Saturday Links: A-Rod, Best Tools, 810 River Ave., CLEAR

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

The Yankees and Blue Jays resume their three-game series early this afternoon. Until then, check out these stray links and news items to help you pass the time.

Pre-game ceremony for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit

This is rich. The Yankees will hold a special on-field pre-game ceremony for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th career hit later this season, the team announced. It’ll be held Sunday, September 13th, before the team’s 1pm ET game against the Blue Jays. They ask you to be in your seats by 12:30pm ET. So just a few weeks after refusing to pay A-Rod his $6M home run milestone bonus because they claimed it was unmarketable, the Yankees are honoring Alex for his 3,000th hit. Guess they’re hoping for a late-season attendance bump.’s farm system rankings

Jim Callis posted his updated ranking of the top ten farm systems this week, and the Yankees placed tenth. I’m not sure where Callis had the Yankees coming into the season, but most other publications had them in the 18-25 range. “New York has position prospects at every spot on the diamond, including speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo (No. 99), sweet-swinging second baseman Robert Refsnyder and slugging catcher Gary Sanchez,” wrote Callis. I don’t know if the Yankees truly have a top ten system yet — this is just one person’s rankings, of course — but the system is clearly on the rise, even if Severino graduates to the big leagues before the end of the season.

Baseball America’s Best Tools

Baseball America published their annual Best Tools survey this week, in which they poll managers, coaches, scouts … basically everyone about the best players and best tools in their individual leagues. Several Yankees players and prospects appeared throughout the survey, so here’s a quick rundown:

All of the surveys are free, you don’t need a subscription, so click the links and you can read through each category and each league. Obviously this is all very subjective — I can’t imagine there are many Yankee fans who consider Gardner the best bunter in the AL — but I’ve always found it interesting and fun to see who coaches and scouts feel have the best skills.


New apartment tower being built next old Yankee Stadium site

According to Ondel Hylton, a new 17-story apartment building is being built on River Ave. between 157th and 158th Streets, on the old Ball Park Lanes site. (The bowling alley closed years ago.) The 134-unit building at 810 River Ave. is right across the street from the old Yankee Stadium site and is a few blocks away from the new Stadium. The neighborhood was re-zoned for buildings up to 30 stories back in 2009, and this is the first new high-rise going up in the area. Construction started in May.

CLEAR comes to Yankee Stadium

As you know, MLB mandated all 30 ballparks must have metal detectors at the entrances this season, which is a total pain. Couldn’t be any less convenient and, frankly, it doesn’t make me feel any safer. (Not that I’ve ever felt unsafe at a game, but that’s besides the point.) The Yankees recently partnered up with CLEAR to expedite the process, the team announced. It’s the same biometrics technology they use at airports for TSA pre-check. You can sign up at Gate 4, and, if approved, you’ll be able to simply scan your finger at a designated fast access lane and skip the whole metal detector process. Yankee Stadium is the third stadium with CLEAR technology, joining AT&T Park and Coors Field. So if you’ve ever wanted that airport experience at a ball park, this is your lucky day!

Mailbag: Bird, Mateo, Pineda, Murphy, AzFL, Rule 5 Draft

Got 12 questions for you in this week’s mailbag. The “For The Mailbag” form is gone, to delight of many I’m sure. You can now email us your questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. There’s a little reminder in the sidebar, under the YES videos and above the Aaron Judge Watch, in case you forget the email address in the future. It’s easy enough to reminder though, right? Right.

Bird. (Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

Greg asks: Does Greg Bird see any time in the outfield?

That would really surprise me. Bird is not particularly fleet of foot and he has no experience whatsoever in the outfield. He was drafted as a catcher then moved to first base because his back kept acting up. I wouldn’t rule it out down the line, but I don’t think the Yankees would have him shag fly balls during batting practice for a few days then just throw him out there like they did with Lyle Overbay. Gosh, remember that? That was weird. I think they’d wait and let Bird work out in the outfield in Spring Training should they decide to give it a try.

Ben asks: I know it’s early, but MLBTR just updated their 2016 free agent power rankings and it’s got me thinking. Who can you see the Yanks targeting this upcoming winter? My personal list (however far-fetched): Ben Zobrist and a pitcher (Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann).

I don’t expect the Yankees to pursue any big name free agents this offseason. No one like Price or Cueto, for example. I think they’ll stick to mid-range free agents again. Guys in the $10M per year range, not the $20M range. Second base is the only position player spot they could realistically upgrade, and in addition to Zobrist there’s Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, and Chase Utley. Utley’s cooked, Murphy’s really bad in the field, and Kendrick’s probably going to get a significant contract despite being 32 years old. That makes me wonder if the Yankees will try to swing a trade for a second baseman instead. They’ll need pitching too. I’d love Price but I have a hard time thinking they’ll commit $200M to a pitcher who just turned 30. Staying away is probably the right move too. Hisashi Iwakuma could be an alternative there, assuming they can convince him to leave Seattle. They did get Hiroki Kuroda to leave Los Angeles back in the day, so it’s not impossible.

Anonymous asks: With the Yanks lack of speed this year, should they call up Jorge Mateo in August, and have him eligible for a postseason roster spot?

No way. They can find someone else to pinch-run. There are always Freddy Guzmans and Quintin Berrys lying around in Triple-A to do that job. Go get one of them. Or, you know, use the perfectly qualified Slade Heathcott. Calling up Mateo would mean clogging up a 40-man roster spot going forward and starting his options clock next year. It’s not worth it just to pinch-run a few times. There are too many negative roster ramifications to calling up Mateo in September. This is not a Terrance Gore situation. Mateo isn’t a fringe prospect whose only MLB usefulness may come as a pinch-runner. He’s a legitimate prospect and it’s not worth adding him to the 40-man roster years before it is necessary for a role that insignificant.

Eric asks: Conspiracy theory time: Could the Yankees be faking a Michael Pineda injury to try and cut down on his innings?

Fire everyone if that’s the case. Fall out of first place while you’re faking an injury — an arm injury no less, hurting Pineda’s future trade value — so you can send one of your two best starters to the DL for a month to control his workload? Fire. Every. One. That’s not the case though. Pineda’s actually hurt. It sucks, but it is what it is. I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy theory, but faking an injury like this doesn’t quality.


Brian asks: If Big Mike comes back healthy, could the forearm be a blessing in disguise? Given the innings increase, maybe a month off isn’t the worst thing?

I’m always inclined to say “no” to the whole “injury being a blessing in disguise” thing. Andrew Miller and Jacoby Ellsbury have not been the same since coming back from their injuries this year, for example, so there’s always a chance Pineda comes back a less effective pitcher, especially since it is an arm injury. Sure, it’s possible Pineda comes back perfectly fine and well-rested and dominates late in the season and the Yankees still win the division, but I feel like the chances of that actually happening are very small. Injuries are almost always — 99.9% of the time? — a bad thing.

