Hal says the Yankees are open to buying at the trade deadline if they’re in the postseason race

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

After last season, it’s easy to understand why so many folks wonder whether the Yankees will again sell at the trade deadline this year. They were out of the race last summer and Brian Cashman convinced Hal Steinbrenner to sell, which was absolutely the right thing to do. As a result, the Yankees are loaded with young talent. It’s exciting.

Despite their current three-game winning streak, most see the Yankees as wildcard contenders at best this season. (The various projection systems have a hard time overlooking the shaky rotation, for what it’s worth.) The offense should be better than it was a year ago and a couple of the kid pitchers could surprise. I don’t think it would take that much to push this team into the postseason, though they’re not clear cut favorites.

And if the Yankees are in the race at midseason, Steinbrenner is open to adding pieces at the deadline to get the team over the hump. He said as much during a radio interview with Mike Francesa two weeks ago. Here’s what Hal told Francesa:

“I think we’re ready to contend. Now, things have to go somewhat right, obviously as with any team. The players who did well last year have to do well again. The young players who haven’t proven themselves need to. And we’ve got to stay healthy … If my family feels that we’re close and Cash feels that we’re close and we need a piece, we’ve never been afraid to go out and get it, and that’s not going to change.”

I bring this up because the last time the Yankees were in the race, they did very little at the trade deadline. They had a six-game division lead on the day of the 2015 trade deadline, and they very clearly needed another starting pitcher, yet no deal was made. The Yankees decided to hold onto their prospects because that was the smart move at the time.

Will that be the smart move this summer? The Yankees are so very deep with prospects that they could trade a few of them for big league help and still have one of the game’s top farm systems. And, as I’ve already said a few times, they’re going to have to trade some prospects this year. Either that or the Yankees are going to lose them for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft in the offseason. There are only so many roster spots to go around.

The last time the Yankees bought at the deadline was 2014, when they were kinda sorta hanging around the postseason race and Cashman managed to acquire Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Martin Prado, and Stephen Drew without giving up anything significant. Those were band-aid moves, essentially. Cashman could take a similar approach this summer, or go big and acquire a more significant piece.

Because of their farm system, the Yankees are in position to make a big splash at the trade deadline, assuming that is something Cashman and Steinbrenner feel is appropriate. That will depend on how the next three months shake out. Hopefully the Yankees will be in the race come July and we can all argue about who they should keep, who they should trade, who they should go after, etc.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: April 2012

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
Stew. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

We are now in April and a new season has begun. That is true today and it was true in 2012 as well. Now that we’re in a new month, it’s time to go through the MLB Trade Rumors archives again. April is usually a slow month for rumors and transactions though. The season has just started and most teams are evaluating their rosters and minor league depth before looking for help outside the organization.

The Yankees remade their rotation during the 2011-12 offseason by signing Hiroki Kuroda and trading for Michael Pineda. They also brought back Freddy Garcia and salary dumped A.J. Burnett. The Yankees didn’t just lose on Opening Day in 2012 — that was the first of these six straight Opening Day losses — they got swept in the first series by the Rays. The cries of panic were quickly erased by a 10-3 stretch. The Yankees went 13-9 in April overall. Let’s dive into the MLBTR archives, shall we?

April 1st, 2012: Minor Moves: Scales, Bulger

The Yankees have signed Jason Bulger to a minor league contract, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. He’ll pitch at Triple-A. After signing a minor league deal with the Twins this winter, Bulger disappointed in Spring Training, allowing 10 earned runs on eight hits and five walks in four innings. He last enjoyed success in 2009 with the Angels.

Bulger had some nice years with the Angels back in the day, throwing 99 innings with a 3.64 ERA (4.40 FIP) from 2009-11. He was just trying to hang on by time he signed with the Yankees. Bulger, then 33, spent the 2012 season in Triple-A, where he had a 3.41 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 34.1 relief innings. He walked 21 and struck out 28 as the designated “veteran arm who makes sure the kids don’t get overworked” reliever. The Yankees have a few guys like that this year (Ernesto Frieri, Jason Gurka), though they’re much deeper in young arms than they were five years ago. The odds of seeing Frieri and Gurka in the Bronx aren’t as good as they would have been a few years back.

April 4th, 2012: Giants, Yanks Swap George Kontos For Chris Stewart

2:32pm: The Yankees have acquired Stewart in exchange for right-hander George Kontos, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (on Twitter).

The big-ish surprise trade. Opening Day was April 6th, 2012, and two days earlier the Yankees changed course behind the plate and acquired Chris Stewart to back up Russell Martin. Francisco Cervelli was optioned to Triple-A. It was right around that time we started to learn about the value of pitch-framing, and Stewart was a master at it. Here are the numbers, per StatCorner:

Stewart Cervelli
2011 +16.8 in 460.1 innings +8.4 in 316.1 innings
2012 +14.1 in 395.1 innings +0.2 in 5 innings
2013 +21.7 in 844.1 innings +3.2 in 138 innings

On a rate basis, Stewart was one of the very best pitch-framers in baseball at the time. Cervelli was good, but not as good as Stewart. Stewart backed up Martin in 2012 and hit .241/.292/.319 (65 wRC+) in 157 plate appearances. Cervelli hit .246/.341/.316 (89 wRC+) in 99 Triple-A games.

The Yankees let Martin walk as a free agent following the season and were planning to go with Stewart and Cervelli behind the plate in 2013, but a foul tip broke Cervelli’s hand in April and kept him out most of the season. That gave Austin Romine his first extended taste of big league action.

Kontos, meanwhile, has two World Series rings with the Giants, and has carved out a nice career as a middle reliever. He came into this season with a 2.64 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 264 career innings. I thought Kontos had a chance to be a setup guy and wasn’t too pleased with the trade, but whatever. What’s done is done.

April 4th, 2012: Yankees Sign Ramon Ortiz

The Yankees signed right-hander Ramon Ortiz, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. It’s a minor league deal, Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger tweets. The Giants recently released the 39-year-old Praver/Shapiro client.

