Thoughts following Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow injury

(Getty)
(Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees received bad news about Nathan Eovaldi, who will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. From what I understand it’s technically two surgeries, though they’re performed at the same time. Eovaldi was able to hit 94.9 mph last Wednesday even though his elbow was ripped to shreds. Pretty crazy. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the injury and what it means for the Yankees in the short and long-term.

1. The injury doesn’t hurt a ton in the short-term for a few reasons. For starters, Eovaldi hasn’t pitched all that well since June. He has a 5.77 ERA (6.31 FIP) in 64 innings since June 1st and that includes his 7.2 scoreless innings of relief. Even his most recent starts weren’t all that great, though I think it is fair to wonder whether the elbow injury contributed to those 64 miserable innings. (Does the elbow explain all the homers?) Secondly, September 1st is two weeks from tomorrow, so pretty soon the Yankees will be able to call up all the extra arms they desire. Even if guys like Chad Green and Luis Cessa prove to be five-and-fly pitchers every fifth day, the Yankees will soon have enough arms to carry the workload. (Eovaldi wasn’t exactly a workhorse himself.) There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, so the Yankees will miss Eovaldi in that regard, but he’s been a liability more than a weapon for close to three months now. Losing him stinks. It’s not a season-sinker though.

2. There was reportedly interest in Eovaldi prior to the trade deadline — I wonder if the medicals stood in the way of completing a deal? — and the Yankees figured to again put him in the market in the offseason. Why not? They should listen to offers for literally everyone in the organization, even Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The injury means Eovaldi is no longer a trade chip and that stinks. I don’t like referring to human beings as assets but that’s what they are in the baseball world, so Eovaldi’s injury means the Yankees are losing an asset. He can’t pitch and they can’t trade him. That bites. The price for pitching is sky high these days — a few weeks ago the Rangers traded an actual prospect for Lucas Harrell (on purpose!) — and the Yankees might have been able to get a decent return for a healthy Eovaldi, especially if he finished the season well. Guys who throw 100 mph as starters are very rare.

3. I have to think the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi after the season. He’s in line for more than $7M in 2017 as an arbitration-eligible player and there’s no reason to pay him that to sit on the DL all year, not when he’s going to be a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Royals non-tendered Greg Holland this past offseason for that exact reason. I do wonder if the Yankees will look to re-sign Eovaldi after that though. They do have a history of signing pitchers coming off major injuries and waiting out the rehab. Jon Lieber back in the day is the most notable example. They’ve done it with David Aardsma and Andrew Bailey in recent years too. (I feel like there’s someone else I’m missing.) The Yankees clearly like Eovaldi and by all accounts he’s a hard-worker and coachable — example: learning the splitter last year, incorporating the cutter this year — and that’s the kind of guy you roll the dice with on a deal like this. How about a two-year contract worth $6M? Say $1M in 2017 as he rehabs and $5M in 2018, plus incentives based on innings? Just spitballing here.

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

4. The Yankees are going to have to add a starting pitcher this offseason, aren’t they? I mean, they don’t absolutely have to, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Keep things status quo and they’re looking at some combination of Green, Cessa, and Luis Severino behind the front three of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. I guess Bryan Mitchell would be in that back-end mix too. Guys like Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns would be the depth arms in Triple-A, and uh, that doesn’t sound too great. At least not to me. Maybe you’re comfortable with that. The upcoming free agent market really stinks, so maybe the Yankees turn to the trade market for a veteran innings guy to stash in the back of the rotation. Even if they’re rebuilding and not planning to contend next season (lol), adding a starting pitcher makes sense.

5. We can more or less close the book on the trade now and boy did the Yankees come out on the wrong end of this one. David Phelps (3.73 ERA and 3.63 FIP) has out-pitched Eovaldi (4.45 ERA and 4.11 FIP) on a rate basis since the trade, albeit in way fewer innings (279 to 181), plus the Yankees gave up Martin Prado too. He’s hit .305/.356/.417 (109 wRC+) in over 1,000 plate appearances with the Marlins. The Yankees paid part of his salary as well. Garrett Jones was a zero and Domingo German has barely pitched since the trade due to Tommy John surgery. That’s rough. Maybe German will turn into the next Carlos Carrasco or something. That’s pretty much the only way the Yankees can salvage this trade. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean the logic behind the trade was bad. Trading a 31-year-old infielder and a spare swingman for a 24-year-old who throws 100 is the kind of trade the Yankees and every other team should look to make. This one didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean a) it was a bad idea, and b) you pass on making a similar trade in the future.

Life After A-Rod

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Way back when Mariano Rivera left the Yankees, I was writing for another site and had previously written about life after Mo. However discomforting it may have been to be without the world’s greatest security blanket (aside from my actual security blanket from childhood, of course), I felt a sense of optimism going forward. The Yankees had survived a year without him with Rafael Soriano closing and had David Robertson waiting to take over for Mr. Untuck. As it turns out, things have been A-OK in the closer department for the Yankees since Rivera left. Ironically, that stability has come in the form of many different pitchers, which serves to highlight Mariano’s consistency. Now, we’re left with a similar vacancy with Alex Rodriguez‘s release/retirement hybrid. Though I’ve hardly begun to process what it means to me as a fan that A-Rod will no longer be on my favorite team, it’s time already to look forward to 2017 and beyond without him. Nothing made that clearer than Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arriving with authority yesterday, each collecting two hits and a home run in their Bronx and big league debuts.

