignificant though.


Chip asks: Is the current group of young AL Shortstops (Correa, Lindor, Didi, Xander) the best we’ve seen since Jeter, Alex, Tejada and Nomar? And that’s not even including Russell in the NL.

Has to be, right? The best shortstops to debut from 2000-12 are Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Rafael Furcal in whatever order. That’s five All-Star caliber shortstops in the span of 13 seasons. Now all of a sudden we’ve seen Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, and Corey Seager debut within the last three years. (Didi Gregorius is a notch below those guys.) This is definitely the best crop of young shortstops — not just in the AL, but all of MLB — we’ve seen since the Derek Jeter/Alex Rodriguez/Nomar Garciaparra class, hands down.

Paul asks: In the beginning of the year it seemed like McCann was using the entire field pretty effectively, and now it feels like that’s gone away entirely. Is this real or imagined? If real, is there a tangible reason why?

The numbers don’t really bare that out. Here are Brian McCann‘s batted ball direction rates by month this season, via FanGraphs:

Brian McCann batted balls

Last season McCann was at 50.1% pull, 31.5% middle, and 18.4% opposite field. He was right in that range again during the first half. The monthly data reflects the random month-to-month fluctuation that happens in baseball. I don’t think a 55.8% pull rate in June and a 41.7% pull rate in July means McCann has suddenly made a conscious effort to go the other way. That’s just baseball. He’s had some memorable hits the other way this year …

… though I don’t think there’s much to it. He seems like the same ol’ McCann to me, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. He’s very productive for a catcher despite his generally low batting average.

Anonymous asks: Wondering how much trade value Higashioka has. He’s stuffed way down in the depth chart right now. Would he be able to bring anything of note back with how well he’s performed this year? Or do teams see him as a carriage waiting to turn back into a pumpkin? Keep up the awesome work and thanks!

Not much, probably. Kyle Higashioka’s track record as this type of hitter is very short, and if you look around baseball, I’m sure there are a bunch of 26-year-olds mashing in Double-A. Higashioka is a very good defensive catcher and that’s pretty important. He might be the third or fourth piece in a big trade, or someone who goes as a player to be named later. I feel like the Yankees are better off keeping Higashioka and seeing whether he’s for real than trading him for a spare part player.

Anonymous: Fun stat to track the rest of the year– Will Didi wind up with more HRs or BBs? He needed an intentional walk(!) in Saturday’s game to keep the totals even.

There are always a handful of players who finish the season with more homers than walks. Last year Cespedes (35 HR, 33 BB), Adam Jones (27 HR, 24 BB), Nolan Arenado (42 HR, 34 BB), and Salvador Perez (21 HR, 13 BB) all did it. Jones has done it a bunch of times over the years. So has Adrian Beltre.

Gregorius is at eleven homers and eleven walks right now, and like you said, one of the walks was intentional. Didi went on a bit of a homer binge to close out the first half (five homers in eleven games) and that’s not going to last all year. My guess is he finishes the season with 18-20 homers, which would be frickin’ awesome. Who wouldn’t have taken that coming into the season?

Right now Didi has a hilarious 3.5% walk rate. He’d need 572 plate appearances to get to 20 walks at that rate. Gregorius is at 317 plate appearances now and getting another 255 in the second half shouldn’t be a problem as long as he stays healthy. To finish the year with more homers than walks, Didi is either going to have to sustain this recent power binge or just stop walking all together.

Mike asks: Whether or not McCann gets traded, why don’t the Yankees call up Sanchez to split catching duties and keep McCann/Romine on the roster as backup first basemen? Torreyes seems pretty much useless on the roster at this point (barring injury) and Castro even played a game at short last week to spell DiDi. Just seems like Sanchez’s bat is needed more right now than Torreyes’ versatility, and you keep Romine so you have the option to send Sanchez back down.

Should the Yankees sell at the deadline, calling up Gary Sanchez in the second half seems like a no-brainer to me. Let him get his feet wet as McCann’s back up and give him a healthy amount of starts, maybe even half. Austin Romine has been pretty good, but he shouldn’t stand in Sanchez’s way. I say keep Ronald Torreyes — they need the backup infielder more than they need a third catcher/first baseman — and dump Romine, then let Sanchez join the team. Maybe they could get a decent prospect for Romine. Who knows? Added bonus: Higashioka goes to Triple-A.

Sanchez. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Sanchez. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

Johnny asks: I was looking at the schedule and all the games in September (minus 3 with the Dodgers) are against AL East opponents. Is it possible the brain trust thinks the team can make up significant ground and therefore is hesitant to decide on selling?

The odds of this happening are annoyingly high. The Yankees have 13 games remaining against the Red Sox, 13 against the Orioles, and ten against the Blue Jays. More than 40% of their second half games are against those three teams. So yes, all those games represent an opportunity to gain ground in the postseason race. At the same time, the Yankees beating the Red Sox is good for the Orioles and Blue Jays. Beating the O’s is good for the Red Sox and Blue Jays. They Yankees need at least two of those three teams to go in the tank to catch up. What are the odds of that happening? Also, what reason do we have to believe the Yankees can even beat those teams consistently? They’re 6-15 against them in 2016.

Anonymous asks: If, for example, Chapman had the same 2 years of control left and the same amount of money due, who would have the most trade value, Chapman or A. Miller?

Chapman. Miller is awesome, but Chapman’s track record as an elite reliever is way longer and he’s nearly three full years younger. Also, Miller missed a month with that forearm injury last year. Chapman hasn’t had any injury problems in years. Miller has been better this year on a rate basis and this is definitely a “what have you done for me lately” game, but the combination of age and track record seems too much to ignore.

Mailbag: Vogelbach, Rule 5 Draft, Cardinals, Joba, Mateo

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week, the last one before the All-Star break. As always, you can send us questions or comments at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.


Matt asks: Given the increased discussions about the Yankees being “sellers” at the deadline, is there any chance that the team takes a look at the Cubs’ Dan Vogelbach? Would a Vogelbach for Miller trade be realistic? (And yes, my trade proposal sucks—sorry if this has been asked already elsewhere!)

Vogelbach is the most likely to be traded prospect in all of baseball. Defensively, the kid is basically present day Alex Rodriguez. He’s a bad defensive first baseman who fits best at DH. The Cubs move everyone around to different positions and they haven’t even bothered to try Vogelbach, who is listed 6-foot-0 and 250 lbs., in left field. With Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base and no DH spot in the NL, Vogelbach has no long-term place with the Cubs.

Now, his defense may stink, but boy, Vogelbach can hit. The lefty hitter owns a .301/.413/.536 (152 wRC+) line with 15 homers, a 15.4% walk rate, and a 19.6% strikeout rate in 81 Triple-A games this year. Last year he hit .272/.403/.425 (140 wRC+) in 76 Double-A games around oblique and hamstring problems.’s scouting report praised Vogelbach because “(rather) than selling out for home runs, he controls the strike zone, makes consistent contact and uses the entire field.”

The Yankees have the DH spot available as well as a long-term opening at first base, at least until Greg Bird shows he’s back to normal following shoulder surgery, so yes, Vogelbach does seem like someone who could interest them. There’s no way I would trade Miller straight up for Vogelbach though. I’m not even sure I’d take Vogelbach as the second piece for Miller. Vogelbach for Aroldis Chapman is more realistic, but even then I’d want more. The kid can hit, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a 23-year-old DH. If he doesn’t hit, he’s useless.

Matt asks: I noticed when the International League All-Stars were announced the team included 4 Yankees: Green, Sanchez, Judge, and Gamel. This got me wondering, when was the last time the Yankees had 4 All Stars at the AAA level? Particularly, 4 All-Stars who have a change to legitimately contribute at the MLB level in the near future? It seems like the type of thing that would’ve been impossible to imagine a few years ago.

Unlike the other minor leagues, which stay within themselves and play division vs. division in the All-Star Game, the Triple-A All-Star Game is International League vs. Pacific Coast League. The Yankees and Blue Jays lead the way with four International League All-Stars each this year. Here are New York’s Triple-A All-Stars over the years:

2016: Ben Gamel, Chad Green, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez
2015: Kyle Roller, Austin Romine
2014: Jose Pirela
2013: Chris Bootcheck, Thomas Neal
2012: Juan Cedeno
2011: Jesus Montero, Jorge Vazquez, Kevin Whelan
2010: Jonathan Albaladejo, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez
2009: Shelley Duncan, Austin Jackson, Zach Kroenke
2008: Justin Christian
2007: Shelley Duncan

Okay, I’ve gone back far enough. To answer Matt’s question: a long time. It’s been a long time since the Yankees last had four Triple-A All-Stars, nevermind four Triple-A All-Stars who were legitimate big league prospects. That 2010 class is the closest by default. Most of the guys listed above are journeymen filling out the roster.

Being selected to a Triple-A All-Star Game hardly means the player is destined for a productive big league career. For example: almost everyone listed above. It’s still cool to see the Yankees not only have legitimate prospects in Triple-A, but legitimate prospects playing well enough to make the All-Star team. That’s pretty awesome.

Joe asks: Who are the rule V candidates of note for this offseason?

The Yankees have some big time prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, including Judge and Jorge Mateo. Miguel Andujar and Luis Torrens too. The first three guys will definitely be added to the 40-man roster. I can’t imagine Torrens will be though. He’s nowhere close to ready for MLB duty, even as a sparsely used backup catcher. Some team might pick Torrens, but I doubt he’d even make it through Spring Training. This is one of those situations where the best way to keep him is to leave him unprotected, because you know he’ll be offered back.

Others eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season include Jake Cave, Tyler Webb, Brady Lail, Dietrich Enns, Kyle Higashioka, and Cale Coshow. Cave’s an interesting one because he’s been a Rule 5 pick once before, which means he can elect free agency rather than return to the Yankees if he doesn’t stick with his new team. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with Cave and all their other upper level lefty hitting outfielders. They can’t all of ’em. Does the Rule 5 Draft stuff make Cave trade bait? My guess right now is Judge, Mateo, Andujar, Webb, Higashioka, and Cave (assuming he isn’t traded) get protected. No one else.