JLC776 asks: I’m writing this prior to the Yankees facing Henry Owens in his MLB debut. I’m used to hearing the narrative that Yankees do miserably against pitchers making MLB debuts (or maybe it’s rookies making their vs Yankee debut), but what are the real numbers? Do we typically do better, worse, the same?

The Yankees have faced 12 starters making their MLB debut since the start of the 2010 season. It seems like it should be more, right? It’s not though, I double checked. Here are the 12 pitchers and their stat lines (via Baseball Reference):

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GmSc
1 Henry Owens 2015-08-04 BOS NYY L 3-13 5.0 5 3 3 1 5 0 96 59 49
2 Mike Montgomery 2015-06-02 SEA NYY L 3-5 6.0 4 1 1 2 4 0 97 64 62
3 Anthony Ranaudo 2014-08-01 BOS NYY W 4-3 6.0 4 2 2 4 2 1 91 53 54
4 Jacob deGrom 2014-05-15 NYM NYY L 0-1 7.0 4 1 1 2 6 0 91 57 69
5 Rafael Montero 2014-05-14 NYM NYY L 0-4 6.0 5 3 3 2 3 2 108 68 51
6 Erik Johnson 2013-09-04 CHW NYY L 5-6 6.0 7 5 3 3 1 1 105 60 40
7 Casey Crosby 2012-06-01 DET NYY L 4-9 3.1 4 6 6 4 3 1 75 40 27
8 Will Smith 2012-05-23 KCR NYY L 3-8 3.1 6 5 5 1 1 3 54 30 28
9 Wei-Yin Chen 2012-04-10 BAL NYY L 4-5 5.2 7 4 2 1 6 1 101 59 48
10 Garrett Richards 2011-08-10 LAA NYY L 3-9 5.0 6 6 6 2 2 2 91 59 31
11 Josh Tomlin 2010-07-27 CLE NYY W 4-1 7.0 3 1 1 0 2 0 93 60 69
12 Jake Arrieta 2010-06-10 BAL NYY W 4-3 6.0 4 3 3 4 6 0 106 61 54

The Yankees are 9-3 in those 12 games and the pitchers have a combined 4.88 ERA with a 1.58 K/BB ratio. That’s really bad! Tomlin, deGrom, and Montgomery pitched well while Richards, Crosby, and Smith all got smacked around. Everyone else was okay-ish. Not terrible but not great either. A total of 211 pitchers have made their MLB debut as a starter since 2010 and those 211 guys combined for a 4.72 ERA and a 1.81 K/BB ratio in their first starts. So I guess this means the Yankees have been a bit better than average when facing a starter making his big league debut.

Sal asks: Mike, whatever happened to the Hawaii Winter league? Saw Austin Jackson play there in 2007. Also, who are your predictions for Arizona Fall League (please say Ian Clarkin!)?

Hawaii Winter Baseball first ran from 1993-97 and it included players from MLB, the minors, Japan, Korea, and independent leagues. The league folded following the 1997 season and was revived in 2006. It ran from 2006-08 with minor leaguers and Japanese players before closing up shop again because MLB decided it didn’t want another league competing with the Arizona Fall League. Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, and Mark Melancon all played in HWB at one point.

As for the Arizona Fall League this year, guys who have been injured are always a good bet. Eric Jagielo and Jacob Lindgren jump to mind. Clarkin is a possibility if he’s healthy in time (the season starts in early-October), but teams are only allowed to send one player who has yet to play above Single-A, and he’d chew up that spot for the Yankees. Also, not many teams send their top pitching prospects to the AzFL because it’s so hitter friendly. Tyler Austin could be a candidate if he finishes strong at Double-A and the Yankees want to get him some more at-bats to get on track. Jagielo and Lindgren are the two big ones to me. If they’re healthy, I have to think they’ll play in the Fall League.

Michael asks: Do you think it would make sense to trade John Ryan Murphy? As you have said, he has impressed this summer, and figures to be expendable given the fact that we have Brian McCann for a few more years, plus Gary Sanchez, Luis Torrens, and others on the farm. Additionally, Austin Romine is hitting well and plays solid defense, so he could be a serviceable backup catcher. Couldn’t we turn him, along with others in a package, into a more productive and useful roster piece?

SKJRM. (Presswire)
SKJRM. (Presswire)

It could make sense, sure. It depends on what comes back to the Yankees, as always. A similar young and controllable position player (second base?) or starting pitcher? Yeah I could see that making sense. I am the world’s biggest JRM fan and I do think he’ll prove to be quite valuable as McCann ages and sees fewer starts behind the plate, but Murphy shouldn’t be untouchable, especially if someone like Sanchez shows the potential to handle catching duties at the MLB level. I wouldn’t actively shop Murphy but I would definitely listen to offers. Young catchers who can actually catch and hit a little are quite valuable. There’s nothing wrong with keeping him around.

James asks: Do you think there’s any chance the Yankees will sneak in an August trade?

I do. Nothing major, of course, but a depth piece or two. I could see them grabbing an extra back-end starter or something to provide depth. Someone to chew up innings. A Chad Gaudin type but not actually Chad Gaudin, if you catch my drift. Could that be … Ian Kennedy? Kyle Lohse? Aaron Harang? I’m not sure. Utley is the biggest name out there but I’d be surprised if they pulled the trigger on a deal of that magnitude, not that Utley is any good these days. I could see a smaller move to add depth, yes. Nothing too exciting though.

Tom asks: During the August waiver system: If I put player X on waivers, you claim him, and we open trade talks. You offer player Y. Does player Y have to clear waivers, too?

Of course. Any player on the 40-man roster has to go through trade waivers to be traded after July 31st. Non-40-man players do not have to go on waivers. I remember a few years ago when the Red Sox acquired Billy Wagner from the Mets, the deal sent two players to New York, one of whom had yet to go on waivers. When that player was placed on waivers (I think it was the other Chris Carter?), the Yankees claimed him just to create a roster headache for Boston. The BoSox had to pull the player back, include him in the trade as a player to be named, keep him on their 40-man roster the rest of the year, then send him to the Mets after the season.

Danny asks: I had a dream last night that the Yankees got Andy Pettitte to come back and pitch for them this year. Would that be a good idea? Are there any restrictions on “un-retiring?”

The only un-retiring restriction I know of involves players who retire while still under contract. They don’t just come back as free agents, their former teams still hold their rights. Pettitte would be a free agent since his contract was up. It would be neat to see Pettitte pitch again, but remember, he wasn’t very good towards the end of the 2013 season. That complete game in his last start really did come out of nowhere. Pettitte pitched to a 4.00+ ERA for much of the summer and generally looked to be nearing the end of the line. Love Andy, always will, but I think his baseball usefulness is very limited at this point. Such is life.