Regardless of our attachments to A-Rod, at the end of the day, he was a roster spot and a position to the Yankees–the designated hitter. For the rest of the year, it looks like that spot will be filled by some combination of Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez, presumably with Mark Teixeira taking a few games in when he needs a blow at first base, provided, of course, by Tyler Austin. The use of McCann and Sanchez in some sort of catcher/DH rotation makes sense: both have good bats and it’s worthwhile to pace Sanchez’s arrival, rather than just throwing him into things right away. How this bodes for next year, especially given Austin Romine‘s general competence as a backup this year, is another interesting angle.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Mike touched on the idea of three catchers in a mailbag about two weeks ago, and with Rodriguez leaving, the idea of three catchers in 2017 makes a lot more sense now. And given that Austin Romine has seen time at first base this year, it gives the Yankees some flexibility that a three catcher roster would normally prohibit. How could the Yankees manage their three catchers, as wall as the (expected to be) returning Greg Bird at first base? Let’s take a look.

On the average week in MLB, a team will likely have one of Monday or Thursday off. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a week when the Yankees have a Monday off and have night games, with the exceptions of Saturday and Sunday. They could go with a simple every-other-day rotation, alternating McCann and Sanchez at C/DH from Tuesday-Saturday with Romine going on Sunday, allowing Joe Girardi to play to the matchups for the DH spot. Tough lefty? Go with Sanchez. Tough righty? Go with McCann.  Alternatively, they could catch in chunks: McCann on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sanchez Thursday and Friday, Romine on Saturday, and one of McCann or Sanchez on Sunday. If Bird needs a day off or a half day off, Romine could slip over to first with Bird sitting or DHing, putting one of McCann or Sanchez on the bench.

Brian McCann

Assuming Brian McCann is on the team next year, he is going to be the centerpiece of the offense with Rodriguez, Tex, and Carlos Beltran gone. Gary Sanchez is going to be a big part of bolstering and supporting the lineup and getting each player rest will be crucial to continued offensive success. Additionally, while the defensive outlook for Sanchez is better than it initially was, it’s doubtful he’ll be as skilled as McCann in the immediate future–despite his proficiency at throwing out runners–and breaking him in gradually may help that development.

Alex Rodriguez was a complex person and player whom I’ll miss dearly. It was a joy to watch him play for my favorite team over the last twelve years. However, despite that feeling, the Yankees are well-positioned to creatively replace him and his production at DH.

Thoughts following Alex Rodriguez’s final game

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Last night Alex Rodriguez played the 1,509th and final game of his Yankees’ career. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the Yankees acquired him. What a ride this was, huh? A-Rod drove in a run and even played a little third base last night. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. I think A-Rod is completely done. Forget the logistics of it all — who needs a DH who can’t H? — listening to Alex before and after the game yesterday, he truly sounded like someone at peace with his career being over. I do think he really wanted to become the fourth player to hit 700 home runs, but I also think he realizes being the fourth player to hit 696 home runs is pretty cool too. A-Rod talked about going home and spending time with his family, and basically staying away from baseball for a little while. I know his track record doesn’t exactly scream honesty, but I believed him. He sounded sincere yesterday.

2. Man did Joe Girardi hear it from the crowd yesterday. He was booed loudly during pregame introductions and again when he came out of the dugout to tell the umpires they were giving up the DH and putting Alex at third base in the ninth inning. Girardi said last weekend he would find a way to get A-Rod into as many games as he wanted this week, but it didn’t happen, and Alex admitted he was “disappointed” he didn’t get to start Tuesday and Wednesday. I was disappointed too because I wanted to see him play, and apparently I’m not alone. Girardi really wore it yesterday. Fans booed him like he was David Ortiz or something.

3. Now, that said, I’m becoming increasingly convinced the decision to sit Alex those two games earlier this week was made above Girardi. Girardi was asked about sitting A-Rod the last few weeks after yesterday’s game and he seemed genuinely upset about it. He got really emotional during his press conference. Here’s one little clip:

Later in the press conference Girardi said it was difficult for the organization to sit A-Rod, then corrected himself to say it was difficult for him to sit A-Rod, which is another indication that maybe there were some directives from above. Why? I dunno. Chances are I’m reading way too much into this anyway. I just don’t think Girardi is some evil person who set out to intentionally embarrass Alex the last few weeks.

4. This entire situation was very weird because it all happened so fast, and because it happened in the middle of the season. It was only last Sunday that the Yankees and A-Rod announced he would be playing his final game Friday, giving us less than a full week to prepare. Also, yesterday was August 12th. The Yankees have 47 games remaining. Almost one-third of a season. This was almost like a farewell tour crash course. With Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, we had the entire season to prepare for their retirements. With Alex, it happened very quickly, and it happened at a weird point in the season. The Yankees are going to show up for work today and suddenly A-Rod won’t be there. What a weird situation.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

5. I’m pretty happy Alex got to play third base one last time, even if it was only one batter and the ball wasn’t put in play. A-Rod got a huge ovation when he ran out of the dugout and simply making warm up throws before the inning had to be special for him. (Alex said after the game he was happy he got to make one last throw to Mark Teixeira at first base, even if it was a warm-up toss.) At this point of his career, being a full-time DH became necessary. I’m still going to remember A-Rod as a third baseman — he actually played more games at shortstop (1,272) than third base (1,194) in his career, which surprised me — and you could tell he wanted to get out there one more time. Remember when the Yankees were in San Diego a few weeks back and Alex almost got into a game at third because the Yankees had run out of players? He looked like a kid on Christmas morning when he went to get his glove in the clubhouse. I’m glad he got to go out to third base one last time, even if he all he did was stand on the field for a few pitches.