Update: Higashioka will be a minor league free agent after the season. Forgot about that. My bad. He’ll still be Rule 5 Draft eligible if he signs a minor league contract with the Yankees or any other team though. The Yankees could add Higashioka to the 40-man roster to prevent him from hitting free agency.

Judge will added to the 40-man roster in November. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Judge will be added to the 40-man roster in November. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Adam asks: Why are the Cardinals not mentioned as a potential trade partner when looking at where guys like Miller or Chapman could be sent? They would seem to have a need in their bullpen and while their farm system has been ranked around the same as the Yankees’ they always seem to do a good job of player development.

Trevor Rosenthal is having a shockingly bad season — he went into yesterday with 22 walks and a 5.28 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 29 innings  — while other bullpen veterans like Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness have been hurt and/or ineffective. Korean important Seung-hwan Oh (1.67 ERA and 1.69 FIP) has been awesome and is manager Mike Matheny’s only reliable late-innings reliever right now.

The Cardinals are not catching the Cubs in the NL Central, no one is, but they remain in the wildcard mix. The bullpen is an obvious place to upgrade. We should definitely be talking about them more as a possible trade partner. Here’s their top 30 prospects list, if you want to look that over. I love righty Jack Flaherty, have since the 2014 draft (he was said to be unsignable, but the Cardinals were able to buy him away from UNC), and I’d want him in any trade involving one of the big three relievers. Catcher Carson Kelly and (injured) lefty Marco Gonzales are also personal faves.

Mary asks: Why doesn’t MLB have something similar to the NFL draft scouting combine? I realize that some teams are still playing such as in the College World Series, but what about moving the draft a little later and having a scouting combine for teams to get a look at the players in that kind of environment? Do you think it will ever happen?

There has been talk about doing something like this for the top 200 draft prospects per the MLB Scouting Bureau. Those guys are already subject to performance-enhancing drug tests. The scheduling is difficult because, like you said, the college baseball season is still going on. Plus the high school season usually ends a few weeks before the draft, so you’d be expecting kids to come in when they’re not in midseason form.

I’m not sure how much useful information teams can gain from a scouting combine anyway. Are they going to change the scouting reports they’ve been building for years just because a guy hits few batting practice homers or runs a 4.4 40? If so, a combine might do more harm than good. Baseball’s much different than football. At the NFL combine teams are looking at players who will be on their roster next year. Baseball draft picks are years away.

Daniel asks: I know its way too early, but care to guess the Yankees starting 9 position players and top 3 SP for Charleston next year? There seems to be at least 10 actual position player prospects in the 3 rookie league teams alone.

Thanks to the 2014-15 international free agent haul and the last two drafts, it looks like the 2017 Low-A Charleston River Dogs will be the most exciting minor league affiliate we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Here’s an extremely preliminary roster:

Catcher: Luis Torrens
First Base: Drew Bridges (?)
Second Base: Hoy Jun Park (repeating the level)
Shortstop: Wilkerman Garcia
Third Base: Dermis Garcia
Outfield: Estevan Florial, Blake Rutherford, Isiah Gilliam, Leonardo Molina
Starting Pitchers: Drew Finley, Nick Nelson, Austin DeCarr, Jeff Degano (?)

First base is the only position where it looks like the River Dogs won’t have a really good prospect, assuming Park is held back. (Nick Solak will almost certainly start with High-A Tampa.) I suppose the Yankees could move Gilliam back to first base, the position he played as an amateur, but he’s doing well in the outfield right now. Those four outfielders will do the “rotate among the three outfield spots plus DH” thing the Yankees have going on in Triple-A Scranton right now.

Obvious caveat: a lot can change over the next nine months. Guys will get hurt, traded, held back in Extended Spring Training, all sorts of stuff. As it stands right now, it looks like that group of players will head to Charleston next season. I’m sure the actual finished product will be different, perhaps substantially so.

Anonymous asks: I know you’re pretty high on Tyler Wade, & your recaps often mention how he’s holding his own offensively at a young age in AA, but have you noticed his soaring error total lately? He’s up to 19(!) as of 7/4. I know minor league error totals can be high, but is there any concern here?

Wade is now up to 20 errors in 81 games: five in 27 games at second and 15 in 54 games at short. Last season Wade made 35 errors in 124 total games, so he’s more or less on the same pace. I don’t worry too much about minor league error totals though because these are minor leaguers. They’re still learning the game and they’re going to make mistakes. Also, the fields aren’t as well-groomed as MLB fields, so there are lots of tricky hops and things like that.’s scouting report says Wade has the “quick feet and hands to go with solid arm strength” necessary for shortstop, so the tools are there. Is he going to be a Gold Glover? Probably not. But he can play the position. Wade has close to no power — it’s 30 power, not true 20 power on the 20-80 scouting scale — but he’s a lefty hitter who makes contact (16.2 K%), knows the strike zone (12.8 BB%), can run (16-for-20 in steal attempts), and can play short. He’s doing all of that as a 21-year-old in Double-A, where he’s more than three years younger than the average Eastern League player. That’s a really good prospect. If I were another team with a hole at shortstop, I’d be looking to trade for Wade to be a stopgap the next few years.

Joba. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Joba. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Dustin asks: Now that he’s DFA’d by the Indians, should the Yanks bring Joba back?

My initial reaction was nah, why bother? Joba Chamberlain hasn’t been all that good for about five years now. That said, the bar he has to clear is “better than Anthony Swarzak,” so yeah. Maybe it is worth it. Joba had a 2.25 ERA (3.82 FIP) with a 22.0% strikeout rate and a 13.4% walk rate in 20 innings with the Tribe after pitching to a 4.28 ERA (4.36 FIP) from 2012-15. Has anything changed? Did he learn a new pitch or improve his command, anything like that? Glossing over the numbers, the answer seems to be no. Same old Joba. There’s nothing wrong with bringing him back on a minor league deal, but when it comes to the MLB roster, I say roll with Nick Goody and Johnny Barbato first.

Jeff asks: Chase Headley is slashing .297/.369/.494 with a 129 wRC+ since he hit his first HR on May 12th. Do you think this is sustainable for him, or just an outlier similar to his 41 wRC+ prior to this run?

Another outlier, and that’s coming from a Headley fan. The real Headley is somewhere between the 41 wRC+ and 129 wRC+, though closer to the latter. A year ago Headley hit .259/.324/.369 (91 wRC+), and ZiPS pegged him for .251/.328/.392 (98 wRC+) this year. That’s pretty much exactly who I think he is. A bit below league average offensively and above-average defensively. Headley’s been awesome the last few weeks. I expect him to level off and settle in a little south of league average in the second half.

Steve asks: How bout a buy-low candidate in someone like Patrick Corbin either at the trade deadline or in the off season? I think I remember at one point he was included in one of your articles as the type of pitcher the Yankees go for with his peripherals. Also, do not exactly trust the D-Backs to be putting him in the best position to succeed based on their track record. Interesting candidate or not worth the trouble?

I’ve always liked Corbin and felt validated when he had his breakout 2013 season (3.41 ERA and 3.43 FIP). Then he blew out his elbow the next spring and needed Tommy John surgery. Go figure. Corbin, 26, had a 3.60 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 85 innings after returning last year, but so far this year he has a 4.90 ERA (5.05 FIP) in 101 innings. His strikeouts (16.9%) are down while both his walks (8.2%) and homers (1.51 HR/9) are up. That’s … bad.

Corbin’s stuff has bounced back well from Tommy John surgery. He’s still throwing in the low-90s and using his slider and changeup as much as ever. It’s not uncommon for location to be off following elbow surgery, though it seems Corbin’s command was fine a year ago. He’s also going to be a free agent after the 2018 season, so he wouldn’t be a super long-term rotation addition. Corbin’s someone who is worth a deeper analysis outside a mailbag setting. For now, I’ll call my interest “limited.”

Dave asks: Does a suspension of this type (i.e. a violation of team policy as opposed to, say, a drug suspension) hurt Mateo’s trade value?

I don’t think so. Other clubs will cite the suspension (“makeup concerns”) as a reason to talk down Mateo’s value when negotiating with the Yankees, but has his value as a player changed? No. Mateo’s still the same guy on the field, and teams have shown time and time again they will put up with a player who is a jerk (or worse) as long as he can play, and Mateo can play. If no club is willing to pay full price to get Mateo, that’s fine, the Yankees can keep the dynamic top 25-ish overall prospect.

Alex asks: My question is do you think it’s the right decision for Judge to hit in the AAA HR derby? Will it mess up his swing right as he’s getting hot and starting to strike out less?

We hear about this every year. One or two players who participate in the Home Run Derby slump in the second half, and inevitably it gets blamed on the Derby rather than just baseball being baseball. Pick eight players at random and chances are one or two of them will have down second half. That’s just baseball. If one night of glorified batting practice screws up Judge’s swing so much that he can’t hit the rest of the season, then he’s not going to amount to much anyway. The Home Run Derby is a total non-issue to me.

Mailbag: Stanton, Webb, Bird, Degano, A-Rod, 1st Rounders

Only nine questions in the mailbag this week — “only” nine, I should say — and that’s because some of the answers are a bit longer than usual. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us anything. Questions, links, comments, whatever.

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
I’m not sure how to feel about Stanton and Barry having an awkward fist bump/high five moment. (Duane Burleson/Getty)

James asks: I heard Harold Reynolds on MLB tonight say the Yankees need to go out and get Stanton. While I don’t think it will ever happen, what do you think it would take to make that happen, and do you think they should do it?

Giancarlo Stanton has come out of his ugly slump — he went into last night’s game on a 16-for-45 (.356) hot streak in his last eleven games, with three homers — but man, that slump had to scare the crap out of the Marlins. He went 12-for-102 (.118) with a 41.7% strikeout rate in 29 games, so it lasted a month. There’s still $314M (!) left on his contract through 2027 (!!!). It’s no sure thing he’ll use that opt-out after 2020.