Justin asks: Who has to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?

This is worth an entire post and I’ll put that together at some point in the future, probably soon after the end of the season. The short answer is this: the Yankees have a ton of useful players set to become Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, too many to protect, so they’re going to lose some. There’s nothing they can do about it. Can’t fill up the 40-man with prospects. Here are some of the notable players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason: Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Rookie Davis, James Pazos, Tony Renda, Johnny Barbato, Miguel Andujar, and Abi Avelino. (I believe Andujar and Avelino are Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter. International guys are always tough to pin down because we don’t know their exact signing date.) Vicente Campos can also become a minor league free agent if he’s not added to the 40-man roster. Lots of tough decisions!

Mailbag Update: New Email To Submit Questions

Just a heads up, we’ve ditched the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar. It was kind of a pain, mostly because it didn’t give any sort of confirmation message, so people were submitting their questions like ten times. Also, apparently the anti-spam question was harder than we realized. More than a few people emailed us asking for help with the answer.

Anyway, we’re going to go back to the ol’ “email us your questions” system. Here’s the email to use: RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Easy enough, right? There’s a little widget in the sidebar — below the YES videos and above the Aaron Judge Watch — with the mailbag email address in case you forget it and need it in the future.

As always, the mailbag is posted each Friday morning. I usually write it up Thursday afternoon/evening, so it’s best to get your question in before then if you want it answered that week. We do get a ton of questions each week, so don’t be discouraged if yours doesn’t get answered. There just isn’t enough time to answer ’em all.

Trade Deadline Mailbag: Reyes, Puig, Guerrero, Gordon, Cashner, Carrasco

The trade deadline is just about 24 hours away now. We’ve got a lot in the hopper for tomorrow between deadline stuff and Yankeemetrics and series previews and whatnot, so the options were post the mailbag a day early or not at all this week. I went with the former. Here’s a trade deadline focused six-question mailbag.

Weird. (Presswire)
Weird. (Presswire)

Dan asks: What do you think about the Yanks getting Jose Reyes to play 2nd? Yes, he’s having a down year, but he’d be a large upgrade over Stephen Drew. 2nd requires less range that SS, so his defense could rebound (after the early hiccups with him learning a new position). It’s a lot of money, but he’s only signed for 2 more years — his contract comes off the books the same time as A-Rod‘s and CC Sabathia‘s.

I fully expect the Rockies to flip Reyes at some point, either at the trade deadline or in the offseason. Keeping him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Reyes is hitting .285/.325/.385 (95 wRC+) this year after hitting .287/.328/.398 (105 wRC+) last year, and his speed is nowhere near what it once was. He’s stolen 17 bases this year and has zero triples. That’s not surprising though — Reyes is 32 and he’s had a ton of leg injuries over the years. The speed wasn’t going to stay forever. There are two years and $48M left on his contract after the season, so he’s very expensive, especially for a guy who is probably hitting eighth or ninth in the Yankees’ lineup. Reyes has experience playing second base — the Mets moved him to second in deference to Kaz Matsui back in the day, if you can believe that — but he hasn’t played there since 2004. A move back might not be so smooth. I think this is one to avoid. Peak Reyes was the most exciting player in MLB, but right now you’re buying nothing but downside.

Brian asks: Any interest in Yasiel Puig and what would be needed to get it done?

Yes! Bring me Puig. The guy is 24, he’s hitting .254/.326/.433 (114 wRC+) during his “down” year, and is owed just $24.6M through 2018. We’re all hoping Aaron Judge one day turns into Puig. That said, there are legitimate makeup and clubhouse concerns with Puig (read this), and the Yankees usually stay away from those players. The Dodgers were reportedly listening to offers for Puig, though I’m not sure that means much. Every team listens to offers for every player. Jon Heyman says the Dodgers told Puig they aren’t trading him, for what it’s worth. Based purely on his talent, production, and contract, Puig is an “empty the system” guy. Multiple top prospects would have have to be involved. He’s a star whose value transcends on-field production — Puig puts butts in the seats and sells merchandise. You can’t take your eyes off the guy.

Zac asks: Is Alex Guerrero a realistic trade target for the Yankees? He offers the similar IF/OF versatility to Ben Zobrist and has shown some power, and doesn’t have a position in LA.

Guerrero is a realistic target in the sense that he is available, but he’s not very good at all. He smashed a bunch of homers in April and has been a total zero since, hitting .206/.232/.368 (65 wRC+) since the calendar flipped to May. Guerrero has played third base and left field this year but is really a DH because he’s an awful defender. He’s versatile in that he can stand at different positions, but he’s a liability in the field. There are two years and $10M left on Guerrero’s contract after the season and he can actually opt-out of the deal if traded, but would he top that on the open market? I doubt it. Unless you believe in the bat long-term, I don’t see much appeal here at all. How does Guerrero help the Yankees? “He’s not Brendan Ryan or Stephen Drew” isn’t a good answer.

Carrasco. (Presswire)
Carrasco. (Presswire)

Dustin asks: Indians are apparently willing to part with Carlos Carrasco. I know the Yankees are suppose to be targeting rentals, but isn’t he someone they should be in on. What would it take to get him?

Yes, they should be in on Carrasco if he is indeed available. (From the sound of it, the Indians floated his name to gauge his value, but would need to be blown away to move him.) The 28-year-old has a 3.17 ERA (2.47 FIP) with incredible strikeout (28.3%), walk (5.0%), and ground ball (49.6%) rates in 187.1 innings since moving into the rotation last year, and he’s signed dirt cheap ($19M from 2016-18 with options for 2019 and 2020). The track record is on the short side, yeah, but Carrasco has been dominant since moving into the rotation and he’s incredibly affordable. It would take a massive haul to get him. I’m thinking at least two top prospects plus two or three other pieces, some of which have to be MLB ready. If I’m the Indians, I want Judge and Luis Severino in the package. If the Yankees say no, big deal, I’ll hang on to my prime-age cost-controlled low-level ace.

Albert: Would you trade Rob Refsnyder and Gary Sanchez for a guy like Dee Gordon?

In a vacuum, yes, that trade seems fair to me. (Which, of course, means it favors the Yankees and the Marlins wouldn’t do it.) Gordon just came back from his dislocated thumb and he’s hitting .307/.338/.392 (106 wRC+) in over 1,000 plate appearances since the start of last year. He’s good now. He runs a high BABIP (.367 since 2014) because he puts the ball in play (16.4 K%) and is fast as hell. Gordon has also developed into an above-average defensive second baseman after making the transition from shortstop. He’s under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018 — his arbitration salaries will be on the high side because stolen bases pay — and is solidly a 3-4 WAR player at this point of his career. Gordon would be a wonderful pickup even if he only bats ninth and serves as a “second” leadoff man. I don’t think the Marlins will make him available though. He’s a building block going forward.

