Heyman: Yankees looking to add righty bat, righty reliever before trade deadline

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are looking to add both a right-handed bat and a right-handed reliever before next Friday’s trade deadline. I assume that is in addition to the club’s continued search for pitching. We heard the Yankees were looking for righty relief weeks ago, but that was before they moved Adam Warren back to the bullpen.

The Yankees are hitting .241/.322/.408 (102 wRC+) against lefties this season, seventh best among the 30 clubs, but the bottom of the lineup is very lefty heavy thanks not only to Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew, but also Chase Headley‘s platoon split. He’s a switch-hitter, yeah, but he’s been way better against righties (99 wRC+) than lefties (68 wRC+) this year. Carlos Beltran has had his problems with lefties this year as well (91 wRC+).

We’ve seen the Yankees get shut down by a lefty reliever for a few innings on more than one occasion this year, so the interest in adding a righty bat makes sense. Ideally, it would be a righty (or even a switch-hitter) who can play both corner infield spots as well as the corner outfield spots, so he could platoon with Headley and replace Garrett Jones on the roster. Problem is, who is that player? That’s a pretty specific profile.

The only names that jumped to mind are Martin Prado, Jeff Baker, and Mike Olt. Prado is kinda expensive and he would presumably take over as the regular second baseman if re-acquired, not serve as a part-timer. Baker has historically mashed lefties (career 126 wRC+) but hasn’t done it this year (99 wRC+). Olt has only played a handful of games this season due to a wrist injury and owns a career 71 wRC+ against southpaws. I’m not sure he’s the answer either.

The Yankees aren’t desperate for a right-handed bat, but it would be a nice addition to round out the roster. Maybe the answer is in the minor leagues somewhere, a Quad-A player along the lines of Chris Colabello, who could sit in the minors in August, then come up when rosters expand in September. (Ryan Roberts maybe? He’s in Triple-A with the A’s.) That would give the Yankees the extra righty bat and allow them to keep Jones.

Even before Refsnyder demotion, Yankees needed to add a second baseman at the trade deadline

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

Disappointingly — and somewhat surprisingly — the Yankees demoted Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday when they needed to clear a roster spot for Carlos Beltran. Refsnyder played four games after being called up right before the All-Star break, going 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer while playing a not-so-natural second base. The team never did commit to him as the everyday second baseman.

“Just continue to improve,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings when asked what the team wants to see from Refsnyder. “Understanding the position, continue to make little adjustments. I thought he did a really good job considering the situation we put him in. In Fenway Park, that’s not the easiest place to start. But we believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and for right now, we’re going to stay with the guys we got.”

Brian Cashman said the move was made to maintain depth prior to the trade deadline — the obvious move to keep Refsnyder would have been designating Brendan Ryan for assignment — which makes sense but is disappointing. We’re all sick of the unproductive Stephen Drew and the homegrown Refsnyder is the team’s best chance for an upgrade from within. Four games with an All-Star break mixed in isn’t much of an audition.

Now, here’s the thing: Refsnyder wasn’t going to get much of audition before the trade deadline anyway. There’s nothing he could have done between the time he was called up and the July 31st trade deadline that could have convinced the Yankees or anyone else he was ready to be the everyday second baseman on a contending team. It’s not enough time to evaluate a young player at all. He was going to get 40 at-bats at the most before the deadline. That’s it.

The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by sending Refsnyder down yesterday. The mistake was not bringing him up sooner. Drew hasn’t hit all season — Girardi pointed out Drew had a good June (125 wRC+), but that month was three two-homer games and 11-for-83 (.133) in the other 21 games — and, as many have been saying, Refsnyder should have been up weeks ago, getting a longer audition to show what he can do, good or bad. They stuck with Drew too long.

“I think a lot of times people are going to have discussions about it, try to gather as much information as you can, and make the best decision you feel at the time,” said Girardi to Jennings. “Sometimes as you look back, maybe you would have done it a little different, but I think the important thing is that you make the best decision at the time with the information that you have. Guys are very close here, and that’s probably what’s making this decision tough.”