Stanton is still only 26 years old, so he still has a ton of prime years left. And the guy hit .265/.346/.606 (152 wRC+) with 27 homers in 74 games just last year. In a huge ballpark. The guy missed half the season because of a broken bone in his wrist and he still finished tenth in the NL in homers. You can count the number of players capable of doing this …

… on one hand. I am definitely intrigued by the possibility of buying low on Stanton, assuming the recent slump has soured the Marlins on him so much that they’re willing to trade him for pennies on the dollar just to get out from under the contract. The Yankees have money and almost all their big contracts are coming off the books within the next two years, so it should work financially.

Here’s a fun thought: Jacoby Ellsbury for Stanton. The Marlins would save more than $200M and get a productive two-way player in return. The Yankees get the better and younger player, but absorb all the risk associated with a contract that runs through 2027. There’s always a chance Stanton follows the Mark Reynolds career path and goes from the top young slugger in baseball to a replacement level player who struggles to make contact.

Me? I say what the hell, go for it, even if the trade involves other players. Then again, it isn’t my money. Would you do, say, Aaron Judge for Stanton and his contract? Players like Stanton are rare and special. My guess is the Marlins are not yet willing to trade Giancarlo despite that scary slump the last few weeks. He’s still the face of the franchise.

Michael asks: Now that all top ten picks but Rutherford have signed, if the Yankees used all remaining pool money to sign Rutherford, would that preclude the Yanks from then trying to sign someone like Linginfelter to an overslot bonus to lure him away from college?

First rounder Blake Rutherford has signed since this question was sent in. He received a $3.282M bonus, which is pretty much the most the Yankees could give him while still staying under their bonus pool plus the 5% overage. They have $177 in bonus pool space remaining, as our Draft Tracker shows. The Yankees have maxed out their bonus pool plus the 5% overage every year since the system was put in place.

The Yankees could still sign some late round picks to over-slot bonuses. The bonus pool is not a hard cap. The problem is if they so spend over — specifically, if they give a late rounder more than $100,177 — they have to forfeit next year’s first round pick, and that’s just not worth it. Zach Linginfelter, a potential first rounder who fell to New York in the 16th round due to bonus demands, was always a long shot to sign. It’s not worth signing him now and blowing next year’s draft. Not team has ever surrendered a future first rounder in the draft pool era.

Chris asks: What’s your thoughts on Tyler Webb?  We saw him last night pitching for the Rail Riders and we followed him with the Gamecocks. Would just like to hear your take on him, thanks.

Webb, 25, was a senior sign as a tenth round pick back in 2013, so he was a bonus pool saving pick. The Yankees gave him a $30,000 bonus and saved about $100,000 in pool money, which went to Judge’s over-slot bonus. Webb shot up the ladder in a hurry — he reached Triple-A the year after being drafted — and has performed well all throughout the minors. So far this year he has a 3.35 ERA (2.61 FIP) in 43 innings.

Soon after the draft Webb was labeled a finesse right-hander left-hander and that has unfairly stuck. PitchFX data from the Arizona Fall League last year has him averaging 93.3 mph with his fastball. He also has a slider and a changeup, and these days the changeup is the more reliable pitch. The Yankees have actually started him a few times this year because he has three pitches and throws enough strikes.

Webb is going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season and he’s a lock to get picked as a lefty who throws reasonably hard and has had success in Triple-A. My guess is the Yankees add him to the 40-man roster. I’m not sure Webb will be more than a middle innings lefty because neither the slider nor the changeup are legitimate put-away pitches, but he should be able to carve out a lengthy career for himself. He’s a nice little find in the tenth round.

Webb and his changeup. (Presswire)

Paul asks: The Sir Didi trade has been wildly successful in my eyes. I’m trying to think of the last time a trade went that well. Swisher? I guess Chapman counts?

Yeah, the Didi Gregorius trade has worked out spectacularly. I was skeptical about his bat at the time of the trade and I was really impressed by Shane Greene‘s half-season in pinstripes, but it’s hard to complain about that deal now. The Yankees would do that trade again all day, every day. It’s worked out so, so well.

The Nick Swisher trade was a total heist and it looked that way from day one. There was some uncertainty with the Didi trade. Not Swisher. That was one of Brian Cashman‘s best trades. Michael Pineda hasn’t been great by any means, but the Yankees came out ahead in that deal. They got him for two sub-replacement level players the Mariners ended up giving away.

The Aroldis Chapman deal was the result of extenuating circumstances, so I have a tough time giving the Yankees credit for “winning” that one. That was the Reds saying “get this guy out of here,” not “this trade makes us better for the future.” It’s been a while since the Yankees were on the wrong end of a lopsided trade. Tyler Clippard jumps to mind. And I guess Mark Melancon for Lance Berkman too.

Jackson asks: Is there much of a history of players who suffered the same injury as Bird, and if so, a.) to what extent were those players able to re-attain their pre injury levels of play, if ever, and b) how long did it take to get back into a ML game fully recovered ? Examples?

Yeah, there’s been a bunch. In fact, Brian McCann had the same injury (a torn labrum) a few years ago. He played through it in 2012, had the worst season of his career, then had the surgery in October. McCann returned to the field in early-May 2013, so it was eight months from date of surgery to return to MLB. Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez had the same injury and returned to the field in seven months. I’m guessing McCann’s rehab was a little longer because he’s a catcher and the injury was to his throwing shoulder.

Bird had surgery in February, so the 7-8 month timetable would put him on track to return in September or October. Chances are the Yankees will play it safe, so I don’t expect to see him in a game this year. (Maybe he’ll go to the Arizona Fall League for at-bats.) These injuries we’re talking about here are to the hitter’s front shoulder, the power shoulder. Both Kemp and Gonzalez saw a noticeable dip in power immediately after the surgery, and it never quite came all the way back. At the same time, McCann has shown no ill-effects at all. Here’s a quick chart I whipped up following Bird’s injury:

McCann Kemp Gonzalez ISO

McCann really is the best case scenario for Bird. He returned following his shoulder surgery the same player he was before getting hurt. No loss in power, didn’t lose anything off his arm, nothing. The same McCann returned.

The timing of the injury could actually be a positive for Bird’s rehab. McCann, Kemp, and Gonzalez all had their surgeries after the season and were racing against the clock trying to get back for Opening Day. Bird got hurt in February and is going to miss the season. Once he’s done rehabbing, he’ll still have an entire offseason to strengthen his shoulder and whatnot.

Dan asks: Is it fair to blame the Yanks indecision on selling on the second wild card?  They’re 3.5 back of Boston for the first Wild Card.  If there was only one wild card, would they already be selling?

I don’t think you can blame the team’s indecision on the second wildcard exclusively. The Royals and Red Sox currently sit in the two wildcard spots and they have identical 42-36 records, so the Yankees are three games back of both. There’s no difference between the first and second wildcard races at the moment. The presence of the second wildcard is surely a factor, but it’s not the factor. The Yankees aren’t selling because their brand is built on winning, and selling really isn’t in their DNA. They’d hold off on selling even with only one wildcard spot.

Anonymous asks: I see that Jeff Degano repeating short season ball (effectively rookie league) at Pulaski this year after pitching at Staten Island last year. This seems like a very cautious approach; the Yankees have been more aggressive with college-tested pitchers in recent years. Your analysis?

I think something might be up with Degano. Last year’s second round pick — for what’s it worth, he was a bonus pool saving pick who signed a well-below-slot bonus, with the savings going to third rounder Drew Finley — had a fine pro debut, pitching to a 3.80 ERA (3.72 FIP) with a 21.8% strikeout rate and a 10.0% walk rate in 23.2 innings with the Rookie GCL Yanks and Short Season Staten Island. As a college guy, even one who missed a season and half due to Tommy John surgery, I figured he was ticketed for Low-A Charleston this year.

Instead, Degano was held back in Extended Spring Training and assigned to Rookie Pulaski this month, which is a step down from Staten Island in terms of competition. He then went out and walked five batters in two innings in his first outing over the weekend. I can’t help but wonder if Degano showed up Spring Training suddenly unable to throw strikes. He wasn’t exactly blessed with top notch control to start with, and it wouldn’t be unheard of for a young pitcher to suddenly lose the zone. We’ll see what happens in Degano’s next few outings. That could have just been one bad game. The fact he was held back in ExST surprised me and could indicate something is up though.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Seamus: Is it me, or is A-Rod swinging at more first pitches than he ever has before? Could that be one of the (many) reasons he is struggling this season?

That does seem to be the case, yes. Jeff Sullivan wrote a post yesterday showing how much more aggressive Alex Rodriguez has been at the plate in general this season. Here are his first pitch swing rates over the years, via Baseball Savant:

2016: 30.5%
2015: 31.3%
2014: nope
2013: 28.2%
2012: 32.7%
2011: 28.5%

Well so much for that idea. A-Rod has been swinging at the first pitch this season at generally the same rate as the last few years. I do love it when I think something is happening on the field and the data says I’m totally wrong. It’s good to be humbled once in a while. Your eyes lie like hell. Sullivan showed Alex is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone in general, which helps explains his lack of production. He’s not swinging at more first pitches though.

Craig asks: Your post on Blake Rutherford as well as the note on Kaprielian makes me wonder – has any other MLB team’s first round picks over the last ten years led to less MLB production to date than those of the Yankees?

I went back to the 2000 draft because the last ten years don’t tell us too much. Lots of those guys are still in the minors working their way to MLB. We need a bigger sample.

Here is the total WAR for every team’s first round pick (first and supplemental first) from 2000-15. This only includes players who actually signed, so the Yankees don’t get credit for Gerrit Cole, the Blue Jays don’t get credit for James Paxton, etc.