The Yankees have some nice pitching depth in the minors, which hasn’t always been the case over the years. It’s hardly been the case, really. They used to have to pick up guys like Ortiz to chew up innings in Triple-A. Ortiz, then 39 with over 1,400 big league innings to his credit, spent the entire season with Triple-A Scranton, where he had a 3.45 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 169.1 innings. That was the season Scranton had to play entirely on the road while PNC Field was being renovated, so Ortiz, a 12-year MLB veteran, stuck it out and road buses and lived in hotels all summer. Some guys stick around so long because they truly love the game.

By the way, those 169.1 innings Ortiz threw that season are still the most in the farm system since Steven White threw 175.1 innings back in 2006. Aside from Ortiz, only four Yankees farmhands have reached 160 innings in a single minor league season since White: Shaeffer Hall (164.1 in 2012), D.J. Mitchell (161.1 in 2011), Hector Noesi (160.1 in 2010), and Jason Jones (160 in 2008). Geez, those are some names. Shaeffer Hall was the Dietrich Enns of his time.

April 5th, 2012: Yankees Claim Cody Eppley

The Yankees claimed reliever Cody Eppley off of waivers from the Rangers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. The Rangers had designated the right-hander for assignment yesterday.

You never see it coming with these fringe relievers. The Yankees claimed Eppley off waivers the day before Opening Day, and while he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was called up in the middle of April and spent the entire rest of the season in the big leagues. He threw 46 innings with a 3.33 ERA (3.66 FIP) and a 60.3% ground ball rate. Eppley appeared in two games with the Yankees in 2013 before being released at midseason. He’s been bouncing around independent leagues and the Mexican League since 2014. The Yankees got their 40-something good innings out of Eppley and that was it, time to move on.

April 6th, 2012: NL West Notes: Padres, Dodgers, Phelps

The Giants originally requested right-hander David Phelps from the Yankees for catcher Chris Stewart, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The Yankees ultimately sent right-hander George Kontos to San Francisco.

I don’t remember this at all. Phelps had yet to pitch in the big leagues at the time of the Stewart-Kontos trade, though he made his debut in the middle of the 2012 season. It’s easy to understand why the Yankees said no to Phelps but yes to Kontos. Phelps could start. Kontos couldn’t. Also, Phelps had a much cleaner injury history. (Kontos had undergone Tommy John surgery a few years prior.) The Yankees have never really missed Kontos. They would have missed Phelps given the 299.1 league average-ish innings he threw for them from 2012-14 though.

April 18th, 2012: Quick Hits: Lannan, Martin, Nationals, Orioles

The Yankees have no plans to talk to Russell Martin about a contract extension soon, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Martin will become a free agent after this season, and the two sides briefly discussed a multi-year deal this past offseason.

The two sides did talk about an extension at some point, but nothing came of it and Martin ended up signing with the Pirates after the season. That led to the Stewvelli era in 2013. Here are the catchers the Yankees have lost or traded away over the last few offseasons:

  • After 2016: Brian McCann traded to Astros.
  • After 2015: John Ryan Murphy traded to Twins.
  • After 2014: Francisco Cervelli traded to Pirates.
  • After 2013: Chris Stewart traded to Pirates.
  • After 2012: Russell Martin leaves as free agent.
  • After 2011: Jesus Montero traded to Mariners.

The Yankees did all of that and they still have a budding star behind the plate in Gary Sanchez. Pretty cool. The super early guess here is Romine is sent packing after the season so Kyle Higashioka can take over as the backup in 2018, continuing the annual tradition of jettisoning a catcher in the offseason.

April 19th, 2012: Yankees Sign Nelson Figueroa

The Yankees have signed right-hander Nelson Figueroa to a minor league deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

Nelson Figueroa too? Geez, the Yankees signed so many veteran guys to stash in Triple-A in 2012 that I had to go back to look at their rotation to start the season. Here are their Opening Day starting pitchers:

The Delcarmen start was basically a rehab thing. He moved to the bullpen after that one little start, at which point Ortiz took his rotation spot. Figueroa helped replace Banuelos, who got hurt early in the season. Others on the 2012 Triple-A Opening Day roster include Mike O’Connor, Craig Heyer, and Pat Venditte. I had a prospect crush on Heyer for a while.

April 20th, 2012: No More Personal Service Deals & Milestone Bonuses

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have agreed to put an end to personal service deals and milestone bonus clauses, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. Existing contracts with these deals or bonuses won’t be affected by the changes, which were agreed to this month.

I don’t remember this. Alex Rodriguez had those home run milestone bonuses in his contract, though he didn’t trigger the first bonus until 2015. MLB and MLBPA changed the rules three years before that was a thing. I know Albert Pujols has an option for a ten-year, $10M personal services contract in his deal with the Angels, which was signed a few weeks before this report. Ryan Zimmermann has a personal services clause in his contract too.

MLB and MLBPA determined milestone bonuses violated a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that says performance statistics can not be used as a basis for incentives. The personal services stuff violated a clause about contracts extending beyond the player’s career as an active player. So, if you’re looking for a way the Yankees can sweeten the pot to lure a free agent in the future, milestone bonuses and personal services agreements are a no go.

April 25th, 2012: Michael Pineda To Undergo Labrum Operation

Michael Pineda has a tear in his right labrum and will undergo arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). The 23-year-old will likely miss a full year, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees acquired Pineda in an offseason trade that sent their top hitting prospect to the Mariners, but the right-hander has yet to pitch his first inning in pinstripes.

Oh boy. That was a bad day. Pineda’s velocity was down all throughout Spring Training — he came to camp out of shape too — and the Yankees had him start the season on the disabled list with what they called shoulder tendinitis. He made a rehab start a few days prior to this report and left the game after only a handful of pitches with pain in his shoulder. Tests revealed the labrum tear. Brian Cashman called it a “tragic diagnosis” at the time.