So the Yankees are in the same place they were a few weeks ago, in need of a new second baseman. Except now the Yankees have less time to evaluate Refsnyder before having to go outside for help, so in essence Refsnyder is a non-option. Well, that’s not true, I just have a hard time believing the Yankees would throw him to the wolves as a starting middle infielder in the middle of a postseason race. Believe it or not, he could actually be worse than Drew.

The team’s hesitancy to use Refsnyder tells us they don’t quite believe he is ready for regular big league action, either offensively, defensively, or both. In that case, the Yankees will need to go out and make a trade for a second baseman at some point in the eleven days, because the last four months have told us their current options aren’t enough. That was true even before Refsnyder was sent back down.

Saturday Links: Trade Talks, Draft Picking Trading, Forbes

Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)
Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Angels Mariners continue their weekend series a little later today, so, until then, here are some links to help you pass the time.

Yankees already engaged in trade talks

This is no surprise, but assistant GM Billy Eppler confirmed the Yankees are already having trade conversations with other teams during a recent radio interview. The trade deadline is two weeks from yesterday. Here’s what Eppler said, via Brendan Kuty:

“I know (Brian Cashman) has been having conversations with clubs, will continue to have conversations with clubs. We kind of check in. I’ll check in with some counterparts and our scouts out in the field will have some conversations here and there and just kind of keep their ears open. Our antennas are up. There will be some conversations. And Cashman will have those conversations regarding what we might be able to do. He’ll take those to ownership. But often times the seller is the one with the leverage and it’s generally a seller’s market with an extra wildcard added in. There’s less players. Less clubs that are out there. So that shrinks your player pool and raises the acquisition costs of guys. And a lot of time the opportunity just doesn’t present itself.”

The team’s needs leading into the trade deadline are pretty obvious: pitching depth and a second baseman, preferably. I’m glad they’re giving Rob Refsnyder a chance right now, but I don’t feel too comfortable rolling with him as the everyday second baseman in a pennant race. Another right-handed bat for the bench would make sense too. Given their position in the standings and the fact the Yankees haven’t been to the postseason since 2013, I expect them to be aggressive at the deadline. The other four AL East teams are begging New York to run away with the division.

Trading draft picks will be discussed for next CBA

Over the All-Star break, commissioner Rob Manfred told Eric Fisher he would like teams to have flexibility by allowing them to trade draft picks. He expects that to be part of talks during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations following the 2016 season. Right now only Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded. Only small market and low payroll teams get those.

I’m curious to see how trading picks would work. They’d have to limit it to the first round or something like that, right? Maybe the first three rounds? If teams were allowed to trade every pick, I’d ask for a 30-something rounder in every trade. Why not? Free lottery ticket. The Competitive Balance Lottery picks that have been traded the last few years have been traded for small-ish returns — relievers, mid-range prospects, etc. I’m curious to see how, say, a top five pick would be valued in a trade.

Yankees rank as second most valuable franchise in sports

According to the latest Forbes rankings, the Yankees are currently the second most valuable sports franchise in the world at $3.2 billion. Only Real Madrid ($3.26 billion) is worth more, though the Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Yankees are $3.2 billion. Barcelona ($3.16 billion) and Manchester United ($3.1 billion) round out the top five. The Dodgers rank second overall at $2.4 billion and are the second most valuable baseball franchise. Here’s the blurb from Kurt Badenhausen:

The Yankees lead a group of 12 MLB teams, up from six last year, in the top 50. Credit the massive influx of TV money, both nationally and locally, for soaring baseball values. The Yankees were one of the first teams to recognize the importance of TV with their launch of the YES Network in 2002. It has been the most-watched regional sports network in 11 of the past 12 years. Yankee Global Enterprises retains 20% of the RSN with Fox owning 80% after upping their stake in 2014.

The value of the Yankees is up 28%, and the team moved up two spots to tie for second place. The 27-time world champions missed the postseason for the second consecutive season in 2014 and only the third time since 1994, but the Bronx Bombers still finished tops in the American League in attendance, averaging 42,520 fans per game. The Yankees generated $676 million in revenue before deducting for $90 million in revenue-sharing payments and $78 million in bond payments that go towards stadium debt.