Chris asks: Do you think Andrew Cashner is a fit? If so, what do you think it would take to get him if the Padres are in true sell mode?

I do think he’s a fit in the sense Cashner is a pitcher and the Yankees could really use one. I don’t think he’s a difference-maker like David Price or Cole Hamels — few are, of course — but he’s a quality arm who’d boost the rotation. Cashner has some Edwin Jackson in him, meaning he has tremendous stuff but not the results to match, and everyone seems to think they can be the team to unlock his potential. Nathan Eovaldi fits in that group as well, though Cashner is three years older and has a much scarier injury history. As I wrote in our Scouting The Market post, two organizational top ten prospects — guys more in the 6-10 range than the 1-5 range — seems like the potential asking price for Cashner based on similar trades.

Mailbag: Iwakuma, First Innings, Paxton, Bird, Expansion

The trade deadline is a week away now and I’ve got a dozen questions in this edition of the mailbag. Remember to use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us questions throughout the week.

Iwakuma. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Iwakuma. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Mike O. asks: Any interest in Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners? Pending free agent, looked good his last two starts after coming off the DL, could be a good buy low candidate.

Make it three good starts since coming off the DL — he allowed two runs in seven innings against the Tigers yesterday. Iwakuma missed a bunch of time with a lat strain this year and has 4.50 ERA (5.14 FIP) in 42 innings overall, with all of the major damage coming back in April before the injury. The 34-year-old had a 3.52 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 179 innings last year and a 2.66 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 219.2 innings the year before, when he finished third in the Cy Young voting.

Iwakuma doesn’t strike out a ton of batters (career 20.8%) but he never issues walks (5.0%) and does keep the ball on the ground (50.0%), which is a good combination. He’s a sinker/splitter/slider guy like many Japanese hurlers. He is, dare I say, Hiroki Kuroda-like. Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka were teammates with the Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007-11, so the Yankees have access to firsthand knowledge of him as a teammate and person. I’m not sure I’d say you’d be buying low on Iwakuma, he’s awfully good and I don’t think the lat strain is going to scare too many teams away, but he would be a fine rotation addition.

Sean asks: If you had to give up either Aaron Judge or Luis Severino, who would it be?

Severino for sure. First and foremost, pitchers have a much higher attrition rate due to injury. Scott McKinney’s research has shown top 20 pitching prospects bust much more often than top 20 position player prospects — position players busted 40.8% of the time, pitchers 62.7% (!) — and that right there is reason enough to deal Severino before Judge in my opinion. Also, if you look at the Yankees specifically, I think their need for a potential impact bat in the next year or two is greater than their need for a potential impact pitcher. Trade Severino before Judge all the way. But keep both, preferably.

Carl asks: What are the odds that a setup man wins the Mariano Rivera Award this season? Dellin Betances and Wade Davis both make strong cases.

I highly doubt it only because the nine-man voting panel — Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman — is a bunch of ex-closers. Of course they’re going to vote for closers. Greg Holland won the Mariano Rivera Award last year despite not even being the best reliever on his own team. I’m surprised they didn’t just give it to Fernando Rodney because he led the league in saves. This isn’t a sophisticated award. It’s going to be the best closer in the league each year. Simple as that. Setup men don’t stand a chance.

J.R. asks: In the Orioles series preview you mention, “This club hasn’t had a top pitching prospect max out since Mike Mussina.” Who was the last Yankees pitching prospect that maxed out?

Andy Pettitte. Chien-Ming Wang was never a top prospect. I mean a top top prospect. A top 100 guy. The Yankees have been really bad at getting their top pitching prospects (top prospects in general, really) to max out and reach their ceiling. It has undeniably been a problem. The Yankees never had top picks though. The O’s used top ten draft picks on Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Matt Hobgood, Brian Matusz, Wade Townsend, Adam Loewen, and Chris Smith since 2000. Hobgood, Townsend, and Smith never reached MLB, Loewen threw 164 big league innings (85 ERA+) before becoming an outfielder, Bundy’s been hurt most of the last two years, and Gausman’s been jerked around. Matusz, a lefty specialist, the best of the bunch by default at this point. Egads.

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

Kevin asks: Is it just me, or have the Yankees been struggling to go from first to third on a single and scoring from first on a double? It seems this is especially true with noted speedsters Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. How much is this hurting the Yankees offense?

Yes, that is definitely true. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are the only guys on the team who can really run — Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are next best runners on the team and they’re average-ish — so the Yankees don’t rate too well on the bases. The FanGraphs all-encompassing base-running stat says the Yankees have added 1.5 runs on the bases this year, which is middle of pack. That includes stolen bases, first-to-thirds, advancing on wild pitches, everything.

As a team, the Yankees take the extra base 37% of the time. They got first-to-third on a single 28% of the time, second-to-home on a single 52% of the time, and first-to-home on a double 39% of the time. The MLB averages are 39% (taking the extra base in general), 28% (first-to-third on a single), 57% (second-to-home on a single), and 42% (first-to-home on a double). First-to-third hasn’t been a problem, it’s the scoring plays. Perhaps that’s a third base coach Joe Espada thing? Maybe he’s really conservative. I wouldn’t blame him, necessarily. This offense is pretty good and can score in a hurry. No need to be super aggressive. The Yankees have been a tick below average at taking the extra base but not terrible — last year they took the extra base only 33% of the time.

Matt asks: The Yanks seem to score a lot of 1st inning runs. Any way to see how they compare to all other MLB clubs?

Oh yes, the Yankees are the undisputed kings of first inning runs this season. They’ve scored 86 first innings in 2015. 82! The Rockies rank second with 65. The gap between the Yanks and Rockies is the same as the gap between the Rockies and the 15th ranked team (Braves and Diamondbacks). They can thank Ellsbury, Gardner, A-Rod, and Teixeira for that. The top four of the lineup has been crazy productive. The White Sox, by the way, rank dead last in MLB with 27 first inning runs. The record for first inning runs is 147 by the 2000 Cardinals. The Yankees are on pace for 148. It’ll be close!

John D. asks: What about Juan Uribe? As a former SS, could he fake it at 2B for 2+ months?

I love Uribe, he’s one of my favorite players in baseball and I’d love to see him in pinstripes, but he’s played six innings at second base since 2012. He hasn’t played the position with any sort of regularity since 2011. Uribe is hitting .272/.331/.409 (107 wRC+) this year and he’s an excellent defender at third base despite his portliness, plus he’s been a big part of two World Series teams (2005 White Sox and 2010 Giants), so that experience would be welcome. If there was a way to add Uribe to the bench — he’s hitting .288/.362/.596 (164 wRC+) against lefties and would make a fine platoon partner for Chase Headley — I’d be all for it. Starting second baseman probably isn’t happening at age 36 though, even for a relatively short period of time.