6. Now that A-Rod and Ivan Nova gone, the longest tenured player in the organization is Brett Gardner, who was drafted in 2005 and made his MLB debut in 2008. There are only two players on the roster right now who wore Yankee pinstripes and played a home game in the old Yankee Stadium: Gardner (28 games) and Tyler Clippard (three games). That’s it. And Clippard’s not even a long-tenured Yankee. He just rejoined the team after spending the 2008-15 seasons elsewhere. This really is the end of an era. Forget about the Core Four and A-Rod being gone and all that. We’re rapidly approaching the point where no players who played in the old Yankee Stadium will remain. I feel old now.

Thoughts following the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira retirement news

There are too many things to love about this photo. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
There are too many things to love about this photo. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday morning Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees announced A-Rod will play his final game this coming Friday, at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. After that he will be released as a player and join the team in what is being called a “special advisor and instructor” role. Oh, and by the way, a few days ago Mark Teixeira announced he will retire at the end of the season. It’s all happening so fast, isn’t it? I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. Make no mistake, A-Rod is being “forced” into retirement. Based on everything we heard at the press conference, it sure seem the Yankees — specifically Hal Steinbrenner — made it clear to Alex they no longer have a spot for him on the roster. That doesn’t mean they gave him an ultimatum, but A-Rod’s not stupid. He knew what his options were. Alex sounded very much like a man who still believes he has some quality baseball left in him during that press conference, and there was this weird disconnect during the whole thing. A-Rod was up there by himself, then Brian Cashman went up, then Joe Girardi went up. They weren’t up there together. It was … weird. You could tell this is not the way A-Rod wants things to play out, but he realizes this is his best option.

2. The Yankees do not owe A-Rod anything and vice versa. The club managed to turn him into a sympathetic figure these last few weeks, but they did not do him wrong. If anything, Hal threw Alex a bone by approaching him about an advisor/instructor role. The Yankees could have easily — and justifiably — released A-Rod and been done with him. They gave him an opportunity to go out with some dignity and grace. The end of a player’s career is rarely pretty, and Rodriguez’s was quickly spiraling towards an ugly end. The Yankees gave him an opportunity to avoid that.

3. All of this was, without question, a big distraction. Girardi was getting asked about A-Rod before and after every single game, and you could tell it was wearing on him. How could it not? The same questions, day after day after day. Other players on the team were being asked about it, the front office and ownership had to have it on their minds constantly, the announcers were talking about it … it wasn’t pleasant. Benching A-Rod became a very big thing. I don’t know what kind of effect it had on the other players and their performance, but I know it bothered me watching as a fan, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This was a very awkward situation that I don’t think anyone enjoyed.

4. The A-Rod stuff is very bittersweet. I love A-Rod and have greatly enjoyed watching him these last 12 years. He’s one of my all-time favorite Yankees and I’m sad to see him go. At the same time, the Yankees are better off without Alex at this point of his career, so I’m glad he’s gone. It’s a weird feeling. Different than when Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams retired. I can’t explain it. With those five, it was time for them to retire. I almost feel like A-Rod is being ripped away from me. I’m going to miss watching him. I’m also exciting about the direction the Yankees are heading without him.

5. My one simple request: play Alex every game this week. I’d like to see him start all three games at Fenway Park in addition to Friday’s game against the Rays. It would be the coolest thing ever if he got to play third base Friday, but I’m not going to hold my breath. A-Rod is four homers away from 700 for his career (700!) and I’d like to see him get as many at-bats as possible to try to get there. He’s already hit two homers at Fenway this season, after all. (Plus the Red Sox’s pitching staff is hilaribad.) The man is motivated and I want to watch him play during his final week in the big leagues, not sit on the bench.

Sock just one more dinger, Al. Please. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Sock just one more dinger, Al. Please. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

6. No one thinks another team is actually going to sign A-Rod, right? I’ve seen a few people talking about the possibility, but who wants a DH who can’t hit? No one signed Barry Bonds back in the day when he was coming off a very productive year. I see two possibilities and they’re both long shots: the Rays and Marlins. The Rays could use a DH and, if nothing else, signing A-Rod will generate some buzz and sell a few more tickets. As for the Marlins, well, owner Jeffrey Loria has a history of making moves geared towards headlines, and A-Rod would definitely qualify. Martin Prado just got hurt yesterday, so hey, they need a third baseman now. I just can’t see it happening. Alex is persona non grata around the league.

7. I’m intrigued by the special advisor/instructor role. A-Rod said he’s going home to Miami after Friday’s game and will begin his new role in Spring Training, so he won’t immediately jump right into it. (He did also say he’ll help whenever the Yankees ask, even later this year.) By all accounts A-Rod is great with young players and we know he has a lot of knowledge to give, and boy do the Yankees have a lot of talented young players on the way. He can work with their young shortstops, including Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo, not to mention their potential sluggers like Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge. Rodriguez could be a real asset in a role like that. I hope the Yankees take advantage of having him on the staff these next few months.

8. Rodriguez is truly one of the greatest and most talented players in baseball history, and he has a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Fame resume. He’s in the inner circle of the inner circle. Will A-Rod actually get into the Hall of Fame? Right now my gut says no. Roger Clemens and Bonds aren’t close to getting in and we have far more evidence A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs than those two, so yeah. The odds are stacked against him. That doesn’t change the fact Alex was the greatest ballplayer whose career I got to see from start to finish. (I was too young to understand how good Bonds was in the 1980s.) It’s going to be a very very very long time until we see someone seriously threaten 700 homers and +120 WAR again. Those kinds of numbers. At his peak, A-Rod was the perfect baseball player. Talented, instinctual, fundamentally sound, durable … he was the total package. What a joy it was to watch this man day after day.