2000-15 First Round WARI went into this expecting to see the Giants at the top and the Yankees at the bottom, and hey, I was close. The Giants have hit first round home runs with Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster Posey, so I figured they would be at the top. They’re close though.

The Royals are at the top mostly thanks to Zack Greinke and Alex Gordon. The Phillies are second because of Cole Hamels and Chase Utley. I should note I’m giving teams credit for a player even if they traded him away as a prospect. The Braves get credit for Adam Wainwright, the Cubs get credit for Josh Donaldson, so on and so forth.

The Yankees aren’t dead last but they might as well be. The 5.9 WAR difference between the Yankees and Astros is nothing. This is across 15+ years, remember. Yes, the Yankees always pick late in the draft and that hurts, and yes, they did surrender a ton of draft picks to sign free agents, but still, this is really bad. The Yankees have not gotten much from their first round picks at all this century.

Mailbag: Tanaka, Warren, Cave, 80 Tools, Astros, Campos

We’ve got 14 questions and 13 answers in this week’s mailbag. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address to use to send us questions throughout the week.


Brad asks (short version): Will the elbow injury stop Tanaka from opting out?

As long as Masahiro Tanaka is healthy and performs well, I fully expect him to opt-out after next season. He is almost two full years removed from the elbow injury now, and as we’ve seen this year, his performance hasn’t suffered much if at all. Tanaka is still pretty awesome. He’s among the league leaders in almost every significant pitching category.

These days $67M isn’t a whole lot of money. Guys like Mike Leake ($75M) and Ian Kennedy ($70M) signed for similar money this winter, albeit over five years rather than three. Jeff Samardzija was coming off a miserable 2015 season and he still landed five years and $90M. As long as the elbow doesn’t act up, I don’t think it will hurt Tanaka much in free agency. He might not get $22M a year, but clearing $67M guaranteed seems totally doable.

Dan asks: We constantly hear from RAB write ups and other spots about the 2014 international signing class “coming state side” what does that exactly mean? When the Yankees sign an international player they stay in their home country until a specific date, birthday, or visa process?

Rich asks: The top International signings by the Yankees in 2014 (Dermis Garcia, Nelson Gomez, etc) played a bit last year, but have yet to play in a game this season. Is there a reason that they haven’t played yet? Is it in part to them being so young? Thanks in advance. Just curious how the Yankees go about this with the kids that are still very young (like those listed above).

Going to lump these two together. Players who sign as international free agents each summer usually sign contracts that begin the following season, so guys like Garcia and Gomez signed 2015 contracts in July 2014. Because these kids are 16 years old, they usually spend a year or two in the Dominican Summer League before coming to the U.S. to continue their careers. Very few international signees come over to the U.S. right away. They’re simply not ready for baseball at that level yet.

As for Garcia and Gomez specifically, they started this season in Extended Spring Training in Tampa. ExST is exactly what it sounds like. It’s basically a longer version of Spring Training. Once the various short season leagues begin in late-June, ExST ends and players head to the various affiliates (or get released). Lots of young prospects — not just international kids, but recent high school draftees too — start in ExST because teams can give them more personalized instruction. Simply put, the DSL and ExST are for players not yet ready for the day in, day out grind of full season baseball.

Warren. (Getty)
Warren. (Getty)

Several asks: What about getting Adam Warren in a trade?

Oddly enough, a few people sent in this question this week. They all came out of nowhere. Warren has not had a particularly good season (4.56 ERA and 5.23 FIP), and in fact the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A earlier this week. They’re going to stretch him out so he can make a spot start before the All-Star break. Chicago’s in the middle of a 24 games in 24 days stretch due to a makeup game.

Warren, now 28, was very good for the Yankees from 2013-15 and that heavily skews my opinion of him. I put more stock in his 287 innings from 2013-15 than his 25.2 innings in 2016. As long as Warren’s healthy — I suppose the poor performance this year could be the result of an underlying injury — I would definitely have interest in him in any trade with the Cubs. Not as the center piece for a guy like Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, but maybe as the second or third piece in a package. Warren is forever cool in my book.

Paul asks: How many 80 tools are on the Yankees? What about in the minors?

The only slam dunk, no doubt about it 80 tool on the Yankees right now is Chapman’s fastball. Miller’s slider is pretty damn close to an 80 if it isn’t one. Same with Dellin Betances‘ fastball and breaking ball. Tanaka’s splitter is the best individual pitch among the starters, but as good as it is, it’s not an 80 splitter. I guess Nathan Eovaldi has 80 velocity, but his fastball plays down overall because of a lack of command.

What’s the best tool among the position players? I’d say Didi Gregorius‘ and Aaron Hicks‘ throwing arms. They might be closer to 70s than 80s though. Peak Alex Rodriguez had 80 power, but peak A-Rod was a decade ago. Maybe you could argue Mark Teixeira is an 80 defender at first. As for the farm system, gives only two 80s in their top 30 Yankees prospects list: Jorge Mateo‘s speed and Domingo Acevedo’s fastball. Not coincidentally, those are measurables. You can put a stopwatch on someone’s speed and a radar gun on his fastball. Putting an 80 on, say, command or power potential involves much more guesswork.

Jeff asks: With Jake Cave seemingly having a breakout year, is he a legit prospect and someone we should be excited about?

Oh sure, Cave is definitely a legitimate prospect. He’s always had tools, but now he’s hitting for more power than ever before, and he’s doing it at Triple-A too. The Reds opted not to keep him as a Rule 5 Draft pick this spring, which is their loss. Now the Yankees have to figure out what they’re going to do with Cave and all their other upper level lefty hitting outfielders, like Ben Gamel and Mason Williams and Dustin Fowler.

Fowler won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, but Cave will be again, and will the Yankees really carry him, Gamel, and Williams on the 40-man roster? Something has to give. My guess one of these guys gets traded away at some point, perhaps as soon as the deadline. Williams is hurt, so trading him probably won’t happen. I prefer Gamel to Cave but you could easily argue otherwise. Cave’s legit though. He’s just stuck in the middle of a lefty hitting outfield logjam.

Dan asks: Apologies if you’ve answered this before, but how long does Severino need to be in AAA for another year of control? If they’re going to be out of it and rebuild anyway, then doesn’t it make the most sense to keep him down until they get that extra year? Rather than have him up at MLB to try to grab an extra win or two.

Luis Severino came into the season with 61 days of service time, meaning he’ll need to be down in the minors for 73 days to delay his free agency another year. That’s 73 days on an optional assignment, not rehab. The Yankees activated and optioned Severino on May 30th, so he’s been down for 24 days already. Day 74 would be Friday, August 12th. The team insists Severino still has things to work on in the minors and I totally believe them. If it’s possible — meaning the rotation doesn’t get decimated by injuries or something like that — keeping Severino down until August 12th would be a smart move, especially if the Yankees continue slipping out of the playoff race. Gaining the extra year of control is a pretty big deal.


Joe asks: Given Didi’s solid offense production, do you think the yanks should trade him? And what kind of return package can they get?

No offense Joe, but your question made me laugh. “The Yankees have a solid young player, so should they trade him?” It’s funny how our first thought is to trade anyone of value. Gregorius is still pretty young (26) and he’s developing into an average-ish hitter while playing premium defense at short. That a nice player to have, no?

Anyway, the Yankees do have a ton of shortstop prospects in the minors, including one reasonably close to the big leagues in Tyler Wade. Trading Gregorius should not be off the table — as far as I’m concerned, no player in the organization should be untouchable — but I don’t think the Yankees should be out shopping him either. Listen to offers and see what comes along. Didi can be part of the solution.

What would I want in a trade? That’s tough. You’d be trading three and a half years of an above-average shortstop — average bat plus above-average glove equals above-average player — who’s shown he can power through some big time pressure. He did a nice job replacing Derek Jeter last year. My trade proposal sucks, but how about one top 100 prospect plus a secondary piece for Gregorius? The Padres stand out as a club in need of a long-term shortstop.

Anonymous asks: If the Yankees are to somehow become Buyers at the trade deadline, what do you see them adding, based on how the roster looks and performed as of now? Impact bat (Carlos Gonzalez?) A top reliever (Will Smith on the Brewers?) Maybe even another Starter (Julio Teheran?) Or possibly even all 3?!?!? (Just using those 3 as examples)

The Yankees need like three bats, two relievers, and one starter to be serious contenders in my opinion, and that’s just too much for one trade deadline. I’d say a bat and some middle relief help is the biggest need. Where could they put that bat? I guess right field or DH if they’re willing to move on from A-Rod (spoiler: they won’t), or maybe first base if Teixeira’s knee doesn’t cooperate.

David asks: Can you please explain how the red Sox have designated Castillo and Craig and were able to send them to aaa. While Reyes is going to be able to find another team.

This is something I learned over the offseason: when players with five or more years of service time are outrighted, they can elect free agency and keep their entire contract. The Rockies could have tried to outright Jose Reyes and send him to Triple-A, but he would have instead elected free agency, picked his new team, and keep collecting his contract. Neither Rusney Castillo nor Allen Craig (remember him?) have five years of service time, so the Red Sox were able to outright them to Triple-A and they had to accept the assignment. In fact, Craig has been outrighted twice, and although players can elect free agency starting with their second outright, Craig would have forfeited whatever was left on his contract because he has less than five years of service. They’re paying him $9M this season plus another $11M next season, so yeah, he wasn’t walking away from that.

Paul asks: In the past, pitchers became relievers when they failed as starters. These days, some pitchers are groomed as relievers from the minors. How does that end up? What are the chances there are quality starters sitting in the bullpens across the league?

I have no doubt there are quality big league starters wasting away in the bullpen around the league. Maybe wasting away isn’t the right way to put it, because quality relievers are valuable too. A lot of times guys will have instant success in the bullpen and they get stuck there forever. That’s what’s happening with Roberto Osuna, who has starter stuff, but is too valuable to the Blue Jays as their closer.