Dan asks: Do you think the Mets are only one or two deadline deals away from being able to legitimately contend with the Nationals for the division?

I do! They need two bats, which I know is easier said than done. Ben Zobrist would be a huge upgrade for them, and with Michael Cuddyer banged up, they could use another outfielder as well. Yoenis Cespedes is reportedly out there and he’s a rental, so they wouldn’t have to take on a long-term deal. Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce … why not? Even someone like Gerardo Parra would be a big upgrade. The Mets have saved something like $4.5M in salary this season thanks to Jenrry Mejia’s suspension and insurance on David Wright’s contract. If the Wilpons don’t put that money back into the roster, MLB should just force them to sell the team. This is getting ridiculous. A New York team with a bottom third payroll for several years running is embarrassing for the league.

Andrew asks: Does Chasen Shreve get a few ROY votes at the end of the season?

Nah. Shreve has been awesome but middle relievers usually don’t much Rookie of the Year love. Voters have only three slots on the ballot and at this point Carlos Correa, Devon Travis, Roberto Osuna, Carson Smith, Andrew Heaney, and Billy Burns are ahead of Shreve in the Rookie of the Year race, among others. (Those guys aren’t in any sort of order, that’s just off the top of my head.) That’s fine. Shreve’s been awesome. He doesn’t need Rookie of the Year votes to validate his great season.

Paxton. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Paxton. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Chris asks: There’s been a lot of talk of Jack Z. getting a bit desperate and trying to make a huge deal. As unlikely as it is, do you think he’s crazy enough to trade James Paxton and Alex Jackson for Jacoby Ellsbury?

Why would the Yankees do that? I think Ellsbury’s contract is really bad but at least he’s still a very good all-around player on a contending team. That seems like someone the Yankees should keep for the time being. Jackson is hitting .256/.300/.352 (85 wRC+) this summer and while Paxton has been impressive the last two years (3.33 ERA and 3.69 FIP), he’s only thrown 132.1 innings due to all sorts of injuries. Finger this year, lat strain last year, knee trouble in the minors. The Yankees are a win now team and that’s not a win now trade at all. That’s a “dump the contract and hope Paxton figures out how to stay healthy” trade a non-contender makes. The Mariners would absolutely make that trade, assuming ownership okays the money. Ellsbury is a huge upgrade over Jackson and they won’t even notice Paxton is gone because he hasn’t been on the mound since May anyway.

Liam asks: What are your expectations of Greg Bird? He’s been struggling a bit in Scranton, but a promotion and an injury can have that effect, plus he is still only 22. Is he a future big leaguer or did the fanbase hype him up a bit too much?

Don’t fans hype up every prospect too much? I believe the answer to that is a resounding yes. Bird has been much better the last few games with the RailRiders (since the question was sent in) and I do think he’s a future big leaguer. He’s not too different from Logan Morrison back during his prospect days — a left-handed hitting first baseman with great plate discipline and power potential, though Morrison is a better glove man and struck out less while Bird seems to have better makeup, which absolutely matters.

I will say this: Bird has to hit and hit big to have value. The offensive bar at first base is fairly high (MLB average at the position is .256/.330/.434 with a 111 wRC+) and Bird has to clear that by a decent margin to a positive contributor. He’s not much of a defender and there are concerns about his ability to handle lefties, not to mention his sneaky scary injury history. Top first base prospects also have a shockingly poor track record of reaching their ceiling. Use ctrl + F to search “1b” and scroll through Baseball America’s all-time top 100 prospects list page. There are a few gems in there, but man, it’s ugly.

Mitch asks: Rob Manfred has discussed both expansion and shortening the schedule this week. What’s the earliest you could see either happening? Would you prefer expansion or more playoffs to offset the lost revenue from a shortened schedule?

The shortening the schedule thing seems almost impossible. There are major economic issues there — assuming they cut back to 154 games, owners would have to be willing to give up four home dates, plus they’d have to work it all out with the television contracts. Those deals have minimum broadcasting requirements that need to be met. Also, if they do cut eight games (approximately 5% off the schedule), are the owners going to ask the players to take a 5% pay cut? I wouldn’t put it past them. The players are the ones asking for fewer games, after all. If they do go to a 154-game schedule, I don’t think it’ll happen for very long time. I think it’s more likely they add a few more off-days and stretch the season out over a longer period of time.

As for expansion, I think that could happen reasonably soon. Within five years or so. (That doesn’t mean it will happen, of course, just that it’s feasible.) Baseball is certainly healthy enough financially to add two more teams, and there are no shortage of cities able to support an MLB franchise. San Antonio, Portland, hell, New York could support a third team in Brooklyn or northern New Jersey. (The Yankees and Mets would never ever ever ever let that happen though.) If I had to pick between expansion or more playoffs, I’d go expansion. I don’t want MLB to turn into the NBA or NHL, where more than half the league gets into the postseason.

Mailbag: Kimbrel, Gallardo, A-Rod, Outfielders, Severino

Nice big mailbag this week. Fourteen questions total. Be sure to use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us questions throughout the week.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Jeff asks: Let’s hypothetically say the Yankees make a trade for Craig Kimbrel. What inning would he slot into?

I’d let Kimbrel close and use Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller as setup men, though there’s really no wrong answer here. Miller closing with Kimbrel and Betances setting up? Sure. Dellin closing with Miller and Kimbrel setting up? That works too. All three are excellent, and as long as they’re pitching in high-leverage spots, the Yankees would be fine. That said, I don’t see the Yankees trading for Kimbrel. Yes, he would make the team better, but an elite closer is pretty much the last thing they need to add at the trade deadline. Get second base and rotation help first.

Mark asks: Why do you think the Yankees have signed more than their typical number of drafted players this year? Do you think it has anything to do with the two minor league teams they have added in the past few years? Seems like a decent way to gain a competitive advantage (extra spots means more lottery tickets) without having to worry about luxury tax.

Yes, I do think it has something to do with the extra affiliate (Rookie level Pulaski) this year. They need more bodies because there are more roster spots to fill. They didn’t sign more high-end prospects, they just added more late-round college juniors and seniors. The system doesn’t let teams spent as much as they want on higher upside prospects who fall due to signability concerns anymore. I do think having the extra affiliates gives the Yankees a developmental advantage, especially in the wake of last summer’s international spending spree. They need places to play these guys, and now they won’t have to share positions. Simply put, they can acquire more prospects because they have more places to play them.

Adam asks: Yovani Gallardo seems like a upgrade over Nathan Eovaldi/CC Sabathia/Ivan Nova, and won’t cost as much as Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels or Jeff Samardzija. What’s would we have to give up to get him?