9. The question on everyone’s mind: who takes A-Rod’s spot on the roster? The Yankees have plenty of open 40-man roster space — they have three open spots right now and will get a fourth once Alex is gone — so that’s not an issue. I think it’s between either Tyler Austin or Aaron Judge, and right now I think it’ll be Austin. Judge just missed a month with a knee injury, and while he hasn’t missed a beat since returning, it’s still not a bad idea to give him a few more at-bats in Triple-A to get up to speed. Austin can play first base, right field, and DH, so it’ll be much easier to get him into the lineup right away. Like it or not, the Yankees still seem committed to letting Aaron Hicks play as much as possible, and that will cut into Judge’s playing time. So my guess is Austin comes up for A-Rod, then Judge comes up once rosters expand in September.

10. I don’t have much to say about Teixeira retiring, I guess because a) I didn’t get as attached to him as I did A-Rod, and b) I was expecting him to be gone after the season anyway. Not retired, but gone as a free agent, so really, nothing has changed. Like I said before, I feel like Alex is being ripped away. Teixeira was a very good two-way player for the Yankees for a long time whose biggest problem was injuries the last few years. The Yankees are going to find guys to hit homers and things like that, but they’ll miss Teixeira’s defense. It remains world class even at age 36. Teixeira is still the guy I want the ball hit to with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. Was his contract worth it? Oh yeah. Absolutely in my opinion. He was a key part of the most Yankees’ most recent championship team and he was a total pro who played hard every day. Teixeira got hurt and that stinks. I never once doubted his effort or commitment to the Yankees.

11. Teixeira called the Yankees a “team in transition” during his press conference and that has stuck with me. I mean, we all knew it was true, but to hear one of the team’s key veteran leaders say that was a bit different. The players are all aware of what’s going on now. These last two weeks have totally changed the direction of the franchise. The Yankees sold at the deadline and two longtime cornerstone players are getting ready to call it a career. That’s a lot of change in a very short period of time! It’s exciting! And also sorta scary! There’s comfort in familiarity and none of this is familiar to a large segment of Yankees fans, myself included. I definitely remember the Yankees being bad back in the early-1990s. I just didn’t fully grasp the inner workings of the team at the time. I’m sad to see A-Rod go and I’m sad to see Teixeira go. I’m also ready to embrace this “team in transition” and see where it leads next.

Thoughts following the 2016 trade deadline

You done good, Cash.  (Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

The week leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline was one of the most important weeks in recent Yankees history. The team stopped prioritizing the present and focused on the future. They traded four veterans (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova) for a haul that includes one big leaguer (Adam Warren), ten prospects (ten!), and two players to be named later. That week leading up to the deadline is potentially franchise altering. I have some thoughts.

1. The Yankees did way better with their pre-deadline trades than I ever possibly imagined they would. Part of that is me not having a great grasp of the market, and part of it is Brian Cashman doing a great job marketing his players. Four players for Chapman? Mark Melancon, another elite rental reliever, got two. Four players for Miller? Will Smith got two. Three players for Beltran? Jay Bruce got two. That’s pretty awesome. This season has not been particularly good or enjoyable, but these trades have turned this year into a positive. The Yankees added some serious upside to the farm system and a ton of depth as well. They have guys they can call up soon and plenty of ammo for trades as well.

2. Speaking of the farm system, it’s now one of the best in baseball if not the best in baseball. The Yankees added two consensus top 25-ish prospects (Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres) plus a third consensus top 100 guy (Justus Sheffield) plus two others who were on top 100 lists coming into the season (Billy McKinney, Dillon Tate). I haven’t put a ton of thought into this yet, but here’s my rough top ten prospects list as of right now:

  1. Clint Frazier
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Gary Sanchez
  4. Gleyber Torres
  5. Jorge Mateo
  6. Blake Rutherford
  7. Justus Sheffield
  8. James Kaprielian
  9. Tyler Wade
  10. Miguel Andujar

Tate is probably No. 11 right now, between Andujar and Dustin Fowler. Anyway, that’s a pretty stacked system. I count seven no-doubt top 100 guys plus a possible eighth. (If Kaprielian doesn’t make top 100 lists next spring because of his injury, I’ll understand.) My favorite part is that the top three guys are all in Triple-A and reasonably close to MLB. Sanchez and Judge could be up right now, really. (Frazier still needs some more time there.) Torres and Sheffield are a little further away, but man, the Yankees have a lot of high-end talent close to the show. That’s pretty awesome.

3. I do love the Frazier pickup. I didn’t even bother listing him in my Scouting The Market: Indians post because I didn’t believe the Indians would trade him. He’s that good. Frazier’s not a true five-tool player but he’s awfully close, and he’s shown big time baseball aptitude by closing some holes in his swing and improving his selectivity over the last few years. The Yankees haven’t had a true offensive cornerstone since Robinson Cano left and Frazier has that kind of ability. Will he be that guy right away? It would be neat if it is, but probably not. It took Robbie a few years to really figure it out himself, remember. Frazier was a huge, huge get for the Yankees. They never have access to this kind of talent in the draft. Getting it for a reliever, even one as good as Miller, is a tremendous move.

4. Another thing I like about those top three prospects: they’re all right-handed hitters. The Yankees have leaned a little lefty heavy the last few years and that’s mostly by design due to the Yankee Stadium short right field porch. They’re going to need some more lineup balance going forward and those three guys are going to help provide that. The Yankees have been a little too susceptible to southpaws the last few seasons. There’s some serious help on the way to address that weakness.