Pineda missed close to two full seasons following the surgery — he did throw 40.2 minor league rehab innings in the second half of 2013 — and all things considered, his stuff has come back very well following surgery. He can still get his fastball into the mid-90s regularly and his slider can be devastating. Pineda still doesn’t have a reliable changeup though, and his command is pretty terrible, which may or may not be the result of the surgery. I remember being worried he’d come back throwing 88-89 mph with no bite on his slider. That didn’t happen.

Even with his stuff coming back, the shoulder injury definitely derailed Pineda’s career to some degree. He missed his age 23 season and most of his age 24 season. Those are crucial developmental years, years Pineda could have been working on his changeup and command. There’s no guarantee Pineda would be a better today had he not undergone surgery. The surgery didn’t do him any favors though. Sucks.

April 28th, 2012: Bobby Abreu Links: Angels, Wells, Trout, Yankees

Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog thinks the Yankees might have an interest in Abreu as at least a short-term fix while Brett Gardner is on the DL.  New York tried to acquire Abreu for A.J. Burnett in the offseason, before Burnett blocked the deal to avoid playing on the west coast.

That idiot Mike Axisa has a good idea every once in a while, but this probably wasn’t one of them. Gardner suffered what was essentially a season-ending elbow injury making a sliding catch in the team’s 11th game of the season — he did return very late in September and for the postseason — which sent the Yankees scrambling for outfield help. Here are their games started leaders in left field in 2012:

  1. Raul Ibanez — 65 starts
  2. Andruw Jones — 41
  3. Ichiro Suzuki — 26
  4. Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix — 9 each
  5. Brett Gardner — 8
  6. Eduardo Nunez — 3
  7. Chris Dickerson — 1

I remember Nunez have some adventures during those three starts in left field. The Yankees rolled with an Ibanez/Jones platoon for much of the season, but Andruw was awful that year, which led to guys like Nunez and Nix playing out there. Eventually the Yankees traded for Ichiro to replace Gardner.

Anyway, I’ve gotten sidetracked. The Yankees and Angels reportedly agreed to a Burnett-for-Abreu trade during the 2011-12 offseason, but Burnett invoked his no-trade clause to block the deal because he didn’t want to go to the West Coast. He was traded to the Pirates, who were not on his no-trade list, a few weeks later.

Abreu, then 38, hit .208/.259/.333 (62 wRC+) in eight games with the Angels before being released on April 27th. The player called up to take his roster spot? Mike Trout. A good decision, that was. Abreu then hooked on with the Dodgers and hit a serviceable .246/.361/.344 (100 wRC+) in 92 games. Ibanez hit some enormous home runs late in 2012 and Ichiro played well after the trade. Good thing the Yankees didn’t listen to me and sign Abreu, huh?

Brian Cashman and the 2017 trade deadline [2017 Season Preview]

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

Welcome to another contract year for Brian Cashman.

Don’t worry: Cashman has enough job security that he isn’t about to trade the farm for some short-sighted fix that harms the Yankees’ future. He’s acquitted himself quite well over the last two decades and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the job right now. It doesn’t hurt that he has a healthy relationship with the Steinbrenner family and Hal in particular.

But this season won’t be without some drama for the 49-year-old general manager. There are two scenarios: the good and the bad, both coming with certain pitfalls and questions with which to deal come the trade deadline. Let’s dive in.

If the Yankees are winning…

This situation doesn’t pose problems so much as it forces choices. If the Yankees are middling at the deadline (near .500 like last year), then the Yankees may make a few minor moves, but they wouldn’t be about to trade away a boatload of prospects, particularly for a short-term asset. However, if the Yankees are able to get off to a positive start and build momentum towards the All-Star break, Cashman will be in a strong position to be a buyer.

It’s been a minute since the Yankees were really significant buyers at the break, but it’s been even longer since the team has had such a strong prospect core. The last time the Yankees’ farm system was booming like the present came before Cashman was in charge. Ideally, you want to see this group of prospects come to the majors and be the foundation for future success. But many prospects fail and sometimes you’re better off trading them before they’re exposed to the majors.

Mike brought up the upcoming 40-man roster crunch and that incentivizes a significant buying effort if the team’s major league success calls for it. What better way to solve the 40-man roster crunch than trade players on the 40-man or who need to be added after the season for 1-2 marquee players?

Identifying and prying those players in the right deal will be tough, but man, wouldn’t trading some prospects for Jose Quintana be a pretty sweet boost for the pennant race? Quintana may be an Astro by then, but that won’t limit the Yankees from being players in the trade market. The team could stand to upgrade multiple rotation spots mid-season, maybe even add a reliever. Plus there are always injuries that come up and force a creative solution to an unforeseen problem. No one thought the Yankees would have needed Bobby Abreu at the start of 2006, but Gary Sheffield was hurt and Cashman pounced at adding the high-OBP right fielder with multiple years of control. The Yankees could have a position of weakness pop up that we don’t expect.

The team has to balance the option to buy at the deadline with the plan to get under the luxury tax after next season in preparation for the robust free agent winter of 2018-19. The luxury tax for the 2018 season will be $197 million, but there is also a 50 percent tax for repeat offenders, which the Yankees certainly are until they can get under. Cashman utilized what was left in ownership’s budget for this season on Chris Carter‘s deal, so anything adding money would receive extra scrutiny from ownership. This will need special consideration if there is significant money added to the payroll beyond this season.

If the Yankees are losing…

This is what selling did to Cashman last time. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
This is what selling did to Cashman last time. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

This is where there are going to be some potential problems. If the Yankees are under .500 and hovering near the cellar of the AL East in July, the most obvious solution would be to sell. Give up on expiring assets that you don’t want to potentially retain and add to an already substantial farm system. It worked pretty darn well last season.