Looking around MLB, Sam Dyson seems like a reliever who might be able to start because he throws three pitches regularly (fastball, curveball, changeup) and has good control (5.6 BB%). Then again, there’s the question of how well his stuff will hold up over 180+ innings. Some guys are just better in the bullpen. Wade Davis is a perfect example. He was a mediocre starter and is now a dominant reliever. I’m sure there are some relievers out there who could be quality starters if giving the chance. Good luck figuring out who they are.

Jim asks: As of this email, CC’s FIP sits at 3.27 while his xFIP sits at 4.53. Can you explain the discrepancy and what we should expect moving forward?

Remember that home run CC Sabathia allowed to Nick Hundley the other day? That was only the third dinger Sabathia has given up this season. He owns a 0.39 HR/9 and 4.2 HR/FB% this year, which is insanely low. It was 1.51 HR/9 and 16.6 HR/FB% last year. Yes, the new cutter explains some of the improvement because Sabathia is better able to bust righties inside, but it doesn’t explain all of it.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

FIP reflects Sabathia’s crazy low home run rate. His xFIP is higher because it normalizes the pitcher’s homer rate based on their fly ball rate. In English, that means xFIP takes the pitcher’s fly ball rate (36.0% in Sabathia’s case) and says this is how many homers he would have allowed with a league average HR/FB% (12.8%). FIP is telling us what Sabathia has actually done, and that’s allowed three homers. xFIP is telling us what Sabathia would have done with a league average homer rate given his fly ball tendencies.

I don’t love xFIP because pitchers do not have the same home run rate. We know that. Some are better at limiting the long ball than others, so why would we assume they’ll all give up homers at a league average rate going forward? At some point Sabathia is going to give up more homers. It’s inevitable given his home ballpark. So that shiny 3.27 FIP? I wouldn’t expect it to last all year. Sorry. I don’t think he’ll be as bad as his xFIP going forward though because the cutter explains his improvement against righties, who clobbered him last year.

Michael asks: How about the Astros as potential landing spot for Chapman or Miller? Back at .500, they have been running Luke Gregerson out there as closer until recently, now using Will Harris. Ken Giles has been a bust so far.

I wouldn’t count on the Astros trading a big package for a reliever again after the Giles trade, especially so soon. He’s been better of late, but still, that first month was ugly. Also, the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. They’re sixth in bullpen ERA (3.22) and first in bullpen FIP (3.08) among the 30 teams. There’s always room for a guy like Chapman or Miller though. I just wouldn’t expect Houston to big for another reliever via trade so soon after the Giles deal.

Kyle asks: What do you think the Yankees will do with Vicente Campos? If I’m not mistaken he is out of options next year so it’s big leagues or bust. Will they keep him a starter this year to rack up innings and put him in the big league bullpen next year like the O’s did with Bundy, or will they promote him to AAA this year and put him in the pen to see how he does? He seems too good to lose for nothing. Thanks! Love the site.

I was under the impression this is Campos’ final option year too, but it looks like that’s not the case. Here is the quick timeline:

  • November 2013: Added to 40-man roster for the first time.
  • 2014 Season: Spent in minors, burns first option.
  • December 2014: Non-tendered, re-signed to minor league deal.
  • 2015 Season: Spent rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and in the minors. He wasn’t on the 40-man roster, so he didn’t burn an option.
  • November 2015: Re-added to 40-man roster.
  • 2016 Season: Spent in minors, burns second option.

Unless I’m missing something, Campos has one final minor league option remaining for next season. That’s good news, because I’m not entirely sure he would be ready to stick in the big leagues come next April.

Campos, who will turn 24 next month, just got to Double-A for the first time. I imagine he’ll spent the rest of the season there — the Yankees might give him a September call-up if he pitches well the rest of the way — and then open next season in Triple-A Scranton. Once you’re in Triple-A, you’re a big league option. Campos could end up spending next year going up and down before sticking for good in 2018.

Now, if I did miss something and Campos will indeed be out of options next year, then the Yankees would have no choice but to stick him in a long relief role and bring him along slowly. I can’t imagine Campos will be ready to assume an MLB rotation spot next April. I’m not even sure he’s a starter long-term. He maybe wind up a bullpen arm. It looks like he has an option left though. That’s good.

Mailbag: Beltran, Damon, Rutherford, Sabathia, Meadows

We’ve got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything at anytime.


Marc asks: Assuming Beltran stays healthy, is willing to waive his NTC, and stays at a comparable pace, do you think the Cespedes trade is a good comparable? Or should the Yankees expect more or less?

Nah, that’s too optimistic, I think. At the time of the trade Yoenis Cespedes had similar offensive numbers to Carlos Beltran (123 wRC+ vs. 128 wRC+) and was younger, healthier, and better defensively. I know age doesn’t seem to matter much when talking about rentals, but it does mean Cespedes was less likely to wear down late in the season. Beltran brings a clutch reputation with him and I do think that matters some, just not enough to overcome the difference in age, health, and defense.

Beltran is a unique player because he’s still quite productive at an age when most players are trying to hang on. Teams usually stay away from players his age. At the same time, Beltran has some flaws that limit his value. My trade proposal sucks, but I think the Yankees could ask for two prospects for Carlos. Maybe not top 100 caliber guys, but two players from the top ten of a team’s system. Using the Yankees’ system of reference, would something on par with Tyler Wade and Dustin Fowler for Beltran be enough? That’s a notch below what Cespedes fetched (Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa). Keep in mind his market will be limited to contenders only, and NL teams may decide to avoid him all together.

Rob asks: I know this isn’t really a current question, but with so many similarities between them, what are the differences between Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon? They’re both speedy outfielders with weak arms and some pop that the Yanks got from the Red Sox. Would you rather have Ellsbury or Damon at their prime?

There are three big differences between the two: power, stolen bases, and durability. Damon averaged 16 homers per season from 1998-2009. Ellsbury has hit double-digit homers just twice in his eight full seasons. On the other side of the coin, Ellsbury has averaged 49 steals per 162 games. Damon averaged 27 per year during his peak from 1998-2009. His career high was 46 steals in 2000. Ellsbury has three seasons with more, including one 70 steal season.

The biggest difference is durability. Damon was a workhorse. He became a full-time player in 1996 and was last a full-time player in 2011. Damon managed to play in 2,379 of 2,592 possible games from 1996-2011, or 91.8%. That’s an average of 148.7 games per year. Since becoming a full-timer in 2008, Ellsbury has played in 1,000 of 1,361 games, or 73.4%. Huge, huge difference in their ability to stay on the field. Ellsbury’s 2011 season was better than any one of Damon’s seasons, but if I had my pick, give me prime Damon over prime Ellsbury. He does more things and was a far better bet to stay healthy. Damon’s going to get Hall of Fame votes for a reason.

Michael asks: Do you think there’s a chance they keep Chapman past the deadline? I’m afraid that if they make a run before then that they will end up keeping him, which would be a big mistake in my opinion, even if they find a way to contend this year.

A small chance, yes. And yes, it would be a big mistake. I think the Yankees could easily get something for Aroldis Chapman in a trade that is worth more than the draft pick they’d get after the season. Worth more and closer to MLB ready too. The only possible way the Yankees could justify keeping Chapman is by going on an absurd run and getting back into the postseason race. Like really back into it. Not three games back with five teams ahead of them back in it. And even if they do get back into it, they should trade Chapman anyway. This is too valuable a trade chip to not cash in.

Mike asks: Can you explain what this means please?

Blake Rutherford question

Longenhagen is the prospect guy for FanGraphs — he also did a ton of draft work with ESPN this spring — and that question comes from his chat earlier this week.

Teams with extra picks have enormous bonus pools and they tend to spread the wealth around by cutting a below-slot deal with their top pick, then gobbling up some hard to sign players with their later picks. The Braves did it this year. They cut a deal with New York HS RHP Ian Anderson for the third pick, then used their next picks on Kansas HS LHP Joey Wentz and Texas HS LHP Kyle Muller. Atlanta manipulated their bonus pool in such a way that it landed them three of the 15 best pitching prospects in the draft.

Blake Rutherford was one of the prospects teams like the Braves were hoping would still be around with one of their extra picks. (The Padres and Cardinals had extra picks too.) If he was still on the board, they’d take him and pay him top ten money. The Yankees stepped in and took Rutherford before he could slip any further. Based on their bonus pool situation, it seems they’re preparing to give him a $3.5M+ bonus, maybe even $4M, which is top ten money. The Braves and Padres and whoever else didn’t get a chance to use their extra pool money on Rutherford.

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

Dan asks: Ok, with Sabathia pitching so well, does he actually have trade value now?

Eh, maybe. If he does, it’s not much. At the end of the day, teams are still going to be worried about the condition of CC Sabathia‘s knee. Also, these eleven generally awesome starts don’t wipe away three years of awfulness even though there are tangible reasons for the improvement (cutter, knee brace, sobriety, etc.). Would the Yankees be able to get more than the Padres got for James Shields? Two okay-ish young players and some salary relief? I feel like that’s the absolute best case scenario. Sabathia seems more valuable to the Yankees in their rotation than as a trade chip, especially if he’s going to continue pitching like he has.

Bob asks: Does Aaron Hicks still have options remaining? He offensive production has been substandard almost all year and he might benefit from playing every day at Scranton. Your thoughts?

Nope, Hicks is out of options. Sending him down to Triple-A for regular at-bats would have happened already if it were possible, I think. I wrote yesterday the Yankees need to figure out what they have in Rob Refsnyder this year, and they need to do the same with Hicks. No one with half a brain would write him off after 150 plate appearances in pinstripes. Trading Beltran (possible) or releasing Alex Rodriguez (unlikely) would clear playing time for Hicks. Otherwise he has to wait for another injury.

Greg asks: Does Severino starts another game in 2016?

Oh sure. At worst, Luis Severino will come up in September and make some spot starts to give the other starters extra rest here and there. I wouldn’t bet against him coming up before then. All it takes is one injury, after all. Severino has things to work on in Triple-A, specifically the command of his secondary pitches, and getting those things straightened out should be the priority. They can’t bring him back to MLB just because. Severino is too important to the team long-term. We’ll see him again this season though, for sure.