5. Miller was one of the best free agent signings in franchise history even though he was only a Yankee for a year and a half. He was excellent on the field, he said all the right things off the field and put the team first by accepting a setup role, and his contract proved to be a bargain. Such a bargain that the Yankees were able to trade him for a pretty significant package of prospects. Trading Miller was a smart move because chances are his value will never be higher, but man, I wish the Yankees could have kept him. I imagine pretty much everyone loved having him on the team. Miller was a total pro.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

6. The Miller and Chapman trades were the same but different. They were the same because both guys are high-end relievers who fetched a package of four players. They were different because Chapman was a rental and most expected him to be traded. The Yankees sought as much as possible for Aroldis and that was that. Miller had two more years of control left, and because of that, the team had to be blown away to move him. I almost feel like whatever the Yankees get out of the Chapman trade is gravy. He was a goner no matter what. With Miller, it feels like the Yankees really have to hit on that trade package because they gave up those two extra years. The circumstances surrounding the two trades are quite different.

7. One benefit of trading Chapman and Miller: Dellin Betances figures to have a nice easy workload the rest of the season. He’s the closer now, which likely means fewer multi-inning appearances and fewer appearances in general. The Yankees aren’t very good, so it’s not like Dellin is going to see many save chances going forward. That’s a positive in my book. Betances has thrown not only a ton of innings the last few years, he’s thrown a ton of intense high-leverage innings. Easing up on his workload in the second half is not the worst thing in the world.

8. The Yankees are totally going to sign a high-end reliever this offseason, aren’t they? They’ve had at least two elite relievers every year since 2011 and I don’t think they want to go into next season with Tyler Clippard and Warren backing up Betances. Chapman’s going to be a free agent this winter, as are Melancon and Kenley Jansen, so there’s your bullpen free agent watch list. Melancon was traded at the deadline too, so he’s not going to cost a draft pick. That could factor into the team’s decision. Either way, yeah, I expect some money to be spent on a top notch reliever after the Chapman and Miller trades.

9. It’s possible the Yankees could slip down into protected pick territory — they currently have the 15th worst record in baseball and are 5.5 games “up” on a protected pick — which would be cool, though I’m not sure there will be any qualified free agents worth signing this offseason. I guess a protected pick would make Jansen a greater possibility, plus there’s always a chance ownership steps in and forces a Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion on the baseball operations folks, though I don’t think that’ll happen. This isn’t going to be a great offseason to have a protected pick. The free agent class is really crummy. Oh well.

10. I don’t really see the point of the Clippard trade. It’s not a bad trade or anything, it just seems … pointless. It’s almost like Cashman threw ownership a bone for agreeing to the Miller trade by adding a veteran reliever so the Yankees could still “go for it.” Vicente Campos is having a really nice year, but he has an ugly injury history, and I’m not sure he has the stuff or the command to start long-term. I still would rather see what he could do in relief going forward than Clippard, who we know is on the decline. Eh, whatever. Not a huge deal. Just seems weird to make a “buyers” trade like that at this deadline. They have bullpen arms to cover those innings.

11. Among all the non-top prospects in the trades, my favorite is Ben Heller almost by default. The kid throws 100 mph with a pretty good breaking ball on his best days. Yeah, he’s a reliever, but he was the third piece in the Miller trade and is pretty darn close to MLB. That’s a really nice third piece in a trade for a reliever. There’s a chance we’ll see Heller in September, though I would bet against it. He’s not going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible until next year, and 40-man roster space is precious. Heller might have to wait a little longer to make his MLB debut. Either way, I’m exciting by what he brings to the table. The top prospects are going to get all the attention, though the secondary pieces like Heller are often the difference between good trades and great trades.

12. Cashman admitted yesterday Dillon Tate was a “buy low” opportunity given his poor season and up-and-down velocity. Also, the fact he’s going to pitch out of the bullpen with Low-A Charleston is an indication the Yankees believe they’ve identified some sort of mechanical flaw and will work to fix it. The selling point here is Tate being the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. His stock has dropped since then though, and expectations have to be adjusted accordingly. There’s still a ton of upside here if Tate can get himself back to where he was last season. There’s also a lot of work to be done going forward. Without this down year, Tate is not available for rental Beltran. It’s up to the Yankees’ player development staff to make this one pay off.

13. The deadline was yesterday but trading season is not over. I expect the Yankees to continue exploring the waiver trade market in August. In a nutshell, players claimed on trade waivers can only be traded to the claiming team while players who go unclaimed can be traded anywhere. Trade waivers are completely revocable, so you can pull a player back if claimed. Pretty much any quality player with a good contract will get claimed, so Miller and Beltran weren’t going to get through. I could see the Yankees looking to swing an August waiver trade involving Starlin Castro, Brett Gardner, Starlin Castro, Brian McCann, Starlin Castro, Nathan Eovaldi, Starlin Castro, Michael Pineda, and Starlin Castro too. The odds of a deal are much lower because of those trade waiver rules, but I could see the Yankees pushing to get a little more done this month. There’s no point in stopping now.