However, it’s not that simple. The team is not giving up on this season easily and refusing to call it’s current situation a rebuild: It’s a transition and one in which the team wants to be competitive. It’s understandable, too: The team wants to win games to keep fans in the seats.

So convincing ownership to sell for a second consecutive season is tough. On top of that, Cashman made two pretty remarkable deals for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but unless the team wants to trade Dellin Betances, it’s harder to see any one player getting that large a return. Matt Holliday could fetch a minor piece or two. Michael Pineda could be dealt for a return similar to Ivan Nova. Brett Gardner could be attractive. Masahiro Tanaka is where it gets interesting, but his buy-out and elbow create complications.

All of this is to say another sell-it-all summer is unlikely. The team has enough expiring contracts (CC Sabathia, A-Rod, Holliday and possibly Tanaka) to get the payroll underneath the tax next season, but that would also involve relying even further on the young core or bringing in cheap replacements in free agency.

It’s pretty obvious that one hopes for the first scenario. It’s a lot cleaner and likely portends for future success as well, something Cashman has built towards with a tear down in 2016. It’s unlikely we see a repeat of that but ninja Cashman could come out and surprise. The Yankees’ front office often strikes when least expected. Expectations may be slightly less for the Yankees this season, but the job ahead is the same: Look for potential trades, scout for next season’s free agency and prepare for June’s draft.

The Lessons of the Trade Deadline [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2016 trade deadline was, truly, a monumental event for the Yankees. The team’s mediocre on-field performance pushed ownership to give Brian Cashman the authority to sell at the deadline, something the club hasn’t done in nearly three decades. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this year’s trade deadline a franchise-altering event.

Will the deadline alter the franchise for the better? That’s what we’re all hoping. The Yankees made five trades in the week leading up to the deadline, four of which qualify as “seller” trades, and those trades netted them two big leaguers and 12 total prospects. After the deadline Jim Callis said the Yankees have “the deepest system in the game.” The five trades told us five different things about the Yankees.

The Chapman Trade: The Yankees Are Opportunists

The first of the five trades was the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. It happened a full week prior to the deadline. I wanted the Yankees to trade Chapman even if they were in the race. I wrote that for I don’t know how many months before the trade actually happened. The club bought low in the offseason and had a chance to sell outrageously high at the deadline.

The Yankees did exactly that. They were 50-48 on the morning of the day of the Chapman trade, and they’d just won six of their last eight games. Rather than hang on to Chapman and try to get back into the race, they were smart about their situation. Contenders around the league were lining up for Aroldis and the offers were impressive. Far better than the draft pick the Yankees would have received after the season.

The Chapman trade told us the Yankees are going to be opportunistic. They acquired him at a deep discount (for terrible off-the-field reasons) and flipped him for a massive return. Getting Gleyber Torres alone would have been a major win. The other three players are gravy. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used the domestic violence incident to buy low on Chapman, but the team showed when an opportunity that is too good to be true presents itself, they’re going to pounce.

The Miller Trade: Committed To The Rebuild

Okay, fine, it’s a transition, not a rebuild. Whatever. The Yankees were in a very unique position at the trade deadline because they had not one, but two top notch relievers to peddle to contenders. Chapman was the first to go. Following that deal, the Yankees took offers for Andrew Miller, as they did last offseason. And of course everyone wanted him. Pretty much every contender was in on Miller.

Unlike Chapman, the Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller. I mean, they didn’t have to trade Chapman either, but it was such an obvious move. He was an impending free agent and his value was through the roof. Miller had two more affordable years left on his contract — plus he is insanely good and very popular — and keeping him would have completely justifiable. Teams wish they could have 25 guys like Andrew Miller on their roster.

Rather than keep Miller for those reasons, the Yankees acknowledged the bullpen market had exploded, and they capitalized on the opportunity. They’re so committed to the rebuild transition that they traded exactly the kind of player they want to acquire: affordable, effective, and likeable. The timetables didn’t line up though. A top notch reliever is not what they need right now. They need Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more.

The Clippard Trade: A Complete Tear Down Isn’t Happening

The Yankees won’t say it, but they’re rebuilding. They’re just not rebuilding all the way. A complete Astros style tear down isn’t going to happen because a) it can’t due to some unmovable contracts, and b) ownership doesn’t want it to happen. Hal Steinbrenner has made that very clear. They want to remain in quasi-contention to keep fans interested (i.e. sell tickets, etc.).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Tyler Clippard trade, which went down a few hours after the Miller trade, is the perfect example. Rather than turning Miller’s vacated roster spot over to a young reliever, the Yankees brought in a productive veteran to help them win. The cost was minimal — the Yankees gave up Vicente Campos, who got hurt (again) a few weeks after the trade — and the message was clear. The Yankees are still trying to win, which is commendable. There’s something to be said for refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field.

Now, does it makes sense to try to remain competitive even though the team on the field is telling you the postseason isn’t going to happen? That’s up for debate. I’m sure some fans appreciate the wins while others would rather a slightly better draft pick and larger bonus pool. That’s not for us to decide though. The Yankees have made their position clear. They’re going to try to win while rebuilding. The Clippard trade is the latest example.

The Beltran Trade: The Yankees Aren’t Afraid To Take Risks

The Yankees made five trades prior to the deadline this year but only two actually came on deadline day. The first sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for three Single-A pitching prospects in a deal that was more or less inevitable. Once Chapman and Miller were traded, there was no real point in hanging on to Beltran, another impending free agent. Yeah, he was the team’s best hitter, but that also increased his trade value.

As part of the Beltran trade, the Yankees acquired right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. Just last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. Tate’s stock took a hit in the first half because he hurt his hamstring and his velocity wavered, so much so that he sat in the upper-80s rather than the mid-90s at times. His stock was down quite a bit.

Rather than be scared away, New York targeted Tate in the Beltran trade and was willing to take on some risk in order to get premium talent. The Yankees never have access to players like Tate (and Frazier) in the draft. They never pick in the top ten. They were able to acquire that kind of talent at the deadline. To get Frazier, they gave up a great player in Miller. To get Tate, they had to roll the dice and trade their best hitter for a reclamation project. The Yankees didn’t play it safe. They’re shooting for the moon.