The Rangers are falling out of the race — they’ve won just five of their last 20 games following that little hot streak that had people wondering if they were going to contend — and Gallardo is an impending free agent, so it would make sense for them to listen to offers, especially since he’s pitching better this season than he has in years. Gallardo, 29, has a 2.62 ERA (3.54 FIP) in 113.1 innings and recently had a 33.1-inning scoreless streak.

Among the various rental starters who figure to be available at the trade deadline, I’d rank Cueto at the top (duh) with Samardzija and Gallardo basically 2A and 2B, then Mike Leake a distant fourth. Gallardo has continued his weird “replace strikeouts with ground balls” trend …

Yovani Gallardo K GB

… which has been going on so long now that I have to think it’s a conscious decision. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different, especially since his strikeout rate is now well below the league average (20.2%). Even if it is something he is doing intentionally, the decline in missed bats is a red flag for me, though not enough of one to derail a trade because he is only a rental and not a long-term pickup.

The Rangers gave up three prospects to get Gallardo before the season — an MLB ready reliever (Corey Knebel), an MLB ready-ish all-glove/no-hit infielder (Luis Sardinas), and a pitcher all the way down in the Dominican Summer League (Marcos Diplan) — and I have to think it would cost less to get him now by virtue of acquiring only a half-season of him. Two good prospects? Say, Ramon Flores and Brady Lail? I think the Rangers are more likely to keep Gallardo and try to re-sign him (he grew up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area) than trade him though.

Sal asks: Mike, do you think if David Carpenter pitched better, Adam Warren might still be in the rotation? Did Yanks rationalize their CC sunk cost fallacy approach by “we need Warren in the pen” mentality?

No, I don’t think an effective Carpenter would have saved Warren’s rotation spot. The “we can’t remove Sabathia from the rotation because of his contract” monster is much larger than some middle reliever. The Yankees simply would have emphasized the “we need to be careful with Warren because he’s already over his innings total from the last two seasons” excuse instead. Having an effective Carpenter would have been nice. He showed the last two years with the Braves he could be a legitimate eighth inning guy. It didn’t happen though. That’s baseball. I don’t think it would have saved Warren’s rotation spot either way.

Chase asks: How would you play A-Rod in a World Series game at a NL park?

Gosh, that’s a tough one. The Yankees would will have home field advantage in the World Series now following the AL’s All-Star Game win, so they’d only have to play Games Three, Four, and potentially Five on the road. I think I would play Alex Rodriguez at third base in those games (and pull him for defense in the late innings, of course), especially since you know he’ll get a chance to rest during the off-day following Game Five. This is the World Series we’re talking about here. You’ve got to put the best team on the field and the Yankees are at their best with Alex in the lineup. Hopefully this is a situation we’ll get to discuss again in a few months.

Ben asks: I almost fainted watching Manny Machado back up Dellin Betances in the 7th inning of the All-Star Game. Obviously both awesome on their own, but I feel like their awesomeness complements each others’ in an almost poetic way. In that spirit, if you could put together an “All-Defense” team to back up the current staff, who’d make the squad?

That’s a good one. I’m basing this on no stats. This is all based on the eye test and my personal opinion, which could mean it is totally stupid. I’d go Yadier Molina at catcher (still) with Mark Teixeira at first, Robinson Cano at second, Andrelton Simmons at short, Machado at third, Christian Yelich in left, Carlos Gomez in center, and Jason Heyward in right. You’ve got three ballhawks in the outfield and three dudes with rocket arms on the infield throwing to Teixeira. (A strong throwing arm is easily the most breathtaking tool in my opinion.) And Yadi. That team might actually score some runs too.

Alex Rodriguez
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

P.J. asks: Every year after the trade deadline the Yankees place several players high priced players (A-Rod, etc..) on revocable waivers. Do you think there is a chance any chance some team might claim A-Rod or Carlos Beltran if the Yankees put them up?

Zero. Well, there’s a tiny little chance someone claims Beltran, but I’d say it’s less than 1%. High-priced players on the downside of their careers almost never ever get claimed for obvious reasons. No one wants to get stuck with the contract. The only recent examples I can think of are Cliff Lee and Alex Rios — the Dodgers claimed Lee (who was still a legitimate ace at the time) but the Phillies pulled him back, and the Blue Jays dumped Rios’ contract on the White Sox (he was only 28 at the time). Every team puts every player on trade waivers in August, and the only ones who get claimed are the good players with favorable contracts. I would be stunned if someone claimed A-Rod and almost equally as stunned if someone claimed Beltran.

Kevin asks: Say Alex Rodriguez was a free agent at the end of this season; what kind of deal could he feasibly get after such a productive year? Would he even receive interest or would his problem-filled past scare teams away?

I don’t think he would get any offers. Barry Bonds was 42 in his final season, so a little older than Alex, but he also hit .276/.480/.565 (157 wRC+) with 28 homers in 126 games, and no one even made him an offer. (They’re both basically DHs too.) Teams decided Bonds wasn’t worth the baggage and poof, he was out of baseball. The only club I could see pursuing A-Rod is his hometown Marlins because they need all the attention and fan interest they can get. Where would he play? Who knows. That said, I think Rodriguez would get pariahed right out of baseball if he was a free agent after the season, no matter how well he hits.

Ethan asks: Should I be worried about Luis Severino‘s low K rate in AAA, especially as a pitcher who doesn’t throw a sinker?

Nah, not at all. Severino has struck out 18.3% of the batters he’s faced in 50.1 innings with the RailRiders while the International League average is 18.6%. Remember, we’re talking about a kid who just turned 21 in February facing grown men, many of whom have MLB experience. Severino is six (six!) years younger than the average player in the league. Also, in his last five starts, he has a 22.7% strikeout rate. It would be cool if Severino was punching out ten dudes every fifth day, but for where he is, he’s doing just fine.

Noa asks: Seeing that the Mets need hitting and have an excess of pitching, do you think the Yankees could trade for someone like Noah Syndergaard. Ignoring the fact that the Mets probably won’t trade with the Yankees, what do you think it would take to get him? I was thinking maybe Rob Refsnyder, Aaron Judge, and someone like Greg Bird or Jorge Mateo. What do you think it would take and would you do the trade?

I probably wouldn’t take a Refsnyder plus Judge plus Mateo package for Syndergaard if I were the Mets (they don’t need Bird with Lucas Duda at first), which I guess means I’d do it if I were the Yankees. Syndergaard has shown very quickly he can dominate MLB hitters (3.11 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 26.3 K%, 5.1 BB%) and a) aside from Refsnyder, no one in that package can step right into the lineup to help their offense, and b) no one in that package solves their most pressing problem, which is the giant hole at shortstop. The Mets seem hesitant to trade their young pitching and I get it, but I think they should try to turn one of those guys into a high-end position player. Syndergaard for Addison Russell, for example. Something along those lines. Judge, Refsnyder, and Mateo is a package that can be beat by several other teams and it doesn’t address the Mets’ biggest immediate needs.