14. In that same vein, the Yankees can continue the “selling” with some internal moves. The big one, obviously, is cutting ties with Alex Rodriguez and clearing that DH spot. Sanchez is the obvious fit there. He could DH part of the time, catch part of the time, and spend the rest of his days at the Tony Pena School For Catchers Who Can’t Catch Good. Cutting Mark Teixeira is another possible move, especially with Tyler Austin really forcing the issue in Triple-A. Sanchez is the big one for me though. There’s an opening for Judge in right field now. That’s not a problem. Sanchez is still stuck behind McCann and Austin Romine, and I think he’s at the point where he needs to come up to continue his development. A-Rod‘s in his way. The Yankees were smart to trade veterans for prospects at the deadline. They should continue the process by waving goodbye to A-Rod. (And I guess Teixeira too.)

15. Even though it was necessary, it totally stinks to see your favorite team sell at the deadline and essentially admit they aren’t good enough to contend. That’s not fun. At the same time, I found last night’s game really enjoyable, I think because I had no real expectations. Stress-free baseball is fun in its own way, like Spring Training. The Yankees have already thrown in the towel by selling, so now they can raise some hell in the second half and make an unexpected run at a postseason spot because hey, what else is there to do? Remember, the Yankees still have a ton of games remaining with the other AL East teams. They can make their lives miserable down the stretch, and I will enjoy watching every minute of it.

Thoughts following the Aroldis Chapman trade

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Yesterday was a pretty big day in Yankeeland. The Yankees swung a significant trade with the Cubs, one that sends a proven big leaguer (Aroldis Chapman) to Chicago for a lesser big leaguer (Adam Warren) and three prospects (Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford). It’s not often you see the Yankees on the “seller” side of a major trade like that. Anyway, I have some thoughts about this blockbuster.

1. This trade had to happen. Had to. Chapman was far too valuable to not cash in as a trade chip, not with the Yankees only hanging on the fringes of a postseason race and him scheduled to become a free agent after the season. The Yankees held on to Robinson Cano and David Robertson in similar situations a few years back and I have no doubt they regret those decisions. The could have traded those two for quite a bit back then. Yes, the Yankees could have gotten a draft pick for Chapman after the season, but, as the trade shows, he was worth much more than that. Keeping Aroldis would have been a pretty major mistake. I’m glad the Yankees came to their senses and traded him.

2. I feel it’s impossible to evaluate this trade without looking at the big picture, meaning the trade that initially brought Chapman to the Yankees. This was a fantasy baseball move. The Yankees bought super low on Chapman over the winter and they sold high on him at the trade deadline. What more could you want? It was a perfect baseball move. Of course, the circumstances behind Chapman being so cheap in the offseason are scummy as hell, and I still think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used something as serious as domestic violence as a way to get ahead on the field. From a pure baseball only perspective, this deal is as good as it gets. The Yankees played this perfectly.

3. I was sorta disheartened when I read Hal Steinbrenner only gave the green light to trade Chapman after Aroldis declined to discuss a contract extension a few weeks ago. (Many reporters confirmed that yesterday.) Plan A was give this guy gobs of money and hope to win with him. The Yankees had to fall back on Plan B, which was trade him for a big package of prospects and improve the outlook for the future. Eh. I feel like Plan B should have been Plan A and Plan A should have been Plan B. Oh well. At least Chapman is apparently dead set on testing free agency — can you blame him? I sure can’t — and thus pushed the Yankees to trade him for young talent. They need that.

4. Given the haul Chapman brought, I can’t imagine what two and a half years of Andrew Miller or three and a half years of Dellin Betances would bring back in a trade. All the prospects. They’d fetch all the prospects. The Yankees have to listen to offers for those two between now and the deadline, and I’m confident they will. They’d be stupid not to listen in this insane market, with relievers like Chapman and Craig Kimbrel and Ken Giles getting traded for multiple top prospects. Trading these guys is a bit of a double-edged sword though, because yeah, trading them would net a lot of good young players, but it would always cost a ton to replace them. Chapman’s status as an impending free agent made him much easier to trade. Miller and Betances are still locked in for a few more years, so someone is going to have to blow the Yankees away with an offer to pry them lose. And considering the reliever trades we’ve seen recently, someone just might do that.

5. The Yankees pretty clearly went after the best possible package of talent and didn’t look to satisfy specific needs. Once Kyle Schwarber was off the table, they were reportedly left to pick between Torres and outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez, and they took Torres even though they already have a ton of shortstops in the system, including a pretty good one at the same level as Gleyber (Jorge Mateo). Torres was the best available player, so they took him. McKinney was likely the best secondary prospect available despite his down year, so they took him. This is what I was hoping the Yankees would do. Just get the best talent and sort it out later. Chapman was too valuable to try to get cute and fill specific needs, say a controllable starting pitcher or third baseman.

Gleyber. (Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Gleyber. (Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

6. Speaking of all those shortstops, the Yankees are smart to stockpile them. Shortstops are generally the most athletic players and therefore most capable of changing positions. We’ve seen shortstops like Manny Machado, Javier Baez, and Jurickson Profar move to different positions almost seamlessly in recent years. Heck, Starlin Castro did it last year. We watched shortstop prospect Alex Bregman play a mean third base for the Astros last night. High-upside shortstops are most easily moved around and they’re always in demand. Always. The Yankees have a glut of them now with Torres, Mateo, Tyler Wade, Wilkerman Garcia, Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada, Kyle Holder, Hoy Jun Park, Diego Castillo, and more. Oh, and that Didi Gregorius guy is pretty cool too. That’s some serious depth at a crucial position.

7. Right now I’m thinking Torres is the third best prospect in the system behind Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, though I will admit I don’t know a ton of the guy. (Here’s my most recent top 30 list.) I actually know more about McKinney because I’ve been following him since his draft year. Anyway, it boils down to this: all indications are Torres has a significant ceiling, but so do Judge and Sanchez, and they’re doing it in Triple-A. Those two could play in MLB tomorrow if the Yankees needed the help. (Well, Judge could after he gets healthy, but you know what I mean.) As talented as Torres is, he’s still a 19-year-old kid in High-A ball. You have to be pretty convinced that he’ll be an impact player to rank him ahead of Judge and Sanchez in my opinion.