The Nova Trade: A Small Return Is Better Than No Return

Minutes prior to the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. Two! That’s one more than I expected. Nova was another impending free agent, and again, there was no reason to keep him. He wasn’t a qualifying offer candidate and it wasn’t like he was pitching well either. A few teams were interested, including the Rangers, but ultimately Cashman connected with his favorite trade partner and sent Nova to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot for Nova. Tito Polo could maybe be a speedy fourth outfielder down the line, and Stephen Tarpley figures to get plenty of chances as a hard-throwing lefty, but neither player is likely to have much of an impact. They’re spare parts. They’re also better than nothing, which is what the Yankees would have received had they kept Nova and let him finish out the season in pinstripes. Keeping Ivan would have been pointless given the team’s place in the standings.

The Nova trade was a common sense trade. Get whatever you can and move on. Polo and Tarpley probably won’t amount to much, but you never really know. Tarpley could figure out how to throw his breaking ball for strikes, or perhaps some team wants Polo as the third piece in a trade. Point is, the Yankees had an asset in Nova whose value was rapidly approaching zero. They accepted a small return at the deadline because a small return is better than no return.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: October 2011

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Now that we’re into October, it’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. I forgot to do this earlier in the month, so my bad for the tardiness. Anyway, the entire point of his monthly series is to look back at trade and free agent rumors from five years ago to see how silly (or genius!) it all sounds now. What good are rumors if you only read them once?

The Yankees finished the 2011 season with a 97-65 record and a +210 run differential despite serious rotation concerns. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia really bailed them out. Only the Phillies (102-60) had a better regular season record than New York. Unfortunately, the Yankees didn’t last long in the postseason. The Tigers beat them in five games in the ALDS. That stunk. Let’s get to the October 2011 rumors.

October 1st, 2011: Quick Hits: Pettitte, Granderson, Alomar Jr.

Former Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte is enjoying retirement is highly unlikely to return to pitching, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “I feel the desire [to play] is gone,” Pettitte said. “I am retired. I would never say never, but God would literally have to give me desire again… I’m really doing good. I just had a good peace about [retiring].

Hah. Little did we know that a few months later Pettitte would come out of retirement to join the Yankees not only for 2012, but 2013 as well. I never in a million years expected Pettitte to un-retire — I know people talk about it all the time, but it rarely actually happens — but I’m glad he did. He was pretty awesome after coming back. The first round of “will he or won’t he retire” talk during the 2010-11 offseason was the worst though. It never ended.

October 7th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Posada, Cashman

Joel Sherman of the New York Post suspects that the Yankees will wait, instead of extending Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson this offseason. Both players are eligible for free agency after 2013 (assuming New York exercises Cano’s two options).

This was back when the Yankees had that “no extensions” policy that accomplished … I’m not sure what, exactly. Thankfully that is no more. Extending Cano back then would have been a smart move because he was an excellent homegrown Yankee at a hard-to-fill position — there’s no reason to think Robbie would have entertained an extension offer at that time anyway — and those guys are worth locking up.

Granderson was a different matter. He had a monster 2011 season, hitting .262/.364/.552 (146 wRC+) with 41 homers and 25 steals. Granderson finished fourth in the AL MVP voting and Cano finished sixth. That was also Granderson’s first season with that kind of production, so it was fair to wonder whether he’d do it again. The Yankees had him signed for another two years and could afford to be patient. Granderson had another year like that in 2012 but no extension came. Alas.

October 7th. 2011: Eric Chavez “Leaning Heavily Towards Retirement”

Veteran third baseman Eric Chavez is considering retirement, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Chavez, 33, is “leaning heavily towards” hanging up his cleats after 14 Major League seasons. 

The Yankees brought Chavez to camp as a non-roster player in 2011 and he wound up making the team as a bench player. He was okay that year, hitting .263/.320/.356 (80 wRC+) while playing the corner infield and missing time with a foot injury. Not great, not awful. Chavez did not retire that offseason, so the Yankees brought him back, and he rewarded them with an incredible 2012 season. He hit .281/.348/.496 (126 wRC+) with 16 homers that year. Pretty awesome. Chavez played another two years with the Diamondbacks after that, so he wasn’t close to retiring this offseason.

October 9th, 2011: Quick Hits: Payrolls, Jay, Wilson, Epstein

Some people think that C.J. Wilson has keen interest as a free agent in New York, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  He adds that the Yankees are probably the early favorite to sign him.

At the time, Wilson was very desirable as a free agent. The Rangers moved him into the rotation in 2010, and from 2010-11 he had a 3.14 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 427.1 innings. That’s really good! Wilson walked a few too many (9.5%), but he missed bats (21.3%) and got grounders (49.2%), plus he didn’t have nearly as many miles on his arm as most 30-year-old starters because he spent so much time as a reliever.

Alas, the Yankees didn’t sign Wilson, and that was for the best. He actually took less money from the Angels than the Marlins because he thought they were closer to winning. Wilson had a 3.87 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 722.1 innings with the Halos during his five-year, $75M contract. That’s not awful, but it’s not what the team was expecting. Wilson hasn’t pitched since July 2015 due to ongoing elbow and shoulder woes. The Yankees were never seriously in the mix to sign him during the 2011-12 offseason.

October 10th, 2011: AL East Links: Red Sox, Jays, Yanks, Sabathia, O’s

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees are looking for starting pitching and left-handed relievers, tweets Heyman. Our free agent list shows a number of attractive lefty relief options.

The Yankees did indeed get starting pitching that offseason — that was the Michael Pineda trade/Hiroki Kuroda signing offseason — but they took the “let’s bring in a bunch of guys and hope they work out” approach to the lefty relief market. The Yankees added three southpaws that winter: Cesar Cabral, Hideki Okajima (!), and Clay Rapada. Cabral, a Rule 5 Draft, hurt his elbow in Spring Training. Okajima failed his physical and never officially signed with the Yankees.