Frank asks: Is it somewhat surprising that the Yanks have been aggressive with Ronald Herrera, now in AA, and not so much with Nestor Cortes who is literally dominating low A? Both pitchers are approximately the same age, with similar frames but one is a righty and the other a southpaw.

I don’t think so. Herrera’s a better prospect with better stuff and more command. Cortes has had a ton of success in the low minors and puts up great numbers, but he’s working with an 88 mph heater and decent secondary stuff. He’s a classic “stats before scouting report” prospect. Herrera has more velocity and more reliable offspeed pitches. I don’t think handedness has anything to do with the way the Yankees have handled these two. Herrera has better stuff and is more advanced, which is why he’s further up the ladder than Cortes at a similar age.

Bill asks: Nobody wants to see a top prospect slump (especially as bad as Judge just did) but do you think in a way a top prospect struggling and learning how to adjust while in the minors is better for their development than say a guy like Severino who only first struggled at the majors and never had to make these kind of adjustments before?

I would prefer to see a prospect struggle in the minors at some point so they can learn how to make the adjustment there before reaching the show, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Severino dominated the minors. It wasn’t until he reached the big leagues that really experienced failure. The same was true of Phil Hughes back in the day. Failure can be a pretty good learning tool. It’s inevitable in baseball, and many times the difference between prospects and productive big leaguers is the ability to handle that failure and learn from it. No one wants to see their favorite prospect struggle, but if they can learn something from it, then it is absolutely a positive.

Meadows. (Presswire)
Meadows. (Presswire)

Andrew asks: With the Pirates OF pretty set for awhile, why not go after Austin Meadows? Good target to trade Chapman or Miller for?

Interesting. I hadn’t considered that. The Pirates have an unbelievable outfield — Andrew McCutchen is a star, yet both Starlin Marte and Gregory Polanco have outperformed him this year — and they’ve signed all these guys long-term. McCutchen will hit free agency first among those three, and the Pirates control him through 2018.

Meadows, who came up in my little Rutherford study the other day, is an elite outfield prospect currently tearing up Double-A. He’s about a year away from MLB. Given their big league outfield, it would be silly for the Pirates to not consider trading Meadows for help elsewhere on the roster. Would they trade him for a reliever? Eh, I don’t see it. They need rotation help more than anything and Meadows could fetch them a very nice young arm. It’s a good idea though. I hadn’t considered the possibility of a Meadows trade given their big league outfield situation.

Dan asks: It still maybe too early but can’t we say that the trade for Didi has been a success? Being that the position he plays is such a premium, he’s an above average defender with a sneaky bat. Even if his batting average slips a bit can’t we still say that it was a success? With a possible TBA because of Greene outcome?

Anyone who thinks the Didi Gregorius trade hasn’t been a success is trying too hard to find ways to criticize the Yankees. Shane Greene has allowed 78 runs in 104.1 innings since the trade and has battled injuries. The Yankees netted at worse a league average shortstop. The league average shortstop is hitting .258/.314/.397 (90 wRC+) so far this season. Didi went into last night’s game with a .275/.309/.393 (89 wRC+) batting line, and then there’s his glove, which is quite stellar.

I was genuinely surprised the Yankees traded Greene. He had a nice cameo in 2014 and the Yankees love their power arms. He seemed like a cheap and effective rotation option, which was something the team really lacked at the time. They also had a gaping hole at shortstop, and Gregorius was only 24 at the time with five years of team control and some pretty obvious tools. That’s a trade you make over and over again. It’s worked out pretty well for the Yankees, even if Greene did throw two scoreless innings against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium last week.

Bill asks: Will CC be on the All Star team this year? I can’t decide if he’s really been this good or if it’s because everyone else has been meh, or if it’s because my expectations of him this year were about knee high on an ant … Thanks!

If Sabathia carries a sub-2.50 ERA into early July, how could they keep him off the All-Star team? The Yankees have four serious All-Star Game candidates in my opinion: Sabathia, Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Masahiro Tanaka. Dellin Betances has had a few too many hiccups and Chapman missed a month, so they’re not in. Would the Yankees, who are near the bottom of the standings, get four All-Stars? It seems unlikely. I’d say Miller is the safest bet to make it. Sabathia going to the All-Star Game sure would be fun as hell though.

Mailbag: Ventura, Beltran, Profar, Sanchez, Duvall, Ellsbury

Got a dozen questions for you in the mailbag this week. Yeah, I know it’s Thursday, but tomorrow is going to be pretty busy with the draft and the series preview and Yankeemetrics and all that. The options were either post the mailbag a day or early or not post it all this week. The mailbag will go back to its usual Friday morning slot next week. Send any questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Ventura. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)
Ventura. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Joe asks: Any chance the Yankees make a run at Yordano Ventura? Sure he’s been bad this season, he’s a hot head and he’s likely facing a suspension after the Machado disaster, but he’s only 25 and had been good the prior two years. Plus he obviously has October experience. This feels like it could be a classic Cashman buy low move.

It seems Ventura wants to be Pedro Martinez, but he’s more like Carlos Zambrano. It’s clear he’s a big time hot head — Tuesday’s brawl with the Orioles was the fourth benches clearing incident he’s incited since the start of last season — and according to Jeff Passan, his act is starting to wear thin on his teammates as well as the Royals coaching staff and front office. Passan says they’ve been trying to trade him.

Ventura was pretty good from 2014-15, pitching to a 3.61 ERA (3.59 FIP) in 346.1 innings, and yeah he does have a lot of postseason experience. That never hurts. This season has been a different story though. Check out his ranks among the 106 qualified starters heading into last night’s game:

ERA: 5.32 (94th)
FIP: 5.29 (97th)
K%: 14.7 (96th)
BB%: 11.7 (100th)

The only thing is keeping this guy on the roster right now is his age, his contract (owed $21.7M through 2019), and the fact that he throws 99 mph regularly. I’m all for taking chances on young pitchers with live arms who might be able to be had on the cheap. That’s never bad business.

There is a difference between Ventura and, say, Nathan Eovaldi though. Ventura might be a crazy person. I think there’s a decent chance his ineffectiveness this season is a hangover from two long postseason runs the last two years, but, at the same time, you can’t help but wonder if his immaturity is going to prevent him from taking that next step. Fair or not, there are plenty of folks asking that question. I have long been anti-crazy players. They always seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

Michael asks: Assuming Beltran maintains his current performance, what do you think he could fetch at the deadline? Trading him seems like a no-brainer if (dear god I hope they do) they decide to sell from both the team and Carlos’s perspective.

It is really tough to gauge Carlos Beltran‘s trade value. He’s obviously still very productive and he has a reputation for being a clutch hitter and a big game performer. Teams are going to look at him as an impact hitter who can help get them over the hump. At the same time, he’s a major defensive liability and a bit of an injury risk. Plus he’s not young and you have to worry about him wearing down.

The Giants traded Zack Wheeler for a half-season of Beltran a few years ago — Wheeler was in High Class-A at the time and still a few years away from MLB — and holy cow, that would be the dream scenario. Beltran’s a few years older now though, and he’s a worse defender. Using the Yankees as a reference point, could they get a Bryan Mitchell caliber arm for Beltran? Maybe a Mitchell and a Ben Gamel? I don’t think they’ll get a top prospect. Two useful pieces seems much more likely.

Zac asks: The Rangers need to find playing time for Profar and the Yankees need a first baseman. Does a Mitch Moreland trade make sense?

I don’t think so. Moreland is having an awful season (64 wRC+) and he’ll be a free agent this winter. I’d rather see the Yankees keep running Rob Refsnyder out there at first base to see what they have while Mark Teixeira is out injured. Moreland figures to come cheap and yeah, he’s probably better than Chris Parmelee, but taking on a player making decent money to be a band-aid at first base isn’t all that appealing. Roll with Refsnyder. Let’s see what the kid can do, finally.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Lonnie asks: What about a Miller for Profar trade? Rangers need relief pitching more than any other contender and even though Profar doesn’t fit a position of need, he is still a top talent. Get him and then figure out what to do, maybe move Castro to 3b for the time-being?

That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting. Andrew Miller is unbelievably valuable. He’s no worse than the fourth best reliever in baseball right now and he’s signed for another two years at a salary well below what he’d get as a free agent nowadays. Everyone’s going to want him and the Yankees should set a very high price. An elite young player feels like a must get in any trade.

It’s early, but Jurickson Profar has bounced back well after missing the entire 2014-15 seasons with a shoulder injury. He hit in the Arizona Fall League last year (115 wRC+), hit in Triple-A this year (113 wRC+), and he’s hit since being called up about two weeks ago (170 wRC+). The Rangers might be willing to move him since their infield is full too. They’re locked into Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus on the left side, and Rougned Odor is quite productive at second.

The Yankees have inquired about Profar before, but the Rangers understandably did not want to move him when his value was down due to the shoulder problems. He’s healthy now and he’s rebuilt value. Profar is exactly the type of player the Yankees lack as a true potential franchise cornerstone. Right now all they have is a bunch of complementary players (at least in my opinion). Get him and figure out where he plays later.

Andrew asks: With Marlon Byrd now suspended for the whole year and the Indians needing an outfielder. Any chance we can flip Beltran or Gardner there for some pitching? (Obviously Gardner brings the better haul back).

Not only is Byrd suspended, Michael Brantley might miss an extended period of time with his shoulder injury too. The Indians have needed an outfielder since the offseason — these days their starting outfield is Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis, and Lonnie Chisenhall — and that need has only grown with the Byrd suspension and Brantley’s recent setback.

The problem with Brett Gardner is his salary, which we discussed over the winter. The Indians have a very tight budget and they simply can’t afford a $13M a year outfielder. The Yankees could always pay down some of Gardner’s salary to facilitate a trade, but would the Indians be willing to kick in more to make it happen? Beltran might be the better fit here because he’s a pure rental. I definitely think there will be interest there.