8. The two biggest trades so far this year are the Chapman and Drew Pomeranz deals, and both times the headliner going the other way was a teenager in Single-A. The Yankees got Torres for Chapman, and Pomeranz fetched 18-year-old pitching prospect Anderson Espinosa. That’s pretty interesting. Fans look at the top prospect lists and scream “overpay!” when prospect No. X is traded, but teams very obviously do not see it that way. An awful lot can go wrong with teenagers in Single-A, and I suspect that’s why the Yankees wanted more than just Torres in return for Chapman. I thought Torres for Chapman straight up would have been a pretty great deal based on the Andrew Miller trade two years ago, but Miller was traded for a 21-year-old in Double-A. Both Torres and Eduardo Rodriguez were highly touted prospects, but Torres carries more risk as a teenager, hence the additional pieces. Long story short, not all top prospects are created equal. Teams appear to be more willing to trade the riskier guys in the low minors nowadays.

9. Chapman the pitcher was pretty amazing to watch. He was as advertised, meaning a dominant end-game force who had you checking the radar gun after each pitch. (His fastest pitch as a Yankee: 105.85 mph.) Was Chapman the most efficient pitcher? Nah. He had a tendency to run deep counts (4.40 pitches per plate appearance!) and go to three-ball counts even though his walk rate was fine (6.7%). Whatever. He was dominant. I think I was most impressed by Chapman’s resiliency. The guy never seemed to be fatigued. We saw him pitch multiple innings and back-to-back-to-back days, things like that, and he was still out there chucking 100+ mph with each and every pitch. It was impressive. Miller and Betances are awesome. No doubt about it. Chapman’s something else though. He’s a spectacle and one of the most entertaining players I’ve ever seen. That was a fun 30-something innings.

10. I am irrationally excited about Warren coming back. I’ve made it no secret that he’s a personal favorite, and yes I know he stunk this year with the Cubs (5.91 ERA and 5.83 FIP). I choose to blame that on inconsistent usage and Joe Maddon’s zaniness until further notice. Hopefully coming back to the Yankees and getting with pitching coach Larry Rothschild gets Warren back on track soon. He’s a pretty darn good pitcher when right, and I assume he’ll be comfortable in pinstripes. It’s home. I didn’t love the decision to trade Warren for Castro but I understood it. I’m glad the Yankees got a mulligan on that trade and Warren is back.

McKinney. (Chicago Cubs Online)
McKinney. (Chicago Cubs Online)

11. Getting McKinney as the second prospect was a nice little move. He has not had a good year at all (.252/.355/.322 in Double-A) and he is coming back from a hairline fracture in his knee, so his stock is down. That’s why the Yankees were able to get him as the second piece. Healthy and productive McKinney is a top 100 prospect. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into this season. Not last season. This season. Clearly the Yankees are hoping to get McKinney healthy and back to where he was a year ago, when he hit .300/.371/.454 (135 wRC+) between High-A and Double-A. Torres is definitely the headliner and the Yankees did well to get him. McKinney’s not an insignificant second piece despite his poor numbers this season.

12. As for the Cubs, this move is all about the postseason. They’ve got the best record in baseball and a comfortable seven-game lead in the NL Central. The Cubbies didn’t make this move with the next two months in mind. This trade is about the third month. They want to shorten the game in the postseason, when built-in off-days will allow them to use Chapman and erstwhile closer Hector Rondon pretty much every single game. I’ll be the dummy who says Chicago’s World Series window won’t be open as long as most seem to believe — Jake Arrieta is a free agent next year, John Lackey is closing in on 40, and Jon Lester will enter his CC Sabathia phase soon — so going all-in now makes sense. Realistically, when will the Cubs have a better chance to win a title than this year? Good for them for not resting on their laurels, and going out and getting a difference maker.

13. All that said, I saw more than a few Cubs fans yesterday say they are upset about the team adding Chapman after his domestic violence incident. I know a lot of people don’t care about that, but many do, and it takes away from their enjoyment of the game. As much fun as he was to watch, I didn’t particularly enjoy rooting for Chapman or having him on the Yankees. That’s just how a I felt. You’re welcome to disagree. The Cubs have a super fun and super likeable team, and they have a chance to do something special this year. The addition of Chapman is going to take away some of that fun and likeability for more than a few fans though, and that’s a shame.

Thoughts prior to the final series of the first half

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Later today the Yankees begin their final series of the first half, a four-gamer with the Indians in Cleveland. The Indians are really good with an insane power rotation — they have the rotation everyone thought the Mets would have — so these next four games might not be much fun. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. The Yankees will face four righties in the Cleveland series, so are they just going to sit Alex Rodriguez all four games? They deemed him unfit to face Miguel friggin’ Gonzalez last night. Would they really send him out here against Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco, who throw mid-to-high-90s with wicked breaking balls? It seems unlikely. That means Alex is going to sit five straight days to close out the first half. The Yankees are basically playing with a 24-man roster right now. A right-handed platoon DH isn’t all that useful, especially since playing the field appears to be completely off the table. There’s a Catch-22 here. A-Rod‘s not playing because he’s not hitting, but he probably needs to play more to start hitting. Sitting on the bench won’t accomplish much as far as getting his bat going.