The Yankees don’t have a Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter retirement tour to lean on for a late-season attendance bump this year, but they are absolutely in contention, so that will help. There’s still an entire second half to go right now, but returning to the postseason is not a pipe dream, it’s a legitimate possibility. That will only improve the franchise’s value. The Yankees are a money-making machine. I truly believe the Steinbrenners will not sell the team, but, if they did, could they get $5 billion?

More pitching depth a must at the trade deadline even if it creates a roster squeeze

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Know who the Yankees miss? Chase Whitley. Don’t get me wrong, he’s was exactly a critical part of the pitching staff, but Whitley was the de facto spot sixth starter and a useful depth arm. Joe Girardi admitted the team’s plan for Whitley this year was to keep him stretched out in Triple-A and use him as a spot starter to give the regular rotation members extra rest on occasion. They haven’t been able to do that since Ace Whitley blew out his elbow.

Thanks in part to Whitley’s injury, as well as the general injury risk in the rotation, the Yankees should look to add pitching depth at the trade deadline. I mean, every team should, right? That is especially true for these contending Yankees because guys like Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), Michael Pineda (shoulder), and CC Sabathia (knee) carry more injury risk than most other starting pitchers. Ivan Nova has been rather uneven in his return from Tommy John surgery as well.

The question is not whether they should add pitching depth, but how do they fit it on the roster? Sabathia isn’t coming out of the rotation, and even if he did, the Yankees would simply move him to the bullpen and not off the roster entirely. Same with Nathan Eovaldi. He’s in the rotation. The only flexible spots in the bullpen belong to Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano, and I get the feeling the Yankees aren’t going to cut ties with Capuano only because he’s fine for the long man role and could always start if necessary.

With Whitley out, you could argue New York’s sixth (Adam Warren), seventh (Capuano), and eighth (Mitchell) starters are in the big league bullpen. That leaves either Luis Severino or Esmil Rogers as the next in line spot starter whenever one is needed. That’s … not ideal. Severino has dominated Triple-A but he’s not someone you want to jerk around. Whitley was perfect for that spot starter role because he could go up and down with no real concern for his long-term development.

So the Yankees have something of a roster crunch on their hands. They could always option Mitchell to clear a roster spot — man, hasn’t he looked great in short relief though? — but otherwise there’s not much flexibility, not if the Yankees are committed to Sabathia as a starter. The should definitely acquire an extra starter to protect themselves against injury down the stretch, but where does that guy fit? Trading for, say, Johnny Cueto means either Sabathia or Eovaldi (or Nova?) goes to the bullpen and that seems so very unlikely.

This of course is a dumb problem. Making room for a good pitcher is not a “problem.” It’s a minor nuisance. Someone’s feelings will be hurt and you move on. Warren went through it already. The Yankees do need to acquire more pitching at the trade deadline; the guys in the rotation have too many healthy questions to ignore. If that means someone undeserving like Mitchell gets squeezed to Triple-A, so be it. These things always have a way of working themselves out and you’d rather have “too much” pitching than not enough.

Reports: Yankees remain in the market for rotation help, continue to scout Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

To the surprise of no one, the Yankees remain in the market for rotation help leading up to the trade deadline, reports Jon Heyman. Joel Sherman says they again had a scout at Johnny Cueto’s most recent start earlier this week, when he thew a shutout against the Nationals. The Yanks have been scouting him (and teammate Mike Leake) since at least last month.

Coming into today, New York’s rotation had a 4.30 ERA (3.80 FIP) on the season, which puts them in the lower third of the league. That includes Adam Warren‘s work as a starter (3.59 ERA and 4.12 FIP), and he’s in the bullpen now, so the five starters currently in the rotation have been less effective than that 4.30 ERA indicates. Besides, there’s always room for improvement.

The trade deadline is three weeks and one day away now, and the market is developing really slowly this summer. By this date last year guys like Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Brandon McCarthy had all been traded already. (Monday was the one-year anniversary of the McCarthy deal.) Mark Trumbo is the biggest name to have been dealt so far this year. That’ll change soon though.