Rapada? He was nails in 2012. Had a 2.82 ERA (3.20 FIP) overall and held lefties to a .183/.263/.255 batting line with 28.7% strikeouts. Pretty awesome. Rapada and Boone Logan were a very nice left-on-left matchup tandem during that 2012 season. Unfortunately, Rapada got hurt during Spring Training in 2013 and didn’t pitch a whole lot after that. He pitched for the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic qualifier this past February, then retired.

October 11th, 2011: Raul Valdes, Scott Proctor Elect Free Agency

Relievers Raul Valdes and Scott Proctor have elected free agency, the Yankees announced today (Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweeted the news).  Having lost Aaron Laffey as well, the Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 37.

Like this offseason, the Yankees got a head start on their 40-man roster cleanup during the 2011-12 offseason. Valdes and Proctor were late-season bullpen depth pickups not unlike Blake Parker and Tommy Layne. I’ll never forget Joe Girardi letting Proctor wear it in Game 162 in Tampa that year. That was the year the Red Sox collapsed and the Rays made the postseason on the final day of the season. Girardi brought Proctor in to pitch extra innings that game and you could tell he was in there until the game ended, one way or the other. He threw 2.2 innings and 56 pitches that game. Proctor spent 2012 in Korea and that was pretty much it for his career.

October 12th, 2011: Front Office Notes: Orioles, Yankees, Angels

The Yankees have granted the Angels permission to interview both Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer for their vacant general manager job, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

The Angels wound up hiring Jerry Dipoto to be their new GM that offseason, and Eppler was actually the runner-up. Oppenheimer was eliminated from contention earlier in the process. Dipoto resigned last summer — when was the last time a GM resigned? geez — and eventually the Halos hired Eppler as their new GM, partly because they were so impressed during his initial interview in 2011.

October 13th, 2011: David Ortiz Talks Yankees, Red Sox

David Ortiz recently hinted that the offseason could get even more tumultuous for the Red Sox. The designated hitter, who will be eligible for free agency after the World Series, suggested to ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he would fit into the Yankees’ culture.

“It’s great from what I hear,” he said. “It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

Ortiz says there’s “too much drama” in Boston these days and acknowledged that he’s thinking about moving on.I don’t know if I want to be part of this drama for next year.”

This was so obviously an attempt to create leverage during contract talks with the Red So that the “Ortiz to the Yankees???” stuff never picked up steam that offseason. Yeah, the Red Sox collapsed hilariously in 2011, but no one actually expected him to leave. The Yankees needed the DH spot for Alex Rodriguez and other veterans, plus Jesus Montero was locked into a roster spot at the time, so signing another DH wasn’t a priority, even one as good as Ortiz. He eventually re-signed with the Red Sox to the surprise of absolutely no one. This was like when Mariano Rivera said he was open to signing with Boston during the 2010-11 offseason. Yeah, sure. Like that was going to happen.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees To Decline Damaso Marte’s Option

The Yankees will announce that they’re declining their 2012 option for Damaso Marte, according to Mark Hale of the New York Post (on Twitter). The left-hander missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing shoulder surgery last October. He’ll get a $250K buyout instead of a $4MM salary for 2012.

That’s World Series hero Damaso Marte to you. The Yankees declined Marte’s $6M option for 2009 and instead gave him a three-year deal worth $12M. He had a 6.39 ERA (5.41 FIP) in 31 innings during the life of the contract and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to injuries. But! …

You’re cool with me, Damaso.

October 19th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Kuroda, Darvish, Sabathia, Nova

Rafael Soriano will not opt out of the two years and $25MM remaining on his contract, though there’s nothing official yet, according to Marchand.

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked a pitcher who missed half the season with elbow trouble and had a 4.12 ERA (3.97 FIP) when he did pitch didn’t walk away from a guaranteed $25M.

October 20th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Swisher, Blake, Soriano

The Yankees are “very likely” to pick up Nick Swisher‘s $10.25MM option for 2012, reports ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews, though they may wait “until the very last minute” (i.e. three days after the World Series) to do so.

I didn’t understand the “the Yankees might decline Swisher’s option!” talk that was going around after the Yankees were eliminated in the 2011 ALDS. Switch-hitters coming off a .260/.374/.449 (124 wRC+) season with 23 homers are a dime a dozen, I guess. No need to keep that guy for $10.25M. What a weird talking point that was. The option was a no-brainer and of course the Yankees picked it up.

October 21st, 2011: Heyman on Friedman, Darvish, Yankees

Free agent starter Freddy Garcia is popular with the Yankees’ front office and could return in 2012. The right-hander barely qualifies as a Type B free agent, according to our rankings.

The good ol’ Type-A/B free agent system. Garcia did qualify as a Type-B, meaning the Yankees would have received a supplemental first round pick had he signed elsewhere. It would have been, like, 55th overall. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Instead, the Yankees re-signed Garcia to a one-year deal worth $4M. There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, right? Sweaty Freddy was good in 2011 (3.62 ERA and 4.12 FIP) and not so good in 2012 (5.20 ERA and 4.68 FIP). So it goes.

October 24th, 2011: Quick Hits: Yankees, Pirates, Moyer, Oswalt

The Pirates have prioritized catching help this offseason and the Yankees would “definitely” trade Francisco Cervelli in the right deal, according to Sherman. The Pirates may not view Cervelli as a starter, however.

The seeds were planted early. In fact, Brian Cashman said he originally proposed Cervelli for Justin Wilson back in 2012, but the Pirates said no. It wasn’t until November 2014 that they went through with that trade. Anyway, Cervelli missed most of 2011 due to injuries and the Yankees stashed him in Triple-A for all of 2012. His value was at an all-time low at the time.