Randy asks: When healthy, should the Yanks call up Sanchez and move McCann to first?

You know what, that really wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. Brian McCann is 32 now and he’s been beat up pretty good this year. He took that foul tip to the toe in Toronto (I think it was Toronto, anyway) and more recently hyper-extended his elbow. The Yankees want to keep him healthy and productive, and if Teixeira ends up missing the rest of the season, putting McCann at first base in the second half wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Now, that said, I don’t think there’s any chance this will actually happen. The Yankees seem to love McCann’s leadership and the way he works with pitchers. The only way I could see something like this happening is if they crash hard and really fall out of the postseason race. Otherwise I can’t see them trusting Sanchez as their everyday catcher right out of the gate. They seem wary of giving their young catchers too much responsibility too soon.

Steve asks: Do you know why the Yankees don’t play Beltran at First Base?

Teams usually don’t ask regulars to change positions in the middle of the season. Beltran played a few innings at first base two years ago in an emergency and I remember him saying he wasn’t comfortable there at all. I believe the word he used was “terrifying.” He might not be up for it. I mean, it makes sense on paper, but I don’t think the team wants to put Beltran in that position though. First base is not as easy as it looks. The ball comes at you pretty fast, especially when you’ve been playing the outfield your entire life.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

Rhett asks: What about looking into trading for Adam Duvall?. Ya he had a career month and his strikeout + BB %’s are terrible… BUT he is a righty power bat that could play some first if Tex is out for the year. Not to mention, long term, he profiles as an excellent defensive left fielder should Gardner get moved. Righty power bat with the ability to play multiple positions no? Worst case scenario he’s turns into Mark Reynolds.

Heading into last night’s game Duvall ranked fourth in MLB in homers (17), second in SLG (.628), and second in ISO (.351). The power hasn’t come out of nowhere. He’s hit 30 homers in the minors before, and he whacked 53 homers in 191 Triple-A games from 2014-15. The Reds got Duvall from the Giants in the Mike Leake trade and he’s finally getting a chance to play everyday.

Duvall is 27 and he’s much more Shelley Duncan than Chris Davis. His strikeout (29.6%) and walk (3.6%) rates are awful, he doesn’t steal bases, and scouting reports indicate he’s a first baseman who can handle left field if necessary. The Yankees will need a right-handed caddy for Greg Bird next season at the very least, and sure, Duvall would make sense in that role. (He can also be an emergency third baseman. He’s played there before.) I just feel like his value is at an all-time high right now, so you’d be playing everyday player prices for someone who figures to settle in as a role player long-term. Duvall is someone to revisit down a road a bit.

Michael asks: Dave Cameron wrote an article this week about how Jacoby Ellsbury – other than the second half last year – has actually been pretty good as a Yankee. He concluded with the notion that there might even be a market for him this summer, especially with how well he’s been hitting lately. Could you speculate on such a trade – Ellsbury seems like a very Cardinals type of player, the Cubs have the FO connection, the Nats could use somebody, the Tigers, White Sox…your thoughts?

I can’t say I’m optimistic a trade market will develop for Ellsbury, at least not if the Yankees aren’t willing to eat a bunch of cash. The blueprint here might be Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. Big name player with a big contract for a big name player with a big contract, each team dealing from a surplus to fill a need, and a willingness to make the money work. (The Tigers ate some of Fielder’s salary.)

Kinsler for Fielder was kind of a perfect storm because the two teams matched up so well. What contending teams need a center fielder and a leadoff hitter? The Cardinals and Nationals jump to find. Maybe the Giants too, with Denard Span not looking so hot and Angel Pagan a free agent after the season. I guess maybe the Tigers, White Sox, and Rangers? That seems like it. Now what big contract can those teams give up? I’ve looked at this already and didn’t find much.

Ellsbury was legitimately awful last season and he’s been able to rebuild value this year. If a team comes along and wants him, the Yankees should be all ears, especially if it means saving money and adding young talent. If it’s a bad contract for bad contract deal, then they should still listen, because that other player may be a better fit. I have zero expectation of the Yankees ever trading Ellsbury though. I think he’ll wear pinstripes for the entire seven years of the contract.

Vidhath: I’ve heard rumblings that Chapman could get Erick Fedde in a trade withe the Nationals. Is this plausible? I think I’d prefer to get AJ Cole & Austin Voth; possible or does my trade proposal suck?

I haven’t heard any such rumblings but that seems realistic for sure. Fedde was Washington’s first round pick in 2014 even though he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time. The team picked him, signed him, and rehabbed him. Fedde’s stuff has come back well enough, though even when healthy before the draft, he needed to improve his slider and changeup, and that is still the case today. He’s at least a year away from the big leagues, maybe more. I’m personally pretty high on Austin Voth and would prefer him over Fedde as part of a package for Chapman.

Ken asks: Do you think the Yankees would and/or should add a second Low-A minor league affiliate? The four short season teams they have is more than most other organizations, and it seems like there is a bit of a choke point at this level in the minor league development chain.

I get these questions often and they’re worth answering from time to time. Minor league baseball is a zero sum game. There are only so many teams to go around. For the Yankees to add another Low-A affiliate, another team would have to drop their Low-A affiliate, and that doesn’t happen very often, especially in the full season leagues. The Yankees grabbed their second Gulf Coast League team a few years ago when the Mets dropped out of the league to save money. They picked up Pulaski when the Mariners pulled out of the Appalachian League. The Yankees have actually been pretty aggressive picking up extra affiliates whenever possible. They just don’t become available very often. The more affiliates the better in my book. If a Low-A franchise becomes available, I fully expect the Yankees to show interest.

Gene asks: Would you rather be a 25th man type 150 AB bench player for the Cubs, or an everyday starter for the Braves? I absolutely hate losing, but I think I’d rather play everyday.

I’d rather play everyday personally, but I think the answer depends on your situation. Are you a rookie looking to prove yourself in the big leagues? Then playing everyday for the Braves is absolutely the better situation. On the other hand, if you’re a vet who’s already made a ton of money but are still looking for a World Series ring, then accepting a reduced role with the Cubs makes more sense. That’s essentially how the Yankees got Tim Raines back in the day. He wanted to win and was okay with having his playing time cut in half.

Mailbag: Judge, Reddick, Castro, Sabathia, Didi, O’Brien

We have 13 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember when these things used to only have four or five questions? What the hell happened. Anyway, use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything at anytime.

Judge. (Times Leader)
Judge. (Times Leader)

Nick asks: Is Aaron Judge broken? At what point do we start to worry?

Judge went into last night’s game hitting .224/.286/.378 (91 wRC+) with seven homers, a 7.4% walk rate, and a 26.3% strikeout rate in 217 plate appearances on the season. He hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with eight homers, an 11.2% walk rate, and a 28.5% strikeout rate in 260 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, so the numbers are pretty similar. Judge actually started this season well (123 wRC+ in April) before falling into a 9-for-64 (.141) skid with 22 strikeouts over the last three weeks.

On a scale of 1-10 with one being no concern and ten being outright panic, I’d say I’m at a seven. Judge was always a high risk prospect because he’s so damn big. It’s hard to be a successful hitter at 6-foot-7. There’s a reason there are so few of them in MLB history. Oddly enough, his weakness is pitches away. Tall hitters usually have trouble with inside pitches because their arms are so long. Judge can get to the inside pitch. The outside pitch gives him problems.

Judge reworked his swing mechanics a bit in the offseason, specifically by incorporating a bigger leg kick and changing his hand position, and that was always going to take a bit of an adjustment. I think we’re probably beyond the point where his struggles can be attributed to the new setup at the plate though. Judge does not yet have a full season’s worth of at-bats in Triple-A, which is not insignificant. It’s not like he’s been there for two full years and is still struggling.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Judge’s performance this year. The athleticism and raw power and overall skill set is there. That’s not the question. There are some approach issues to deal with, and also his size is an obstacle that isn’t going away. Judge just turned 24 and for some reason that is freaking people out. Who cares? They don’t check IDs on the field. The Yankees have the luxury of time here. Judge isn’t even on the 40-man roster yet, so they can let him work through things.

Phil asks: Josh Reddick. If his injury hurts his value as a big FA, can we look to sign him to a pillow contract next season (assuming we’d deal Gardner)? Instant short-term upgrade. He’s hit 30+ in YS.

Reddick’s not going to have to settle for a pillow contract even with the thumb injury. He’s expected back in about a month and that gives him the entire second half to show what he’s got. Reddick has made himself into a very good hitter — he’s hit .277/.337/.452 (121 wRC+) with an 8.3% walk rate and a 13.0% strikeout rate since 2014 — and he’s a fantastic defender in right field. That kind of two-way play is highly valuable and will get Reddick paid. The Alex Gordon contract (four years, $72M) seems reasonable to me.

Hey, if Reddick wants to build value in a left-handed hitter friendly ballpark on a one-year deal, sign him up. Even if the Yankees do take the plunge and decide to sell off parts and rebuild, Reddick would be one heck of a trade asset on a one-year contract. I can’t see it happening though. He’ll be back in a few weeks and he’ll get paid handsomely after the season.

Anonymous asks: Read one of your articles today saying league wide batting average is down about 10 points in the past 8-10 years. I believe lowering the mound 1 inch would put more offense back into baseball. What are your thoughts on this?

I don’t think it’s imminent, but I do believe MLB will seriously consider lowering the mound if offense continues to drop. Commissioner Rob Manfred has shown that he is very thorough and wants as much information as possible before making a decision, so I assume he’ll want several years of data before making a change that significant. I have no idea if one inch is the solution. It might be one and one-third of an inch or something weird like that. My guess is Manfred will have his people look into it and come up with a number rather than arbitrarily pick a nice round number like one or two inches.