Judge ... and Gary Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)
Judge … and Gary Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)

Sal asks: Clearly Aaron Judge is a bit raw when it comes to facing bigger league pitching. Since he is being groomed for one of the OF spots next year, will prospects like Mason Williams/Ramon Flores be used more openly in trade talks in the coming months? I think some orgs. would love to have that kind of talent at upper levels of minors.

Yeah I think so. The Yankees have a ton of upper level outfielders — not just Williams, Flores, and Judge, but also Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Jake Cave — and all of them except Judge are either on the 40-man roster or have to be added this offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. How many outfield prospects can one team carry on the 40-man? I absolutely think the Yankees should and will trade from their outfield depth either at the trade deadline or early in the offseason. They can’t keep all these guys. There’s not enough room for them on the 40-man roster or at Triple-A Scranton.

Jon S. asks: We always see how many wins a player is worth or how many above replacement. But how many wins is replacement? If a team had all replacement level players, how many games would they win?

It fluctuates year-to-year, the same way the league batting average or ERA changes slightly each season. A team of replacement level players would win somewhere in the range of 44-48 games, give or take depending on the year. The worst team this century was the 2003 Tigers at 43-119, who had one pretty good player (Dmitri Young at 3.4 WAR) and a whole bunch of sub-replacement level guys. That’s as close to a replacement level team as you’ll find.

Pounder asks: Has anybody not chosen or played in an All Star Game ever went on to win their league’s MVP?

Oh sure, it’s happened a few times. Kirk Gibson in the 1988 is the most famous example of a player winning MVP but not being an All-Star — Gibson ranks third all-time in WAR among position players never selected to an All-Star Game — but others like Jimmy Rollins (2007), Justin Morneau (2006), Chipper Jones (1999), and Juan Gonzalez (1996) have all done it recently. I’m sure there are others. I stopped looking after 1996 though.

Jeffrey asks: Is it just me or does it seem the Yankees play better and win more against the teams with good records? Do you have the split on how they have done against the teams with winning records and losing records this year?

The Yankees are 21-15 (.583) with a +25 run differential against winning teams this season and 27-25 (.519) with a +1 run differential against teams at .500 or worse. I wouldn’t read much into these numbers at all though. Consider that if the Tigers win tonight, they move to a game over .500 and the Yankees are suddenly 26-17 (.605) with a +45 run differential against teams with a winning record and 22-23 (.489) with a -19 run differential against teams at or below .500. Did the Yankees do anything different? No, the Tigers won some random game the Yankees had no control over, improved to 45-44 on the season, and it drastically changed New York’s record against winning teams and losing teams. So yes, the Yankees do have a higher winning percentage against teams with good records this year. I also don’t think it means much going forward.

Mailbag: Price, Severino, Sabathia, Papelbon, Teixeira

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar to send us questions, comments, links, whatever.

Price. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Price. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Christian asks: What are the chances that Detroit will trade David Price, and what will a rental cost in terms of prospects?

I think the chances are extremely small. They’re good enough to hang around the wildcard race the next few weeks at the very least, even without Miguel Cabrera. The trade deadline is only three weeks away, remember. They’d have to tank real hard to consider selling by July 31st. (Or even trade Price in an August waiver deal.) I have a hard time thinking that will happen.

But, just for fun, let’s say the Tigers do decide to sell before the trade deadline. Price should cost as much as Johnny Cueto, right? They’re both rentals aces, after all. Maybe Price costs more because he’s never had any injury problems (Cueto missed a bunch of time with a series of lat strains a few years ago) and has shown he can pitch in the AL. I don’t doubt Cueto can pitch in the AL as well, but Price has … clears throat … Proven It.

The Tigers would probably want MLB ready pieces in return for Price. Not prospects. They are going to try to win next year. No doubt about it. They don’t have a choice but to go for it, really. Jon Lester (and Jonny Gomes) was traded for Yoenis Cespedes last year, so I guess that’s the going rate for a rental ace. Nathan Eovaldi and Mason Williams for Price? The Tigers probably say no to that.

CanGuest asks: Regarding Luis Severino, does his success at Triple-A change your mind about his long term viability as a major league starter? Also, I’ve heard a lot about how he doesn’t use his lower half well in his delivery. Should the Yankees (or another team, if he is traded) try and alter his delivery and risk messing with his results, or leave him how he is?

No, his Triple-A success doesn’t change anything for me. Severino has three quality pitches and good (but not great right now) command, which is more than enough to start. I think he could be a very good starter in fact, and that was the case before he got to Triple-A. As for his mechanics, I wouldn’t change anything until absolutely necessary. There have been plenty of guys who had ugly deliveries that scouts didn’t like who held up long-term. Look at Tim Lincecum. He’s the perfect example. Let Severino do what he does until something has to change.

Mark asks: If you say the Yankees won’t take CC Sabathia out of the rotation, what happens if they do make the playoffs? Is there a chance they leave him off the roster, or do we finally get to see him as a LOOGY? Or worse yet, do we see him starting a game after he continues to pitch this badly?

We’re a long way from worrying where Sabathia fits into the postseason roster. That said, should the Yankees make it, there’s no possible way they could give him a start over Eovaldi or Ivan Nova (assuming Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka start the first two games in whatever order.). The postseason is no time for being sentimental and trying to squeeze value out of his contract.

Given who’s in the bullpen, I’d say Sabathia should be left off the postseason roster entirely. Now, what will the Yankees do? Probably start him in Game Three with Nova in Game Four and Eovaldi in the bullpen. What they should do and what they will do don’t always line up. Like I said though, long time to go before anyone has to think about this seriously. Sabathia’s status on the postseason roster is a decision I hope the Yankees have to make come October.

Michael asks: Mark Teixeira keeps hitting like this next year. Do you make a qualifying offer? I say yes, worst case he tanks on a $15 to 16mm 1 year deal. Obviously next year a long way away. And to add to this if we do make him a QO, do you think he would accept or reject?

If he continues to hit like this, yes, absolutely make him the qualifying offer after next season. It’ll be an expensive one-year contract (it’ll probably be in the $17M range), but that’s fine. If he accepts, you have a productive Teixeira on a one-year contract. If he declines, you get a draft pick. My hunch is he would decline and look for a two-year deal, even if it’s at a slightly lower average annual salary (Adam LaRoche got two years and $25M this past offseason, for example.) Of course, this is all predicated on Teixeira keeping up this level of performance. That’s not impossible, just seems unlikely.