October 27th, 2011: Boras Kidding About Reworking Cano’s Contract

6:32pm: Boras was just joking about a new contract for Cano, the agent tells George A. King III.  “Cash [Brian Cashman] and I have talked three or four times in the last three days. My statements were in jest. Cash always returns my phone calls,” Boras said. “My conversations with Cash about Robinson have nothing to do with the options. We fully expect the options to be exercised.”

9:57am: Agent Scott Boras phoned Yankees GM Brian Cashman to discuss the possibility of re-working Robinson Cano’s contract, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. Boras says he’s hoping to remove the 2012 and 2013 options on the second baseman’s deal and work out a new contract.

“I called Cash to ask about dropping the options and he hasn’t returned the call,” Boras told King.

Oh that silly Scott Boras. I have a hard time thinking Boras would have seriously discussed a contract extension that offseason, not unless the Yankees talked Mariners money. He was fully intent on getting Cano out on the open market and breaking the bank. And he did.

October 31st, 2011: Yankees, CC Sabathia Agree To Extension

CC Sabathia has agreed to a precedent-setting contract that will keep him in pinstripes and off of the free agent market. The 31-year-old left-hander announced on his Twitter account and on Zoodig.com that he has agreed to a new deal with the Yankees. 

Sabathia’s opt-out was, by far, the biggest story of the 2011-12 offseason — really the entire 2011 season, for that matter — and it was over quick. The Yankees and Sabathia agreed to an extension minutes before the opt-out deadline. He got to say he never did opt-out while still leveraging it into more money. Here’s the video in which Sabathia announced the extension:

All things considered, the opt-out situation could have been much worse. The Yankees tacked one additional year and $30M in guaranteed money on top of the four years and $92M left on his original contract. The extension also included the vesting option that covers next season. There was talk of adding two or three more guaranteed years to his contract.

Sabathia had a phenomenal season in 2011 (3.00 ERA and 2.88 FIP) and letting him walk was not something anyone wanted. The extension hasn’t really worked out as hoped — Sabathia had a great year in 2012, stunk from 2013-15, then rebounded nicely in 2016 — but I still love the big guy. Huge money contracts can work out worse.

Thursday Notes: Beltran, Blue Jays, IFAs, Qualifying Offer

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

There are, at most, ten more baseball games left this season. It could be as few as six. That stinks. The offseason is fun in it’s own way, but nothing is better than actual games. That’s why we all watch. Anyway, make sure you check out MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees post. Nice little rundown of what could happen this winter. Here are some other news and notes.

Blue Jays had interest in Beltran

The Blue Jays had interest in Carlos Beltran prior to the trade deadline, reports Gerry Fraley. Toronto skipper John Gibbons confirmed the club considered a run at Beltran this summer. “Beltran was a guy we even talked about. We saw him over the years with the Yankees and what a great hitter he was, a clutch type performer,” said Gibbons prior to the start of the ALDS.

The Red Sox also reportedly tried to acquire Beltran prior to the deadline, and just like with Boston, it’s unclear whether the Yankees would have actually gone through with an intra-division trade with the Blue Jays. Toronto’s farm system is not nearly as good as the Red Sox’s, though I’m sure the two sides could have found a match if they really set their mind to it. The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the five-game ALCS — five of the eight came in Game Four — and they clearly needed another bat. Beltran would have been able to help. No doubt.

MLB pushing for international draft

To no surprise whatsoever, MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with MLBPA, reports Buster Olney. MLB has wanted an international draft for years now — it’s a way to keep costs down for owners, that’s the only goal here — but the union has yet to give in. I wonder if this will be the year though. Here are some more details from Olney:

Under the terms of MLB’s initial concept, the new international draft system would start in March of 2018, with a 10-round draft held over two days. As the new structure evolved, with terms grandfathered into the process, the minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021 … As part of baseball’s proposal, MLB would operate facilities in the Dominican Republic, where international draft prospects would be invited to live to develop their skills and education before becoming eligible.

Two things. One, those kids are going to have to wait two more years to get their payday, no matter how large or small it may be. That sucks. Right now they can sign at 16. Under this proposal they have to wait until they’re 18. And two, this is yet another incentive for teams to be bad. Bad clubs already get the largest draft bonus pools and protected picks. Now they’ll get access to the top international talent without worrying about other clubs offering more money.

This proposal — thankfully that’s all this is right now, a proposal — is great for the teams and owners. They’ll save money and also get two extra years to evaluate these kids before deciding whether to sign to them. It stinks for the players, who have to wait to get paid and risk having their skills erode before they can cash in. You have no idea how many kids sign at 16 only to then fill out physically and lose the electric athleticism that got them paid. An international draft is inevitable. Hopefully MLBPA doesn’t relent this CBA and we get a few more years of true free agency.

Qualifying offer system could change with CBA

The qualifying offer system may also be revamped with the new CBA, reports Joel Sherman. The QO isn’t going away, but the MLB and the MLBPA may make it so players can not receive the QO in consecutive years. That means the Orioles wouldn’t be able to get a draft pick for Matt Wieters this offseason since they gave him the QO last offseason, which he accepted. Something like that.

I can’t imagine MLB and MLBPA will ever completely severe ties between the draft and free agency — they don’t want rich teams to have access to the best free agents and first round talent — so this might be the next best thing. If this proposal goes through, you might see some more players sign one-year contracts so they can go back out on the market with no draft pick attached. I think most guys will look to grab the largest payday as soon as possible though. Being set for life financial is pretty cool, I hear.

Heyman: Yankees wanted Panik in trade talks with Giants

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

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees asked the Giants for second baseman Joe Panik during trade talks prior to the August 1st deadline. San Francisco was said to have interest in both Andrew Miller and Michael Pineda, and I assume Aroldis Chapman as well. The Yankees reportedly did not view them as a good trade partner given their thin farm system though. Heyman indicates the Bombers wanted Panik for Miller.