Steve asks: As a west coast fan, I hate to admit it but I rarely get to catch many games live and thus catch up with most of my Yankee news with your site (thanks by the way) and video highlights. As someone who watches a lot of baseball, how has Castro looked at second? I’ve seen him make spectacular plays and I’ve seen him make some bone head plays … Overall though, are you happy with his D? (That’s what she said!) Has the trade been worth it so far?

I think the best way to describe Starlin Castro‘s defense is that he almost makes a lot of plays. Balls seem to find a way to be just out of his reach. His double play pivots have been noticeably slow at times too. Castro is relatively new to the position, so we should definitely cut him some slack. Overall he’s been fine defensively. Not great, not awful. He makes most of the plays he should make, will occasionally make a spectacular play, and will also occasionally let a ball get by that shouldn’t get by. Starlin hasn’t hit much at all since the Astros series and that’s pretty annoying. My early evaluation of the trade: meh. Not sure what else there is to say at this point.

Castro. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Castro. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

David asks: Forgetting about the probability of it but is it technically possible for the Yankees to get under the cap this year if they were able to trade a whole bunch of folks? I imagine timing might be everything as I assume the cap is based on salaries actually paid so every day that goes by makes it less and less likely.

Sure, it’s technically possible. The Yankees opened the season with a $228M payroll, so they’d need to shed about $40M in payroll to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. Trading Alex Rodriguez ($18.4M), Mark Teixeira ($15.1), and Jacoby Ellsbury ($14.6M) right now at the one-third point of the season would accomplish that easily. The team would shed two-thirds of the average annual value of their contracts against the luxury tax payroll. The problem is those guys are basically untradeable, at least if the expectation is shedding their entire salary. So yes, it’s possible to get under the luxury tax by trading people, but no, it’s not happening.

Paul asks: Who is CC competing against for comeback player of the year?

The first name that immediately jumped to mind was Yu Darvish, who made his first start back from Tommy John surgery a few days ago. If he pitches at an ace-level for 20 starts, it’ll be hard to give it to someone else. Here are some other candidates:

  • Marcus Stroman: Limited to four starts (and three more in the postseason) last year by a torn ACL. Can you be the Comeback Player of the Year when it’s only your second full season?
  • Michael Saunders: Played only nine games last season due to knee problems, mashing this year.
  • Rich Hill: Can you be the Comeback Player of the Year when you were never great to start with?

The Comeback Player of the Year award generally goes to players who missed a big chunk of time due to injury. CC Sabathia was mostly healthy last season. He missed two weeks with the knee problem and that was it. Sabathia just didn’t pitch all that well. That might work against him. If he keeps this up all season, then yeah, Sabathia will have to be a serious Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Let’s revisit in a few months.

Mike asks: Big Mike reaches his 5 year service time in 2 weeks; so the yanks will need his approval, if they want to send him to the minors.If Pineda doesn’t show improvement over his next two starts, do the Yankees send him to the minors, before he has a say? And who replaces him?

Yes, definitely. The exact date is June 14th, so that is only eleven days away now. On June 14th Michael Pineda will hit five years of service time and be able to refuse any assignment to the minors. Pineda will make two more starts before June 14th. If he doesn’t show significant improvement, send him down and give the rotation spot to … someone. Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Luis Severino, whoever happens to be pitching the best at the time.

Pineda would have to remain in the minors the rest of the regular season to push his free agency back — the Yankees actually pushed it back when they optioned him down in 2013 following his shoulder rehab, he should have been a free agent after this season — but the goal of sending him down is to get him on track. Even if you look at this season as a lost cause, Pineda has very little trade value right now. If a stint in the minors gets him on track, it’ll boost his trade value for the offseason. Pineda’s been arguably the worst starter in baseball this season. That usually results in a trip to Triple-A. Reassess after these next two starts.

What is Dan asks: Didi’s advanced fielding metrics from this year look terrible (-7 DRS, -4.5 UZR). Any idea why these numbers are so low? This doesn’t seem to match the eye test.

I wouldn’t look too closely at defensive stats one-third of the way into the season, but I do think Didi Gregorius‘ defense has slipped a bit since last season. He’s still making spectacular plays, but he seems to be botching routine-ish plays more often. Joe Girardi even called him out on it a week ago, at least as much as Girardi will call out a player.

“He needs to improve on it, that’s what has to happen. He’s a better fielder than what he has showed these first two months,” said the skipper to Ryan Hatch. It doesn’t seem like Gregorius has lost athleticism or anything like that. He looks like the same old Didi. It just seems like he’s misplaying some balls, particularly those hit one step or two in either direction. It could just be a slump. Defense is like anything else in baseball. Slumps happen. I’m curious to see whether Didi can shore up his glovework going forward.

C.J. asks: Mike, Is there a match with the Diamondbacks to potentially move Peter O’Brien back to the Yankees to be a backup 1B/OF, 3rd catcher? He strikes out a ton, but he’s young and he’s got a whole lot of RH power. He doesn’t have a position in AZ and he’d be a better option than Ackley (injured), Parmalee, or Swisher.

O’Brien could be a fit, sure. He’d give the team a true backup first baseman who can also play some left field and even step in as the emergency third catcher. Plus he still has that huge right-handed power.

Power was never the question with O’Brien. The question is whether his lack of plate discipline — he has a 28.9% strikeout rate and a 3.2% walk rate in Triple-A this season — would allow him to use that power at the MLB level. O’Brien can hammer a mistake pitch. Can he do enough other things to be a net positive?

The Yankees could use some right-handed power and a backup first baseman. My trade proposal sucks, but what about Rob Refsnyder for O’Brien, straight up? The Diamondbacks need middle infield help — Jean Segura has been fine but Nick Ahmed can’t hit all, so they could stick Refsnyder at second and Segura at short — and also some outfield depth, two positions Refsnyder can play.

My guess is the D’Backs would want quite a bit more. They consider O’Brien one of their best prospects. At the same time, they’re not oblivious to the fact they have no place to play him. Paul Goldschmidt is entrenched at first and they have Yasmany Tomas making big bucks in left field. O’Brien could be a good fit for New York’s roster as kind of the a Dustin Ackley, the part-time player who sees time at first, a corner outfield, and DH.

Ariel asks: I know this is more of a question of one’s loyalty and dedication to his team than a regular ol’ baseball question, but am I a bad fan for rooting for the Yankees to lose on a consistent basis? Just so they have to trade away the three headed monster in the bullpen and guys like Teixeira and Beltran (if they waive their no-trade clause).

Nah, that doesn’t make you a bad fan. I can’t think of any reason to consider someone a bad fan. Maybe rooting against the team or a player just to prove you were right about something? The best thing for the Yankees right now could very well be losing and losing a lot, since it would presumably force the brain trust’s hands into beginning a rebuild. If you believe that is the best thing for the team long-term — at that is a 100% percent reasonable stance at this point in time — then how could anyone blame you for rooting for it? We all want the Yankees to win first and foremost. That doesn’t seem to be much of an option right now though.

Stephen asks: Is there any precedent to trading two elite relievers as part of the same deal? What could the Yankees get if they packaged two – or even all three! – of their big three relievers in a trade?

Chapman. (Elsa/Getty)
Chapman. (Elsa/Getty)

I haven’t found any such precedent at all. The closet thing I can find is the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade a few years ago. Samardzija and Hammel were two of the best available starting pitchers at the 2014 deadline, and the Athletics acquired them both in the same trade. They had to give up Addison Russell to do it though. Hammel was rental while Samardzija had one year of control left.

If the Yankees do decide to take the plunge and sell, they should absolutely be open to the possibility of a package deal with their relievers. I’m sure the Dodgers would love to get their hands on both Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, for example. What team wouldn’t? Can they get more if they move them individually than they would as a package deal? I can’t really answer that. My guess is they would end up with more total pieces if they shop them individually but perhaps get the best true impact player if they move them together.

Mark asks: I was wondering what you think the chances are that we may start to see language in contracts regarding failed drug tests and resulting suspensions… I know the suspensions are without pay, but I wonder if teams may eventually want to use such an event to get out of contracts altogether. Love the site and thanks for all your hard work.

Oh I’m sure owners would love to make contracts voidable due to a performance enhancing drug suspension. (But only the bad contracts, right?) I don’t think the MLBPA ever will (or should) agree to that. Giving owners a way to void contracts is a precedent the union does not want to set. The Joint Drug Agreement is by far the best PED testing program in pro sports and the penalties are harsh.

Making contracts voidable gives teams a reason to look the other way, which is the opposite of what should happen. It could create a distrust between the player and team because the team would have some incentive for a player to fail a drug test. Would the Yankees be heartbroken if Alex Rodriguez accidentally took a tainted B-12 shot? Nope. Not at all. Unless the player admits it, it’s pretty much impossible to prove whether he took a banned substance intentionally.

Want to improve the system? It would help by making the team accountable in some way, perhaps by having them donate the player’s forfeited salary to charity. No one really thinks teams are oblivious as to which of their players may be using PEDs, right? There aren’t many secrets in this game. The program is working. Players are getting caught. That’s what supposed to happen. No positive tests doesn’t mean no one is using.

John asks: How do you view Didi and Starlin? Do you think that they’re our long-term solutions up the middle, or are they good, short-term pieces until the farm delivers some of the guys at A and AA? If you think the minors guys are that good, who do you see starting at short and second in, say, 2019?

Closer to short-term fill-in pieces until someone better comes along than long-term solutions. I think Gregorius is closer to being a long-term solution at short than Castro is at second. Their bats are closer than most may realize — Starlin has more power and that’s about it — but Didi is the far better defender at the tougher position. I think it’s harder to find a shortstop like Gregorius than it is a second baseman like Castro, basically.

Jorge Mateo will hopefully fit into the middle infield picture somewhere within a year or two. He’s the obvious internal candidate to assume a long-term middle infield position. The Yankees have a ton of infield prospects but, aside from Tyler Wade, none are particularly close to MLB right now, so it’ll be Castro and Gregorius for a while. My guess is when the team is ready to be a true championship contender again, they’ll have a different double play combination than the one they have right now.