Only six teams are more than six games out of a postseason spot right now — 12 of the 15 AL teams are within six games of a postseason spot! — so clubs are reluctant to sell. They want to stay in the hunt as long as possible and keep fans interested deep into August and September. Who can blame them? Unfortunately it makes for a dull few weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

The Yankees prefer rentals, and in addition to Cueto and Leake, other rental starters include Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Bartolo Colon, Mat Latos, Ian Kennedy, and Kyle Lohse. Colon and Lohse have been ineffective this year, Kazmir left last night’s start with a triceps injury, and Kennedy has somehow allowed 18 home runs in 80 innings while playing in spacious Petco Park and various other pitcher friendly NL West parks. Cueto’s the cream of the crop, clearly.

CC Sabathia had his knee drained a few days ago for the second time this season and other starters like Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) and Michael Pineda (shoulder) carry perpetual injury concerns. Ivan Nova is just coming from Tommy John surgery too. Nathan Eovaldi‘s the only starter without some kind of known physical concern. So exploring the market for rotation help is a no-brainer move for the Yankees. The AL East is so very winnable and you don’t have to try to hard to envision a scenario where rotation help is needed down the stretch.

(GIF via MLB.com)

Angels’ front office dysfunction and possible implications for the Yankees

Dipoto vs. Scioscia. Dipoto wins. (Presswire)
Dipoto vs. Scioscia. Dipoto wins. (Presswire)

The Angels have won four straight games, including the last two against the Yankees, yet the team is mired in dysfunction at the moment. According to multiple reports, GM Jerry Dipoto either resigned or was fired yesterday following an ongoing power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. Ken Rosenthal detailed their problems earlier this week. It’s unclear what exactly happened. Dipoto is apparently out of the picture, however.

The friction between Dipoto and Scioscia has been going on for several years now. It appeared things were coming to a head back in 2013, but they were able to smooth things over, and those 98 wins last year helped keep everyone happy. This year, the Halos are falling short of expectations (41-37 with a +0 run differential) and their offense has struggled (3.87 runs per game), so the Dipoto-Scioscia feud rekindled.

I’m not surprised Dipoto lost the latest battle and the war — Scioscia is an iconic manager and it just doesn’t seem like he will lose any sort of power struggle at this point. Someone else in the front office will presumably take over as interim GM and the Halos will begin a search for a permanent GM. It’s an ugly situation with implications leading up to the trade deadline, implications that could affect the Yankees in more ways than one.

The Angels are going to replace Dipoto with a newbie GM, at least initially, and the new GM will inevitably look to impress his bosses. It’s human nature. Got a new job? Work hard to show your new bosses they hired the right person. I think the likelihood of the Halos being ultra-aggressive at the trade deadline just went up, which means more competition for the Yankees. The Angels were going to look for upgrades anyway. Not they might be looking for those upgrades with a crazy new GM willing to pay big.

Reportedly, Dipoto was seeking a veteran middle of the order bat in recent weeks, specifically in left field or at DH. (Turns out they could have used Josh Hamilton, huh?) The Yankees don’t need a player like that but they do have one to offer! At least in theory. Carlos Beltran would be a fit for that role with the Halos and it would allow the Yankees to clear an outfield spot for a younger player like Mason Williams or Ramon Flores or Aaron Judge. Win-win!

Except it won’t happen. Probably not. Beltran has a full no-trade clause and has wanted to wear pinstripes for years and years. I doubt he’d accept a trade to a team far away from home and in a worse position to contend than the Yankees. (The Yankees and Angels are both a half-game back of a wildcard spot, but the AL East is way more winnable than the AL West right now.) Still, it’s a thought that crossed my mind, and I guess there’s a chance the front office situation in Anaheim could impact things.

The Angels are also looking for pitching depth (who isn’t?) and, like Beltran, the Yankees are at the point where they’re probably better off paying CC Sabathia to pitch elsewhere, a la A.J. Burnett. Sabathia has ten-and-five no-trade protection but maybe the Yankees could sell him on the idea of moving to a bigger ballpark in a division with several other big ballparks at this point of his career. Plus Sabathia would be going home to California. (Not really though, he’s from Northern California. It’s like saying playing for the Braves is a homecoming for someone from North Carolina.)