Panik, 25, is a semi-local kid from Hopewell Junction in Upstate New York. He went to St. John’s. He’s hitting a weak .240/.317/.380 (89 wRC+) with a career high ten home runs in 505 plate appearances around a concussion this season. Last year he hit .312/.378/.455 (136 wRC) around a back injury. Panik was called up midway through the 2014 season and was the Giants’ starting second baseman during their most recent World Series run. There’s a lot to digest here, so let’s break it down.

1. I really like the idea of targeting Panik. It goes without saying a quality young middle infielder is a very valuable asset. Beyond that, I like going after Panik because he’s exactly the kid of offensive player the Yankees don’t have. He’s an extreme contact hitter — his 9.1% strikeout rate is the lowest in baseball — who also draws a healthy amount of walks (9.7%), so his plate discipline is a big plus. Panik is also an all-fields hitter (2016 spray chart via Baseball Savant) …

Joe Panik spray chart

… with a very small platoon split. It’s almost negligible, really. He’s a career .279/.345/.414 (112 wRC+) hitter against righties and a career .289/.343/.376 (104 wRC+) hitter against lefties. Less power, but the average and on-base ability there. Add in above average defense and strong baserunning, and you’ve got a very nice all-around player. Not a star, but a solid player who fits the classic two-hole hitter profile perfectly.

The Yankees have spent the last few years targeting dead pull lefty hitters who can take advantage of the short porch and I totally understand why, but it hasn’t really worked. It’s led to a very one-dimensional and easy-to-defend offense. Targeting some (note: not only) players like Panik should be a goal going forward. Batting average over power, plus a willingness to take a walk. Let any power boost from the short porch come naturally.

(The Yankees kinda tried this when the signed Jacoby Ellsbury, though Ellsbury was already over 30 and didn’t walk nearly as much as Panik. Prime-aged players, please and thank you.)

2. Whither Castro? Panik was drafted as a shortstop but he’s a pure second baseman now, and the Yankees already have a second baseman in Starlin Castro. How would the two have co-existed? There are a lot of ways to solve this problem (trade, platoon, etc.) and I think the long-term plan would have been Panik at second and Castro at third. I don’t think this means the Yankees are ready to move on from Starlin. Not at all.

Remember, the Yankees originally planned to have Castro play some third base this season. That plan got put on hold because he needed more work at second than I think they realized — he only moved there late last season, after all — so they had him focus on that position in Spring Training. With a full season at second under his belt, Castro would ostensibly be better able to work out at third next year. He wouldn’t need the reps at second.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Starlin’s developing power — his 21 homers are five more than his previous career high, though a lot of that is Yankee Stadium (15 at home, six on the road) — allows him to profile better at third, and I think he’d be a better defender there than at second. He seems to get himself in trouble when he has time to make a play. I think the idea behind getting Panik was moving Castro to third long-term.

What happens with Chase Headley in that scenario? An offseason trade seems obvious — they made him available at the deadline, remember — though keeping him as a backup plan at third (and first?) wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. This is one of those “get a good player and figure it out later” situations. Same goes with playing time in the second half. The Yankees figured to be out of the race. Just get the talent and sort it all out once necessary.

3. Was it a one-for-one trade, or something bigger? Long before the trade deadline I was hoping the Yankees would get one truly top prospect for Chapman, and one top prospect plus a few decent secondary pieces for Miller. The Yankees got much more than that. The bullpen market has been insane over the last ten months or so, starting with the Ken Giles trade over the winter. Teams are paying top dollar for elite relievers.

So, with that in mind, was the offer Miller-for-Panik straight up? Or Miller for Panik plus stuff? Or Miller plus stuff for Panik? Or maybe something even bigger than that. It’s two and a half years of an elite reliever and four and a half years of a good middle infielder. My guess is talks never advanced all that far, so the exact framework was never discussed. Something like this:

“Hi, we’d like Andrew Miller.”

“Okay, but your system kinda stinks, so we want Joe Panik in return.”

“Not surprising. Lots of team have asked about him. We can’t do that though. We’ll get Will Smith from the Brewers instead.”

“So wanna get jiggy wit it?”

“Stop it, Brian.”

“In West Philadelphia born and raised…

/click

Getting Panik straight up for Miller would have been pretty darn good, I think. Then again, I never thought the Yankees would get two top 100 prospects and more for Miller, so what do I know. Somehow nothing would have surprised me, not a straight one-for-one deal and not one side kicking in more. This would have been a complicated one.

4. The Giants did trade a starting infielder. The idea of a team trading their starting second baseman for a reliever in the middle of a postseason race seems crazy, but remember, the Giants did trade their starting third baseman. Matt Duffy went to the Rays in the Matt Moore trade. San Francisco picked up Eduardo Nunez a few days earlier and was able to plug him in at third. They could have traded Panik, kept Duffy, and used Nunez at second.

It’s not quite that simple, of course. Duffy was on the DL at the time, so the Giants weren’t actually subtracting him from their lineup when they made the trade. Also, trading Panik and keeping Duffy would have meant finding another way to solve the rotation problem. Trading Panik for Miller and Duffy for Moore seems like a non-option. How could a contender trade half their starting infield, especially when both guys are young?

The Giants were obviously not completely opposed to trading a building block infielder to address their roster needs. The Duffy trade shows that. The fact talks with the Yankees about Panik didn’t go very far suggests they’re much higher on him going forward, which makes sense. Duffy’s power outburst last season was really unexpected, plus top prospect Christian Arroyo is likely headed for third base long-term. They have Duffy’s replacement already.

With San Francisco’s farm system short on high-end talent, the Yankees were smart to ask for a big league player in Miller talks, and Panik was the guy to target. The Brandons (Belt and Crawford) are going nowhere and there’s reason to believe Duffy isn’t quite as good as he was last year. Panik’s concussion explains his down year, but the fact he’s shown more power this year with maintaining his elite strike zone control is a promising sign. This would have been a fascinating deal.