Papelbon. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Papelbon. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Upstate Yanks: Any chance we could see ol’ Jonathan Papelbon in a salary dump/mid level prospect trade? I know he has a full no-trade (to certain teams) and wouldn’t like the idea of being a “set-up” guy, and the baggage but man, Paps-Dellin-Miller at the end of the game would be ridiculous.

It makes sense from a baseball standpoint because Papelbon is still good (1.46 ERA and 2.75 FIP going into last night’s game) and what team can’t use another quality reliever? His $13M vesting option could be an issue, though the Yankees would have some control over that (he needs to finish 55 games for it to kick in, and he went into last night’s game with 29). The Yankees do love their ex-Red Sox players too, mostly because they’ve shown they can thrive in a hectic market.

That said, Papelbon’s got a bit of a mouth on him, and when’s the last time the Yankees brought in someone like that? Reggie Jackson almost 40 years ago? Adding Papelbon the reliever makes sense from a baseball standpoint — I’d let him close and turn Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller loose in the seventh and eighth innings, but that’s just me — but the Yankees tend to steer clear of dudes with distraction potential. Maybe Papelbon would be someone ownership would go over Brian Cashman‘s head to acquire. Also, I’m pretty sure I’d puke if I saw him wearing pinstripes.

LL asks: Always been curious about veteran player interactions when they’re on rehab assignments in the minors. Do they ever take guys out for dinner or something, like with Jacoby Ellsbury with High A Tampa?

Oh yeah. Absolutely. They don’t necessarily take them out to eat, but it’s standard practice to buy the team a great big spread after the game. Whenever a guy rehabs there are always some minor leaguers on Twitter thanking them for the meal. Here’s a good article from John Wagner on guys buying their temporary teammates dinner while on rehab assignments. Minor league food really sucks. Those few days with a rehabbing big leaguer is the best most minor leaguers will eat during the season.

Remco asks: If we stop the season at approximately the halfway point, who would be the biggest candidates for the comeback player of the year award? As a Yankees fan I’m biased towards A-Rod of course, but what other comebacks are going on this season?

I think Teixeira has to be ahead of Alex Rodriguez in the AL Comeback Player of the Year race right now. A-Rod’s awesome! But so is Teixeira and he actually plays a position. Jason Kipnis, Kendrys Morales, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jose Iglesias stand out as other candidates. I always feel like I’m forgetting someone obvious when discussing Comeback Player of the Year candidates and I probably am now. (Also, does coming back from a bad season enough to be Comeback Player of the Year? Or should the guy be coming back from an injury, etc.?) I’d say Teixeira is definitely among the favorites right now with Rodriguez lagging a bit.

Luke asks: I know Sabathia technically never opted-out of his original Yankee contract and instead signed an extension, but given the situation it seems like the 2012-2017 period can be thought of as a separate deal. Where would that deal rank among the worst signings of all time? It’s basically $140M for one good season.

Sabathia leveraged the opt-out into the extension, getting one guaranteed and a vesting option tacked onto the four years and $92M left on his original deal. If the option vests, the Yankees will pay him $142M across six years, and he currently has a 4.44 ERA (92 ERA+) and a 3.96 FIP in 557.1 innings in the first three and a half years of that six-year deal. That’s terrible! Here are the consensus two worst pitching deals in history:

  • Mike Hampton, eight years and $121M: 4.81 ERA (96 ERA+) and a 4.74 FIP in 891.1 innings with two full seasons lost to injury.
  • Barry Zito, seven years and $126M: 4.62 ERA (87 ERA+) and a 4.61 FIP in 1,139.1 innings.

Sabathia could finish his current contract with something like a 4.70 ERA in 1,000 or so innings, assuming he stays healthy, which isn’t a safe bet given his degenerative knee condition. That’s at least as bad as Zito, right? I don’t know if it’s as bad as Hampton, but man, it’s bad. I will forever love Sabathia — remember, he was a beast right before signing the contract (3.00 ERA, 143 ERA+, 2.88 FIP in 237.1 innings in 2011) — but man, this deal is ugly. Definitely in the conversation for the worst pitching deal in history, and thus one of the worst contracts in baseball history overall.

Samantha asks: In the 3rd inning of Tuesday’s game, Stephen Drew caught a ball on a fly that was ruled a grounder. He got a double play off of it. Could the A’s have challenged the call and ended up with just one out instead of two?

No, because after the catch the runner was doubled off first base anyway. Here’s the play:

The runner at first kept going to second and never tagged up after the catch, so it would have been a double play either way. Either a traditional 4-6-3 or the unconventional line drive 4-6-3. That’s why A’s manager Bob Melvin never bothered to challenge. Two outs no matter what.

Dan asks: If Carlos Beltran‘s injury lingers, might we see Aaron Judge this season?

I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but I do think it’s unlikely. The Yankees have so many other outfielders on the 40-man roster ahead of Judge as it is, and I think if it ever got to the point where Beltran was going to miss a significant amount of time, they’d go out and make a trade. If Judge were to come up now, we’d probably see a lot of swings and misses on breaking balls away. I don’t think he’s ready. I’m totally fine with letting Judge get a few hundred plate appearances against the best pitching the minors has to offer the rest of the season.

Dan asks: Ultra-specific question for Mike. On RAB he most often cites to wRC+ when evaluating hitters, but on CBS he cites to OPS+. Is that because wRC+ is a FanGraphs stat and CBS doesn’t have a partnership with them? Which stat do you actually prefer?

I prefer wRC+ to OPS+ because it’s a little more fine-tuned, though they’re usually within a point or two of each other anyway, so it’s not a big deal. As for using wRC+ here and OPS+ at CBS, I’m just catering to different audiences. Not too many CBS readers are down with sabermetrics — I’ve gotten email from people complaining when I list AVG/OBP/SLG because OBP and SLG are too nerdy (I’m not joking) — so I stick with OPS+ to make it as simple yet somewhat informative as possible. I have done stat-heavy posts at CBS, though they never do much traffic. It’s not worth my time at this point. RAB’s different. I’m not overly concerned with generating traffic here, so I can use whatever stats I want. CBS is a job, I have a responsibility to get people to click and read and come back for more clicks and more reads, and there still isn’t much interest in sabermetrics among casual fans. I am trying to find a balance that works. It’s not easy.

John asks: I know that you’re a diehard NY Rangers fan. What would it take to interest you in the Knicks?

I’ve tried to get into basketball! I’ve tried and tried and tried again. Basketball just isn’t my thing. I watched the NBA Finals this year and it just didn’t grab me. I can’t imagine getting invested in a bad Knicks team at this point. I tried to follow them when they were good (well, good-ish) and it wasn’t happening. I enjoy the fast pace of hockey and since baseball has become more than just a hobby for me, hockey gives me a sport to follow on a non-obsessive level. I’m old. At this point I don’t think the basketball thing is going to happen.