Angels owner Arte Moreno has a history of doing wacky things (the Hamilton and Albert Pujols contracts!), so it’s easy to dream about the Yankees getting a “get out of jail free” card with Beltran and Sabathia. Even if the Yankees were willing to eat money  — how about eating, say, $30M of the guaranteed $64M or so still owed to Beltran or Sabathia? — and take less than interesting prospects in return, the no-trade clauses are an obstacle. Moreno might be crazy and the new GM might want to impress — what better way is there to impress than by reeling in big names? — but file this under things that have maybe a 1% chance of happening. Maybe.

Dream about unloading Beltran and Sabathia if you want. In reality, the front office turmoil in Anaheim hurts the Yankees most at the trade deadline by adding a likely-to-be-aggressive bidder to the market. Both teams need pitching, so they’ll be in competition there, and the Angels could also go after Ben Zobrist to bolster their lineup. The Yankees could use Zobrist at second base, the Angels could use him in the outfield. There figures to be a little more competition at the trade deadline now, so the Dipoto-Scioscia feud may have made life more difficult for New York this summer.

Cafardo: Yankees among teams looking at Jeff Samardzija prior to trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Nick Cafardo, the Yankees are one of several teams looking at White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija leading up to the trade deadline. It’s a long list of teams that includes contenders like the Royals, Tigers, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles, and Cardinals. There figures to be a lot of competition for any competent pitcher at the deadline because there are so few sellers right now.

The ChiSox are 32-42 with a -81 run differential and are way out of the postseason race. GM Rick Hahn seemed to indicate a few weeks ago that if things don’t turn around in a hurry (they haven’t!), he would look to sell at the trade deadline. “You need to start seeing some results on the field before you have to start making changes. There’s no real strategic advantage for laying out specifically what’s going to happen and when,” said Hahn to Daryl Van Schouwen.

The Yankees have shown a lot of interest in Samardzija in the past, dating back to at least the 2013 Winter Meetings. They also exchanged trade proposals with the Cubs last July before Samardzija was dealt to the Athletics, and then discussed him with Oakland again this past offseason. Special assistant Jim Hendry drafted Samardzija when he was Cubs GM and Larry Rothschild was his pitching coach with Chicago from 2008-10, so the Yankees have some firsthand knowledge about him.

Samardzija, 30, is having a rough season so far, pitching to a 4.56 ERA (3.66 FIP) with an MLB-high 123 hits allowed in 108.2 innings. His strikeout (19.0%) and ground ball (39.9%) rates are way down from the last few years as well. Samardzija is still throwing hard though, and he did have a 2.99 ERA (3.20 FIP) with a 23.0 K% and 50.2 GB% in 219.2 innings last year, so it’s not like you have to squint your eyes and look back real far to see the last time he was great.

The White Sox gave up an average-ish everyday player (Marcus Semien) and three good but not great prospects to acquire Samardzija this past offseason. He’s going to be a free agent after the season, and even with the down year my guess is the ChiSox will extend him a qualifying offer. Worst case scenario is he accepts and you’ve got a 31-year-old workhorse on a one-year contract worth $16M or so. Plus Samardzija would have trade value again next year. A qualifying offer seems like a safe bet, actually.

In that case, the White Sox have no reason to accept anything less than a prospect on par with a supplemental first round pick in exchange for Samardzija. I’m guessing it’ll take more than that to acquire him though. It took four prospects to get a half-season of Matt Garza a few years ago, remember. On the rental pitcher scale, Samardzija’s trade value lies somewhere between Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.

Interestingly (or maybe weirdly is a better way to put it), Cafardo says the Yankees are among the teams monitoring Clay Buchholz prior to the trade deadline as well. He’s actually had a good year (3.48 ERA and 2.67 FIP) but I can’t see that happening. I know the Yankees and Red Sox got together for the Stephen DrewKelly Johnson trade last year, but that was a spare part trade. I can’t see the BoSox shipping Buchholz to the Yankees even if they do tear it down and sell in the wake of their (latest) disaster season. Weird rumor.

Anyway, the Yankees currently have six starters for five rotation spots but not really. CC Sabathia has not pitched well this season and both Michael Pineda and Adam Warren have workload concerns. Then there’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow. So yeah, the Yankees have a full rotation on paper, but you don’t have to try to hard to see a scenario in which they need to add a starter at the trade deadline. Samardzija figures to be one of the better hurlers on the market this summer, so of course the Yankees are keeping tabs on him.