2. The “Masahiro Tanaka needs to learn how to pitch on normal rest” thing has officially jumped the shark. You’d think the guy has pitched like Sidney Ponson on normal rest, and yet:

Normal Rest, 2014-15: 2.89 ERA (3.42 FIP)
Extra Rest, 2014-15: 3.26 ERA (3.57 FIP)

Normal Rest, 2016: 5.28 ERA (4.27 FIP)
Extra Rest, 2016: 1.72 ERA (2.46 FIP)

Tanaka has made seven starts of his 17 starts on normal rest this year. That’s it. Included in those seven starts are three starts of at least six innings with no more than two earned runs, so it’s not like he’s never pitched well on normal rest this year. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be smart to give Tanaka an extra day whenever possible. It’s smart to give every pitcher an extra day now and then. But the idea Tanaka is unable to pitch effectively on normal rest is so overblown. It’s an overreaction to four starts spread across three months this year.

3. Jorge Mateo‘s two-week suspension is totally deserved, in my opinion. George King says Mateo complained to team executives about not getting promoted, and even went as far as to say an unnamed player in Double-A should be released to clear a spot for him. (Had to be Cito Culver, right?) First of all, Mateo is hitting .266/.323/.396 (112 wRC+) this season, including .240/.292/.351 (89 wRC+) since May 1st, so he hasn’t exactly forced the issue. Secondly, a team can’t just let a player complain about not being promoted, because I have news for you: everyone thinks they deserve to be promoted. If the Yankees had let Mateo get away with that, it would be open season. Every prospect would be going to the front office and mouthing off about a promotion. I mean, he went to the team and said release this guy and promote me. What the hell is that? Mateo was insubordinate and thus disciplined. Welcome to the real world, kid. Hopefully he serves his suspension, grows up a little, and performs well enough for the Yankees to consider promoting him.

4. Last week Chad Jennings posted a neat interview with Rob Refsnyder on Aaron Judge. Refsnyder was in Triple-A and had a front row seat for Judge’s crazy home run surge a few weeks back. “With normal human beings, it’s, ‘I’m going to get a hit or two tonight.’ With Judge it’s like, ‘I’m going to get a double and a home run tonight,'” said Refsnyder. Anyway, I found this part interesting:

“You get so many offspeed pitches in Triple-A, it’s ridiculous. It’s so unrealistic (compared) to this type of pitching. You get a lot more fastballs … So many more fastballs and truer pitch sequences. In Triple-A it’s like, guys have five pitches and they could throw them at any time, so some guys start leaning out over the plate. They lose their posture and their swing plane is all messed up. So I think he’s just trying to stick to staying taller and getting his hands to the ball more efficiently.”

I think at least part of it is Refsnyder getting a lot of fastballs because he’s a rookie, and pitchers are going to challenge him until he shows he can do damage, but otherwise that’s pretty much the opposite of what I expected. I figured more pitchers would be living off their fastball in Triple-A while the five-pitch guys are in the big leagues. It does make sense though. Triple-A is loaded with older players trying to hang on — look at the International League innings pitched leaderboard, the retreads outnumber the prospects four-to-one — and many teams skip their top prospects right over Triple-A these days. The hard throwers all get called up because of baseball’s general obsession with velocity. Had Refsnyder not said anything, it never would have occurred to me Triple-A pitchers may throw more fastballs than MLB pitchers.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

5. Speaking of Refsnyder, he’s handled himself well these last few weeks despite being in a less than ideal situation. He’s not playing every single day, and he’s going back and forth between three different positions (first, second, right). It can be tough to remain productive when that’s your role, especially when you’re new to it after playing everyday for the last, well, rest of your life. I’m not a huge believer in Refsnyder. Yes, the Yankees should play him more just to see if he can be an everyday guy somewhere, but I think this is the best role for him long-term. Hopefully he can pick up third base and be an option there too at some point. Point is, the Yankees haven’t exactly put Refsnyder in the best position to succeed — that’s not exactly uncommon, young players are moved around and sit on the bench all the time — but he’s made the most of it. Good to see.

6. It’s not a fatal flaw, but Dellin Betances‘ inability to stop the running game is a real problem. Opponents are 11-for-11 in steal attempts against him this year after going 17-for-21 last year and 12-for-15 the year before that. That’s 40-for-47 (85%), and that’s, uh, bad. The book is out too. This is no secret. Whenever Betances puts a man on base, they’re looking to run first or second pitch. Dellin is a big man with a slow and deliberate motion, so speeding up his delivery isn’t really an option. (Given his career-long control issues, I wouldn’t mess with his mechanics at all anyway.) The Yankees are going to have to work with him on his pickoff move, varying his times to the plate, that sort of thing. Betances doesn’t allow many baserunners to start with, so this isn’t a huge problem, but not every walk and single can be turned into a double. It’s a weakness that can be improved. That’s the best way to put it.

7. I’m happy the Yankees have kept Luis Severino in Triple-A these last few weeks. I thought they were going to bring him right back up after two or three good starts. Severino definitely has some things to work on, specifically his command of his secondary pitches, and it’s not realistic to think that can be fixed overnight. I thought the Yankees were very aggressive with Severino — he was in the big leagues after throwing 144.2 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A combined — and this gives him a chance to catch his breath a bit and finish off some of the development the Yankees skipped over. Severino is incredibly important to the Yankees long-term. They have to get this right. Bringing him back up after a handful of Triple-A starts because his stats were shiny would have been an easy move, but not necessarily the right move. I totally expected Severino to back in MLB by now. I’m pleasantly surprised the Yankees are being patient after being so aggressive.